“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 40: AUGUST 31
The book of Revelation is by far the most misquoted and misapplied book in all scripture. Most people even get its name wrong, calling it “Revelations” instead of “Revelation”. Even so, this misquoted, misapplied and mistitled book is still the most popular one in the Bible and the one that most Christians are familiar with. It’s even a gateway, for some, to scripture. So what is its draw? Why has it fascinated so many people – including non-Christians – for nearly 2000 years?
Unlike the other books we’ve breezed through over the past 40 days, Revelation is entirely a vision. And like visions, it’s less concerned with reality and more concerned with getting the details of the vision right. Not surprising, John’s vision is highly visual (which is not always the case with visions; mine mostly appear in written words and some people only hear sounds or see numbers), which can be difficult to convey in words. The vision is also highly symbolic, with, for instance, animals doing stand-ins for other beings, such as a lamb with slaughter wounds standing in for Jesus.
The vision is from God, delivered to Jesus, who then delivers it to his angel to deliver to John, who finally delivers it to us. That’s a long game of telephone tag there, namely: God -> Jesus -> angel -> John -> us. Whether anything got lost or garbled in translation, particularly in the final hand-off from John to us, remains to be seen. We know Jesus got everything right and the angel got everything right, and John was faithful in the telling, but who knows what’s been removed and/or added since it was first written down and handed over for publication.
John didn’t include the warning at the end of the book just to increase his word count. He knew his prophecy would likely be messed with. His inclusion of a warning was his signal to us to read the prophecy with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, not relying solely on our own eyes and our own limited understanding. If anything’s been removed, God will fill us in, and if anything’s been added, God will likewise let us know.
The book can roughly be divided into three major sections – the end of the Age of Mercy, the Age of Tribulation and Judgement, and visions of Heaven. Within those three sections there are further divisions which can be unpacked like Russian dolls, each one showing a scene that opens to another scene.
I’m not interested, in this reflection, in giving an interpretation of Revelation. It would take a whole book to do so. I’m more interested in relaying what jumped out at me during today’s reading and asking you what jumped out at you, since those things are what God wants us to focus on and learn from. We can then apply what we’ve learned to the situations we’ll be encountering in the weeks and months to come.
Visions are highly subjective. Most of the time, even the people receiving the visions have no idea what they mean. That’s why Daniel was called upon to interpret the visions of Nebuchadnezzar, as the king had no clue what all the images he saw meant. Daniel had no clue either; he had to ask God in prayer. God was the one interpreting the vision for Daniel, who then relayed God’s interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar. Sometimes what is seen and told in a vision is then told to be sealed for revelation at another time.
The interpretations themselves can also be highly subjective. In Revelation, John offers us very little by way of interpretation. He simply relays what he sees and hears, though occasionally the angels edify a scene for him. Recall that Daniel’s and Ezekiel’s visions were also interpreted by angels who got their intel directly from God.
Everyone loves a good mystery! Maybe that’s a big part of the ongoing fascination with the book of Revelation. For nearly 2000 years, we’ve been trying to piece together world events to fit the scenes mentioned in the prophecy, but what we’ve ended up with so far is a jigsaw puzzle with wrong pieces jammed together, forcing a fit. Square pegs into round holes. Misapplied and misinterpreted prophecy.
We know from scripture that God is the only one who knows the time of the end. Jesus doesn’t know and his angels don’t know. Only God knows. So whatever time frames are given in Revelation are cloaked. Which means, for example, the seven-year time span that is popularly applied to the Tribulation period is not actually seven years. As we just read in one of the letters a few days ago – a thousand years is to God a day, and a day a thousand years. We need to stop applying literal interpretations to symbolic visions. We need to let God read scripture to us, through his Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our own eyes or those of false and blind prophets.
When Daniel wanted to interpret a dream or vision, whether his own or someone else’s, he went to God in prayer and asked him to help him understand.
We are to do the same.
So where does that leave us today? What jumped out at you during this final reading of our 40-day Bible marathon?
Here’s what jumped out at me:
- During the Age of Mercy, there is still hope for all of the seven mentioned city-sites of God’s church. Even if they have strayed from the Gospel teachings, there is still hope for them if they receive correction in the spirit it was intended, and then apply the correction. Even Laodicea, the lukewarm city-site that God threatens to spew out of his mouth, is given fair warning and so still has hope if it repents and corrects its ways. While we are yet in the Age of Mercy, there is hope, including for those who’ve strayed far from God.
- But remember that this is only for people who are in the church. The hope is for those who are in the church. Those who are outside the church do not have a share in the hope.
- There are a lot of seals in Revelation. There are the seven seals that are on the book that only Jesus (the slaughtered lamb) can open; there are the seals that are placed on the foreheads of God’s people; and there’s the seal on Satan when he is bound in chains for a thousand years. All of these are God’s seals. Then there’s the mark of the beast, which is not God’s seal. It is the opposite of God’s seal, so that if you receive it, you just got yourself a one-way ticket to the lake of fire. The mark is also a form of seal. That is one seal you never want anywhere near you.
- After the Age of Mercy, there is no more repentance, and if no more repentance, no more conversions and rebirths, and if no more rebirths, no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, and if no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, no Heaven as a reward. After the sealing of God’s people, when the trumpets start to sound and literally all hell breaks loose on Earth, there is no more repentance. No matter what God throws at people to get them to repent, they continue to curse him. There can be no conversions without repentance.
- The Age of Mercy is the time of repentance; when that ends and the time of Tribulation and Judgement begins, anyone who hasn’t accepted God’s Way as their way will be lost for all eternity in the lake of fire. This is a hard teaching. Other belief systems promise other options after death, like reincarnation or purgatory or a golden age even for unrepentant sinners. Such rosy options are perhaps one of the main reasons why people choose to embrace and cling to these belief systems rather than to God’s Truth. They want to live their lives however they want to live them, and then get a spiritual participation trophy at the end. God’s Truth is a shining beacon to those who choose and hold to God’s Way, but condemnation to those who don’t.
- When I first read the book of Revelation the day after I was reborn, God showed me that the Whore of Babylon was the papacy, otherwise known as the spiritual Roman Empire. I remember staring in disbelief at the page when God revealed that to me, but nothing I have seen or read since has contradicted the revelation, including today’s reading. The seat of the Whore is a city that sits on seven hills. Rome (and by extension the Vatican) is the only ‘great’ city that fits that bill. The Babylonian aspect is the Babylonian (heathen) demon gods that have their home in what eventually became Catholicism, and who teamed up with the Roman and other demon gods to form an immensely powerful spiritual stronghold that has held sway over large parts of the world, mainly through ungodly alliances.
- We cannot possibly look at Vatican City and see it as representative of Jesus’ teachings. It is the dead opposite of Jesus’ teachings (the demon-worshiping obelisk at the center of St. Peter’s Square, transported straight from the heart of heathen lands, is kind of a dead giveaway). Despite the “holy” that was added to the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD when it allegedly became Christian, Jesus and God have never been in that spiritual building. It was and is a demon stronghold.
- Steer clear of Catholicism. It is not the “one true church”, as it claims. It is a demon stronghold that will ultimately crash and burn, along with all the other demon strongholds. It is already – THANK GOD — crashing and burning.
- Lots of press over the past year about the mark of the beast, particularly, more recently, about the buying and selling aspect. I’m guessing it’s driven a lot of traffic to online versions of the Bible. It would be interesting to see how big a spike there is for Google searches of “mark of the beast”. Let’s pray that many who do those searches read farther and eventually embrace God’s Truth.
- I’m not going to say anything else about the mark of the beast here today (since it didn’t particularly jump out at me), other than to mention that you get the mark by default if you don’t have God’s seal. You get one or the other – either God’s seal or the beast’s. Every human soul is marked. God claims his first, and the devil gets all the rest. Those who take the mark of the beast take it because they don’t have God’s seal. They have no problem with taking the mark of the beast. To them, it’s self-evident that it should be taken. Note that God’s people can’t be tricked into taking it, so don’t be afraid you’ll take it by mistake. The mark of the beast will very much be labeled as such.
- Pray with all your heart and soul that God finds you worthy to receive his mark. In answer to your prayer, God will show you what you need to do either to receive it or to hold it, if it’s already been received. He will show you, just like his church at the various city-sites was shown what to do. Always pray to God to show you his Way. And when he shows you, do it.
- In James’ letter yesterday, we read that God doesn’t tempt us. The devil does. God does, however, pour out his wrath on us, as we see in the pouring out of the seven plague vials. These come from Heaven and are distributed by God’s holy angels. If they come from Heaven, they originate as holy (no unholy thing exists in Heaven), which means they cause an unholy reaction only in the unholy, like in vampire movies where holy water burns the vampires as if it’s acid. So the plagues will only detrimentally affect the unholy, not the holy, as God’s wrath is holy, not unholy, and is intended to punish the unholy. Remember that.
- John’s vision of Heaven reflects many of the earlier prophets’ visions of Heaven. In fact, there are numerous elements throughout Revelation that appear in earlier visions in the OT, like the four horses and the trees along the river. God has shown me my little piece of Heaven as well, which I’ve mentioned in this blog on occasion. He didn’t show me symbolically, as it’s shown in Revelation, but the way it really is. No interpretation required. John’s highly symbolic vision reflects a perfected Garden of Eden that has become an eternal stronghold known as New Jerusalem. The sprawling garden at the beginning of the Bible has been transformed into a gated community at the end of the Bible, where eating from the tree of life, far from being forbidden, is free to everyone who lives there. This is the Paradise we’re all aiming for.
- The book of Revelation ends with a warning not to add to or take away from the prophecy. We know that those who hate God don’t fear his warnings, so we can only assume that some changes were made to the prophecy. Make sure, when you teach the book of Revelation to others, that you don’t add to or take away from John’s vision. False interpretation is a form of adding to and taking away, especially if the interpretation is done to further an agenda. Pray not to do that. You want your name to remain in the Book of Life, not to be blotted out of it.
And now, congratulations are finally in order! If, as of today, you’ve read all the way through the Bible for the first time, GOD BLESS YOU! And if you’ve read the whole Bible, before but joined in the read-through because you felt called to do it, GOD BLESS YOU, TOO! Whether it’s your first read-through of the Bible or your hundredth, reading the Good Book within a relatively short time-frame gives you a better grasp of where we were as God’s people, where we are now, and where we need to go. We need to see that big picture every now and then. It gives us context and a sense that we are a continuation of what came before us, the fruit of many people’s labours, just as someday others will hopefully be the fruit of ours.
This is my prayer for all of you who joined in the BIBLE READ-THROUGH – that you never put the Bible down until the day you die, that these 40 days and 40 nights have formed a Bible-reading habit in you that will continue for the rest of your days, and that you’ve become even more addicted to reading God’s Word than you were before and even more addicted to putting God’s Word into action in your lives. I pray this for you in Jesus’ name, openly and with God’s blessing. Amen.
What is coming can’t be stopped, but we can face it head-on as God’s people. That means we face it as Jesus faced his trials and Paul faced his. There is nothing to fear. If we’re born-again, God is always with us through his Spirit. That is his promise to his people, as we saw all through the Bible, and God never breaks a promise.
Cling to God as your Father, follow so closely behind Jesus that there’s no space between you, and never give up. No matter what happens, never give up.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 39: AUGUST 30
JAMES – JUDE
Most of the letters we read today were written by the disciples who were with Jesus during his ministry years, so it’s not surprising to hear some of Jesus’ words repeated in them. Gone are the brash and oftentimes confused young men “of little faith”, and in their place are mighty apostles, strong in word, deed and faith, and teaching others the Way as Jesus taught them.
- A few main themes emerge in these letters. One of them is the unavoidability of suffering. Remember that during the early years, the church was under heavy persecution. Suffering was the order of the day for many believers, either through incarceration, torture, banishment, or death. We will also suffer, if we’re true believers. The world hates us and mocks us (I know, because I used to be one of the haters and mockers), and things will only get worse for us as our numbers diminish and evil expands.
- Suffering is not something anyone willingly does, if they’re sane. Suffering is something to be endured. The letters point out that there are two types of suffering: the type that is earned by error and sin, and the type that comes from being a follower of Jesus. There are also two ways to suffer – the right way and the wrong way. The right way to suffer is as Jesus suffered – totally aware of what was going on and why, but remaining non-combative and silent, knowing it would eventually pass. The wrong way to suffer is probably the way most of us do it (moaning, groaning, complaining, blaming others, etc.) until we remind ourselves of the right way, and then (hopefully) do it.
- As James points out, God doesn’t tempt us or make us suffer; he permits us to be tempted and to suffer. This is done through the wiles of the devil, like it was to Job. God doesn’t do evil; as Jesus stated in the Gospel, God is actually the only one we can legitimately call good; even Jesus refused to be called good. But but God did create evil, just as he created the destroyer. So if you suffer, suffer in silence, knowing you either had the suffering coming as a reward for your error or sin, or you’re being tempted by the devil as a way to prove you. God permits suffering because it has a purpose – to pay an error or sin debt, or to bring you up higher in his Kingdom. In both cases, suffering should not be fought against or cursed, but accepted.
- I know that the unavoidability of suffering is a hard teaching and makes our skin crawl, but it is what it is. You can bet that we’ll be tested on this teaching in the weeks and months to come. The good news is that if the suffering comes from being a follower of Jesus, it’s a cause for rejoicing, like Peter and John rejoiced in Acts. If we suffer for being a follower of Jesus, it means God considers us worthy. There is no higher recommendation.
- Another theme in the letters is a warning against those who have fallen away and are preaching another gospel. As I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection, false prophets are not a 20th or 21st century phenomenon. The early church was just as plagued by them. The letters also warn against imposters – that is, people who pretend to be believers but are not. They impose themselves on the church, but their presence only stirs up trouble. You can easily tell these people because as much as they say they are believers (and they can be very mesmerizing and convincing talkers, like skilled sales people or politicians), their actions speak otherwise. Avoid them and pray for them, but otherwise let them be. They are God’s concern, not ours.
- The doing of faith rather than just the saying of faith is also a big theme in these letters. Talk is cheap. We know Jesus’ parable about the son who said he’d do his father’s will but didn’t do it, and the son who said he wouldn’t do it, but later changed his mind and did it. It was the son who actually did his father’s will, not the son who only said he’d do it, who was justified. A lot of people contacted me to say they would be participating in the Bible read-through, but only a handful have made it this far. People have good intentions, but if they don’t follow through with actions to back up those intentions, their words have no value. THEIR WORDS HAVE NO VALUE. We are not judged by our intentions, but by our actions. We can spout a list of good intentions until the cows come home, but only those things that we make real by our actions are counted as real. The rest is so much fluff.
- John’s letters focus on the primacy of love. He’s not talking here about romantic love, but the love of God that works through God’s children. God is love, so if we are in God and God is in us (as he was in Jesus), God’s love will work through us. This is the very great joy of being born-again
- God working through us is also the only way we’ll be able to love our enemies, because being kind and forbearing to people who purposely hurt us is definitely not something we can do on our own steam. Loving our neighbours and loving our enemies are decisions of the will, which, once made, God then effects by his Spirit working through us. I have been drunk with fine champagne when I was an unbeliever, and I have been drunk with God’s Spirit working through me to love my enemies, and I can tell you with all certainty that being drunk with God’s Holy Spirit is a far greater high. There is none better on Earth. And in Heaven (if we make it there), we’ll live that high all the time.
“‘Twas the night before Revelation…” – if you’ve made it this far in the Bible read-through, you’re close enough to the end of the tunnel that you’re not only seeing the light, it’s illuminating you. You’re bathed in it. Even so, congratulations aren’t in order yet. We still have one more book to get through, and what a doozy of a book it is!
That’s all I’m going to say for now about Revelation. God bless you for your efforts over these past 39 days and nights. Whatever you invest in God’s Word, you’ll get back a million-fold.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
YouTube is crawling with false prophets, and not only of the usual sleazy human variety.
The biggest Christian prophecy channels on YouTube are AI-generated,
As you know, AIs are artificial intelligences (computer programs, essentially) that “learn” from data. They train the same way athletes or apprentices do – by being given a task, partially failing at it, and then learning not to do the failed aspect in that exact way again.
I’ve spent as little time as possible reviewing Christian prophecy channels on YouTube, but I felt something was just so odd about some of them that I decided to do a little bit of digging (investigative journalism is not yet dead!). What I found explained not only why the videos seemed “off”, but how so many could be generated in such a short time.
The videos on numerous prophecy channels are being created by AIs. Even the the voices and text for the voice-overs are AI-generated. The whole production is as fake as you-know-what. And Christians are lapping it up.
Here’s how it works. The AI is fed a few words or a word-stream topic, such as “betrayal Jesus friends”. It then scours the Bible for relevant scripture that includes those and related terms. Next, it grabs the quotes and generates text commentary based on those quotes. That’s why these channels are so quote-heavy – the Bible quotes cue the AI on what to generate as bridge text between the quotes. This bridge text is then audio-fed as a voice-over.
You can’t see me, but I’m sitting here laughing. I can’t think of any other suitable response to this scenario than laughter. I’m laughing at the chutzpah of the people who created the channels and who are likely not even Christians. I’m laughing at the millions of Christians who are watching and subscribing to this AI-generated Bible-quote factory, and I’m laughing at the absurdity of people who prefer to learn about God and Jesus from a garbled AI word-soup than from God’s Holy Spirit. That third bit of laughter is tinged with a deep sadness and has sobered me up.
The Deceiver is all around us all the time, as scripture warns us. Everything that is of the world (like YouTube) is deeply compromised. If you want an AI as your pastor, that’s your choice, but it’s a bloody stupid one, and you’re going to be led astray. Some of the Bible quotes I saw on these AI-generated videos were inaccurate. Initially I thought it was just a translation issue, but the errors are likely being done on purpose. AI is another way to preach another gospel.
Don’t be deceived. Learn prophecy from a verified KJV Bible you can hold in your hands, read to you by God himself, through his Holy Spirit.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 38: AUGUST 29
1 THESSALONIANS 1 – HEBREWS 13:25
Today we read the last of Paul’s letters. As I mentioned yesterday, I like Paul. He comes across as almost ferocious at times in his epistles, but we know that everything he wrote and said and did was toward the betterment of those who looked to him for guidance. He didn’t mince his words, and he chose to be plain-spoken rather than to use a bed-side manner. His goal was to set a real-life example of what it means to be a believer, using Jesus as his example. Jesus hasn’t been with us in physical form for nearly 2000 years, so his followers have to set real-life examples to guide others. This is our job as Christians.
The example doesn’t change, the message doesn’t change; the only things that change are the words we use and how we deliver the message. We may use different words than Jesus and Paul, but our words have the same meaning as theirs. We may use a different delivery method than Jesus and Paul, but there’s no reason why it can’t be just as effective as theirs. If God’s Spirit is truly with us in our labours for the Kingdom, the message will get through loud and clear, regardless of our language or method of delivery.
- Throughout the letters we read today, Paul reminds the church that serving God is not without trials and tribulations, and that some of the tribulations will come from within the ranks of the church itself. False apostles, false prophets, and general all-round deceivers and inhibitors of the Word are not a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries; they were a problem even in Paul’s day.
- A two-step approach is recommended to deal with people who misrepresent the Word. First, take them aside and explain to them where they’re going wrong. Don’t do this publicly and don’t try to humiliate them in front of others. Do it privately. If they don’t heed your advice and continue to preach “another gospel”, steer clear of them, warn other believers about them, and leave them for God to sort out. Pray for them, but let them be.
- Paul also advises us to live our lives always in anticipation of Jesus’ return. He reminds us that Jesus will come like a thief in the night, that is, while we’re asleep and most vulnerable. It will be too late at that point for us to prepare our souls. The time for doing what needs to be done is now.
- As well, Paul mentions the falling away that must occur before Jesus returns, along with the rise of the “son of perdition” who will demand to be worshiped as God. These events are moveable in their dates, but will definitely occur. We already see a very great falling away that is getting progressively worse with each generation. For every person who’s born-again, tens of thousands or more fall away. Even so, God’s Spirit remains as strong as it ever was. The Kingdom doesn’t diminish with the falling away of people. On the contrary, those who remain faithful to God become even stronger. A larger portion of God’s Spirit is given to them, according to the measure God deems appropriate.
- The description of the people who will live in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-7) is hauntingly close to the people we see today in the world. I see myself in the description, that is, the me I was before I was born-again. Paul calls the age that will have such people “perilous times”. It’s hard to disagree. Soon we won’t even be able to buy food without showing proof we’ve been injected with serpent’s venom. How did things get so bad? People turned from God, one by one by one by one. You turn from serving God, the only option is to serve the devil. He will come in and make his home with those people, and they will do his work. That is the world today.
- Paul’s letters to Timothy are quite touching. You can tell he’s trying not to fuss over him, but he doesn’t want Timothy to fall prey to the same snares that Paul himself might previously have fallen prey to. Paul’s like a mother and a father and an aunt and an uncle all rolled into one. That’s what happens when you start to groom those to take over your role. You want to protect them from making the same mistakes as you, but at the same time you need to let them make their own mistakes, as we learn best that way (through mistakes).
- Paul’s instruction for women to remain silent in the church was problematic for me today. So I asked God how I’m supposed to receive this instruction, and he said: “But you are silent; you don’t use audio on your blog.” 😀
- The authorship of Hebrews is still unsettled. It could have been written by Paul, or it could have been written by Luke or someone else close to Paul. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wrote it; God speaks through it. That’s all that matters.
- The gist of Hebrews is the primacy of Jesus’ sacrifice over the dead works of the law, the primacy of faith over the dead works of the law, the replacement of the old covenant (what eventually became the Old Testament) with the new, and the importance of following Jesus as our example of how to live. The author also reminds us that following Jesus is going to bring us hardship in this world, but that whatever we suffer here is worth it for the reward of Heaven.
- Just a final note today on how people in Old Testament times used to get sprinkled by priests with the blood of sacrificial animals. This was done as a form of blessing and protection. They would even sprinkle blood on the scrolls containing God’s Word. So I’m sitting here thinking what those scrolls must have looked like (and smelled like) after being sprinkled with blood countless times. I’m really glad we don’t do that anymore! And I’m guessing that this ritual is the origin of the sprinkling of people with “holy water” that is done today by priests during masses and other events in the Catholic church. Here again is something that doesn’t need to be done (Catholicism is full of things that don’t need to be done). Jesus put an end to the need to be sprinkled by priests, whether with blood or alleged holy water. Catholic leaders seriously need to crack open a Bible and read it, rather than just holding it up like a trophy during their processions.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 37: AUGUST 28
2 CORINTHIANS 1 – COLOSSIANS 4:18
As I’ve mentioned numerous times in these reflections and elsewhere, the read-through was called to get you immersed in God’s Word. It wasn’t meant to be a Bible study or a close reading of any particular part of scripture. The purpose was to get the Good Book into your hands and God’s Word into you. What you chose then to chew on was between you and God.
(Whatever jumps out at you during the readings is what God wants you to chew on.)
I hadn’t planned on writing a daily reflection after each reading. That just kind of evolved. I thought it would be a good idea to give a wave every day to say “Here I am! I’m reading along with you”. So, here I am. 😀
It’s highly likely that what jumps out at me doesn’t jump out at you, and what I chew on isn’t always to your taste. I don’t know how many souls have joined in the read-through or if I’ve just been doing this by myself, but it doesn’t matter. What you choose to do or not to do is between you and God.
Here’s the thing about God – when he asks you to do something, he asks YOU, and you only are responsible for saying “yes” or “no” (insider’s tip – always say “yes”). So I put out the invitation for the Bible read-through because God asked me to, and I’m doing the read-through because God invited me to, and I’m doing the reflections because they just kind of happened and took on a life of their own, and here we all are.
But what you choose to do or not to do is between you and God. Our free will is inviolable, no matter what anyone tells you. Even God won’t override it unless we give him permission. Imagine that! The Creator of Heaven and Earth needs your permission to override your free will. If even God needs your permission to override your free will, who possibly on Earth can override it?
Of course the answer is no-one. If you want to do God’s will or not to do God’s will, it’s up to you. It’s between you and God. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.
- Today’s reading takes us deeper into Paul’s letters. I like Paul. If I make it to Heaven, I’m looking forward to sitting down with him and having a drink. I don’t drink anymore on Earth, but I have a feeling I’m going to be having a few in Heaven (no hangovers in Heaven!) with all the visits I’ll be making and all the visitors who’ll have a standing invitation to drop by my place any time.
- Being in Heaven won’t be a problem (again, no hangovers!), but getting there takes some doing. Paul talks about everything we (might) have to endure to get to there. He even makes a list of sorts. For instance, in 2 Colossians 4:8-9, he says of believers in general:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair’
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
Then later in 11:24-27, he details his own experiences:
Of the Jews received I forty stripes save one.
Thrice I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered a shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.
In journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
- Paul went through all this (with worse to come), and yet it only made him more adamant to give everything he had to God and more committed to preaching the Word. Why is that? Why didn’t he give up after the first shipwreck or beating with rods? Most people would have. But Paul didn’t give up for the same reason that Jesus didn’t give up or any of the others didn’t give up – because God was always with Paul, no matter his circumstances, and God (not Paul) was the source of Paul’s strength. Rather than make him angry or resentful or self-pitying, each trial entrenched him deeper into God.
- We need to learn from Paul’s trials and how he dealt with them. I’m not sure if we’ll have to endure the same level of persecution as he did, but we’ll certainly face persecution and we’ll be forced to live as outlaws. Jesus warned us it would be like that. At the same time, he also said he’d be with us the whole time – he and God, through God’s Holy Spirit. And that’s how we’re going to get through our trials like Paul got through his.
- There’s a wonderful passage in the same letter about what is expected of us as ministers of God. It’s another list of attributes we’re expected to have. See which ones you have and which ones you need to work on. Remember, if you’re born-again, you should be actively preaching and teaching the Word, or preparing to do so. There are no seat-warmers in the Kingdom of Heaven!
Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.Colossians 6:3-10
- A few other passages jumped out at me in Colossians. One of them was about Moses, and how he always unveiled in face before God. I wrote a blog about this last year, about how we should never cover our face before God, and that we’re always before God if we’re genuinely born-again. This directive is inviolable. That means, no-one can override it, not for any reason.
- In Galatians, Paul spends most of his letter talking about the dead-end factor of the works of the law. Remember that he’s talking about the laws that I call fly-over scripture, not the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are definitely not dead works. Paul finds himself arguing again with people who want to hang onto the dead works (like circumcision) instead of leaving them dead and buried, where they belong. Yet again, he argues for the primacy of faith over works of the law, but he still reminds us that we’ll someday have to stand before the Judgement seat to give an account of all we did or did not do in the service of God. Those works count; the works of the law no longer do.
- Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are a compilation of sorts of his teachings on how to follow Jesus. One line in particular jumped out at me today:
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.Colossians 3:23
- It’s a reminder that whatever we do, God sees us. It doesn’t matter if anyone else acknowledges us or not, appreciates our efforts or not: God does. Jesus tells us to do our prayers and alms in secret, and that God will see us and reward us openly. Paul echoes this in saying to do everything as if unto God. Do it to the best of your ability. Do it with a cheerful heart. And do it knowing that if no-one else cares or even sees, God does. And surely that’s enough.
As we wind down (or power up, however you’re seeing this) to the final few readings, I hope you know that God is reading to you (if you ask him), opening your understanding and highlighting what you need to see and learn for your trials ahead. Our trials may or may not be as spectacular as Paul’s, but we still need to face them as he did, knowing God is ALWAYS with us to bring us through. That’s his job. That’s what he promised: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
And God never breaks a promise.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 36: AUGUST 27
ROMANS 1 – 1 CORINTHIANS 16:24
We’re now in the final stretch of our 40-day run. If you’ve been with us from the start, you’ll know it’s been quite a marathon. We can see the proverbial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but the road ahead is still rocky and long. We need to keep our focus now more than ever. It’s tempting to slack off when you think you’re almost at your final destination, but remember that Jesus was tempted by the devil not at the beginning of his 40-day fast, but at the end. So keep going, my friends! This is where your prayers for strength and endurance will kick in.
- Paul’s letter to the Romans makes a clear distinction between those who were born genetic Jews and those who are reborn spiritual Jews by the will and grace of God. This is the context for his teachings on faith. Paul explains that in God’s new covenant with his new people, as expressed in Jesus in the New Testament, you no longer have to be genetically Jewish (that is, children of Israel) to live the promise of God. Since the time of Jesus, the promise of spiritual rebirth and admission to God’s Kingdom is given to all people, whether genetic Jews or not.
- You have to imagine how revolutionary this concept was at the time Paul wrote it. Most genetic Jews were still stuck in the mindset that they were God’s chosen and that gentiles were shut out of the prophesied promise by virtue of their genetics. But Paul had already experienced first-hand that gentiles were being reborn and filled with God’s Spirit, and God also gave him the vision (as we saw in yesterday’s reading) showing him that God put no distinction between “clean” and “unclean” animals, and by extension “clean” (i.e., Jewish) and “unclean” (i.e., gentile) people.
- Faith, then, in this context, was not presented as a contrast to works but to genetics. Paul argued that genetics no longer mattered, as it was through faith (not through genetics) that we become children of God. This was clearly prophesied in the OT, but it was also just as clearly overlooked or misinterpreted by those who stood to lose their exclusivity status with God.
- The theme of justification by faith rather than genetics continues in Paul’s insistence that circumcision needs to be of the spiritual heart (that is, the core of our being), not of other parts of our body. God looks at the hearts of people, not at their outward words and deeds. This, too, is scriptural, and this, too, was clearly overlooked in scripture (and is still overlooked) by those who stand to lose from it.
- Pau’s description of becoming a follower of Jesus compares it to dying and coming back to life. I think we can all agree that death is a major life stage. If spiritual rebirth in a person’s life is as definitive and monumental as death, then it is by far the most significant and defining event we will ever experience on Earth.
- If your spiritual rebirth does not look like Paul’s or like the disciples at Pentecost, you’re not genuinely reborn. This is not an accusation or a judgement; it’s just a spiritual fact. Rebirth comes over you like a spiritual earthquake that is off the Richter scale. There is no “I think I’m reborn” or “my pastor says I’m reborn” or “I was reborn at baptism when I was three weeks old” in genuine spiritual rebirth: It’s as definitive as death and as earth-shattering as a mega-earthquake.
- Also in Romans, Paul assures the Jews that they’re not all entirely cut off from God’s grace, but that they will have to overcome their dependence on “dead works”, that is, keeping the statutes and ordinances of Jewish law, and look instead to making their hearts right before God. What constitutes making one’s heart right before God is described towards the end of the letter and can be summed up as putting God first in everything you do and treating others as you want to be treated.
- The letter to the Romans also includes a long list of the sins of the age. Not much has changed over the centuries. Sadly, Paul could be describing Western culture today.
- Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians has a completely different tone than his letter to the Romans. That’s because the Corinthians were facing different issues than the Romans, mainly squabbles and divisions among themselves and spiritual immaturity. Already, believers were forming into camps, adopting this or that doctrine while disputing the validity of others. We suffer from the same issues today. The only way to resolve them is to be in good standing with God and Jesus, know scripture, and apply what you’ve learned to your everyday life, regardless of the circumstances.
- God doesn’t expect or even want us to get everything right (“mistakes keep you humble”), but he does expect and want us to keep doing our best to follow the example of Jesus, which is what Paul always strived to do. God rewards half-efforts with a half-reward. But if you give it everything you’ve got, even if you’re wrong in some aspects, you’ll get your full reward. God looks to your heart and to your efforts; not to what you say you’ll do, but to what you actually do. To God, the effort you make to do his will is what counts, not whether you’re right or wrong about this or that doctrine. The direction of your will towards him is all that ultimately matters. Even so, we should rarely be wrong about doctrine if we’re following Jesus as our example and the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.
- In 1 Corinthians, Paul also explains the difference between living in the world and living in God’s Kingdom. The wisdom we receive from God as his child and follower of Jesus is “foolishness” to those who haven’t received it. I certainly thought it was foolish before I was reborn. I thought everyone who believed in God was an idiot. Little did I know that I was, in fact, the idiot.
- Make note about Paul’s teaching on lawsuits. Believers can use the threat of a lawsuit as a kind of weapon, but it should never be taken any farther than a show of force, just as a weapon should never be used to kill or wound, but as a show of force to deter violence. Paul says it’s even better to suffer being defrauded than to take someone to court before a worldly judge. Just before I was reborn, I had three lawsuits before the courts. The day of my rebirth, God showed me that I had to drop them all, and I did.
- Scripture is words in a book, but not just words in a book: it’s guidance for a course of action. Use lawsuits as a show of force, just as you would use a weapon as a show of force, but never follow through with lawsuits or violent acts. We don’t do those things anymore. In nearly every case, a show of force is sufficient as a deterrent. If it isn’t, Paul says let yourself be defrauded, and Jesus says give them double what they ask, and turn the other cheek. Again, this looks like foolishness to the world, but it’s God’s economy, and it will all work out to your benefit in the end. Do what’s right in God’s eyes, not the world’s.
- 1 Corinthians also includes two major teachings about caritas (God’s love working through us) and the use of speaking in tongues (that is, in a new holy way or in a foreign language that you haven’t learned). I’ve written here about caritas and here about speaking in tongues. Both gifts are supernaturally given from God; caritas is a selfless love that enables you to love your enemies, and tongues simply means speaking in a language you haven’t learned or speaking with words you haven’t spoken before. TONGUES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BABBLING ON IN INCOMPREHENSIBLE GIBBERISH, unless you think Greek or German is incomprehensible gibberish. Tongues, in scripture, either refers to speaking a foreign language or speaking in a way that radically differs from how you used to speak (which is what happens when you’re born-again and start preaching and teaching the Word). Do not be fooled by people who tell you that speaking demonic utterances is speaking in tongues. They are lying to you, whether purposely or not. Be fools for God, not fools for deceivers.
Like the Gospels, Paul’s letters are dense and difficult to discuss in a read-through approach. Even so, God wants us to grab whatever jumps out at us now and hold onto it, because those are the things we’ll need to put into practice in the weeks and months to come.
What jumped out at you in today’s reading? How do you think you’ll be putting it into practice in the rough and rocky road that lies ahead? Whatever it is, maybe you should start practicing it now, so it will be second nature to you by the time you really need it.
The BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule is presented in PDF directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 35: AUGUST 26
ACTS 6 – 28:31
Today we move deeper into the book of Acts, reading all the way through to the end. It’s telling that the book is called “Acts” and not “Belief” or “Faith”. Many Christians cherry-pick verses from the Bible and, based on those one or two verses, claim that you only need to believe to be saved or have faith to be saved, but the very title of this book says otherwise. Belief and faith alone are not enough to save you; you need to ACT to prove your belief and faith: You need to put your belief and faith into ACTION.
Even so, those actions will only bear good and lasting fruit if they are accomplished by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, not by our own strength. That’s why Jesus cautioned the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received “the promise of God” (the Holy Spirit), and then they could start their ministry.
Doing the works of the law (the ones that we read about [or skipped over…] back in Moses’ books) are not enough to be saved. You need to do what God guides you to do, and you need to do it in his power and in his time. Saying “no” to God when he guides you to do something is the same as being disobedient to him. You don’t want to be disobedient to God. Good things do not happen to people who are disobedient to God, as we’ve seen throughout the Bible.
- After initially focusing on the acts of the original 11 disciples, the book then switches gears and focuses on the acts of the new convert, Paul. Of all Jesus’ followers at that time, Paul was by far the most visible and most dedicated. After his conversion, he lived his life as Jesus had lived his – as an unemployed, unmarried, childless, homeless, possessionless itinerant preacher whose whole existence centered on preaching and teaching the Gospel. He lived and breathed God’s Word, just as Jesus had.
- We are all called to follow Jesus like Paul did. How closely does your life mirror that of Jesus or Paul?
- As with every other time I’ve read this book, I was struck by how Stephen’s final words, when he was being stoned to death, were a prayer to God to forgive those who were killing him. Jesus did the same on the cross. We need to pay attention to this. God says he’s in charge of doling out revenge. Our job is not to get even or to hold grudges, but to let God repay all offences done to us.
- Remember that Jesus said to be offended in nothing; if we’re offended in nothing, we won’t be holding grudges or looking for revenge. Our job is simply to choose to forgive and to pray for those who hate us and treat us badly. That means everyone. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. No exceptions at any time or for any reason.
- Remember, too, that Jesus told us that God doesn’t hear the prayers of those who have unforgiveness in their heart. If you’re having a hard time hearing from God lately, it’s likely not due to an earwax build-up, but to a grudge or resentment that’s clogging up your prayer line. Let the grudge and/or resentment go, and then you’ll hear clearly from God again. Take the time to practice forgiving now, because it will likely be your final test. It was for Jesus and Stephen. No-one with a hard heart gets into Heaven. You don’t want your final words on Earth to be a curse. Practice choosing to forgive now, and it will stand you in good stead when you need it most.
- In reading Acts, I was also struck again by how Paul didn’t fight against the Roman ptb when they arrested him. At no time did he fight against them. Neither did the other disciples fight against or protest the ptb. God had told Paul that he needed to go to Rome, so Paul permitted himself to be arrested in order to be taken to Rome as a prisoner. On the other hand, in situations where Paul was being attacked by angry mobs, God rescued him time and time again.
- There is a clear distinction between God rescuing Paul from mob attacks and God protecting Paul during his arrest and final incarceration in Rome. The same pattern played out with Jesus. Until it was their time to go home, they were constantly being rescued, but when it was their time, they submitted to the ptb and endured whatever they had to endure to the end. These scenarios are not just Bible stories; they are guidance for us. They are meant as an example of how we are not to submit to angry mobs (God will rescue us from those), but are to submit to authorities when our time has come. We’ll know it’s our time, because God will tell us. If he told Jesus and he told Paul, he’ll tell us.
- Paul was a genuine convert. Like most genuine converts, he signed up 110% for the program. He held nothing back. Even after God showed him how much he’d have to suffer, he still stayed the course. Genuine converts are unstoppable. That’s why there’s more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who need no repentance. God’s angels know that in genuine converts they’ve won a strong human ally on Earth. The ranks of God’s holy warriors are expanded every time someone genuinely repents and genuinely converts. The converts join the ranks of God’s holy warriors.
What do you think of the book of Acts? Do you see yourself anywhere in there? Do you relate to anyone in particular or wish you were more like a certain someone? Jesus is our main example of how we should live our lives, but Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and the others show us what “living like Jesus” looks like in the real world. We make mistakes. We disagree and fight with each other. We misapply and misinterpret scripture. We get tired and lost and hungry and sometimes need to get away from it all (like Jesus did).
But no matter what, we keep going. That’s what the book of Acts ultimately shows us – we need to live our faith and belief through actions, and that no matter how badly we mess up, we keep going. Even those with the greatest of belief and the greatest of faith occasionally messed up, but they kept going. They never gave up. That’s what made them great in God’s eyes. As Jesus says: “Those who endure to the end will be saved.”
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is posted below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 34: AUGUST 25
JOHN 1 – ACTS 5:42
I always have to take breaks when I read John’s Gospel. Jesus lays so much on the line, I need time to digest and absorb it. You get the sense that Jesus told John a lot more behind the scenes than he told the other disciples, and that these private revelations were then interspersed in this Gospel with Jesus’ public teachings.
- There are many themes in today’s reading, but three emerge in particular. The first is the overwhelming tyranny of the religious powers-that-be in Roman-occupied Israel. People were terrified to cross the chief priests, temple elders, Sadducees, etc., because it would mean certain punishment, such as getting cast out of the synagogue or being stoned to death. These guys didn’t fool around. They were tyrants in the truest sense. Even some Pharisees who believed that Jesus was the Messiah didn’t want to openly admit it, because they knew they would face the wrath of the religious ptb if they did. If they weren’t outright killed, they would at the very least lose their position in society and be run out of town, as Jesus was run out of Nazareth. Today’s cancel culture and government-by-mandate are hauntingly similar to the tyranny of first-century Israel.
- This tyrannical approach to governing also affected where Jesus could preach and teach, as he had to avoid areas where he knew he’d be arrested. Rather than command respect or serve as voices of Truth, the religious ptb ruled by fear, much like the Roman Catholic Church did during their 1000-year reign of terror known as the Inquisition. There was no God in what any of these tyrants did, even though they were supposed to be God’s servants.
- A second major theme in this reading is the move from brick-and-mortar worship to spiritual worship. Jesus tells the Samarian woman at the well that people don’t have to worship in any particular place anymore (including the temple in Jerusalem), because they can worship wherever they are in Spirit and in Truth – that is, sincerely, and through the presence of God’s Spirit. Jesus also states that the flesh (that is, the works of the law) are not the way to God; the only way to God is by the Spirit, because God is Spirit.
- There was enormous push-back to this doctrine, and Jesus lost a lot of followers when he introduced it. That’s because most people think of religion as a set of duties that you have to perform “religiously” (such as attend church, give to charities, volunteer your time at a homeless shelter, etc.) and to be seen doing these duties. Religion, for most people even today, isn’t something you do in private; it’s a public show of belief. But Jesus turned that assumption on its head, saying that prayer and worship should be done in private, and that all acts of the law were dead gestures. Jesus, in John’s book, was all about relationship-building, not church buildings.
- Which leads us to the third principle theme of today’s reading, which is our ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus and God. This doctrine was revolutionary at the time when Jesus first taught it, and for many still is today. Jesus taught that worshipping God and having a relationship with him were the same thing. Further, God was not only our God, but our Father, too. The same relationship Jesus, as Messiah, had with God we could also have. Many minds were blown at these revelations, but Jesus’ teachings were not really understood until Pentecost, when the first of Jesus’ disciples were born-again. Then, by the power of God’s Spirit, they understood what Jesus meant and started to experience the relationship for themselves.
- Overall, then, John’s Gospel emphasizes the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ teachings more than the other three Gospels. The OT was pretty much about doing certain things according to laws and statutes, so that worship meant checking off a pre-set list of to-do’s. But Jesus ripped up that list and showed us instead how to have an intimate relationship with God. To worship God was no longer to go into a temple or synagogue, but simply to be with him and to do whatever he advised you. The Ten Commandments still stood, but the rest of the law no longer had any standing.
- Today’s reading also starts us on the book of Acts, beginning with Jesus’ ongoing appearances for 40 days and 40 nights (God loves that time span!). We also see the spiritual rebirth of the disciples at Pentecost. From that point onward, Jesus is no longer on Earth in physical form, but he’s with us through God’s Spirit, just as he promised.
- In the first chapters of Acts, Peter emerges as a clear leader. Jesus was obviously grooming him throughout his ministry years, and even though Peter failed a very important test by denying he knew Jesus the night he was arrested, he was given another chance after he sincerely repented. God doesn’t give up on us if we don’t give up on him.
- Love the description of how the disciples were beaten and then rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name”. Contrast that to how, today, Christians are outraged when they face perceived persecution and then demand restitution. Christianity today is pretty much where the children of Israel were just before Jesus’ first coming – very worldly, precious little understanding of Truth, and near zero desire to learn it.
From what we read today, what can we apply to the government-by-mandate situation that’s growing worse day by day? Well, if we’re on the run, we don’t have to worry about attending church, because we carry our church with us. We are the church; no matter where we are, God and Jesus are with us, through God’s Spirit.
We also don’t have to worry about tyrannical powers-that-be, because Jesus never worried about them. He avoided them, even skirting entire areas to keep out of their clutches, but when they got in his face, he spoke God’s words that were given to him at that moment. We don’t have to fear the ptb; we should just be aware of what they’re up to and do our best to avoid them. Don’t purposely antagonize them, but don’t cave to them, either. They are the world. As long as you remain loyal to God, they have no power over you until it’s your time.
Finally, make sure you maintain your relationship with God and Jesus through God’s Spirit and through God’s Word. Having a strong relationship with God and Jesus is the key to surviving what is coming.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH appears in fabulous PDF directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 33: AUGUST 24
LUKE 9 – 24:53
“Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.” Jesus says this in response to a woman’s comment about how blessed his mother must be, to have him as a son. Note that Jesus doesn’t only say that those who hear God’s Word are blessed, but those who hear and keep it. The keeping is as important as the hearing, maybe even more important.
- Lots of people sit in pews on Sunday, hearing God’s Word, and then walk out of the building and live their lives like unbelievers. Yes, Mary was blessed to have Jesus as a son, but we’re all the more blessed, according to Jesus, if we both hear the Word and keep it. Jesus’ job was preaching and teaching the Word, as is ours when God gives us the signal. But it’s not our job to force people to keep God’s Word. That’s up to them, whether or not they want to keep it. Your job is (or will be) to preach and teach the Word, and theirs will be to keep it. And we are also held to the same standard, whether we’re already teaching the Word or still just learning it. It’s not enough just to hear it and teach it: You have to keep it.
- I mentioned, when introducing this Bible read-through nearly 40 days ago, that we’re going to need to feed on God’s Word, if we’re going to make it through what’s coming in the very near future. And if you’ve been paying attention to the news of the world over the past few days, you know what I’m talking about. The walls are closing in. The read-through is intended to get you immersed in the Word, like when you take a running leap off a dock and jump into a lake any old way, without worrying about your diving form. You can work on that later. All that matters right now is that you’re immersed in God’s Word and that it’s feeding you. And you need to stay immersed for the rest of your days, or you won’t make it home.
- Jesus says we have to both hear (or read) God’s Word and keep it. It’s a two-step process. But we can’t keep what we don’t hear. That’s one of the reasons why so many Christians have gone so far astray – they simply haven’t heard or read. They hear only what the worldly church wants them to hear, which usually concerns the importance of giving money to the church. No matter how compelling a sermon is, at some point it turns into a plea for donations. That’s how you know you’re in a worldly church.
- As Jesus said: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. God doesn’t require you to pay any money to hear his Word or to learn what you need to learn to survive your tests and temptations. If you feel compelled to give money for hearing God’s Word, you are dealing with a false prophet. Jesus said there would be a lot of those at the end of the times of the gentiles, and so there are, just as there were a lot of false prophets at the end of the times of the Israelites that marked Jesus’ first coming. More than anything else, false prophets are the sign of the end of an age and of a falling away. False prophets can only thrive where people don’t know and don’t keep God’s Word.
- Regardless of the time of the age, God’s Word stays the same. His directives stay the same. The Commandments don’t change. Treating others as we want to be treated doesn’t change. Loving our enemies doesn’t change. We see this exemplified in how Jesus handled his betrayal, arrest, torture, and execution. He didn’t waver from keeping God’s Word. He didn’t break the Commandments. He continued to treat others as he would want to be treated. And he even showed love and forgiveness towards those who were torturing and executing him. Nothing changed in how he kept God’s Word.
- Jesus is our example. We are his followers, which means we’re to live our lives as he lived his, and to respond to situations as he responded. That’s what it means to be his follower. But Jesus could not have done what he did in the face of such brutality if it weren’t for God guiding and strengthening him. He could not have done it on his own.
- We also will not be able to keep God’s Word without God’s help. The members of the early church who lived their lives on the run were supernaturally protected by God because they not only heard the Word, they kept it, whether it was convenient for them or not, and whether they felt like keeping it or not. They were under God’s protection because they chose his way; God will not protect those who choose against his way, even if they persist in calling themselves his children.
- The three Gospels that we’ve already read (Matthew, Mark and Luke) give similar retellings of the final hours of Jesus’ life on Earth in human form (that is, in an imperfect mortal body, such as the one we’re in now). He shares the Passover meal with his closest followers, instituting a new way to keep it in memory of him. Then he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. When he is fully strengthened and resolved (by God’s help, not that of his followers), he embraces his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, calmly goes with the soldiers arresting him, and submits to imprisonment. The next we see him, he is being tortured and then brought before Pontius Pilate and Herod, where he basically just repeats back to them what they say to him, but otherwise remains silent. He mounts no defence. After his sentencing, he is taken to be crucified.
- In none of this does he struggle against his accusers or torturers. In none of this does he curse them or taunt them. Knowing it’s his time and also his job, he submits to their abuse and then actually prays for them. This is Jesus modeling to us, his followers, that we’re to keep the Commandments, treat others as we want to be treated, and love our enemies, regardless of the circumstances. At no time did he try to escape. At no time did he lash out or struggle. At no time did he curse. By God’s strength and guidance, he endured in the same way he had endured for all of his time on Earth. Nothing changed in his response to the world.
- As I mentioned yesterday, I hate reading about Jesus being tortured. Maybe part of my hating to read about it is knowing that, as his follower and given the times, I will likely suffer the same or similar end as Jesus. All his followers will. Note that Jesus didn’t want to be tortured. He prayed until his sweat fell like drops of blood to get God to change the content if not the course of what had to be done, but God wouldn’t budge. Scripture had to be fulfilled, and Jesus finally accepted it. We need to accept it, too, because it’s scriptural that our end will also be nasty, if we’re genuinely a follower of Jesus – as is the master, so are the servants.
- Maybe part of the loathing I have for reading about Jesus’ torture and execution is knowing it’s waiting for me, too. Jesus didn’t want it and tried to find another way to accomplish the same outcome, but it wasn’t possible. We’ll likely also try to find some other way, when our time comes, but that’s when we need more than anything else not only to remember what we heard in God’s Word, but to keep it. That means no cursing our enemies, no struggling, no resisting, no grandstanding, no planning our defence in advance. We need to face whatever is coming our way exactly as Jesus faced it – on the move and avoiding it until it was his time, and then submitting to it.
Blessed are those who hear God’s Word, and keep it. It’s all well and good to read the Bible (we need to; it’s our mother’s milk), but it’s just as important to do what it says. Of all the words you’ve read over the past 33 days and nights (and all the words you’ve yet to read over the next 7), it will someday come down to whether or not you actually keep them. Your final test will be your hardest. Resolve now not only to hear but to keep God’s Word, so that when your time comes, you face it like Jesus.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 32: AUGUST 23
MARK 7 – LUKE 8:56
Much of Matthew’s gospel is reflected in Mark’s gospel (and vice-versa), but Luke’s gospel introduces some new stories about Jesus, so I’ll be highlighting those today. I’ll also continue to bang some people over the head about the importance of giving everything you’ve got to God, and by extension to Jesus in being his follower. I doubt that you would have read this far in the reflections if you aren’t already giving it everything you’ve got, by your own estimation. But there still might be a few things you’re holding back. Scripture says that God is the jealous type and wants us all to himself. If we expect him to protect us and provide for us and strengthen us, we need to do our part and give ourselves only to him.
- I left off yesterday’s reflection with Jesus giving the religious ptb an earful (not that they heard anything other than that they were being disrespected). One thing I didn’t mention was how Jesus cautioned his disciples and the people he healed (and the demons he cast out) not to tell anyone about him. It was like he wanted to move through the world anonymously. Why was that? The main reason was that the more his name and accomplishments became known to the Jewish and Roman ptb, the more of a target he was to them, as they were afraid he’d mess with their status quo and disrupt their plans. Jesus needed to keep a low profile as long as possible so that he could move from district to district, preaching and teaching the Word. We need to learn from that.
- False prophets love to have their names and deeds broadcast as far and wide as possible. They don’t have to worry about catching the attention of the ptb, because liars know liars as one of their own, so they’re in no danger from the world. We, on the other hand, need to keep our heads down over the next months and years, because like Jesus, we’re going to be targets. The less we comply with the dictates of mainstream society, the more outlaw we become and therefore the more targeted and vulnerable.
- God puts us on his rock, as David says, so that we can better see what’s around us and what’s coming, not so that we can make a spectacle of ourselves. God doesn’t support grandstanding. Jesus never grandstanded. He did everything low-profile, other than for the incident in the temple (which was a long time coming and well-deserved) and his triumphal entry to Jerusalem. Both of these needed to be done to fulfill scripture.
- So keep your eyes and ears open and your head down. God has put you on his rock so that you have the advantage of seeing and knowing. Use that advantage to your benefit, not your hurt. Let people know you’re a follower of Jesus, but don’t blare it. Shine it. Let them know not by an advertising campaign, but by your everyday words and deeds, like Jesus.
- The description of the end-times in Mark is much like the one in Matthew. But what’s important in the description is not that this follows that or this has to be done before that is done, but that we continue to do what we do as followers of Jesus. Nothing should change in how we interact with the world, whether it’s tribulation time or not. We still put God first in everything, we still keep the Commandments (ALL OF THEM), we still treat others as we want to be treated, and we still love our enemies. None of that changes. We aren’t suddenly given permission to kill people because it’s the tribulation. No. When Jesus says to get a weapon, we get a weapon, we use it as a deterrent, not as a tool to hurt or kill people. The Commandments still stand, regardless of the times we’re in.
- As followers of Jesus, we’re always to live with “loins girded”, that means, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. God will likely give you more than a moment’s notice, but maybe not. Maybe like Jesus says, you’ll be out somewhere away from wherever it is you’re living, and you’ll get the signal to leave without going back for so much as your jacket. Jesus doesn’t say this stuff to hear himself speak. God spoke directly through him, so when Jesus says to leave with just the clothes on your back, you leave with just the clothes on your back, because that’s God giving you orders. If you defy God (and you have the option to do that), things won’t go well for you.
- Many Christians now are focusing on preparing to survive the tribulation times. Many are also in panic mode. Jesus never panicked. He told us always to watch for the signs of the times and always to have our loins girded, ready to leave at a moment’s notice, but other than that it should be business as usual for us. We don’t stop putting God first in everything just because it’s the tribulation. We don’t stop keeping ALL the Commandments or stop treating others as we want to be treated. We don’t even stop loving our enemies. We maintain the Christian status quo, even in tribulation times. I don’t see Jesus changing anything, not at his arrest and not even at his crucifixion. I see him still putting God first in everything, still following the Commandments, still treating others as he wants to be treated, and still loving his enemies. None of those things should change as long as we’re on this Earth, tribulation or no tribulation. This is what it means to endure to the end.
- How we prepare for our daily needs also doesn’t change. I’ve written before about it, but it bears going over again. As followers of Jesus, the only prepping we need to do is stocking up on the Word of God and deepening our relationship with God and Jesus. That’s it, unless God tells us specifically to do something else. The thousands who came to hear Jesus teach were fed both spiritually and physically by God, through miracles. David and his men ate the showbread at the altar, even though it was meant for the priests only. God gave Jesus and his disciples permission to harvest and eat corn, even though it was a Sabbath. If you put God first in everything and follow Jesus, God will provide. Prepping not only shows weak faith but also lack of knowledge of God’s Word. That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this read-through now – to remind ourselves of how Jesus lived his life, because that’s how we should be living ours, and Jesus prepped only with prayer. Prepping of food and other supplies says to God: “I don’t trust that you’ll provide for me, so I’m stocking up as a Plan B. I’m also planting a garden as a Plan C.” Jesus never planted a garden and wasn’t in one place long enough to tend it, and yet God always provided for him, one way or another. We need to stop taking our cues from the world and from those who say they’re Christians but by their actions show they’re not. Followers of Jesus live as Jesus lived, and he never had a six-month stock of toilet paper. ‘Nuff said.
- Luke’s gospel goes into greater detail about John the Baptist than either Matthew or Mark, so we get more of the background story and also learn about the blood connection between John and Jesus. They were cousins on their mothers’ side. We don’t know how much time they spent together as children or teenagers, but we do know that John the Baptist knew that Jesus was very special and considered him to be a far greater prophet than he. Whether he truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah is up for debate. Had he believed, he wouldn’t have sent his followers to Jesus to ask if he was the Messiah. It’s possible that John’s blood ties with Jesus kept him from seeing Jesus as anything but his cousin who also happened to be an up and coming great prophet. Jesus’ mother was also limited to seeing him as the same – a prophet, but not the Messiah. Jesus stated that a prophet is not without honor except in his own home and country, and he was living proof.
- What does John the Baptist’s doubt in Jesus’ messiahship have to do with our relationship with Jesus? And how does it affect us in the months and years to come? First of all, Jesus was absolutely clear that his cousin was the prophesied prophet who would preach in the spirit of Elijah (Elias, in most translations). John the Baptist was the prophesied messenger. That meant that Jesus had to be the Messiah. Secondly, John was partially spiritually blinded by his relationship to Jesus and also by not being born-again. No-one had been born-again at that point; Jesus was born with the Spirit, but John was like the OT prophets – it was with him sometimes, but not all of the time. That’s why Jesus referred to John as being of a woman born rather than of God born – when you undergo spiritual rebirth, you’re born of God.
- These two points – John’s doubt in Jesus’ messiahship and John not being born-again – are not things that should hamper us in following Jesus. We should know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is the Messiah because we are genuinely born-again. If you have doubts about Jesus’ messiahship or about whether or not you’re actually reborn, you need to take it up with God in prayer right now, because if you’re not reborn, you won’t make it through what’s coming. You will falter and you will fall and you will stay down for the count. And none of those who stay down for the count will make it home.
- John the Baptist, of course, made it home, along with all the other heralds of Jesus (OT prophets). Spiritual rebirth was not granted at that time, so it wasn’t a requirement. But ever since the resurrection of Jesus, rebirth is a requirement. No rebirth = no ability to endure to the end = no Heaven as a reward.
I’ve purposely not gone over the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus yet. We’ll look at those chapters tomorrow, for all three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). I hate reading about how Jesus had to suffer, but we need to see how he handled it and learn from it, because suffering will definitely be on the menu for us in the months and years to come.
The PDF of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule is directly below.