Sunday, August 22, 2021

The 7 Step Cycle of the Body of Christ's Growth in Acts

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit. -Acts 1:3-5

The mysterious Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. After Jesus rose from the dead, and spent time with his disciples and others in the city, he told them that though he was leaving, he would send the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them in their mission.

In Acts 1:8-11 Jesus continued saying, “ 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Here we also get a hint about how Jesus will return to the Earth, when our mission to win the world for Christ is finished. He will return from the sky, the same way that he left. Many believe the church will be raptured, or taken up into heaven, when Jesus appears in the sky, and at that moment the great tribulation will begin, the last days disaster and judgment.

In any case, we see that the moment Jesus leaves the Earth, the way in which Jesus works fundamentally changes. Jesus had been on the Earth, in person, in the flesh, doing miracles, healing people, and sharing the word of God. But now Jesus’ returns to heaven, and the disciples are told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

They would receive power when the Holy Spirit was on them, in them, you might say. They would become “little Christs” Christians, as we say today, and they would have the same authority as Christ did, to share the word of God, to heal people in Jesus name, and to talk to God directly in Jesus name.

So they waited 40 days, and then the day of Pentecost came. This was a sacred festival day. And that is often how God works ,he does things on these sacred festival days, like Jesus crucifixion took place over the Passover festival. Some believe the rapture will take place over the feast of trumpets. In any case,

Acts 2:1-4 NIV “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.”

On that day, the Holy Spirit was given to Christians. And today, as Christians we continue to have the Holy Spirit. And as the Spirit enables us, which you saw in verse 4, we do the works of Jesus in the world. We share the gospel, we pray, we preach, we teach, we evangelize, we meet needs, we heal, we go to the lost world.

We as the church are currently under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, who is on Earth with us. But the Holy Spirit is under the authority of Jesus Christ, who is under the authority of God the Father. The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Christ, and Christ said if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father. We serve a triune God, who reveals himself as Father, as a divine creator of the heavens and Earth who loves us as a dad, as Jesus Christ our divine savior who gave his life as a ransom for us, who is our King and even our brother, our friend, and as the Holy Spirit, a comforter who gives us power, guides us, corrects us, encourages us, and leads us in our mission to win people to Jesus on a daily basis. Pretty awesome, right?

It all fits together just so. God reveals himself to us in 3 distinct ways. Father, Savior, and Comforter.

As we know, since we’ve been going through the Book of Acts at Dinner Church, we know that the apostles received the Spirit, and went about preaching, fled from Jerusalem, preached around the cities in the Roman empire, and so on and so forth. So I want to take a different approach today.

Let’s look at the bigger picture of the book of Acts, particularly how the Church functions through the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

We’ve talked about this pattern from Acts a few times at Dinner Church but I want to delve into it a bit more.

First, we see the disciples share the gospel. (this is sometimes accompanied by miracles or wonders, or by divine healings, or by the casting out of demons) – This often occurs one of two places, they would go to the local synagogue, or they would teach to the gentiles, in the marketplace, or in front of rulers, or at locations of public discussions)

2nd, we see the crowds divide in regard to the gospel – (this is exactly what happened when Jesus would teach as well) – some would receive it gladly, some would reject it.

3rd we would see the believers organize into groups and begin meeting regularly – (we call this church planting) – These churches will send out missionaries and continue to witness in their local communities. They also share resources with each other and raise money for persecuted believers elsewhere.

4th we see persecution arise against the believers / apostles – Some form of persecution would occur, they’d be arrested, some would stir up the crowd into a frenzy, they would be whipped, they would be put in prison, etc (This 4th step should be rightly understood as almost always being demonically inspired attempts to stop the gospel) Satan wants to stop the church

5th The Holy Spirit responds by helping the church – the persecuted are set free by an angel, they are released by the authorities, doors randomly open, they are stoned but don’t die, plots against them are revealed and foiled, etc. No matter what the enemy does, they can’t stop the church because it’s empowered by God himself.

6th Problems occur in the churches – the letters to the churches are filled with all sorts of problems, sexual immorality, works based efforts, scandals, incest, divisions, arguments over foolish things, circumcision, false teachers, heretical doctrines, debates over the end times, and so on. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Same thing today) – These issues are sometimes sown by the enemy who wants to disrupt the churches

7th The Churches repent (or they don’t) – Through the early book of Revelation we see various messages from Jesus to the churches of this time, challenging them to repent of various concerns, whether it was sexual immorality, or luke-warmness, or a lack of love, (though some churches had nothing to repent of) – the churches would right their course, through the apostles calling them to repent, or through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, while others would be led astray and go into false doctrines, or lose their way. The same occurs today, some bodies of believers flourish and fight through false ways, other bodies of believers will slowly begin to drift toward false doctrine or luke-warmness, and eventually they close their doors.

Throughout the book of Acts we see Paul and Peter and the apostles planting churches that they later write letters to like 1st and 2nd Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philippians and Galatians and so on, challenging them to right their courses, and most of them did, praise God. And you could sense the confidence of the apostles writing them, believing very firmly that they would right their courses in the Holy Spirit who guided them.

Just to review, 7 steps in the process through Acts and the epistles:

1. The believers preach the gospel

2. The crowds are divided, some believe some don’t

3. Believers organize into churches

4. The believers are persecuted

5. The Holy Spirit helps the persecuted

6. Problems occur in the churches

7. The churches repent (or don’t)

But now I want to hone in on one aspect of this process of how the gospel spreads. I’ve been reading an excellent book gifted to me by a friend, it’s by Charles Stanley called How to Handle Adversity. It’s been excellent. But he draws some excellent points from scripture, particularly in the case of the raising of Lazarus, about how God brings people to Jesus through our suffering.

I really see the same truths at work in the book of Acts. And just as much today, when I say this is how the acts church functions, its just exactly as much as saying that is how the church functions today.

We go through the same things as they did. It’s just different due to the day and age we live in. But the principles are the same.

We go through suffering as the church of Christ. We’ve discussed that point recently.

The church also has great joy in serving Jesus. So we’re constantly sort of caught between joy and peace in Christ and suffering and trials in Christ. And it’s all part of our journey here on Earth.

We suffer. And as we handle that suffering by holding close to God, others see us do that, and are amazed. It’s a witness to others about Jesus. I remember when Chelsey lost her grandfather, and the way that she gracefully dealt with that, by giving glory to God, it encouraged my faith.

When you hear of a mass shooter, who shoots up a church, and then you hear about the church members being interviewed and saying they forgive the person who did it. We’re all amazed.

There’s a movie called Amish Grace, a true story, about an Amish school that was shot up by a man who then killed himself. And it tells of how the Amish community went and ministered to the widow of the man and their children. And how amazed people were to see them serve and forgive and become friends with the family of the man who killed their children.

There's a story from the Charles Stanley book, of a woman who gave birth, but they wouldn’t let her see the child. And the father was told in private, your baby has downs syndrome. And he was overcome. He went and met with his pastor, and his pastor told him, this is a gift from God. He told his wife this, and she began crying, but he explained that this was a gift from God. They should receive it as such.

This must’ve been long ago, because there was a woman who worked the switchboard at the hospital. And she hated Christians, she enjoyed seeing them sort of fail and lose hope in God. So she had heard about the downs syndrome baby. And she was listening in on the phone call when the mother called her mom. And she was expecting the mom to be crying and angry at God, but instead she simply said to her mom, we’ve had our baby and he has downs syndrome, and it is a gift from God. And the woman at the switchboard was astonished. She told everyone at the hospital what had happened and how amazing their response was. Pretty soon the whole hospital was buzzing with this story. And the next week, at the father’s church, there were 70 nurses, staff, doctors, and so on, in the pews, listening to the message of salvation. And then there was a call to come forward, and 30 of them gave their lives to Jesus Christ that day.

Your suffering is often a witness to others about God’s existence and Jesus love.

We as the church, as we handle suffering gracefully, give glory to God. And others see that glory.

Through the sufferings we also grow, and learn to trust God completely in all circumstances.

Through suffering and trials we grow into mature followers of Jesus Christ.

And we as mature believers, often live fairly ordinary lives, we get married, have families, workday jobs, serve in the church ministries, raise up godly children, share the gospel within our sphere of influence, and are salt and light to society.

Some of us who are lucky enough, do get to be martyred for Jesus. That is killed for our faith in Christ. Many in Afghanistan are facing that reality right now. They will have to die for their faith. That is a great honor. But also quite scary, no doubt. Please be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, and the middle east and China, when one suffers, all suffer. 

But in all of this, the end goal is paradise regained. All our trials and struggles and sufferings as the body of Christ, spreading the gospel as Jesus commanded us, is with the end goal in mind of going to paradise. To the new Jerusalem. To the streets of gold. And bringing as many people with us as we can, before the return of Jesus comes. That is our mission. We are the acts church, today, empowered by the Holy Spirit to complete Jesus Christ’s last great command to make disciples of all nations. Amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

5 Practical Ideas for Daily Gospel Sharing

How can I witness and share the gospel on a daily basis? That is the prime question. We can understand the theology, and the command, to go to all the world, but how do we practically do it? I'd like to share five ideas with you about how to do that in your daily 9 to 5 life. 

1. Fast food drive through - Go online or to a local Christian store and purchase some Jesus bumper stickers. I've got two on my vehicle.  One says "Powered by Jesus" and the other says "Jesus Saves" with a silhouette of the cross. Then go to your local drive through, anywhere really, somewhere you like to go, Wendys, Chick-fil-A, McDonalds, Starbucks, Bigby, whatever it might be. I go to Tim Hortons a lot.  Then you place your order, pay at the window, and then ask to pay for the person behind you. Pay for their meal/coffee, whatever, and as you drive away pray that they would come to know Jesus as savior, and would recognize the gift is from Jesus. 

This is a great indirect way to witness. They noticed your bumper stickers, believe me, when you're sitting in the car you're kinda bored so you're looking around at anything that stands out.  They may be thinking thoughts that are hostile to Christians, maybe, maybe not, but they'll be surprised to be told that their meal was paid for. Hard to ignore that random act of kindness. And they know it's from a Christian.

2. Give a Tract, Drop a Tract - I get free tracts in the mail every month, it's easy to sign up if you'd like them as well. I receive from the Bezeugen Tract Club.  Click here to visit and sign up.  But there are many other options just Google free tracts. 

Then keep the tracts in your wallet/purse. I also keep them in my car and at work.  

You can give them out at the drive through, after you pay hand it to the person at the register.  You can give them out at the store, after you pay just hand them one.  Also, something I like to do is stick them on community bulletin boards around town for people to grab if they're curious.  Also, you can leave them around stores for people to see. Something I like to do is put them on the toilet after using a public restroom.  But be creative, you can leave them almost anywhere, or hand them out almost anywhere.  But here's a pro tip: Always pray after you give or drop one. That prayer is powerful, pray that someone would find it at just the right moment in their life, and that they would come to know Jesus as savior. Always soak your evangelism in prayer.  

3. Mini Free Libraries - In almost every area of the United States at least, there are mini free libraries all over the place. There must be about 10+ in my little town of Owosso, Michigan. So here's what you do: Visit some thrift stores and purchase Bibles, devotionals, and Christian books in general from the thrift stores. Then you make a list of the locations of the mini free libraries in your town. Then you visit each of them every few weeks, or once a month, or quarterly, and place a few of those Christian books in each of them. Then you pray over the books and ask the Lord to bring the right person at the right time to get the books you drop and come to know Jesus, or grow deeper in their walk with Jesus as a result.  Fairly simple, but effective. 

4. Prayer walker/driver - As you drive about your daily life, or walk around town, or mull about the office, or even watch people walking by your house on the sidewalk, do you know what you can do? You can pray quick prayers for these people one by one, all day long. As you walk, pray for people you see. As you drive, look into the cars as they go by, and pray for that person in Jesus name. Pray for your coworkers, pray for your friends, pray for your enemies, pray all day all the time for all the people.

You can pray over the entire town as well. You can pray over the county. You can pray over the state, the region, the nation, and the world. Pray all the time.  

5. Social media influencing - Facebook, twitter, instagram, Youtube, on and on the list goes. Do you know how many people you can influence in a day just by being an outspoken Christian on these platforms? Fifty? Hundreds? Thousands? Even millions? The sky is the limit.  It's pretty simple.  Post a scripture verse a day. On Facebook I'll often simply post the daily scripture on I'll follow all sorts of Christian pages on Facebook and reshare Christian quotes, scriptures, and videos. It's not rocket science. Share and reshare. Do it everyday. Add people to your friends list, gain new followers, and influence them for Jesus. 

Unless you're afraid? Ashamed of Christ? You best not be. Get to work. Spread the gospel. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Paul & Barnabas on the Move: The Holy Spirit spreads the Gospel against Demonic Oppression

So we’ve gone from Jesus Christ, alive from the dead, commanding his rag tag band of followers to make disciples of the whole world. They set out to do that in Jerusalem but faced severe persecution. So they fled off into the roman empire preaching the gospel wherever they went. Peter, Philip, and the various disciples spread the gospel wherever they went. But the Jewish authorities pursued them, sending Saul of Tarsus to arrest them. But this Pharisee Saul was converted radically while traveling on the road, he saw Jesus calling him. And so this persecutor became a disciple of Jesus, Saul, now renamed Paul, with his new companion Barnabas, headed out from Antioch, to the island of Cyprus, then north to Perga on the coast, then north again to Iconium.

Everywhere they go what do they do? They go into the city, and go directly to the Jewish synagogue in the area. Remember there were small Jewish communities throughout the roman empire. And they would preach the gospel there. But more and more they are also preaching to the romans, and all non-Jews as well. Each place they go what happens? They win many to Christ, but face persecution, sometimes from the Jews, sometimes from the romans, and then they flee to a new area, and the cycle repeats.

I want to make it clear to you today something about all this. This historical record called the book of acts, or the acts of the apostles, could very easily be called the acts guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit and accomplished through the apostles. But that would be quite a mouth full wouldn’t it? What’s really going on under the surface of these controversies in the cities is the reality of spiritual warfare.

The Holy Spirit guides the apostles to a new city. The Holy Spirit speaks the gospel through them, and they win many to Christ. Demonic forces of evil respond by inspiring Jews and gentiles to persecute and attack and imprison and even physically assault the apostles. The crowds are divided between those inspired by the holy spirit and those inspired by demons. Then the holy spirit responds by helping the apostles escape prison, or win an influential person to Christ, and back and forth it goes. It’s fundamentally spiritual, it’s not random persecution or random soul winning, it’s God and the devil at work.

So in Acts 14 NIV we see the disciples arriving in Iconium. It says, “14 At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.”

Same pattern right? Same as every city. They preach, many are won to Christ, they are persecuted, they flee to a new area. Let’s continue.

Next they arrive in Lystra and Derbe, it says verse 8, “8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.”

Do you know what this reminds me of? Jesus’ ministry. If you recall Jesus was constantly misunderstood by the crowds. Some people thought he was John the Baptist, some thought he was Elijah, some thought he was one of the prophets of old. They were confused. Even when Jesus was nailed to the cross, people thought that Elijah would come down from heaven to save him. Just way off, with everything.

The same occurs here, the Greeks and Romans in the area think they’re Greek gods! And they start trying to make sacrifices to them. Crazy.

Paul and Barnabas are just super disturbed by this, it says verse 14, “14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.”

Notice how their presentation of the gospel changes depending on if they’re speaking to Jews in a synagogue or to gentiles. When they spoke to Jews they would always cite the old testament, talk about Moses and the prophets and so on. But when they speak to gentiles, who know nothing of Israel’s history, instead they make use of something called apologetics. They give a reasonable explanation of who God is. They tell of the one true God who made everything, and provides rain for their crops and food and fills their hearts with joy. Very interesting, right?

But trouble once again occurs, it says in verse 19, “19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.”

I’ve got to think that demonic forces gathered these Jews from the previous cities and brought them to Lystra for this purpose. The Spirit had helped them escape the stoning in Iconium. But Satan wasn’t done yet. Somehow these Jews convince the crowd to stone Paul. And they actually do succeed. I don’t know if you fully understand stoning. But basically people would grab stones about the size of their fist, some bigger or smaller I’m sure, and just pelt the person with hundreds of stones. This must’ve been extremely painful. Every hit would damage a muscle, or break a bone. Eventually they’d be hit in the head, and lose consciousness though, and they’d be pelted until they died.

They drag Paul’s body out of the city. Leave him there dead. But the disciples must’ve gathered around him later that day it says, and I’m sure they prayed, and Paul got up, just as if nothing had happened. See how Satan just can’t win. He thinks he finally got him, the stoning tactic worked, but no, God always has the final say, he just raises Paul from the dead. And he’s back. And he heads back into the city to complete his work there. Then the next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

It says in verse 21, “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, 25 and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia.

26 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.”

So this journey of Paul and Barnabas, set up by the Holy Spirit, if you recall, was a huge success. They faced brutal persecution everywhere they went, but they won many many to Christ and set up churches in those cities with elders to help lead them.

But in conclusion today I want to draw your attention to one phrase from verse 22, ““We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” That is the truth brothers and sisters in Christ. We go through hardships, trials, difficulties and struggles. It says many. It doesn’t say a few or here and there, but many. Hardships are normal. Don’t think of them as strange. It’s our path as Christians. Which is truly rewalking the path of Christ. That’s what Paul and Barnabas are doing, rewalking the path of Christ in new parts of the world. That’s what we do here in Shiawassee county, rewalk the path of Christ, the road of suffering and victory, in new area to spread the gospel. That’s your mission. Keep doing it. That’s my call to you today.

A Uniquely Unified Body of Spiritual Gifts

Have you ever met a Christian who you met at just the right time when you were feeling discouraged and upset, and they made you feel better? Have you ever talked with a Christian who seemed to have a wisdom about decisions and life that was beyond what you expected? Have you ever met a Christian who could teach the word in a way that made you understand it in a new way?

Have you ever met a Christian who spoke a word from the Lord over your life, something they couldn’t have possibly known?

How about a Christian who is always there to serve? Someone who always volunteers to help? Or maybe you’ve met a Christian who has a unique discernment about the world? They’re able to see down to the truth of culture, television, government and so on.

Still other Christians place their hands on you and you are healed. Others have knowledge beyond their years.

All of these gifts are what we call spiritual gifts. They are gifts distributed by Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to us who serve as his body on the Earth. And as the body of Christ, we are his arms, his legs, his eyes, his voice, his ears, and his hands to a suffering world lost in sin. Each of these gifts are very different. But they all fit together to form us into a complete body of Christ, serving together, to win the world for Christ.

First thing to understand about spiritual gifts is the word spiritual. These are not gifts that exist in the natural world. They are spiritual. The second word is gift. They are not of ourselves. We didn’t create them by our own genius. They are gifts. Just like we receive a gift on Christmas morning or on our birthday, spiritual gifts are gifts given by God for us to use to His glory. Always remember that, don’t ever think it’s coming from you. Give glory to God, put the credit where it belongs, if we’re the body of Christ, being Jesus through our spiritual gifts the proper understanding when we’ve just used a spiritual gift to help someone is: Jesus did this. Jesus did this. Jesus did this.

No one on planet Earth, not a single human being, can properly say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. That’s what it says in 1st Corinthians 12:3. You can turn in your Bibles there and follow along.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth, long long ago, yet speaks to us today saying, “4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

This is all God at work. Different kinds of gifts, one God, one Spirit, one Christ.

I’d like to skip forward a bit to verses 12 through 14: “12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

Together we as the body of Christ make up a unique fighting force. Right now your area of combat is this sector, this neighborhood, this region of Flint. My battleground is Owosso, Shiawassee county. Yours is genessee county. Your job is to do acts of mercy in accordance with your spiritual gifts to bring the light of God’s love into a dark world.

That means disrupting the broken world around us. Disrupting the stale, barren lives of those who haven’t seen loving kindness is years, or longer. There’s a thousand ways in a day to show mercy, and use your spiritual gift. But I think we sometimes get into a pattern of selfishness and laziness where we aren’t using those gifts. We just let them sit. And that is just not acceptable. God insists that we use those gifts. Remember the parable of the talents? God rewarded those workers who put their talents to use for his kingdom, but the one who hid his talent was cast into outer darkness. Use your gifts.

God will provide opportunities. As you pray about it, and watch for holy moments, God will open doors and point you to people in need around you. God will lead you to people and people will come to you for help. And as you do it, you’ll get more and more used to it, until it’s your normal. That’s how a habit is formed, through repetition.

You are the body of Christ. Get to work! And I’m sure many of you already are. For you I say, well done, keep it up, for those of you not putting your talents to use, I say, get to work! There are people out there who desperately need you to be share your gift with them.

Alright let’s jump back to verse 7 and take a look at the gifts Paul lists here: 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

Which is your gift? Take a look at the list in your Bible. Take time to pray through the list and circle the gifts God has given you. Then ask yourself, how can I use them? And how can I develop them? One gift God had me develop when I was at training was leading worship. That is not something I wanted to do. But God kept giving me chances to practice my singing and learn how to effectively lead songs. Now I do it every Sunday in Owosso. And I’m getting better and better at it. Those gifts God gives you can be developed.

Alright, skip forward to verse 15, and I’m just going to read 15 through 26. It says, “15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Every part of our body is actually super important. We might not think about it, but remove basically anything from our bodies and it’s not gonna be good. Is one really better than the other? Can I really compare my sense of hearing to my ability to see? Would it matter if I removed one arm, or one leg? Even a single toe, or a single finger on the hand removed can make a huge impact on the entire body.

In the same way, the body of Christ functions because we all have different gifts and use them in unique ways to serve a dying world. I can think of various Christian leaders who have inspired me over the years.

Someone like Billy Graham had such an amazing gift for evangelism, to share the gospel. People like William Lane Craig or Frank Turkey, have a gift for Christian apologetics, to give reasonable evidence for God’s existence. I think of people like AW Tozer or Charles Spurgeon who were such great preachers. I think of some of the teachers I had at training college, who really had a gift for teaching. It’s really beautiful, how the body of Christ, even at one church, is so diverse, some are servants, some cook, some clean, some teach, some preach, some evangelize, some are prayer warriors, you all have your place. And it’s beautiful. Be united, yet serving in different ways. Understand it’s all of great value. None are more important than the others.

Paul concludes the chapter by indicating leadership roles, “27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

So now Paul is telling us all these roles are very important, but some are of greater value than others, so do desire the greater gifts.

So in conclusion today, reflect on your spiritual gifts. Understand they are gifts from God. Give God the glory as you use them. Never take the credit. Do use them. And develop them. Be united with others who have different giftings. And then finally we see Paul says, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

So after listing all of this important information about gifts, Paul indicates the lifestyle which is most important. And if you flip the page in your Bible and go to 1 Corinthians 13 we all know that this is the love chapter. Often repeated at weddings, right?

But understand that love is the lifestyle we should be cultivating. Love is an action, it’s a choice, to love people and show them mercy. Often times it’s very hard. We want to judge, condemn, we want to look down on people. We’ve been hurt, we’ve been rolled over by life. And so our natural reaction is to hate, to judge, to condemn, to think evil thoughts about someone. I struggle with it sometimes. But love is the real lifestyle of a Christian. It’s what it’s all about. So yes, do use your spiritual gifts, every day, but make sure every interaction has a generous helping of love poured into it. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

What is your lightsaber color as a Christian?

Blue - you are a practical soldier in the army of Christ, your goal is to meet needs, preach the gospel, pound the ground, and fight off demonic forces in practical ways. You're a street fighter, a frontlines soldier.

Green - you're a spiritual warrior, you fight your battles in the spiritual realm, through deep prayer, fasting, spiritual disciplines, deep preaching, teaching and vibrant active connection with Christ. You are a commander, strategizing and planning the battle.

Purple - you have the gift of calling others to repentance, your discernment is strong, and you focus on fighting evil, which gives you an ambiguity, a fire in your eyes, a passion to fight evil, demons, and for justice. Some Christians think you're judgmental, even mean spirited, but God knows you are a warrior of love, with a strong call to change. You resemble the ancient OT prophets who spoke uncompromising truth.

Yellow - the yellow lightsaber is carried by evil sith who converted to jedi. You were once a servant of the darkness, but now you serve Jesus, which makes you twice as dangerous to the enemy, because you know all their secrets. These Christians are powerful and dangerous to the enemy. Purified sith lightsabers may also turn white when converted. 

Additionally, temple guards carry the yellow lightsaber. They are Ezekiel 33 defenders on the walls. 

Red - you're a progressive Christian, in other words, an apostate. You probably think you're fighting for social justice and equity, but in fact, you are simply in service of the evil one. Your emotions control you, truth is secondary to you, emotions are what matter. This is the way of the sith, who are guided by their passions, instead of the wisdom of the scriptures. Your main opponent is not sin or the devil, but Christians, who you hate the most.  

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The 3 Moments of Greatest Darkness: Upper Room, Gethsemane, and Golgotha

I dreamt I was running through an incredibly dark forest. I couldn't see an inch in front of my face. I looked down and I couldn’t see my own hands. But I kept running. I was afraid. It was dark and mysterious. So dark. Then I realized there was something pursuing me. Looked like a scary wolf of some kind. It was trying to bite me as I ran. Then it got brighter, and I realized there were other animals there, trying to protect me.

In this life, we as Christians must face down the darkness. That is part of our mission here. To go through many trials and tribulations on our way to the kingdom. One of the trials is of course long treks through darkness and pain. Such has been recent times for me. We all go through times like these, as Christians, don’t we? Yes we do.

As I was driving to Flint the other day, I thought about an analogy of sorts. If you’ve ever watched funny videos online or on television, maybe you’ve seen the videos that parents will sometimes make of their children when they get their wisdom teeth taken out. They often will have to take their children home while they are on pain drugs. They can’t quite talk right, and they’re very confused and often afraid.

I recall one in particular, where the child asked his mother, “Will this be forever?” And what he was asking was, is this drug eventually going to wear off? What a scary thought though, that you might never stop feeling dizzy, confused, unable to speak, right?

Often times we wonder as we go through trials in this life, through the darkness we wonder, “Will this be forever?” Will this ever end? And thankfully we know that yes, any trial in this life has an expiration date. It will end eventually, maybe after a few weeks, or a few days, or a few years, depending on what it is.

But then I realized something terrifying. For many, many people, people who reject Jesus, people who live in sin, when they die, they go to a place of pain and torment, called hell. And they will be terrified, and they’ll be asking themselves, “Will this be forever?” And they will realize very quickly that yes, this will be forever. They will be in incredible pain, fear, surrounded by demons mocking them and torturing them, for all time. It will never end. They will never be OK again.

When applying that to my current trials over the last few months, I realized, it’s better to suffer now on the Earth, through pitch black darkness, for years, months, and weeks, rather than to suffer for all eternity, for thousands and millions of years in hell, because I lived in sin, or turned away from the calling the Lord had for me in my life.

When my friend Chelsey’s grandfather passed away, he died in a house fire. And Chelsey was so sad that he had to die in such a painful way. But Chelsey also told me, that the Lord really spoke to her and said, isn’t it better, for him to have only suffered a few minutes, than for him to have gone to hell, and been in the fire forever, and never able to escape it? And Chelsey knew it was true. It was better that now her grandfather was in paradise. Because they brought him close and ministered to him.

In the saga of the life of Jesus today, we come to the moments of darkness. We see the last night that Jesus spent with his beloved best friends and disciples. We see his agony and fear and sorrow in the garden of gethsemane, and we see the moment of the worst darkness in our world’s history, the moments in which Jesus was crucified on the cross.

As much as Jesus feared the cross, and hoped for some way to escape it, he went willingly, knowing that a short time of sorrow would give birth to an eternity of joy and reconciliation between God and man.

Jesus parting words to his disciples: Upper Room Discourse 
John Chapter 14:“Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."

Here we see the glorious formula, God the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father. And Jesus tells us that if we love Jesus, then Jesus lives in us, and we live in Jesus. Just as God the Father is in heaven and Jesus was on Earth, and he had the Father within him, so now Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God, and we have Jesus within us, and we live within Jesus in heaven right now. 

Jesus encourages his disciples, his friends, those he loves and those who love him, to not lose heart. Imagine what it must've been like to be with Jesus everyday! Wake up with him, go to bed knowing he's in the tent next to yours. Listen to him teach. Have quiet conversations with him around the camp fire. Give him a hug. See him smile at you. Wow, it must've been so wonderful. It must've been like being in the presence of joy itself. It must've made them feel so courageous and bold.  It must've made them feel so safe and loved. Wow. 

Yet these moments are sorrowful. And the disciples are afraid and sad. They don't want Jesus to leave. They don't to be without Him. But they know these things must happen. And Jesus encourages them not to be afraid and to put their faith in God. Then they leave the room for the garden. 

Garden of Gethsemane
Matthew 26:36-46 NIV says, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Here we see the moment of Jesus' humanity. He is actually asking the Father to change the plan, because he's so afraid or disturbed at what will happen on the cross. But Jesus also says, not my will be done but yours.  A good line to repeat in our prayer life as well, when things don't go our way. The disciples keep falling asleep. But Jesus keeps trying to remind them to pray, because he knows they are about to go through a time of testing. They are about to be sifted by Satan, you might say. 

And as we know, all the disciples fled, aside from John, and the women, and hid while Jesus was being crucified. Their leader, Peter, failed the worst, by denying Jesus three times. They were sifted indeed, and failed their tests. Never-the-less, Jesus still forgave all them and blessed them anyway.  Amazing. 

As Jesus prayed, before his great final trial, eventually, the betrayer, Judas came with the romans and temple guards, and they arrested Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. And they took Jesus, to crucify him.

The Crucifixion at Golgotha 
Matthew 27:32-56, “As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.”

Finally, the moment of ultimate darkness came. Life can get dark for us on Earth as Christians. We face extremely challenging trials in our lives don't we? But we know from the scriptures that we should not regard the fiery trials we face as if something strange were happening. In fact, the trials and struggles we face are completely normal for Christians! And we can rest assured that every Christian, in every country, whether it be Indonesia, China, South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, or Cuba, or Brazil, are all going through the exact same trials, that are molding them more and more into Christ-likeness. 

Jesus faced his darkest moment at Golgotha. He was nailed to the cross and hoisted into the air, the base of the cross dropped into a hole in the ground. A crowd gathered around to mock him. They shook their heads in disgust, assuming he had done great evil. Yet he was perfect and innocent.  He had done nothing wrong.  The teachers of the law and pharisees mocked him and challenged him to save himself.  

From noon to 3pm it went completely dark. That must've been a moment where many wondered if they might actually be killing the son of God. In fact historians outside the Bible mention the darkness that came. They also mentioned the earthquake that occurred at around 3pm on that day.  Ultimate darkness.  Jesus cried out, Father father why have you forsaken me?

Jesus paid the price for our sins.  It's called the great exchange. If we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins, and follow Jesus, then our sins are nailed to the cross with Christ, and Christ wipes them out.  And Christ gives to us his perfect righteousness. In fact, in Revelation we see that in heaven the saints wear white robes. What are these white robes? They are the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And so we are made morally right in Christ, and we are then fit for heaven, for paradise.  

But what does it take to get there? It takes the moments of great darkness, that Jesus faced.  And for each of us, it takes the moments of darkness we face throughout our lives. The trials and tribulations and persecutions we face are normal for Christians, and we must face them and overcome them, on our way to paradise, eternal life. Amen. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

What can we do to do what God wants us to do?

Christianity is about a personal relationship with God. It's about a reconciliation between one person, you, and God, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It's like a romance, or a close friendship, or a father-son/father-daughter relationship. It's not about ritual or superstition. It's about turning from sin, and the lies we've believed about reality, and turning to Jesus Christ in faith.

On this planet Earth, we’re being reviewed on how we live by God. And we’ve all sinned and made mistakes right? Tons of them for me. And on judgment day, we’ll all be judged for our sins. And God has to punish sin. So he’ll have to send us to hell. But God set up a second option. He sent Jesus Christ, God in human form, to Earth, to live the perfect life we couldn’t. Then he was crucified on the cross, to make payment for our sins. And 3 days later, being God, he raised again to life, and lives forever now to help us. So if we believe in Jesus Christ, it’s as if Jesus comes into the court room on judgment day and says hold on judge, I paid for that persons sins on the cross. I made payment. So they can go free. I’ve paid their fine. That’s what Jesus does for us.

Repentance is key to salvation in Jesus Christ. The word of God the Bible says to "Repent and believe the good news!" -Mark 1:15. What does it mean to repent? The concept of repenting is that we turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. To repent, means to "put to death" the works of our fleshly desires. A few of the sins that I had to put aside included: Drugs (I was a drug addict), alcohol (I drank constantly), cigarettes (destructive to the body), having sex outside of marriage, pornography, lying, stealing (even pirated movies and music), movies/tv series full of gore and sex, and many other sinful practices. Trust in the Holy Spirit, who will lead you to areas in your life that need to change. Be focused and concentrate on this process of repentance, because Christ expects us to be holy as He is holy.

Christianity is also about serving God. We renounce our plans for life and we embrace what God's will is for our lives. Like for me, I wanted to be a journalist or a novelist. But when I became a Christian, I realized through prayer, fasting, and Bible reading that God was calling me to be a minister. He doesn't call everyone to be ministers, often he calls us to a certain job or vocation. Once again, the Holy Spirit will lead you if you're yielded to His influence.

The three most important parts of our relationship with God are prayer, fellowship, and Bible reading. As a Christian I try to pray twice a day. Sometimes I'll say the "Our Father" but most often I'll just get on my knees and talk to God. It's about communication and love. And remember, if we love someone we'll spend real time with them. Prayer is how we talk to God, but how does God talk back? That's where Bible reading comes in. As I read the various books of the Bible, God will communicate through them to me. Isn't that cool?

Joining a church is an absolute necessity. We can't do it alone. A gazelle wandering away from the herd will be picked off and eaten by lions. There are no solo Christians. We must join a weekly fellowship and a must is also a weekly Bible study/small group. I repeat, this is not optional!

I would encourage you to find a Bible, a good understandable translation like the NIV or ESV. Read through the Gospel of John. That is my favorite Gospel. The Psalms are great to read through, they are poetry about out wonderful God. If you have trouble understanding exactly what's being talked about, consider purchasing a quality Study Bible. A Study Bible will include commentary.

If you prefer to read on the computer, check out Bible Gateway. You can go through the Bible in any translation you like. There are even Bible commentaries, studies, and Audio Bibles. For topical listings of Bible verses check out Open Bible. There are Bible apps as well, like YouVersion for all phones. Check out the Bible Project on YouTube, it's a great way to learn the big story of scripture.

Once you've read through the Bible, ask yourself, do I understand that I need a Savior to remove my sins? Do I realize I've fallen short of the perfect requirement of God, just like the rest of humanity? Do I understand that God is sovereign over my life, and I want him to be my personal God?

Then it's time to cry out to Jesus Christ. Call out to the name of Jesus Christ, with belief in your heart that Jesus can help you. Cry out with all your might. Would you pray with me:

Father God of the Bible, I realize now that you're real, your Bible is real, and your son Jesus Christ is real. I admit to you Father that I've sinned against you, I confess my sins to you now (confess them one by one). I repent of my sins, please Lord set me free from every sin. And I admit that I need a Savior. You have provided that Savior. I accept him Father, today I accept your son Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross as the necessary payment for all my sins, past, present, and future. I recognize that Jesus resurrected from the dead to give me eternal life. Please Father, cloth me in His righteousness. Father God I acknowledge you as the sovereign Lord of my life, please grant me your Holy Spirit to guide me in my new life as a Christian. Thank you so much Father, it's in Jesus Christ name I pray this prayer, Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Pastor, Please Don't Teach your Congregation they can't Lose their Salvation

There's no shame in quietly changing your perspective on this theological concept.  

Now we see many scriptures that tell us about how God maintains the relationship with us. God preserves us in a state of salvation. But we also see numerous, endless scriptures that talk about our need to abide in Christ, remain Christ, hold closely to the teaching we were taught originally, do not fall away, shipwrecked faith, and so on and so forth.  So a good balance would seem to indicate that God preserves the relationship, but falling away is also possible. 

Many prefer to teach that well, if someone appears to fall away, that just means they were never saved in the first place. But that is not what the Bible teaches. Particularly in the book of Hebrews, we see how someone can share in the heavenly gift, have the Holy Spirit, and then go back into the world, and are lost completely again in it, they are actually worse off than they were before, and cannot be restored to salvation.  If they can't be restored, they this implies they were fully saved, and fell away.

Also, let me indicate to you, that Lucifer and one third of the angels were once fully saved, fully pure, in perfect right standing with God.  They were flawless. They were preserved by God, faultless. But Lucifer fell away and rebelled against God. And he deceived one third of the angels to do the same thing.  And as such, Lucifer and one third of the angels lost their salvation.  And we know they can never be restored. 

Additionally, Adam and Eve were once innocent in God's sight, in perfect fellowship with God. But as we know, Adam and Eve sinned against God, and lost their innocence and became sinful. Thankfully they did repent and turn back to God, through faith. 

I've studied numerous near death experiences, from people like Mary K. Baxter, Brian Melvin, Choo Thomas, and others. They all indicate that once saved always saved is a doctrine that leads people to hell. Some even claim to have seen church members crying out in hell, "Pastor you told me I could never lose my salvation!" Truly bone chilling accounts, I'd encourage you to watch some of those accounts on YouTube. Don't despise prophecy, but test it. 

But most importantly, scripture itself. There were seven "I am" statements that Jesus Christ made, that were recorded in the Gospel of John. Each of these "I am" statements taught us something about who Jesus was, and how we interact with Him.  He is the bread of life to us, our sustenance. He is the light of the world, he sustains reality. He is the gate for the sheep, through which we must enter.  He is the good shepherd. he shepherds us along through life. He is the resurrection and the life, if we believe in Him he will resurrect us from the dead and take us to paradise. He is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Jesus is the road home that we follow.  And the 7th I am statement was when Jesus said my father is the gardener and I am the true vine.  Anyone who remains in me, will produce much fruit. We are the branches. But any branch that doesn't produce fruit is thrown into the fire and burned. So remain in Christ's love.  This is the key teaching we need to understand of the 7 I am statements, we must remain in Christ, and if we don't, we will be cast out and burned. This is from John chapter 15.

I know many of us would prefer the theology of not being able to lose our salvation. I admit that would be very comforting. But theology and scripture isn't about what we want.  It's about what it actually says. I can't remove the scriptures I don't like. Or over-emphasize the feel good verses.  And I think that's why many of us believe in once saved always saved, because we're constantly shown the scriptures that talk about God's preservation of the relationship, I will never leave you or forsake you, I have good plans for your life, nothing could separate us from His love, and so on and so forth. Those are scriptures that are very encouraging that are preached on constantly.  But the scriptures like John 15, Hebrews 6:4-6, 1 Tim 4:1, Revelation 2:4-5, 2 Peter 2:20-22, James 5:19-20, and so on are not preached on as often. They aren't feel good verses. But they are just as much the truth as the OSAS (once saved always saved) verses. 

I'd just like to give you a very quick argument why it's more expedient to do so:

If I'm right, and you really can "fall away" and lose your salvation, then you're sending people to hell. And you yourself will probably go to hell, for teaching people they could never lose it and as such encouraging complacency. 

If you're right, and you can never fall away no matter what you do, but you still teach people that they can lose their salvation, there is no loss.  People are just challenged to take their walk with Jesus a bit more seriously. 

Do you see how it's safer to teach people that they can fall away and as such must continue to "abide" in Christ?  

There's no shame in quietly changing your view on this issue. That's exactly what I did. At first I believed in once saved always saved. But I just couldn't reconcile it with the scriptures.  So I quietly changed my perspective.  There isn't anything wrong with that. We're all always learning and growing and developing deep theological concepts.  It's a lifelong process. So that's my encouragement to you today. God bless and take care. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Dreams of the Millennial Reign of Christ

I've had these very fascinating reoccurring dreams in my life that I'd like to share with you briefly. As always, you should test anything stated as special revelation against the scriptures. Always regard the scriptures above any dream, vision, or concept stated outside the scriptures. That said, also, do not despise prophecies (1 Thess 5:20-21) and recall that in the end times old and young alike will have dreams, visions, and prophecies. 

Joel 2:28 "“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."

The millennial reign of Christ is something mentioned in the book of Revelation. For those of you who over-spiritual and over-symbolize everything in Revelation to be non-literal, you can stop reading here if you want. For those of you who believe Revelation does have a solid basis in reality, keep reading. 

Stated in Revelation 20, this is what's said about the millennial reign of Christ: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan,[a] and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.

4 Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people[b] who had been beheaded[c] because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power[d] over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.

7 When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 They came up over the surface of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven[e] and consumed them. 10 The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

During the 1,000 year reign of Christ from Jerusalem, the church will be on the Earth ruling and reigning with him.  This begs the question, who will we be reigning over? I would theorize that we would reign over the remnants and survivors of the nations after the great tribulation and the wrath of God has been exhausted on the nations. Jesus is said to rule literally from Jerusalem with a "rod of iron" over the nations, smashing the nations to pieces like pottery. How does this work? I have no idea.  In fact, I really have no idea if there would even be survivors after the great tribulation.  It's just a guess based on logic. 

But the millennial reign fills me with wonder and intrigue and speculation. King Jesus will be ruling the entire planet, most likely the ruins of the nations and Israel, probably leading repair efforts, healing, and guidance toward salvation in Himself to the survivors. 

King Jesus has defeated the anti-Christ, the false prophet, and the evil one by the splendor of his return.  The body of Christ has returned with Him, to rule and reign with Him. Satan himself has been bound by an angel and locked away, so he is no longer able to deceive the nations, for one thousand years.

This is a sort of 7th day in the progression of history. A 1000 year seventh day, as the scriptures say a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8). 

Life spans are greatly extended during this time apparently. Given that the body of Christ has "returned" with Jesus, I can only assume that the body has reached glorification and therefore no longer carry sin natures, or the old bodies, but now have new glorified bodies. Once again that's supposition, but it would track with the processes in place currently.

What exactly takes place over these thousand years, I'm not certain. Perhaps the church continues to spread the message of salvation in Christ, with Christ himself leading the efforts from Jerusalem. Perhaps it's a more political effort, with Jesus gathering the nations into a coalition to rebuild on the Earth. But obviously this is all speculative.  

So I'd like to tell you about the dreams I've had, where I've felt certain cues that indicate I'm seeing myself in the millennial reign of Christ. 

I consistently see myself walking along beautiful pathways through massively overgrown wildernesses. Trees, branches, bushes, vines, all overgrown across these pathways.  These walking paths seem to be the last remnants of long overgrown highways. In fact as I would walk joyously along these paths, every few miles, I would come up upon an old cement structure, or a mound of dirt and foliage, and you could tell that this was where bridges and underpasses used to be long ago. 

I traveled with an incredible joy and purpose. That's why I believe the sin nature is completely gone for the body as this point during the millennial reign. I sensed internally that sin was no longer a danger. In fact, as I traveled, I would find groups of people hiding away in underpasses and underground places, and there was some sort of new rule in reality, where these people could in no way hurt each other, attack each other, sexually assault each other, or anything. And they didn't seem to need to eat. It was as if the law of death in reality had been suspended. These people were very afraid. They didn't understand what was happening. I think part of my mission was to go and minister to these people and explain to them what had happened. They seemed to have been through the great tribulation, and were terrified. They didn't know it was over. 

I think what I remember the most is the sense of safety I felt. I felt a great joy as well. It was like sin no longer held any danger to me. I was in Christ, glorified completely, and safe, unlike on the Earth right now, where sin is always a danger to the believer. And falling away is always a danger as well. In the millennial reign, we were safe in Christ.  And in great joy. 

I recall very clearly the post-apocalyptic nature of the dream. Everything was completely overgrown, like foliage and nature had retaken the Earth. There was very little left. That would make sense, given all the judgments in the great tribulation. 

But I find it hard to understand the concept that there could be any survivors from the great tribulation. I had thought that becoming a tribulation saint was the very last opportunity for someone to get born again and know Jesus. But maybe that isn't true.  Then again maybe it is true.  Time will tell. 

I'm very much looking forward to this millennial reign of Christ. As much as I'd like it to be over after the tribulation. As much as I'd prefer to go directly to the new heaven and new Earth, and the New Jerusalem.  I'm pleased to do it God's way.

One closing thought, there is something quite terrifying about the millennial reign of Christ: How it ends.  After the one thousand years are completed, Satan is released one last time to attempt to deceive the nations.  And it's just so shocking to read that he really completely succeeds. These are people who have seen Jesus literally ruling and reigning from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.  Yet it still says an army gathered around Satan numbering more than the grains of sand on a sea shore. So we're talking billions and billions of people, despite having seen Jesus face to face, are deceived by Satan, and join in an army to attack Jerusalem. 

I'm guessing the church is recalled to Jerusalem at the end of the 1,000 years. And we watch as Satan gathers billions of people from the nations and marches on Jerusalem. But we see in Revelation, that Jesus calls down fire from heaven, as this army surrounds Jerusalem, and they are completely destroyed. Satan is captured once again, to never be released again.  

The old Earth passes away, the old heavens pass away, and the new heavens and new earth come, and the New Jerusalem comes out of heaven and lands on the new Earth. And we live in peace there with God forever.  It's just so crazy to me that even after the great tribulation and the millennial reign, that Satan would succeed in deceiving billions of people to rebel against God yet again. It's haunting to me.  Would this include the church?  Could the church during the millennial reign be deceived as well? Hard to say. That would contradict the idea that we are completely safe during this time.  But that's just speculation.  So hard to say.  I guess we'll find out eventually won't we? See you there Christian. See you at the millennial reign, if I don't see you before then. 

What's the Deal with the Council of Nicaea?

The Council of Nicaea was extremely important because it brought together the leaders of the early church for the first time, in a council to deal with the serious concern of the heresy of Arianism.  Several issues were dealt with at the council of Nicaea, including what date Easter fell on, whether the Jewish calendar should be followed, the fate of Christians who lapsed, church discipline, church government, the order of precedence, and other important issues. The declarations of which they made of Christ are as follows: They declared that Christ was not a created being but co-eternal with the Father. They declared that Christ was of the same substance as the Father. And they declared that the Son knows the Father perfectly. The Trinity was affirmed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, under which the understanding we have today, that they are co-equal and co-eternal, of the same substance but distinct persons.

What would've happened if the Council of Nicaea had never occurred? Well, it's hard to say, but I think that there would've been a great deal more division in the church. Some of the heresies and confusions they addressed would've continued.  The date for Easter and other holidays would've continued to be divided based on region.  Essentially it would've meant the church would've stayed divided on doctrine and practice of belief. It probably would've allowed the heretical teachings to continue to grow and prosper. And of course Arianism might've won out and there would be distorted perceptions of Christ and the Trinity.

If Arianism had won out, our understanding of Christ today would probably much like the Jehovah's Witnesses. We would see Christ as a created being, as an angel maybe, or some sort of lower being. This would distort the truth about Christ. And would probably lead to the eroding of Christianity, eventually becoming less and less important and widespread, as heresy had won out.  There would probably be no understanding of any sort of Trinity, but we'd worship God the Father only, and Christ and the Spirit would be relegated to a back seat role.