Prepare or Perish; I Cannot Be Quiet.

“Come, NOW is the time to worship.”

2021-03-27 House on FireI wish this could be more gently expressed, but like a man seeing the house of a friend on fire, I must SHOUT IT.  There is too little time to say, “Oh, maybe I will disturb him or interrupt his nice supper; I’ll call him later and tell him his house is on fire.”  What kind of friend would I be!?  That said, no one can force you out of a burning house if it is your choice to stay there.  But still, I have to warn that Jesus made it clear, we must Be Ready or we will perish.

We have examined the evidence of evil.  There are people who sell other people into the sex trades or some form of indentured servitude.  Just as bad, there are people who buy and use them.  There are people who will sell drugs to anyone with money to purchase, no matter how badly addicted their victims are; others who will turn a blind eye to crises because it is politically inconvenient or will cost them their job or make them look foolish to others; even more who simply shrug and say, “Well, I am not doing that.  It is not my problem.”  The mass of German citizens seemed shocked when they were paraded into POW camps after WW2 and said, “Oh, my, we didn’t know.”  But their complicity was in not listening to the warning sirens of Jews being “labeled” and marginalized; ignoring the buildup of power into a select few, all in the name of “purifying the race;” making life better for “all of you.”

We have looked at the Scriptures for what Jesus, the apostles, and Old Testament prophets taught about hell and its misery.  Gehenna (translated ‘hell’ or ‘fiery furnace’ or similar analogies) was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  This was His picture of hell; a place not intended for human habitation, but where those who cannot serve their purpose wind up; a place of disposal; strangely, a place “chosen” by those who will reside there because they refuse to trust the Creator and Jesus, in [whom] the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily

Evil is evident.  Hell is authentic.  So how can one avoid it?  Jesus spent most of his parables telling about the Kingdom of God and how to get into it.  He gave several stern warnings, though, against being deceived.  In Matthew 24, four times He told His followers to beware.  He then conclude this teaching with a blessing and a severe warning (verses 45-51) .

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He then tells the story of ten women who went out to meet a bridegroom.  In that culture, the groom would come to his bride at an unannounced time after meeting with his friends.  Five were foolish and five were wise.  At the end of the story, this Jesus that everyone thinks would always be so kind and forgiving, excludes the foolish women from the groom’s banquet, and quite harshly!

He then tells a story of a landowner who commits responsibilities to his servants while he is away.  The wise servants invest his loans to them, but a foolish one hides the money so he can give back only what he received.  He gets a tongue lashing that would make Bear Bryant blush, and the land owner orders the worthless servant [to be cast] into the outer darkness . . .  where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He concludes a trilogy of parables with a story of sheep and goats being separated.  To the “goats on the left” Jesus will tell them, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Note, the eternal fire was never intended for humans.

The fearful thing for most people is that Heaven is not our default destination.  In our natural state, the way we are born, we are already condemned to hell!  John wrote in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already!John 3:16-18

That is why Jesus told the Pharisee that he needed to be “born again!”  Being born into this life was NOT enough!  As lovely or successful or rich or powerful or comfortable as one can be, we are all condemned to hell UNLESS we specifically and personally take a step of faith and “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” to be saved.

It would be “nice” if everyone would get into Heaven, but Jesus clearly teaches that many will NOT!  How can I invite you to read the Gospels, the Good News, so that you do not have to go to hell?  What can I do to persuade you that you were created for a better life than this?  Are there any words I can write that will convince you to trust Jesus for eternal life?  What can I show you of how much God, the Father, loves you beyond the fact that Jesus died in your place, in my place?

The promise is completely inclusive: ANYONE can come to Jesus, regardless of past sin, problems, ethnicity, success or failure; NOTHING excludes you!
But the promise is completely exclusive simultaneously: ONLY those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

Someday, at the name of Jesus every knee [WILL] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [WILL] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” when He is fully revealed at the end of time.  But there is a special blessing and fellowship of the Holy Spirit and of other Christ-followers for those who bow their knees now, and confess now that Jesus Christ IS Lord.  Do not be deceived. 

Please, dear friends reading this blog, you to whom I have emailed this link, those of you just stopping by for a visit:
Pray to Jesus to be born again and to guide you by His Holy Spirit.
Begin reading the Bible, especially starting in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
Find someone near you who knows Jesus and start meeting regularly.

If you do not know of anyone in your hometown or country, email me at capost3k@gmail.com and I will help you find someone out of our international connections.  If you want to Zoom with me, just email me, but I encourage you to find someone locally who speaks your ‘heart language.’  Please, prepare or you will perish.

 

My Most Important Blog EVER

2021-01-30 News AnchorNews hits us faster than we can absorb it.  This began with television reporting back in the 60s and 70s of the last century.  The joke about our level of engagement came with a news anchor announcing, with a bright smile, “10 killed in hit-and-run on Broadway, film at 11.”

We are saturated 24/7, 1,440 minutes per day, with available information any time we look at our watches, phones or computers, most of which is unrelated to our daily lives, very little about which we can do anything, and most without consequence for any length of time, only lasting until the next broadcast or posting on social media.

But there IS something that matters, something integrally related to your life, something over which you have complete control, something that will last for all eternity: 
What will you do about the claims of Jesus, called the Christ? 

Jesus is the focal point of history, changing for over half the world the way we count the days of our lives ever since shortly after He walked on earth.  And He made some pretty audacious claims, so auspicious that I capitalize pronouns when I refer to Him.  Nothing particularly holy about capitalization, but simply to reflect that He is higher, better, greater (every positive superlative of which you can think) than any other human, past, present or future.

To understand who Jesus claimed to be one must read His biographies, which we call the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first four books of the New Testament. (Many online sources are available and each one can be read in your native language in less than an hour; my favorite source is at Biblegateway.com where you can see if your language is listed.)

Even those who do not trust Him as what He claimed to be admit something unusual happened after He left the world, something that transformed His followers from meek and frightened, politically disenfranchised jellyfish to robust and daring defenders of what they had experienced.  What they experienced is recorded in Matthew 28, John 16 and 20, and Acts 1 and 2.  And all but one of them died rather than recant; only John survived to old age, but that was in exile on a prison island.

These disciples who had deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, are next seen hiding in quiet rooms, afraid the High Priest, Sanhedrin or Roman authorities might be coming after them next.  Their political aspirations were dead, their leader had been crucified and the Jewish leaders had ensured that none of the disciples could steal His body.  They were confused and dismayed that the One they expected to lead Israel to international prominence, even over the Roman Empire, was dead and buried in a Roman-guarded sealed tomb.  How much worse could it get!?

But rather than getting worse, some women went to the grave in which Jesus was buried and found it empty, encountering angels who declared, He is not here, for He has risen!”  Mary Magdalene, hardly an archetype of integrity, did not believe the angels and came at first to announce to the disciples, who were cowering in their chamber, that the tomb was empty.  Two of the disciples, Peter and John, ran to the tomb to see for themselves and also found it empty.   But then Jesus met Mary Magdalene in the garden where His tomb was and showed her that He was alive!  A couple of others returned from Emmaeus and said they had seen Jesus alive!

In all of these encounters, the ones who knew Jesus best resisted the stories and did not understand the Old Testament scriptures and refused to believe tales of seeing Jesus.  They still could not think of the things He had taught them about His death!  It was just too much for a rational brain to take in . . . until He appeared to them in a locked room.  (They were still afraid and could not sort through the events that were happening faster than the Fall of the Berlin Wall in modern times.)   But when Jesus appeared to them, He showed them His wounds from the crucifixion and they finally believed.

So what did He claim about Himself? 
That He is the bread of life that came down from Heaven.
That He is the light of the world.
That He is the good shepherd.
That He is the resurrection and life.
That He is teacher and Lord.
That He is the way, the truth and the life.
That He is the true vine.
That He is not from this earth.
That He is King of the Jews.
That He is The I Am!  This is arguably His most significant claim to be God, as He claimed to be one with Father, the I AM.

2021-01-30 I AM

This short blog does not allow nearly adequate space for me to show you from the Bible all that it teaches of who Jesus is, but you are all intelligent and capable learned people.  Hey, you access a computer and blog! 😉  So do not take my word alone for this.  Read the Gospels and discover for yourself if you can trust this Jesus to be what He claimed to be.  What will you do?  You MUST do something, either admit these to be true or reject them to be false.  There is no middle ground.

If you believe, the next step is to receive HimJohn 1:12 says, “To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.”  Picture you came to my home and I offered to feed you dinner.  You could believe I was going to provide a meal; you could thank me for it; we could sit at the table together and talk about the food in front of us . . . but if you did not reach out and take the food, you would leave my home as empty as when you came.

So, first, reach out in your heart and mind to Jesus.  He is God and knows what is in your heart and thoughts even before you say it.  So invite Him to come and live in you.  Admit you are a sinner and have not let Him rule your life yet.  Turn away (repent) from your self-guided life and tell Jesus that you will trust Him to lead the rest of your life.  Do not worry that you are not perfect, or that you do not understand all this yet.  Simply trust Him that He will come live in you and begin to work in you to perform His will.  There are no special formulas for praying.  Just talk to Him as you would your own earthly father.

Secondly, if you decide to do this, the next step is to begin reading the Bible.  It is His directive to us, an ultimate guide for life and practice.  Do not be intimidated by the size (it is actually a library collection of small books; just take one at a time.)  There are numerous Bible-reading “plans” you can access, but just read!

Thirdly, if you talked with Jesus to invite Him to live in you, you have begun to pray.  Keep it up.  Again, there are lots of books and helps for praying, but remember, it does not take any special language.  Plus, as you get to know Jesus better (not just know about Him, but know HIM), you will find prayer is not just you talking to God.  In times of His choosing, He will talk to you!  Although the value of prayer cannot be measured by its volume, it can safely be said that prayer is valueless if you do not pray.  Make time to pray.

Lastly, God does not call “Lone Ranger Christians.”  Find a community of people who are seeking and experiencing the Presence of God.  Some will be phony; some will be misguided or misinformed; some will be manipulative; some will be dishonest; but you need them as much as they need you.  And as you pray and read the Bible, you will grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Certainly, there is no requirement or expectation for you to contact me regarding your Journey into Faith, but if you want to contact me, please feel free to email me at capost3k@gmail.com.  No question is off limits.

Finally, let me assure you from many years of Bible study and examination of world religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, from Buddhism to Hinduism to Islam to Jainism, there is no intellectual reason for rejecting the claims of Jesus.  There is no text more authentically relayed to our generation than the Bible.  There is no way to get to know who God is, other than through the God-Man, Jesus.

He Is! – 5. Disciplines of a Spirit-Led Life: Bible Reading and Study

Here is a man, Rear Admiral Barry Black, who knows God’s word.  This discipline is evident in his knowledge and delivery of Biblical truth in a very challenging setting: a National Prayer Breakfast, attended by many of different nationalities, different religious systems, different political parties, different world views.  Yet, he unapologetically affirms Who is in charge of kings’ hearts.  Here is a man who knows This Man in God’s word.

If you do not have 27 minutes for the entire sermon, listen at least to the last three and one-half minutes.  Scroll to 23 and tune in!

The exploration of the Bible is a life-long endeavor.  Talk to an old saint in a church who has a living relationship with Jesus and he or she will be able to tell you of new discoveries made in recent weeks in reading and studying the Bible.

Recall, the Bible is not just one book , but a small library of 66 books, most of which are very short.  The longest ones (except for Psalms) can be read in just a few hours in your “heart language,” that is the language in which you dream.

A more challenging project, but well worth the time and effort, is to read each book at a single sitting.  This takes some planning, because longer books such as Numbers or Isaiah may take a several hours due to unfamiliar content or length, but in my NIV, Numbers is just 55 pages and Isaiah is only 108 pages.  Many of the books are just a few pages long.

The point of reading each book (except for Psalms and Proverbs) at a single sitting is to get a clear overview of what the text says.  This can help avoid taking verses out of context and misusing the Bible to “prove one’s point of view.”  It allows the Bible to establish “the view” and lines us up with it, rather than coming to the book with a point of view and trying to establish that by forcing it on the Bible’s book.  Psalms and Proverbs are special exceptions to this idea, because of their content and organization, which makes reading each at a single sitting less valuable than reading these “devotionally.”

I have addressed Bible reading and study more thoroughly in previous blogs listed below, and introduced one of them with this caveat: “A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Bible Reading and Study.  Be sure and understand, knowledge about God is not the same as knowing God.  This is an important distinction to make because far too many people think that because they can quote volumes of Scripture or name all 66 books of the Bible or discuss theology like a . . . well, a theologian, that they know God.”

So begin now, reading each day just three chapters of the Old Testament and one of the New Testament, and you can easily read the entire library of the Bible in 2017.  Along with this, plan for 66 times sometime during this year, to read each of the books at a single sitting.  And consider setting some time aside to really study some of the Bible’s literature.  It has some of the most exciting adventure stories, better than Marvel comics or Star Wars!  It’s love stories put Danielle Steele to shame.

Okay, some of it can be boring, like reading catalogues, but study of it can make even these parts come alive, when you realize what God was doing in the course of history!  So get a good commentary (free online!), and some literature helps and dive into a book that can give you eternal life, because it will testify about Him.  You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”  (John 5:39)

See January 25, 2015, April 6, 2015, April 12, 2015, about this same subject, as well as April 26, 2015,  and May 17, 2015 and its following blogs on the Reliability of the Bible, ending with June 28, 2015.

So if you want to know “This Man” of the Bible, read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, live it, and get to know Him in times of prayer.

Next week, February 12, 2017, we’ll look away from these inward disciplines, to begin to view some of the outward Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life.

Marked by Love (Part 4 – to love an enemy)

It is important when considering LOVE as the Mark of a Man or Woman of God to remember that “it is not a mushy feeling or sentimental emotion.”  This is especially critical when considering the third aspect of this agape (uh-gop-ae) love which is offered to an enemy.  Loving one’s enemy is not easy!  Sometimes it means giving up our “rights,” sometimes it means giving Tough Love.  But it is the only way to change an enemy into a friend.  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  MLKing, Jr.

As we have described in the previous blogs, it is clear that we should love our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.  This simply means considering our Heavenly Father in every decision in life, and talking with Him about everything and including Him in the processes.

Loving our families or spiritual brothers and sisters really should not be too much of a problem, assuming this is a mutual love in a family, and that our brothers and sisters accept many of the same precepts by which we live.  There will be differences and arguments, but we have a foundation of faith that we share that becomes the bedrock for building our relationships in love.

But what of the enemy we are commanded to love?  Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-44 bears repeating, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!”  Does He expect us to allow an enemy to harm us, take advantage of us, even kill us?

There are some practical considerations to loving one’s enemy that must be considered or we can actually wind up disobeying other commands Jesus gave, such as Matthew 7:6, “Do not give that which is sacred to dogs; do not throw your pearls to pigs.”

There is so much on this topic that it certainly cannot be fully covered in a 1000 word blog, so I encourage you to use this blog as a prayer stimulus, to ask Father for wisdom and clarity on how to love your enemies, but we cannot ignore this clear command of Jesus and claim to be loving the Anointed One (John 14:15-24; 15:10).

I offer two scenarios for consideration: 1) when you are the target of an enemy, 2) when someone for whom you are responsible is the target.  Again, in real time and circumstances, these situations will call for more wisdom than can be gleaned from a brief blog.

1) When Jim Elliott and Nate Saint flew their tiny plane to visit the Auca Indians in South America, this fierce cannibalistic tribe was to be feared, so they carried long rifles.  But as they left, Nate’s son asked if they would kill the Indians if attacked.  Nate’s answer was profound: “If they kill us, we will go to Heaven, but if we shoot them, they will go to hell.”  He explained they were carrying the rifles only to scare the Indians if attacked.  It did not work.  Jim and Nate and their coworkers were murdered by the Indians, but the long story of it is that almost all the Indians came to accept the Gospel because of their heroic actions and unwillingness to dispatch their enemies to hell!

2) However, in Paul’s description of agape love, he says it “does not delight in evil . . . , always protects . . .”. In Esther we see this in the lives of the Jewish people who had been targeted for genocide by an enemy, but in an ironic twist of “fate” the Jews were provided an opportunity to defend themselves against those who would attack them.  Note, it was not a carte blanch permission to kill their enemies, but to defend themselves if attacked, that is to protect their families from their enemies (Esther 8:11).

For further consideration, let me encourage you to read some Scripture pertinent to loving one’s enemies.  From Exodus 23:4, the Jews were instructed to treat an enemy’s possessions the same way they would treat a brother’s; Job 31:29 suggests it is sinful to rejoice over an enemy’s misfortune or to say bad things against him; David spared his enemy’s life, not once, but on two occasions when he could have killed him and claimed it was the LORD’s provision (I Sam 24:10-19; 26:8-21).

On the other hand, Jesus, the epitome of LOVE, made a whip of cords and overturned business tables in the Temple!  Was he hateful or was it Tough Love? (John 2:13-22); Paul warned not to have fellowship with pagans (I Corinthians 10:20-21) and to have nothing to do with enemies of his message (Ephesians 5:11; II Timothy 3:5).

Finally, remember, as Lane Martin said, “Nothing happens to a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happen for us.”  Your enemy has no power except what the Creator has allowed (Luke 10:19) and the issue is never on whose side God is, but rather on whose side are you? (Joshua 5:13-14).

You were once an enemy of God, but now He has made peace with God possible by His love (Colossians 1:21-23).  So “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) and remember Proverbs 16:7: “When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them.”  Ezekiel gives us the last word on the Creator’s attitude toward His (and our) enemies:  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23).

Love the Creator, Love your family, Love your friends, and LOVE your enemies.  Let your life be Marked by LOVE.