Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

What Time Is It?

Sound Familiar? Power, signs and false wonders, deception, wickedness – to deceive those who do not receive the love of the truth. (It’ a “heart condition.”) Do you think “he who now restrains” is being taken out of the way, so that even “virtual” or “augmented reality” will be on the loose to bring in great deception? This is the time of revealing, which is the meaning of “apocalypse”.
 
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
2 Thessalonians 2:7-12.
Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Christ Alone!

They band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has been my stronghold, and my God is my rock of my refuge. He will bring upon them their own iniquity and destroy them for their wickedness. The LORD our God will destroy them.” Psalm 94:21-23

Times do not change. Degree of magnitude of difficulty (as in global versus regional in past) may be the only thing that is new under the sun. But the Lord Jesus Christ never changes. We call upon Him alone. We can fully trust in Him to bring us through the clouds, great darkness, and tempests in this life. There is no other! He asks us to follow Him and to trust in Him. And so the psalmists (their authors were more than just David) spoke, expressing their faith and prayers, that oppressors will not be allowed to continue their rebellion against the Lord, nor to continue their assault on those whom He has chosen to follow Him. We can follow the psalmists’ examples in praying and even singing these great affirmations of God’s love and authority.

My Stronghold.png

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

“I will keep watch for You, O my strength; for You, O God, are my fortress.” Psalm 59:9

“From the ends of the earth I call out to You whenever my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

To pray and sing the psalms in a reflective, contemplative way is a very ancient practice. As we do so, it is also an effective way to confess the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and to learn the ways of God as He guides us through life’s challenges. There is something about doing this that teaches us from the inner being, and wraps itself indelibly upon our consciousness. Then we are taught by experience that He is wholly reliable and loves us beyond imagining.

Personally I find it helpful to make art with these themes as well. Then it becomes prayer that can be shared.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Pause

 
This evening I went for a ride into a nearby ordinarily bustling tourist town. Yes, in the rain. It looked like a ghost town. Odd even for this time of year. Or maybe it just resembled the town after 5pm the way it used to look back in the 1950s, 60s (when it was normal that folks were actually home, having dinner together, kids doing homework, cleaning up, getting to bed at a decent time, and not staying up half the night isolated in your room – locked into, addicted to, mind bending computerized games).
 
No one even thought about “going to the store” just to have something to do in the evening. I recall Dad watching the news, reading the papers, or working in his vegetable garden in the summer. And Mom loved to read Reader’s Digest Condensed Books after dinner (probably nobody now even knows what those were). She delighted in flowers and plants too, indoor and outdoor. ALL were gathered as family in the living room after supper, not off “doing your own thing.” I loved to do art and practice my music, after finishing homework – done at the dining room table adjacent to the living room (piano was in the dining room too, guitar next to it). No arms had to be twisted, nor was it resented. That’s just how it went. Because there was love there.
 
Occasionally there were some after school activities, but it was not an ongoing string of exhausting competitive events, night after night. People lived simple and lightly disciplined lives, and it was frankly a very pleasant way to be. We lived in a time where the world shut down on regular hours and days. Many businesses closed around noon on Saturday, in honor of getting ready for Sunday as the Lord’s Day. There may have been a few places open for Sunday dinners, but not many – the exception, not the rule. It was only for special occasions that we got to eat out.
 
Picnics and pot lucks were often held at the homes of relatives. Most extended family gathered together for dinner on Sundays at someone’s house. It was a rare treat to go out to one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday. There were special times of gathering too, usually Thanksgiving and Christmas.
 
There were “breathers” in life, where toil and work STOPPED. And I wonder if this “strangeness” that has entered our reality isn’t a time for us to take stock, to re-evaluate the crazy pace at which most of us live, to slow down, to pause, to actually THINK, to reset. Instead now we must have classes on how to breathe to relax, with a hefty price tag attached. What?
 
Riddle me this. Where did this simple goodness go?
 
Personally I never liked living like a machine, or being treated like one. All it does it create hypertension, anxiety, depression, dysfunction, and even disease – which comes from dis-ease. Sometimes I wonder if we know how to be anything but a list of our diagnoses, disorders, and disabilities. And that is truly the saddest commentary when that becomes chief part of one’s identity.
 
Even while we’re crippled and wounded, we’re still prodded to “dream big,” be all you can be, achieve, and push ourselves to the next pasture where we think the grass will be greener. We think that is the cure, when it’s a symptom of the disease of chasing the world!
 
“Motivationalism” is the foremost pop religion, the god at whose altar so many bow (race, compete, and jockey?). Push, push, push! And much of it sadly is done in the name of the Prince of PEACE. You remember – the One Who makes us to lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul, Whose yoke is easy and Whose burden is light. Yes, that Guy. The One Who said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things necessary will be yours.
 
Perhaps this strange pause might give us a chance to find out what our real identity is, as dear children created in the Image and Likeness of our Creator Father. And then once we capture the “vision,” of that, to take back who we really are. It will require pulling away long enough to reflect, to pray, and to LISTEN, so we can hear Him Who says, “Be still, and KNOW that I am God.”
Posted in Christianity, Uncategorized

Perspectives

Warning: This is not an easy “word.” So if you don’t like heat, then leave the kitchen now. Justice is being enacted on every level. It has to come about as a kind of reset. It may be in fact the end of things as we have known them, enjoyed them, and taken life as it is for granted.

The perception of this commenter is that the USA, in fact the entire world, is undergoing the judgment of God. We need to look beyond the circumstances, far beyond. What we see we may not like to even consider. There have been fairly localized events throughout history. This is global. But the patterns are here and clearly revealed in Scripture.

Go read the Old Testament. Search history. The pattern doesn’t change. God’s hand in the affairs of men did not stop with the maps section in your Bible right after the Revelation. And seldom does He use the “nice guys” to execute certain aspects of His plan, when it’s time to go out back behind the cosmic woodshed.

Everything is being shaken. 3000 unborn children a day cannot be murdered (USA alone) without the Lord hearing their innocent blood cry out from the earth! That’s only one matter. There are many more, including rampant occultism. And we’re worried about a head cold with an attitude, while this holocaust has gone on for the last nearly 50 years? We should feel threatened. What goes around comes around.

“Babylon” must fall and we have too long been content with her ways. Including her Babylonian-ized religions with Christian facades which utter not a sound of warning, but are often compromised and complicit, and in fact in bed with her. Some of that goes back a long way. Some of it is “new.” So it’s comeuppance time for all.

You can “name it, claim it, and frame it in Jesus’ name” all you want, but you’re not going to manipulate Him Who must come as righteous judge. Nor is there going to be any escape. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives. Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you do not experience discipline like everyone else, then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” Hebrews 12:6-8. 

Take that to heart. Seldom is it taught or preached, this tough side of God’s love.

Where must our sights be set, then, who call on the name of the Lord?

“At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth, but heaven as well.’ The words, ‘Once more,’ signify the removal of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that the unshakable may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God ACCEPTABLY with REVERENCE and AWE.” Hebrews 12:26-28.

By the way, What ever happened to REVERENCE and AWE in worship? Too many “worship settings” are more like rock concerts with people walking in with their water bottles, drinks, and even snacks, spilling, dropping, chattering and chatting away, ready to be “uplifted” by bootie shaking hit tunes. Where’s the fear of the Lord – which is the beginning of wisdom – in THAT?! Where’s the heart prepared to receive the King of Kings? Maybe it’s time to meet Jesus with the whip, Who turns the tables on everything, instead of the feel good “entertain me and gimme what I want” Jesus!

As the old song says, “There’s a whole lot of shaking going on…” Pretty soon it’s going to be His shaking, and no one will be spared.

“After this I saw another angel descending from heaven with great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his glory. And he cried out in a mighty voice: ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a lair for demons and a haunt for every unclean spirit, every unclean bird, and every detestable beast. All the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her immorality. The kings of the earth were immoral with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy from the extravagance of her luxury.’” Revelation 18:1-3.

The times call for repentance, humility, and surrender of heart, mind, soul, and body to the Almighty. All of life in fact! He didn’t create us, redeem us, and recreate us in Christ, after we rebelled and fell, to have us live to ourselves. It’s time to grow up in our understanding. 

We may do well to seize the opportunity that has been oddly presented us, in the form of a shut down of everything, for all our wheel spinning and time wasting to be better directed into prayer and meditation on the Word of God, and living according to it. “But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” Like 11:28.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

On Psalm 91:2

Psalm 91: 2 (AMPC) “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

Refuge & Fortress.png

It is helpful to picture this dwelling place – as revealed in verse 1 – as a refuge or a fortress. Think about the pictures you have seen of ancient castles, hewn from the very mountain in which they are set. These to be sure can be called strongholds! Often on one side is a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet straight into the ocean. The sea crashes against this “wall” in all its great force and fury relentlessly, but in futility, for it cannot penetrate what is on the other side of that wall. Nor can any invading force arriving by ship even hope to enter and overtake. Those who arrive to attack will likely not survive their own efforts.

Huge walls surround this fortress on its other sides, which themselves are surrounded by craggy mountains and beast filled forests that threaten anyone who might be so audacious as to attempt to storm such a refuge.

A drawbridge is its front door – the only way in. Only those with the King’s permission can enter, coming and going, doing his bidding. Only one path leads to this entrance, a circuitous and narrow way. It is well protected by heavily armed and well trained guards, vigilant day and night as they patrol this path and surveil from its towers. One look at them would make anyone approaching think twice about his reasons for doing so! Unless of course his intention is to surrender himself in full to the King, to once and for all throw himself down before the mercies of the throne.

Spiritually speaking, King and Fortress and Refuge are one for such souls. The WAY to the fortress is through Jesus Christ alone, for any in need of God’s mercy, protection, and healing. Everything necessary is inside, for those who have greatly realized their need, having been assaulted by thieves and robbers (false teachers, the devil, the world system, and the flesh, and more – all adversaries of this fortress and those who seek refuge in Him).

Those who seek asylum in this refuge will never be turned away, for here we have Jesus’ own promise to such souls: “All whom the Father has given (entrusted) to Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out – I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me.” (John 6:37 AMPC)

Life may not seem like such a dwelling place. Even our churches – because of the culture which has assaulted and penetrated all too many of them – may no longer seem like places where it is conducive to finding a spiritual refuge, a place of quiet and reverence, where there is any sort of genuine sense of being “en-fortressed” by the Almighty.

Paradoxically this may have its purpose. Might it be in order for us to better redirect our orientation and intention toward a more prayerful and personal experience of our Lord God as refuge and fortress, in preparation for a time when the outer structures may not be as easily accessible?  Or so that we may be as Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of Him, to comprehend and apprehend Him as refuge and fortress – as the Holy Spirit, through His written Word, makes us increasingly aware that, through Christ alone by grace through faith, we now indwell Him and He indwells us? Could it be so that we become intimately acquainted with the Omnipotent yet personal One Who is not bound by walls made by man?

This is He Who “richly and daily supplies me with everything I need to support this body and life. He shields me from all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does out of pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Can it get any better than this?

So we can pray this verse in praise of Him in Whom we live, move, and have our being, You are my refuge! You are my fortress, my God in Whom I trust! All thanks and praise be to You alone for this magnificent reality given to me because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ Who purchased and won me to be Your own! Let me live continually, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the awareness of Your life transforming love for me. Amen.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

On Psalm 91:1

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].” (Psalm 91:1 AMPC)

Dwelling Place.png

What might it mean to dwell in this “place”, the Presence of the One Who is the Person of God Himself? We can only come into this through our Lord Jesus Christ, as we continually trust in Him. We’re shown here that we remain “stable and fixed,” as we “dwell in” – abide, remain, stay put – through abiding faith / trust / confidence in our Lord!

This entire Psalm is chock full of many promises to those who love God and have been brought to faith in Christ. We should take this to heart, “For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20.) Therefore, this is a good Psalm to keep before us in these days of great instability and disinformation and obfuscation, to meditate on it, and to personalize it as a prayer – even commit it to heart.

Remember – We can take the cue from the very beginning – Psalm1:1,2 about where to fix our prayerful thoughts and attention:  “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.”

The promise here in Psalm 91:1 is that no foe can withstand the power of Christ (to Whom is given all authority in heaven and on earth, per Matthew 28:18). Often the biggest foe is where we fix our attention. Will it be on this life’s concerns, or riches and wealth, the news, worries, or some other thing? Or instead might we “look up”?! “If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) Realize that if your new life is hidden with Christ in God, then you can see that you dwell in that “secret place” spiritually, and these promises are yours!

Isn’t it worth knowing what they are? A daily verse by verse prayerful contemplation of Psalm 91 might be a very fruitful place to start, to make His promises your own, if you can see that you are God’s own in Christ Jesus!

Posted in Christianity

Sounding Off

When we get to know another person, or even fall in love with someone, do we just enjoy the relationship, or do we have to figure out what it means, analyze it, and figure out how it works?

Yet an elephant in the room is that this is exactly what happens among people who say they love Jesus Christ! It is frustrating to watch these combative interactions taking place, in the name of Jesus, all over the Internet. This denomination against that one. Christification versus holiness. Grace against works. Justification versus sanctification. And on and on it goes, ad nauseam.

No, correction. It is not frustrating. It is tragic. It makes me want to weep.

So, how many angels actually do dance on the head of a pin?

Can you not just picture Jesus watching all this? “Hello, here I am waiting for you to follow Me, so I can show you the Way home. But all you are doing is arguing with one another about how a relationship with Me works.”

Please understand. I am not advocating for a lack of truth or  lack of right theology. But the whole thing about “knowing about” has become the focus, the object, the IDOL! Jesus gets lost in the shuffle of theological debate, or the “celestial mechanics” (so to speak) of how spiritual mechanisms work, almost as if this process is a machine to be figured out. Does one need to be a certified mechanic in order to drive a vehicle?

Knowing about Him is not knowing Him!

“Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” John 17:3

We may do well to take seriously the words of John the Baptist, “”Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John1:29. Fix our gaze on Him; take a good look; learn from Him.

Wouldn’t it be a shame to be able to argue all sorts of points about God, and still miss the all important matter of knowing Him?

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Come Follow Me

Some say that Jesus does not speak to us today. If Jesus were to speak directly to our hearts, I think He would say something like this…

Cross 16.png

Come, follow Me. My commandments are not burdensome. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Learn of Me.

Live and walk according to My Holy Spirit, the “Word in the word”, for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. I have prayed that you are sanctified in the Truth. My word is truth.

Those who keep My commandments love Me.

Those who are My disciples love one another as I have loved you.

And if you abide in My teaching revealed in My holy Word, then you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Whom I have made free through My cross is free indeed – from the devil, the world, and the flesh. You died in Me, through My cross, and are no longer bound to darkness and sin. Live from that Resurrection reality by faith, and do not suppress this truth in unrighteous living!

Devote yourself to prayer and to My Word, for you are My temple, My house of prayer where I dwell through My Holy Spirit. Let Me thus lead you in the Way everlasting.

Let no one talk you out of what I have shown you, for the enemy seeks to rob you – through their unbelief – of the joy, power over darkness and deception, and freedom of your salvation. Abide in Me. Whoever abides in Me, the Vine, will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Against these there is no Law.

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Just Wondering

While I sometimes enjoy the content of a number of Youtube channels run by certain pastors, I got to wondering when they have time to shepherd their flocks, considering all the TV watching, Youtube watching, and preparing their content that’s involved, equipment, etc., so they can critique pseudo preachers and the like, and heaven knows they need exposing. Not to mention prayer life! Yet some things just don’t stack up. Ministry functions are “… to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:12-14. Focus on what’s important, literally for Christ’s sake! Or is Youtube monetization more important? I dunno. Maybe I’m behind the times, but what if things were being taken care of at home in the local assembly, the family of God, along the lines of maturing the saints, then just maybe the saints could discern for themselves who the charlatans are!

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Sometimes…

Sometimes it pays to stay with the simplicity that is Christ. What was important to Jesus? People can spend all sorts of time discussing and challenging one another’s lofty ideas, while at the same time failing to grasp and to practice what’s important to Him, biblically speaking – which is where the buck stops.

One thing that comes to mind and is so often overlooked is something that has been coming into focus a great deal of late: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” 1John 2:3.

1 John 2:4-6 clearly informs us, “Whoever says, ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God has been perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

Christianity is meant to be an “evidence based” faith, the evidence being a growth in Christ likeness – love and holiness. 1 John 4:13 – “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” This is where the “can do” comes from, not of ourselves, but of God the Holy Spirit Himself!

It’s not about the right church or the right pew. It’s not about the religious traditions or commandments of men. It’s not about the latest church trends. It’s not about the politics of the land. It’s not about your favorite televangelist. It’s not about your best life now. It’s not about miracles, gifts, signs and wonders! It’s not about what your priest or preacher said last week – unless he’s in agreement with what Jesus teaches about the evidence. And the evidence is everything, per Jesus!

Well then?

Here’s a key: “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b,2. The only way we can be sure about that is to become intimately acquainted with Holy Scripture. Read it. Pray it. Study it. Meditate on it day and night. Talk about it. See Psalm 1 and Psalm 119 for details.

It boils down to what Jesus taught, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15

That we have been talked out of this by “can’t do” preachers of every expression of Christianity is a great tragedy. Why? Because Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. It’s how the world knows we are His own! Love like His is the fulfillment of the law! The “can’t do” preachers love to dwell on how much we love sin and how impossible it is to live as Jesus calls His disciples to live. Certainly that is true up to a point – without the Holy Spirit we cannot, for that is the natural state of fallen humanity. But with God, the Counselor and Comforter, what He asks of us is possible. So how about setting our sites on something higher, according to the way Jesus sees things?

A way must be made for this to happen. Might this be why Jesus very clearly directs His followers: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13. We are to ask and keep on asking, or as the Amplified Classic Version states, “… how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”

And “Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6. How hungry are you? How thirsty?

“If anyone says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” 1 John 2:4-6.

It is also true that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,  and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8,9.

There’s a balance here. It’s not either or. When the Holy Spirit is bestowed, this begins the process whereby we are made more and more Christlike on a continuing basis. If this is not happening, some serious, prayerful self examination is in order. So, check into the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey Clinic and turn yourself around!

We need to abide and to grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord. This is the way of a normal Christian life, with its ups and downs. But to think that we should abide always as “poor miserable sinners” forever, or live as we please in our sin, since grace abounds, is an eternally fatal error – not only for ourselves but possibly as well for all to whom we are a “witness.” There must, therefore, always be a continual surrendering to the Holy Spirit by way of godly sorrow for sin, confession, and repentance. And then, in receiving forgiveness, “With my lips I proclaim all the judgments of Your mouth. I rejoice in the way of Your testimonies as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” Psalm 119:14,15.

So, KISS – Keep It Simple Saints.

And LOVE – Let Others View Emmanuel.