Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What is OSAS? Backsliding and Salvation Security

OSAS stands for "Once Saved Always Saved." This is a common doctrine taught by many non-denominational churches, some Baptists, Provisionalists, and mainly Calvinist churches. It tends unfortunately to be the more mainstream view in evangelicalism today. What this doctrine suggests is that once someone puts their faith in Jesus Christ and genuinely receives the gospel and is born again, that this person can never backslide, fall away, or lose their salvation eternally. Scriptures used to back up this position include John 10:28, Romans 8:38-39, Philippians 1:6, and other scriptures that point to an assurance of salvation. However we should be careful, because the scriptures call us again and again to stand firm to the end, and to remain in Christ always. 

The word of God indicates that falling away is a possibility for genuine believers. We're told those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Hebrews 3:14). We're told to remain (abide) in the vine, for the branch that does not remain is cut off (John 15:6). If you're standing firm make sure you don't fall (1 Cor 10:12). Five virgins were wise, five were unwise and didn't receive the inheritance (Matthew 25:1-13). Take care, brothers and sisters, lest you have an unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). After preaching to others don't disqualify yourself (1 Cor 9:27). If after we receive the truth we go on sinning deliberately there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26-27). You who would try to be justified by the law have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:4).

And of course from Romans 11:19-22 ESV "Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off." Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

But why dispute over it? Does it really matter if someone can lose their salvation or not? It's worth having a discussion about it. 

Is it really not worth having? If I tell someone that they can't lose their salvation, look at what I've removed: They can sin as much as they want, they can never lose it. No need for the fear of the Lord. No need for evangelism either, they can never lose it. In fact, they can ditch the body all together and go sit on the beach or watch tv, because hey, they can never lose it. When we say OSAS, we're cutting off the genuine motivation for believers to live like believers. So perhaps we think well, the motivation is love, not fear, right? Love is great yes, but more often than not we have to be motivated by a genuine reverent fear for the Lord. When we say OSAS, we remove all of that and more... and we wonder, why do we see so many Christians living just like the world, so many pastors addicted to pornography, so many lazy believers who don't evangelize? Well, we've taught a theology that leaves no urgency to keep living as a real Christian.

Yes, it's very important. 

"Calvinists, who deny that salvation can ever be lost, reason on the subject in a marvelous way. They tell us, that no virgin's lamp can go out; no promising harvest be choked with thorns; no branch in Christ can ever be cut off from unfruitfulness; no pardon can ever be forfeited, and no name blotted out of God's book! They insist that no salt can ever lose its savor; nobody can ever "receive the grace of God in vain"; "bury his talents"; "neglect such great salvation"; trifle away "a day of grace"; "look back" after putting his hand to the gospel plow. Nobody can "grieve the Spirit" till He is "quenched," and strives no more, nor "deny the Lord that bought them"; nor "bring upon themselves swift destruction." Nobody, or body of believers, can ever get so lukewarm that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth.

They use reams of paper to argue that if one ever got lost he was never found. John 17:12; that if one falls, he never stood. Rom. 11:16-22 and Heb. 6:4-6; if one was ever "cast forth," he was never in, and "if one ever withered," he was never green. John 15:1-6; and that "if any man draws back," it proves that he never had anything to draw back from. Heb. 10:38,39; that if one ever "falls away into spiritual darkness," he was never enlightened. Heb 6:4-6; that if you "again get entangled in the pollutions of the world," it shows that you never escaped. 2 Pet 2:20; that if you "put salvation away" you never had it to put away, and if you make shipwreck of faith, there was no ship of faith there! In short they say: If you get it, you can't lose it; and if you lose it you never had it. May God save us from accepting a doctrine, that must be defended by such fallacious reasoning!"
-John Wesley on Once Saved Always Saved

Why Should I Believe in Jesus?

Why should we believe that Jesus is really real and alive? Well there are several good reasons to believe this. 

Once again we can mention how Christianity rapidly spread from Jerusalem and into the ancient Roman empire, being preached by the same disciples who fled into hiding after Jesus was crucified. These same terrified disciples became as bold as lions to travel as missionaries across the ancient world when they encountered the resurrected Jesus. 

The example of the Apostle Paul is also telling. He encountered the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus road and he went from being a persecutor of the early church to one of its most ardent heroes (Galatians 1:23). 

Jesus appeared to over five hundred witnesses, and it was recorded by the apostle Paul that while he was writing his letter many of these people were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). He in effect invited readers to go and ask these eyewitnesses about when they saw Jesus. 

Jesus of course also showed himself to his disciples on the Emmaus road, along the sea of Galilee, and to James, after his crucifixion. Given the spread of Christianity from a few thousand persecuted Jewish Christians to being the most prominent religion in the world today, the empirical and historical evidence is strong that Jesus did in fact resurrect from the dead.

Additionally, even today billions of people testify to the fact that Jesus has changed their lives. This all forms a cumulative case that we can indeed believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Now it’s time for you to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life as a human being. This is a huge decision. This is something God is also drawing you toward, helping you understand and receive.

It’s one thing to see Jesus Christ and his life and think well that’s nice. But what if you jump into it. What if you decide to respond to it, and become a Christian?

Have you given your life to God? It’s pretty simple. You can do so right now.

What we want to do is this: Believe in Jesus Christ. Believe that Jesus Christ is our personal savior. That when he died on the cross he was dying to pay off your debt of sins, all your wrong doings. And believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is alive and in this room right now.

So you want to respond like this… confess your sins right now to God, the ways you’ve sinned, lied, cheated, stole, hurt others, bullied others, spoken evil things, confess your guilt before God right now.

And then believe that Jesus Christ took the penalty for those sins, for you personally on the cross.. Ask God’s forgiveness for those sins right now.

Kneel down and confess your sins to God and repent of them, say Lord, I’m not doing that anymore, I’m believing in Jesus Christ as my savior now. And when you do, you’ll receive the Holy Spirit, and be born again.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Jehovah M'Kaddesh: God who Sanctifies You

“When a person becomes a Christian, he usually undergoes some radical life changes, especially if he has had an immoral background. Through the first steps of spiritual growth and self-denial, he gets rid of the large, obvious sins. But sad to say, many believers stop there. They don't go on to eliminate the little sins that clutter the landscape of their lives.

Gordon MacDonald, in his book Ordering Your Private World, told of an experience in his own life that illustrates this truth. "Some years ago, when Gail and I bought the old abandoned New Hampshire farm we now call Peace Ledge, we found the site where we wished to build our country home strewn with rocks and boulders. It was going to take a lot of hard work to clear it all out....The first phase of the clearing process was easy. The big boulders went fast. And when they were gone, we began to see that there were a lot of smaller rocks that had to go too. But when we had cleared the site of the boulders and the rocks, we noticed all of the stones and pebbles we had not seen before. This was much harder, more tedious work. But we stuck to it, and there came the day when the soil was ready for planting grass." -Our Daily Bread.

We see in the names of God a deliberate order and pattern, a progressive revelation, step by step God reveals who he is to us through the opening books of the Bible.

“Genesis, the book of beginnings, reveals the beginning of sin. It therefore also reveals the provision of redemption from sin under the name of God, Jehovah jireh, God will provide. Exodus, as the book of redemption… where Jehovah’s people were redeemed from bondage in Egypt. In exodus was also the revealed name of Jehovah-rophe, Jehovah who heals life’s wounds and sweeten’s it’s bitter experiences as signified by Israel’s experience at Marah. Then came the revelation of God as Jehovah-nissi at Rephidim, where Amalek, the enemy, opposed and fought against Israel, Jehovah the banner over his people in holy warfare…” -Nathan Stone, Names of God

After sin has occurred in our lives, then God redeems us, through faith, and also delivers us from bondage to sin, he delivers us from slavery, then he heals our wounds, and turns the bitter waters sweet, then he is our banner of victory as we fight the spiritual battles in life and take territories for God’s kingdom. And in all of this, then we see the book of Leviticus, all about holiness, and we see the next name of God in our series, Jehovah M’Kaddesh, which means God who sanctifies.

Though we sinned many times, God delivers us, redeems us, heals us, and is the banner over us, and in all of this God begins to sanctify us, to make us more and more like Jesus.

In the book of Leviticus chapter 20, it says, “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” -Leviticus 20:7-8

The name of God: Jehovah m’Kaddesh which means The Lord who sanctifies you.

The book of Leviticus lays out the ways in a which a redeemed people ought to live as a result of what God has done in them, in the most pure and holy way, fearing God, loving God, and obeying God’s ways in all things.

God is so many things to us,

Elohim, God our creator

Jehovah, God our Lord

El-Shaddai, God Almighty

Adonai, God our master

Jehovah-jireh, God who provides

Jehovah-rophe God who heals

Jehovah-nissi, God our banner

Now, Jehovah M’ Kaddesh, God who sanctifies.

God provides salvation for us through Jesus Christ. God provides healing to us as well. God’s banner is over us as we Christians fight our battles. Now God also sanctifies us.

The sin problem is the single greatest problem, the problem of rebellion, the problem of wickedness. Jesus pays off our sin debt. Now, as we journey along the path of life, we learn not to sin. The Holy Spirit is our teacher in that. God sanctifies us.

He sets us apart from the world and slowly makes us ready for paradise. That is the journey we are on now. We are learning holy love as a lifestyle instead of selfish sin. We are learning to ignore the flesh and live by the Spirit’s leading. We are learning to be all God has called us to be in Jesus.

We are like Israel in the wilderness on our way to the promised land. Our promised land is the New Jerusalem. And we want to persevere on the journey. And always be reminded that the generation that escaped Egypt rebelled against God in the wilderness and they died in the wilderness, aside from Joshua and Caleb. It’s a good reminder, to avoid sin like the plague on this journey. We too can die in the wilderness if we reject the leading of the Holy Spirit, as the Israelites rejected the leading of Moses, and worshiped the golden calf.

It's amazing how we try to test God in this area, and say well Jesus paid my sin debt so I can sin as much as I want now. The whole point of all that was for Jesus to pay it off, so you would respond by repenting, putting your faith in Him, and by submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading, you no longer live as a slave to sin. You live free, sanctified, holy, pure and so you are now ready for paradise. Today you may be living a lifestyle of secret sin, and I want to warn you, you won’t get into heaven living that way. Repent, give it over to Jesus, ask his forgiveness, and he will forgive you anew, and guide you to safety in Himself.

What golden calf needs to be burned out of your life? Our God is a consuming fire. He will deliver you from any sin or addiction. Ask Him for help. But be aware, he is God who sanctifies you. Submit to that sanctification. Learn from the trials and tests. He loves you. He will guide you home safely if you submit to Him in all things.

The Parable of the Two Sons & the Pharisee and Publican: The Power of Humility, The Danger of Pride

I had learned about God when I was 7, 8, 9 years old, into my teens, but as my life became increasingly broken I rejected God, and went my own way in anger and pride.

In my mind, I recall, I said to myself, we don’t need you God. We’re going to make this planet into a paradise on our own and show God that we don’t need him. We’re going to create utopia ourselves. We’re going to show God’s whose really boss. That is the spirit of the world, right there, the spirit at work in the sons and daughters of rebellion.

And so I began my descent down a dark hill. One by one everything was stripped away from me, thanks be to God for that, my ego was as big as a house, and piece by piece, chunk by chunk he chipped it away, but even near rock bottom, total lostness, I would rather die than turn to God, and I even attempted suicide. That’s the height of what you’d call “reprobate” one abandoned to their own sins and disaster. They’d rather die than turn to God.

And yet, that was 2009, 2010 2011, then 2012, a few year later, finally, there was no more ego left, every piece, every sliver was chipped away, and God guided me toward his son Jesus Christ, and all heaven waited in silence, as I made my choice, would I cry out or not, and I did cry out, to Jesus Christ for salvation. And then everything changed.

My ego removed, replaced with light with a soft beating heart of growing love. The Lord lovingly sent me out to work in his vineyard fields. Head out to work my child, and do my will, and I will be with you.

Which brings us to our parable today, our first parable, as we will look at two today.

It’s from Matthew 21, the same chapter, Jesus’ triumphal entry. So we understand the context. He’s speaking to the leaders, the masses, in Jerusalem, in the temple, and he says this, scandalously, he says…

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” -Matthew 21:28-32

Today Jesus might say to us, "Truly I tell you, the poor masses of India, and China, the witchdoctors and shaman of the African nations are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you Americans. For the message of the gospel came to you through countless teachers, and preachers and evangelists, and mounds of bibles reaching to the sky and even after you saw all this, you did not repent and believe."

Jesus is contrasting in this parable, two different types of people, responding to the statement from the Dad, he says, go work in my vineyard.

Son 1 says no I’m not going.

Son 2 says yes I’ll go.

Words don’t matter much here. It doesn’t matter what they say. It’s what they do that matters.

Son 1 later changes his mind and goes in.

Son 2 lied, and never went to work in the vineyard.

Jesus gives this parable to illustrate a simple point, the accredited, the powerful, the wealthy, the affluential, the esteemed, are missing the kingdom of God because of their pride.

And the lowly, the miserable, the addicted, the prostitutes, the corrupt tax collectors, they are entering the kingdom of God, though they went into sin at first, later they changed their mind and gave their lives to God and got to work in his vineyard fields.

So this was a message that Jesus gave to rebuke the scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders of his time who rejected the message of John the Baptist. If you recall John the Baptist was one who prepared the way for Jesus’ coming, calling people to a baptism of repentance from sins, getting them ready, for the coming messiah.

Jesus contrasts many of the common people who viewed John the Baptist as a true prophet of God, and embraced his message of repentance, which made them ready for the coming of Christ, and those religious scholars and Pharisees and I’m sure other common people as well who rejected John the Baptist and as well were in the process of rejecting Jesus’ message as well.

They had learned so well to follow the law of Moses. Yet despite having the entire Torah memorized, and the prophets, and the psalms and proverbs, which all point to the coming of Jesus, their pride blinded them to the truth.

Just as I was once blind to the truth. And just as many are now blind to the truth in our world today.

So this spoke directly to what they were thinking about Jesus.

Have you ever had someone not like you because of a misunderstanding and you knew that if they could get over that misunderstanding that you could have a good relationship with them? But then realized that they just can’t get past it. They won’t listen. Maybe that’s kind of how Jesus felt, he knew he could save them, but they just couldn’t get past the law of Moses. They couldn’t see beyond it to the coming of Jesus. And it cost them everything.

So since we are not Jews under the Torah, but are New Testament believers in Jesus, what can we take this from this parable today?

We can stay humble to what God is doing in our lives. And stay humble for God to correct us on our theology, our understanding of Him, on how we love people, on maybe a sin that’s in our lives that he’s convicting us about, but maybe we’re ignoring or resisting that leading from God.

It’s been on my heart lately, so many Christians in the world today have messed up theology. Many, many, many Christians I know who are otherwise very doctrinally sound don’t believe in spiritual gifts, or the five fold ministry, they say certain things have ended, they disallow the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leading, and reject certain gifts they think have ceased. Certain Christians are very focused on Mary, and the eucharist, and statues and candles, and I feel like they're missing things about God. Certain people just operate in a sort of dead religion. Others teach once saved always saved, a doctrine that can lead people to complacency and sin. Some even teach gay marriage is affirmed by scripture. Some teach Jesus isn’t really God. It’s just crazy.

We have to be so careful with how we understand who God is. Always keep scripture first. Sometimes we get caught up in these man made systems, Arminianism vs. Calvinism and we forget to keep the scripture first, and instead we make scripture secondary to our theology. Never do that. Always keep scripture first, don’t try to force God into a box. And then we can get puffed up about theology too, and get arrogant about it. Watch out for that. Stay humble. Stay hungry for the raw truth about who God is, and let your preconceptions about what you think God is be overruled time and again by new things you hadn’t seen in the scriptures before, whether it be his deep love or his severe wrath or his justice or his mercy or his forgiveness or his grace or his anger or his divine beauty.

Stay humble, don’t miss something God is doing because you’re caught up in man made systems or old ideas not based on the word of God, or worse ideas based on cherry picked verses that exclude other verses, some only take the harsh verses and make an idol of God as a cruel task master, more so today some make an idol of God who is all love and no justice, who is all mercy and no wrath, and they pervert God’s character just as much as the cruel task master version.

Stay humble, stay teachable, and let God interrupt your easy picture of who He is. God has done that for me time and again and I haven’t always liked it, but he forces me to reconsider and reconsider who He is, and He is always taking me beyond what I thought even a month or a year ago. It’s wild, and a bit unnerving, but it’s His will, and His character, I’ve got to embrace that journey. But also, make sure that journey doesn’t lead you away from God’s word. God is not going to contradict His word. That’s how cults and apostasy start, is someone changes what God’s word says to fit modern times or their own ideas.

Stay humble, stay teachable. /

Similarly, our second parable today, from Luke 18:9-14 has a similar message. It says, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.””

I want you to understand that the Pharisees were not monsters. In fact many of the leaders of the people and some of the Pharisees believed in Jesus, says so in John 12:42, but they were afraid to tell anyone, because they feared being expelled from the synagogue.

These were people who saw the disastrous history of Israel, the repeating cycle of following God and then the next generation fell away from God, and then the kingdom splitting, the civil war, then Assyria taking Israel into captivity, and Babylon taking Judah into captivity. They were desperate to do the right thing, they were so desperate to fix the nation they became legalistic. And made man-made doctrines to sort of fill in where they thought God had missed something. Sounds a lot like theologies of today, always trying to fill in what God said.

In all of that devotion and study, they faced the danger of pride, and many fell to it, so the Pharisee is praying and saying to God, look at me, look how great I am, and he judges people around him, and says wow God thank you that I’m not like these terrible people. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of my income, I tithe.

They were getting the external things right, fasting and praying and tithing and serving God, memorizing scripture, wearing the proper attire, and so on, but they had lost God himself in all the rules and regulations. They had become self focused and it had become about them. Pride had slowly done it’s work in them.

Pride is probably our greatest danger as Christians. I certainly think so. It’s a deadly poison, and the solution to it is humility. Humility is beautiful and pleasing to God.

See the tax collectors, standing far off, refusing to look to heaven, he was repentant, beating his chest, upset with himself for his wicked ways, and he cries out for mercy from God. And he left the temple that day justified before God. The Pharisee left poisoned and arrogant.

Thankfully for us as Christians we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. And when we begin to get prideful, which is a chief danger as wealthy Americans, the Holy Spirit begins to convict us, and humbles us, sometimes by making us look stupid. Believe me, so many times in my life, the Lord has humbled me, by having someone rebuke me, or I end up saying something foolish and prideful and people look at me like I’m being ridiculous. Have you ever experienced that? It’s not fun. But it’s a gift in disguise because it’s humbling us. Hopefully we can learn then over time to humble ourselves, so that we don’t have to endure the embarrassment and shame of being humbled by God himself. But take it as a gift if you are, because it means you were on a bad road. Then again, we can also resist and rejecting the Holy Spirit’s leading. I’ve seen that as well.

There was a famous missionary, someone that I had read his books, and really loved this dream he had of the gospel and the continent of Asia, and a bridge showed before to a ripe harvest. But over the years it all began to change, instead of empowering missionaries, it became one big megachurch sort of thing. Several pastors went to this man to correct him about the way he was setting things up, and his pride, and the gathering of money under one core power instead of the original way he had set it up for missionaries to be supported and to plant churches that would be independent of a central authority, in any case, when they went to him to correct him several times, he simply said to them, “once you have the money, you have the power.”

So guard against that sort of pride in your life. Always stay humble. We are servants of God. Keep that servant attitude, and you will be like the worker, who maybe didn’t want to go right away, but later went into the harvest field to work, and like the publican, though he had sinned and cheated people of their tax money, he went before God humbly, and sought forgiveness and he received it.

I think back to when I was blinded by the pride of life and the spirit of this world, we’ll make our own utopia, we don’t need you God and we’ll show you that we can do it without you, what foolishness! The pride of life can blind us to the truth, yet thankfully, God often humbles us, and brings us low, and the ego is gone, and thankfully once that ego is gone, we’re willing to listen and embrace who God really is, in all His beautiful and terrifying glory. Keep that humble mindset of the heart, and you will walk steadfastly and firmly as a Christian servant in a world full of pride and self-exalting puffed up worldliness. Humble pie tastes pretty gross, like eating crow, it isn’t necessarily fun to keep humble and meek and serving others as God’s servant and giving God all the glory, but the payoff is beyond imagining. Eternal life, in perpetual joy and peace, in a real utopia, a permanent city, the New Jerusalem, a perfect city, with no sin, made by God himself, just us as His people to dwell in. That’s something special and worth some humble pie.

Friday, August 26, 2022

You are in Great Danger Right Now

It's kind of scary when you realize what's really real.  The Bible... it's all true. As I sit on the porch at 11pm, staring out across the road into the darkness, I realize it's really real. And it scares me. Because if it's really true... then every human here is in great danger. If they don't receive Christ as savior before they die, they will be placed in a disturbing nightmare reality called hell. This nightmare reality is permanent, eternal. They will live forever in a place of endless sorrows and torment. Humanity is in great danger and needs Jesus so very badly. 

We often wrestle with the moral questions of heaven, hell and evil. We wrestle with what that means about who God is. But let's table that for now.

On a practical basis if it's true, and it certainly appears to be just that, then, it doesn't really matter if we fully understand why it's that way. The plain fact is that it is that way. So we need to discover how to deal with this reality, more so than wrestle with understanding the implications. 

Staring into the darkness of the night, praying and talking to God, looking with my eyes, at the light from the neighbors porch reflecting onto the trees along the road, and the sound of the bubbling water fountain from my other neighbors yard, the bats flying around, the raccoons that quietly cross the road night by night, the stars in the sky, and it's all plainly clear, this is certainly a finely tuned reality made by an intelligent designer, how I didn't see this plainly obvious fact for so many years is absolutely astonishing to me. it's so obvious it should be considered self-evident. We have to create vast play realities like evolution and time + matter + chance to try to somehow explain away the insane complexity of life with big numbers and billions and billions and blah blah blah. 

Yet simply looking at the vast complexity, the language of DNA, the unified systems of life, gravity, Higgs-boson particles, animal life, food, water, all of it, screams design! How could I never see that before? Was I blind? Perhaps so. Spiritually blind. But now I see.

So, what should I do with all this? Dare I face it? Can I? It's a bleak scenario. I feel like Neo after waking up on the hovership, looking at the bleak situation of the few survivors of humanity and thinking, what on Earth can I even do? 

Or I sit back and ask myself the question: What even am I? 

I know what I've been told by modernism as taught in our public schools and universities. I know all that garbage. But apparently I'm not just a consumer or a bag of flesh, I'm something else. 

Since all that garbage is man mind ideology and false, what am I actually? What does the Bible say that I am?

I'm made in God's image. I'm of infinite value. Yet also, if I cling to sin, God has no qualms about setting me in a place of nightmares, forever, where I will be consciously tormented for all time, beyond all time, into infinity. I'm loved by God. But sin must be destroyed in me. Sin must be removed from me. I must be made new. Or else all is lost. All is more lost than I can possibly imagine indeed, because, death is not the end, and in hell, one cannot die, but will live forever in ever increasing pain and sorrow. What a terrible fate! 

Could one imagine something worse if they were to consider the question of what is the worst case scenario? I don't think so. It is the worst possible fate. 

And most people, as far as I can tell, do go there. I would guess about 99% of all humans born go to hell. I hope I'm wrong about that number. Maybe it's worse than that though, maybe it's 99.9% one in one thousand sounds more likely than one in one hundred. But then again maybe that's not necessary, if we would just spread the gospel and follow Jesus, perhaps everyone would turn to Him and follow Him. 

It's amazing the hysteria that Covid-19 caused, when it had a 99.9% survival rate. What about the pandemic of sin upon humanity? Most die of it without repenting and putting their faith in Christ. Maybe we should get more hysterical about that. 

But hysteria won't solve anything. Instead, faith is the answer. Strong faith and stronger love. As well as a healthy amount of fear for God. You, Christian, are also in danger, if you give sin a foothold, and live in willful sin, you will also be sent to hell. I fear many Christians think they are going to heaven, but when they die, they are sent to hell, because they lived in sin and never repented. But there is great hope. Because you can repent, and cry out to Jesus and he will help you and free you from every sin. He will break every chain in your life. But please do repent daily. Keep seeking the Lord. Make sure no sin lives in your life. Honor God first, and you will receive eternal life in paradise with Jesus the savior of the world. 

If you don't have Jesus as your savior, please give your life to Him right now. Repent (turn away) from your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation. He paid off your sin debt on the cross, where he died in your place, received the punishment you deserved, and if you cry out to Him he will not turn you away. He will take away your sins, give you His righteousness, and you will be born again. You'll receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of your salvation and begin your pilgrimage home to paradise. You'll be given all you need in Christ to put sin to death in your life, and live holy as God is holy. Join a body of believers locally. Study the word of God, and put it into practice in your life. Love God and his people, serve others. And you can enjoy paradise in a new city, a city called the New Jerusalem, a perfect reality, a timeless eternal life of joy, peace, creativity, community, art, worship, music, books, and new journeys we can hardly imagine. Cry out to Jesus today. If you don't, you'll regret it more than you can possibly imagine. I don't say that to scare you, just to simply tell you the unvarnished truth about the reality we exist in. 

It's very difficult to grapple with these truths. I don't think I can face it, not fully. I don't hold on too strongly to the realization about the fate of humanity. It's just too grim to possibly handle. I simply have to focus on sharing the message with those who are in my realm of influence. God help us. We are in great danger. But if we walk in faith with God, in love, and boldly, being led by the Holy Spirit, God will lead us safely to the gates of the eternal city. 

There is so much lukewarm Christianity in the world. So much once saved always saved. So much compromise in the body of believers. There is so much cherry-picking of the scriptures, and repeating of the feel good verses. Well the Bible is more than feel good verses. It's the flawless word of God. We must never twist it by only preaching and teaching on the feel good verses. Teach the whole truth, the whole word, even the difficult scriptures, even the scriptures about heaven and hell. Even the teachings about holiness. We need the full picture of who God is, even if it offends our modern sensibilities.

God be with you. Grace and peace be with you in Jesus Christ. Stand firm, the time is near. Amen. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Names of God: Jehovah-nissi, God our Banner on the Battlefields of Life

Israel had escaped slavery in Egypt. An entire nation now traveling through the wilderness to their new home. They were led by God himself, working through Moses. It was a difficult journey. And God was observing their every move to see how they would respond to the tests and challenges he gave to them.

God was building them in the wilderness, teaching them to go from being slaves to being the chosen people of God. He was preparing them for the promised land.

Yet we saw how the Israelites cried out against Moses when they found an oasis but the waters of the oasis were bitter. Yet God turned the bitter waters pure, and God became the healer of the people, Jehovah rophe.

The journey continued after the oasis of marah, and the people were hungry, so God provided bread from heaven for them to eat. And then it happened again, the came to a place and there was no water there. There weren’t even bitter waters.

It was just a desert.

But how often does this happen in our own lives? God tests us. We fail the test. But we learn after what we should’ve done. Can you think of a time in your life when God was testing you and you failed to trust Him? You tossed and turned in unbelief. I’ve been there too.

And often times, what happens, as we continue beyond that failure, the test comes up again. Anyone notice repeating patterns in your life? Maybe you keep dating guys who are bad for you. Maybe you keep struggling with overeating and gaining weight and losing gaining and losing. Maybe you keep getting jobs then losing them. Maybe you keep trying to quit drinking or quit smoking, and you keep slipping back.

There are numerous other examples it doesn’t have to be as stereotypical as drugs or drink or relationships or jobs, it can something smaller in your life. Or something larger. Or it can be waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

In all these situations we have to do what, make a change in our lives, and maybe we don’t. We keep doing the same thing expecting different results. This can be a form of faithlessness, where we’re rebelling against god and refusing to make the changes he keeps urging us to make.

But in this case it’s more like the waiting scenario we talked about. As you wait on the Lord, one of the chief things we do as Christians, we wait, every single faithful believer from Abraham to the Apostle Paul had to wait. And its our burden as well. When we wait, we wait in faith, one week, one month, several months, and more, and during these months and years, as we wait, we experience times when we are tempted to doubt if God is really there, or if he’s really going to answer. We’re also tempted to question his character and even get angry and rebel against God.

This is huge. What we do in those quiet moments will define our journey as Christians just as much as how we love people and help people. For me it’s weekends, or Friday nights, or Monday mornings, or maybe after work, I’m home by myself and the mind starts going.

In those moments, hear me church, in those moments, decide to stay in faith. Decide to fight those thoughts. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to grieve. But keep trusting God. Keep praising Him.

Something Chelsey told me which I think is very wise, in those moments when we’re entering that temptation to question God, turn on praise music and just sing, listen and sing along enter worship, and there’s nothing the enemy can do then.

This probably isn’t going to happen when you’re at church it happens when you’re alone and thinking.

How will you respond? Let’s see how Israel responded.

From Exodus 17:1-7 “The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

God was testing them, but they ended up testing God’s patience. They complained and grew angry and even questioned, “Is God really even with us at all?”

We are shocked at how they respond but how often do we respond to our situation that won’t change by saying to ourselves or thinking to ourselves, “Is the Lord really with me or not?”

I wonder sometimes when I see my book in heaven that recorded everything I did in my life, will it say, there on page 3,562, there Justin tested the Lord by not believing the promises God had made to Him.

Ouch. What about your book? What is it going to say on judgment day? Will it say there they departed the body of believers and never returned. There they disbelieved God and rejected Him. There they doubted God and rebelled against Him. Or will it say there they believed God and loved Jesus. There they persevered in the battle. Despite all the troubles they kept believing God. I want mine to say that.

So despite the Israelites failing their re-test of the waters of marah, God continues to help them and feed them.

But an even greater test was upon the Israelites soon after. It says in Exodus 17:8-9: The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “Because hands were lifted up against[c] the throne of the Lord,[d] the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

After this great victory, Moses constructed an altar, and he called the altar, “The Lord is my Banner” the name of God, Jehovah-nissi.

What does that mean, that God was his banner? And how is God our banner today? Well, what is a banner? A banner is something like a flag, or a standard. Around our community you would see American flags, it’s a declaration of values, a celebration of beliefs. We have a salvation army banner, the salvation army flag, which references blood and fire, blood of Jesus, fire of the Holy Spirit, it has meaning. The American flag references the 50 stars of the fifty states of the country and the 13 red and white stripes to signify the blood and sacrifice of the original 13 colonies that broke away from great Britain.

For us, the Lord is our banner. The same was true for Moses. What was happening on the battlefield? Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites. But who was granting them the victory? It was God, symbolized by Moses lifting the staff over the battlefield.

We should always remember that in any situation we’re in, whether at this church, building this church, inviting new people, working our jobs, fighting political and social battles, that we should recognize our victory does not come from our own efforts, it comes from God who is the banner which unites our forces in spiritual combat.

But, Joshua and the Israelites had to do the footwork, they had to go out and engage in the battle. It’s true sometimes God will say stand still and watch me work, don’t even do anything. But other times God will say get to work, and I will be with you, and grant you the strength you need, and the victory in the end.

Jehovah nissi, God is my banner. He is the banner over my battlefield. He is the one who grants the victory. I can’t do it alone. He is the one who unites all of us as well, as we fight to win the world for Jesus. He is our banner. During this test, the Israelites succeeded, and defeated the Amalekites, not because they were stronger, they weren’t, they were former slaves turned soldiers, brand new at this, never the less God’s standard was over their army, and they won the day. Remember that in your own life, God’s banner, his flag waves over you, over us, as we fight for Him. God bless you today.

The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen: Working the Fields while the Master is Away

"Once, a man said, "If I had some extra money, I'd give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family." And the same man said, "If I had some extra time, I'd give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you--every single minute." And the same man said, "If I had a talent I'd give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I've never been able to lead a group; I can't think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to."

And God was touched, and although it was unlike him, God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited.....And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, "If I only had some of that money back, I'd give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I'd give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I'd give it to God."

And God said, "Oh, shut up."

And the man told some of his friends, "You know, I'm not so sure that I believe in God anymore."
-God is No Fool, 1969, Abindgon Press.

We’ve talked a great deal about stewardship, and using our gifts for God. That’s vital to understand. Your giftings are entrusted to you by God. And you must make use of them for his glory. But more so, we’re his legal representatives on Earth, God actually making our appeal to humanity through us, his church, that is a great responsibility. In fact, it’s much more than what we might realize.

I think this story quite well illustrates this point.

“So when man finds Jesus, it costs him everything. Jesus has happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, eternity. Man marvels at such a pearl and says, 'I want this pearl. How much does it cost?"

"The seller says, 'it's too dear, too costly.'

"But how much?'

"Well, it's very expensive.'

"Do you think I could buy it?'

"It costs everything you have -- no more, no less -- so anybody can buy it.'

"I'll buy it.'

"What do you have? Let's write it down.'

"I have $10,000 in the bank.'

"Good, $10,000. What else?'

"I have nothing more. That's all I have.'

"Have you nothing more?'

"Well, I have some dollars here in my pocket.'

"How many?'

"I'll see: Thirty, forty, fifty, eighty, one hundred, one hundred twenty -- one hundred twenty dollars.'

"That's fine. What else do you have?'

"I have nothing else. That's all.'

"Where do you live?"

"I live in my house.'

"The house, too.'

"Then you mean I must live in the garage?'

"Have you a garage, too? That, too. What else?'

"Do you mean that I must live in my car, then?'

"Have you a car?'

"I have two.'

"Both become mine. Both cars. What else?'

"Well, you have my house, the garage, the cars, the money, everything.'

"What else?'

"Are you alone in the world?'

"No, I have a wife, two children...'

"Your wife and children, too.'


"Yes, everything you have. What else?'

"I have nothing else, I am left alone now."

"Oh, you too! Everything becomes mine -- wife, children, house, money, cars -- everything. And you too. Now you can use all those things here but don't forget they are mine, as you are. When I need any of the things you are using, you must give them to me because now I am the owner." -Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975), pp. 42,43.

So too is a similar theme in our parable today. Our parable today is from Matthew chapter 21, the parable of the tenants, also called the parable of the wicked husbandmen, or the parable of the bad tenants.

It occurs in Matthew, but also is listed in Mark and Luke as well. So it must be very important, for it to be listed in each of the three gospels that list the parables of Jesus.

Our context is that Jesus has entered Jerusalem, in an event called the triumphal entry of Jesus. So Jesus is at the capital city of Israel. He is teaching in the temple, Herod’s temple, which was the second temple, reconstructed after Babylon had destroyed the first temple.

Jesus had carefully avoided Jerusalem, and avoided large crowds, but Jesus is teaching now in front of what must be hundreds and hundreds of people, and many Pharisees and Sadducees, after having just cleared the temple of the money changers and sellers. He taught there in the temple, healing people as well. Then he left the city, stayed in Bethany, and came back the next day, continuing to teach, included in these teachings, the parable we see today.

So let’s dig into the parable today, it begins this way: 33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.”

Fairly simple, we have a landowner, he setup a vineyard, and rented it out to tenants to produce his fruit, the fruit that belongs to him. He entrusts it to these people.

Understand that these people represent Israel, and in particular the religious leaders of Israel. It continues:

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

Throughout the history of Israel, God had sent prophets to call the nation, it’s people, it’s leaders to repentance and to walk closely with God, he had sent people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, many others, and they were persecuted by the leaders of Israel, often bullied, and even killed.

Jesus continues and he says, 40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Prophetic word from Jesus in this parable because he says he’ll deal harshly with the tenants who mistreated his prophets and himself. And he’ll lend the vineyard out to others who would what, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time, who will produce the fruit he requires of them.

Jesus was prophesying that the kingdom of God would pass over from Israel to the gentiles. Lucky for us, right? And indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the gentile nations, from China to Russia to the Philippines to Kenya and the Sudan, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Our job, as Christians has been, to care for the vineyard that belongs to Jesus while he’s away, leading people everywhere to their savior. That is the fruit required of us.

Additionally, we see Jesus quotes psalm 118, the stones the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

We don’t have time to delve deep into that, but suffice to say, the cornerstone sets the standard for every stone in the foundation of a structure, vital to every other piece of the structure, though Christ was rejected by Israel, he became the cornerstone of the body of believers today.

The parable concludes this way: 43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

We are the people who will produce it’s fruit, the fruit of the kingdom of God. That’s us in this parable. Israel rejected Christ. So the stewardship passed to us. That is a great responsibility. And a great blessing. It’s not easy. But it’s not too hard either. Tenants know how to care for a vineyard. Sometimes we can think the work of God is just so far beyond us. That’s not true. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. God gets us. He gives us work we are able to complete. And it’s good. It’s a bright harvest. Have you ever seen a ripe grape vine? It’s bursting forth with fruit.

That’s our calling, to humbly serve God, and care for the vineyard. Are you trustworthy with this great calling?

That is our great challenge today.

So how do we apply this parable to our time today? Clearly Jesus gave this parable to rebuke the Pharisees and Sadducees, and even Israel itself for failing to adequately care for God’s vineyard, in fact, they sought to steal it for themselves and their own glory. And when God sent servants to them, they persecuted them. God sent his only son to them, they murdered him and tried to steal the inheritance for themselves.

Isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees did? When God’s own son came to them in human form, they murdered him to keep the power and authority and respect they had. We have things in this world. And how often do we refuse Jesus some sort of access to what we have? Or, how often we have some theology that we like, and we twist God’s word just a little, because we want it to be our way, and not his way, because his way seems just a bit too hard, just a bit too mean, just a bit too angry? I’ve done that in the past. I prefer this. So I’m going to ignore what I don’t like. I want it this way. And we become just a little bit of a Pharisee in our hearts when we do that. Be cautious, all our abundance in the USA, it makes us arrogant and presumptuous. How often have we resisted the truth? How often have we taken our own ways? Stay humble.

Your duty is to the King’s vineyard. And the King is not messing around. Stay sober about your stewardship. I have struggled at times, with my mindset, getting too lazy, too focused on what I want, too self-centered. Even more, cavalier about sin. Sometimes I think God made me a minister because I’m so bad at this I need the extra help and focus of constantly being in God’s word. I don’t know that there's any sin that I’ve not tried or found myself uniquely weak toward. Have a sober fear for the Lord, and a sense of the seriousness of our duty as Christians. I will tell you that many, many, many Christians I’ve known do not take this thing seriously at all. They treat it like it’s sort of optional, just if I feel like I’ll do that, I’ll live that way, kinda, but I’m gonna hang on to my old ways, one foot in the world, one foot in the church. And that doesn’t work, plain and simple.

My only goal in life now, is to be found a faithful steward of the vineyard of God. Make that your goal too.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Instructions for Celebrating a 30 minute Christianized Seder Passover Meal

Jews across the ages have celebrated the Seder meal to celebrate the Passover when God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. 

We Christians have indeed found the ultimate Passover as we are delivered from the wrath of God by the precious blood of Jesus Christ our savior.  

This is a brief 30 minute Messianic Seder Meal Plan. Feel free to modify as the Spirit leads. 

Welcome – Opening Prayer

-Explain the Seder meal - The Seder meal is designed to remind us of the Israelites’ experience of Egyptian slavery, and how God redeemed them from Egypt. The Seder shows us that the Passover holiday is a commemoration of both suffering and joy. The Passover is also about celebrating becoming God's chosen.

As Christians we can celebrate this special ceremony, and let it remind us of how Jesus Christ became our Passover sacrifice, which delivers us from sin and judgment, and into love, acceptance, holiness and purity.

To begin, we light the candles. And we pray: “May all who are enslaved throughout the world come to know freedom. May all who are free, appreciate the blessings of abundance. And may all of us dwell in the house of God and give thanks for our good fortune as we celebrate these rituals of Passover.”

“Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Creator of the universe, who gave us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season of joy.”

The Grape Juice is served. 

Blessing over the Grape Juice:

“Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Creator of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.”

The Story of Passover

This matzah is a symbol of affliction and poverty. The story of Passover tells us about the hardships and suffering that our ancestors endured. It reminds us of those who are in need today, so we say: “whoever is hungry, come share our food-and celebrate Passover. To those who are poor or oppressed; we pray for them and hope that the comin year will bring a better life for all.”

The Questions:

Why is this night different from all the other nights?

In what ways do you find this night different?

In 4 ways do I find this night different

On all other nights we may eat chametz and matzah but on this night, only matzah.

On all other nights we eat many vegetables, but on this night only maror.

On all other nights, we don’t dip even once, but on this night we dip twice.

On all other nights, we eat either sitting up or reclining, but on this night, we all recline.

Serve the flat bread. 

Taste the bread, it reminds us that when the Israelites prepared to leave Egyptian slavery for the promised land they could not make normal bread, but they made flat bread, to carry with them in their bags more easily. And I want you to break the bread before you eat it. It reminds us that Jesus Christ body had to be broken for us, broken to give us new life, broken because of our sins, broken to give us wholeness. Take it and eat.

Serve the Horseradish.

Horseradish (bitter herbs) Taste the bitter herbs that remind us of the bitter affliction of slavery in Egypt. And our past slavery to sin before Christ saved us.

Serve the Parsley with salt water to dip in. 

Taste the parsley dipped in salt water. Taste it remember the bitter tears of God’s people shed when they were enslaved. And it reminds us today of the bitter tears of our slavery to sin and death, before Jesus saved us. It reminds us of the tears Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane.  And the tears of our afflictions as we walk the road of Jesus in this life, carrying our crosses daily.

Serve the Haroseth.

Taste the haroseth. The mud the Israelite slaves had to use to make bricks to build the wealth of Egypt for the pharaoh. It also reminds us as Christians of the dust that we came from, the dirt of sin that we once dwelled in, and how Jesus saved us from the mud and filth of sin through which we deserved destruction.

Present the bone.

View the bone, hold it. It represents the Passover lamb, that was slaughtered by the Israelites on the night that the angel of death came throughout Egypt, killing the first born sons of the Egyptians, but passing over the doors of those who had slaughtered the Passover lamb and placed it's blood on their doors. 

In the same way Jesus became our Passover lamb so that the wrath of God would Passover us, because we are washed in the blood of Jesus. Not a single bone of Jesus was broken when he was nailed to the cross. 

Serve the eggs.

Taste the egg, it reminds us of springtime, the springtime of a new day for Israel as God led them out of Egypt and toward the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And as Christians it reminds us of new life, because we have been born again, like a chick is born, born new, of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus our savior. It reminds us of the empty tomb, that Jesus Christ rose again from the grave to give us new life. 

Closing Prayer:
Thank you God, for all the favors you have bestowed upon us! You led us out of Egypt, slavery, and oppression. You brought the plagues against the Egyptians, slew their firstborn, and brought us their wealth.

You split open the red sea, then drowned our oppressors. Thank you for taking care of us in the desert for 40 years. You fed us manna, gave us sabbath, then brought us to mount Sinai to give us the Torah and your commandments. Thank you, oh God, for bringing us to the Land of Israel, making us a great nation.

And thank you God for sending Jesus Christ, born to the virgin Mary. Thank you God for how he healed the sick and the lame. Thank you God that he spoke the truth, and gave us bread from heaven, his own flesh and blood. Thank you that he was crushed for us on the cross, to remove our sins, and give us new life. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who dwells with us now. Thank you that Jesus Christ will return to set up his kingdom on this Earth one day soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Names of God: Jehovah-rophe, God our Healer in the Bitter Waters of the Wilderness

"Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water." -Exodus 15:22-27

A people had been shackled for so long, broken under the whip, they must’ve lost so much hope, figured nothing could change, that happens in life, when we get stuck, for years even, more, we start to lose hope and start to think I’m never getting out of here. I’m never getting better. I’m never getting over this. We lose hope and it seems impossible. Time has a way of doing that doesn’t it? Waking up.. having coffee, going through the day, trying to survive life, sitting alone at home, watching tv, not liking ourselves in our own skin. Things we wish were different but they won’t change. How much more so for Israel, in abject slavery for so long.

How could they believe that things would ever change? But then something happened so fast. Something that seemed so completely impossible, and then it just suddenly happens.

How much can we all relate to that? When God saved us, and changed us, how long had we waited, how long had we given up hope? For me it was years.

It feels like nothing will change. Then it suddenly does. And you can hardly believe it.

What did the Israelites think, as they walked on the bottom of red sea, on the dirt at the bottom of the sea, with walls of water on both sides. Did they look with awe and think, this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening, we’ve been slaves so long. How can this be? And yet its happening.

Israel had seen all the miracles of God, they saw the plagues fall on Egypt, and Passover them, they were kept safe, and yet, as they headed into the wilderness, into the desert, millions of people together in the desert, they traveled three days and three nights, not finding any water.

Think about that though, the human body can only survive three days without. I’m sure they probably had some water along with them, but not enough for so many millions to survive on.

But that would be scary, imagine not having water for 3 days, we can’t imagine not having water for one day. And our scripture today says God did that specifically to test them.

Then they find an oasis in the desert. And I’m sure they’re all so relieved at that moment, they see the palm trees, the grass, the waters, and think oh praise the Lord we found water.

Often times, this is the moment God will test us. I want you to see this in your own life. This is the moment we all face from time to time.

It looks like something good is about to happen. We can see it. We approach it. And suddenly it’s pulled away from us. It’s gone again.

Even the FBI and law enforcement understand this concept. With one journalist, who had gained access to classified information, and refused to give up the source, they arrested her, and put her in jail. Very scary experience. Shes in tears in her bed in jail afraid, of the inmates, counting the days, and she’s in there for several months. And finally she gets word, shes going to be released.

She is so relieved, so happy, shes won, they’ve relented, she gets her stuff together, gets out the doors, goes home to celebrate with family, as soon as she gets home, the police arrive, and re-arrest her. And she’s back in. They would do that strategically to weigh on the emotional faculties of the individual, with the goal of recovering the confidential information.

Something similar you could say is happening here. They arrive at marah. And they gather around the pool. And they realize, the waters are bitter, they are poisonous, no one can drink the waters. They are in big trouble.

The people go crazy and complain to Moses, what are we going to do? We’re going to die in the desert. We laugh at the Israelites thinking why don’t they trust God? But how often do we do the same thing? Where is our faith when life is hard?

It even says the people began to turn against Moses, like outright rebellion. What is your response when you thought you had finally found hope and it’s taken away again? We go through that don’t we. We have to try and respond better than the people who rebelled against Moses. Can we respond with faith when everything is taken away and we’re left back at square one?

Then we see that Moses calls out to God. And God answers. God shows Moses a tree, a branch, wood, and he tosses it into the water, and the bitter waters became pure. God was testing them. How would they respond? They responded with rebellion.

Then it says in verse 25-27: "It was there at Marah that the LORD set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.”

27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water."

Despite marah being bitter, just near by the was the oasis of Elim with twelve springs, one spring for every tribe of Israel. Amazing.

But this is where we find our name of God for today, God said I am the Lord who heals you, Jehovah-rophe.

The bitter water of marah really to us represents how we are marred in sin. We are marah, marred in sin, bitter in sin, dirty, undrinkable, filthy, covered in sin.

And just as Moses tossed the tree into the waters, we must come to a tree to be saved, the tree of the cross of Jesus Christ. Then there Jesus heals us and makes us new, as pure as the waters of marah that were purified by God through Moses.

The Lord says I am the Lord who heals you. Jehovah rophe. Only God can heal us. Only God can turn our bitter waters pure. Who else could do such a thing? There was no solution before to our problem. Only God could solve it.

The people continue to rebel against Moses in their journey through the wilderness, and many were bitten by snakes and became sick from the poison. But God made a way for them to be healed, he had Moses craft a bronze snake, and lift it up on a pole, and the people would look upon it and be healed. And Jesus compared these events to himself, when he spoke to Nicodemus and he said, just as Moses lifted up that bronze pole in the desert so also the son of man must be lifted up, on the cross, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15).

He is the healer in the Old Testament. And Jesus became our healer in the New testament. Jesus traveled near and far healing people who were lepers, healing people with deformities, healing people who couldn’t walk, who couldn’t see, and healing broken hearts, driving out demons, and speaking the truth. God is our healer.

Yet God also tests us, just like Israel at the waters of Marah. He purifies us like gold, removing the impurities. And these tests show what’s really in our hearts. And show the work that God is doing and the progress being made as he conforms us to the likeness of Jesus. But it all starts of God. Of us recognizing we can’t fix the problem ourselves, but must turn to God our healer to make us well.

That is your challenge today. To Turn to Him for your help, and not rely on self to cleanse those filthy waters of your heart. Only God can do that. So invite him to. Admit your sinfulness, and receive Christ’s healing. He will also heal more than just your sins though. He will heal your physical health problems. He will heal your broken heart, your depression, your anxiety, your troubled emotions. Reach out to Him for healing. Also recognize he doesn’t always heal us right away. He often tests us. And allows us go through struggles to build our faith in Him. So if you’re in the wilderness, continue to trust God your healer, who is with you in the difficulties as well. Amen.

The Parable of the Talents: Well Done Good and Faithful Servant!

"Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions... No one can take it from you. It is not something that can be stolen. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Moreover, you cannot draw on its future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness -- the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends -- depends on that.

If one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one's whole life indefinitely. We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is."
-Arnold Bennett, Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 18-20.

Our Parable today occurs in the book of Matthew in the 25th chapter, just before our parable from last week, the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the chapter 25 as we talked about last week, we’re looking at parables in regard to the final judgment. This parable is no different. We’re being taught by Jesus here, how we should be prepared for his second coming.

At the beginning of the chapter, we see the parable of the ten virgins. Five are wise, and five are unwise, the wise are ready for Christ’s return, the unwise are not. In the parable of the sheep and goats, the sheep have served Jesus faithfully on the Earth by meeting the practical needs of those around them, the goats have not.

And in our parable today, we see servants of a master, some who are wise, and one who is not.

And the question we should each be asking ourselves is, as I make decisions in my life, and exercise my free will, which path am I choosing? Am I choosing the wise path or the dead end path? It all comes down to how we decide to respond to Christ and what he commands us to do and be.

Let’s take a look at our parable, from Matthew chapter 25, verses 14-30. As a side note, this parable also occurs in Luke 19:11–27, in a slightly different form.

The scripture says this: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.”

Pause there. I’m reading from the NLT. The NIV renders it as “bags of gold” while the NASB renders it “talents.” I understand why the NIV and NLT are rendering it that way, but I want to consider the word talent. What is a talent? A “talent” or talentan in the Greek, was a unit of measurement for about 80 lbs, and in particular a talent was referencing a weight of 80 lbs of silver. That may be why the NIV renders it silver. But as a unit of currency, it would be referencing an amount of 6,000 denarii. To understand that value, one denarii in the ancient world was equal to one day’s wages. A single talent then, is actually valued at about 20 years of labor. So, say you made 30,000 a year, the amount of 1 talent would be $600,000.

So, it’s apparent what God gives us, is of extreme value. What does he give us? We’ll get there in a minute. But consider the amounts he’s giving, to the first servant, he gave 5 bags of silver, five talents, so if we’re going off our base scale here, 30,000 a year, about 2.5 million dollars.

I also want you to notice that it says he divided in it proportion to their abilities. Very important.

Then it says, “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money."

So the three servants make their various choices with the money they’ve been entrusted with, the first earned five more, the second two more, and the third hid the money. 

It continues, “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

The master was gone a long time, and in the parable of the talents in Luke, it’s similar, in fact the parable is explained as being told, because they were near Jerusalem, and many of them were expecting Jesus to immediately take power and overthrow the romans and claim his seat as king of the nation. And Jesus tells them the parable to explain how it’s actually going to work.

The master is gone a long time. Then, he finally returns, the moment we’re all waiting for. This is the moment I’m building my life for. I hope you are too. The moment when either you die of old age, or Jesus returns, whichever comes first, and we stand before God to explain our lives.

For the first two servants, this day is everything they could’ve hoped for. They received the money they were given, and made use of it in the world, and brought a return to their master.

They are returning double, they were given 2 talents, they returned 4 talents, they were given 5, they return 10.

It’s interesting though in Mark 4:20 in the parable of the soil, it says, "And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!””

Our harvest can be very plentiful indeed!

How does the master respond to the servants who have completed their mission? He says to them “well done good and faithful servant.” We as Christians sometimes we teach only one of those two qualifiers when we share the gospel. We say OK, you need to make sure you’re a faithful servant of Christ. Put your faith in God. Just have faith. We leave out the “good” part, and forget to call people to pure holy living. Other only teach the good part. Just focus on being good, check off the boxes, faith isn’t as important, do good works, be good, and you’ll be fine, we leave out faithful.

But Jesus says well done good and faithful servant. We protestants like to leave out the “good” part, well just believe in Jesus. No, believe in Jesus while perfecting holiness in reverence for God. Good and faithful servant.

The master continues and says, because you’ve been trustworthy in a little, I’ll put you in charge over much.

In fact in this parable in Luke, it says in verse 17, “17 “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ And for the second servant he says, you will be governor over five cities. That is a massive reward. From working with money and investing it, to being in charge of entire kingdoms. That is a huge gift.

It's a great reminder that Christ is watching to see how we’re trustworthy with the little we have in this life.

Alright we’re done, right? Everyone goes to heaven right? Everyone does the right thing. Many preachers today like to edit out the difficult parts of the scriptures, and they create an idol out of God when they do that. It’s disgusting, to twist the scripture to change God’s character to fit what we would prefer. What a shame that is, to twist God’s character to suit our wants and desires. That should offend you. It offends me. It offends God more so, and I would not want to be that preacher on judgment day, trying to explain to God why he twisted his character and only preached the feel good verses.

No, the parable doesn’t end there. There’s a third servant, let’s see what happens next.

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

The servant actually insults his master, calling him harsh, and basically insinuating that he didn’t do any of the work himself so why should he get the harvest kind of thing. Nasty, rude response. So he didn’t do anything with the money, he hid it underground and gave it back later.

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
-Matthew 25:26–30

I think we get a clue to what Jesus is talking about in verse 29 he says to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.

I think there is a temptation to take what Jesus has given us, our time, our talents, our abilities, our wealth, and to hide it away. We’re afraid we wont do a good job, that we’ll play off key, that we won’t do it right, that we’ll fail, so we just don’t do anything at all with it. We’re afraid to, of God, and of how he’ll view our work. So we just hide it away and don’t use it.

And for that servant they are called wicked and lazy. The opposite of good and faithful. Instead of good, wicked. Instead of faithful, lazy. Good to know the opposite so we can avoid it.

There will be accountability for those who fail to serve Christ in this life. If we reject his calls to service, if we don’t use the gifts he’s given us, we’ll be held accountable.

And if we do use those gifts and talents for His glory, we will be rewarded. It even says, that the master says, let’s celebrate, he’s so happy, he throws a party for them, because they did well, he says let’s celebrate.

Time to celebrate. Time for perfect existence. Time for a garden perpetual. A garden unending. A peace that never ends. Time to wander the streets of gold, the valleys of golden wheat, the blue mountains, the endless houses, and parties and get togethers and worship times, the moments so balmy they seem like euphoric dreams. The joy and contentment so sweet, sweeter than any dessert, magic nights in the city of God, talking on porches, running and playing with animals, flying through the sky to view the beauty, seeing the infinite God taller than a skyscraper, parts of him moving in and out and shifting and spinning wheels and creatures and angels crying out, and a rainbow, and a sea of glass shifting in the air, glowing stones, lightning and thunder, clouds, and glory, everyday, perfect life, perfect joy, no more controversy, no more rebellion, no more sin.

Well done good and faithful servant. You don’t need me to tell you about talents you know what yours are, use them build for that future which is more real than this life, more real than anything in this world, is that future. Make sure you spend your eternity there build now for there. Amen.