A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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THE ONE PRAYER GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS

Some people see God as a heavenly vending machine: They “sow into the Kingdom” as prepayment, punch in their prayer, and then wait expectantly for the requested miracle to drop into their outstretched hands. They see God as an eternal giver whose main job is to provide them with exactly what they want as soon as they ask for it.

And when the expected miracle doesn’t materialize, their faith takes a hit.

Never once do they consider asking God how they can help him. Never once do they sincerely thank God for everything he’s given them and done for them already.

We born-again believers need to seriously examine the content of our prayer requests. If we’re constantly looking for a spiritual hand-out rather than offering God a helping hand, our focus is wrong. God, of course, doesn’t need our help, but we sure do need to help him. That’s what we’re here for, that, and to learn our lessons and pass our tests.

As a reminder, we born-agains are in training for Heaven. A big part of that training is helping God in the Kingdom. But we’re not going to know what to do to help God unless we ask him.

So I asked God last night what I could do to help him, and he said I could write this blog piece to remind you that you need to ask him how you can help out in the Kingdom. He said way too many people are asking for help and way too few are offering it. He stressed that while he loves to help people, that’s only part of the equation. We should be offering God our help way more than asking him for help, if we’re born-again. In fact, asking God how we can help him should be our default prayer position.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t expect God’s help in everything we do. We should expect it and we get it. But we also need to be willing to help God in whatever capacity he enables us to help him. And he shouldn’t have to ask us to help him; we should be offering our help.

He shouldn’t have to ask us to help him; we should be offering our help.

So tonight, when you say your prayers at bedtime, ask God how you can help him. Ask him tonight, and then ask him again tomorrow night, and then ask him the night after that, and the night after that, and so on and so on and so on until your time on Earth is up and you’re standing before him, face to face.

Ask him every night and every day what you can do to help out in the Kingdom.

I can guarantee you that is one prayer God will always answer.

SUFFERING? HERE’S HOW TO GET THROUGH IT

It’s good to remember that whatever you’re suffering at the moment has God’s seal of approval. That means God is either permitting you to be tested or is permitting you to experience the measure of pain you’ve brought on yourself by your choices. If it’s a test, it won’t be so difficult that you can’t endure it with God’s help (pray!); if it’s punishment, again, it will be measured in such a way that you won’t be overwhelmed by it, as long as you remember to ask God to help you in your suffering (pray!).

We cannot avoid suffering in this life. It’s part and parcel of the mortal realm. Even Jesus suffered during his time on Earth – he suffered tests, which he always passed with flying colors, and he suffered punishments, which he accepted to suffer on our behalf, not having brought any punishments on himself. So if even Jesus had to suffer, we shouldn’t be surprised that we have to suffer, too.

But let’s be honest – suffering sucks. There’s no pleasure in it; all we can do is endure it without complaint until it’s over.

If you’re not suffering now, think of a time when you were. Was your first response to complain? Did you try to do something to mitigate it? The problem with trying to mitigate your suffering by some means other than God’s mercy through prayer is that you’ll have to suffer the mitigated measure in some other way. You don’t get out of earned suffering by taking a spiritual painkiller and thinking that’s that. Oh, we can try (I know I have), but the suffering will just creep up on you some other way.

Is there a way we can avoid suffering altogether? In a word, no, but we can avoid the kind of suffering that comes from punishment. That, at least, is in our hands. If we choose to do God’s will, we’ll sidestep the suffering that comes as the result of disobedience to God.

Tests, however, we cannot avoid. They come whether we want them to or not, and they usually come when we least expect them and least need them. God’s timing is perfect. I have to laugh (after the fact) at the perfection of God’s timing. I don’t need a test on loving my enemies when I’ve missed my bus, it’s pouring rain, I’m running late, and the wheel just popped off my filled-to-the-brim carry-cart, but I’ll get it. I’ll get the test when I least expect it and least need it, and if I don’t pass it, I’ll get it again and again and under similar circumstances until I get it right.

We cannot avoid tests. God permits them for our benefit, though it doesn’t always feel like it at the time. It’s tempting (and that’s part of the test) — it’s tempting to blame God or get angry with him when the test comes upon you. I’ve done that, gotten angry with God. That’s an automatic fail right there, followed by a redo that’s ratcheted up a notch on the suffering scale.

Scripture says that the remnant of Israel will be a poor and an afflicted people. If we count ourselves part of that remnant, we have to accept that our lot here on Earth will necessarily involve poverty and suffering. Let’s not make things worse for ourselves by getting mad at God or grumbling or feeling sorry for ourselves when we have to go through a test or suffer the consequences of our actions. Let’s not make things worse for ourselves by complaining, even about being persecuted for our beliefs. The world complains, but we’re not the world. Let’s just get the suffering over with as quickly as possible so that we can put it behind us and move on. Every test we successfully survive gets us one test closer to Heaven.

Our lot as born-again followers of Jesus is constant joy from the presence of God and Jesus, through God’s Holy Spirit; constant peace, again, through the presence of our divine companions; and occasional suffering, whether from tests or from consequences. All of these things – joy, peace, and suffering – come with the permission of God. We cannot have joy and peace and then reject or resent the suffering, because it’s a package deal.

But the good news is that while our joy and peace will follow us into Heaven, our suffering will not. There is no suffering in Heaven. If we make it Home, we’ll leave all suffering behind us and never experience it again. If we don’t make it Home, we’ll experience only suffering, unmitigated and unending, forever.

No-one likes to suffer. Pain sucks. But if we accept that we number among God’s chosen remnant, we don’t have any choice but to suffer whatever God permits. When I say “we don’t have any choice”, I mean we don’t have any choice but to suffer patiently and in silence if we ultimately want a good outcome for ourselves. The choice to accept the suffering or resent the suffering is still ours to make. We have free will as long as we remain in our human body. But resenting or fighting the suffering or trying to mitigate it in some way (other than by God’s mercy, through prayer) will only make it worse and/or prolong it. All suffering is permitted by God for a certain purpose and a certain end: The purpose is our purification and edification, and the end is our assured election. There is nothing assured in our election until God says there is. He alone, with the assistance of Jesus, is the sole judge.

Remember how Jesus dealt with his approaching crucifixion. He did not want to suffer that horrendously painful death and prayed to God three times to find some other way to accomplish what needed to be done, but God was adamant that crucifixion was the only way. Remember that Jesus, in petitioning God, ended his prayer with “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt”. God always invites us to petition him. The prayer line directly to God is always open. But his way is the best way, and his say is the final say, and the sooner we get on board with that Truth, the better it will be for us. Jesus couldn’t avoid the crucifixion, but God did lessen and shorten his suffering.

Don’t go looking for ways to suffer, thinking you’ll earn spiritual brownie points. You won’t. But when God permits you to suffer, accept it and pray to God to lessen it or to help you endure it without complaint. If your suffering is not a consequence of your actions, it’s a test. Either way, the sooner you face it head-on with God’s help, the sooner you’ll get through it and past it, and the sooner you’ll get Home.

GOT TALENT? A TIMELY REMINDER TO USE IT, NOT BURY IT

When I was four years old, I loved watching figure skaters on TV.

I wanted to be just like them, so my parents bought me a pair of skates and my mother would take me to the local arena. She would glide around the periphery and I would mostly just slip-slide along the boards, holding onto them and trying not to fall down.

In one of our visits to the arena, I decided I wanted to jump like the figure skaters on TV.

So I slip-slided over to the centre of the ice and I jumped.

The next thing I knew, I was lying flat on my back, howling in shock. I don’t remember exactly how I got down there, but it was nothing like the jump landings I’d seen on TV. A kindly man helped me onto my feet and brushed the snow off my back. Then my mother, alerted by my howls, skated over to me and took me home.

As the years passed, I continued to skate, but I wasn’t a talented figure skater. I took lessons and learned how to be good at the basics, but I could never jump and spin due to balance issues, and my later vision problems threw off my hand-eye coordination, so I wasn’t much of an athlete. I’m OK with that now, because I know in Heaven (if I make it) I’ll have perfect athleticism. That’s what I’m holding out for: to learn how to figure skate in Heaven.

But four-year-old me knew nothing about Heaven. All she knew was that she wanted to do something that she had no ability to do. Even then, at such a tender age, I understood that no matter how hard I trained, I would not be able to skate like the figure skaters on TV. I just didn’t have the talent for it.

God gives us all talents. We all have something we’re naturally good at. The trick is to find what that is and then work on it. I worked on figure skating and became a competent skater, but I still couldn’t jump or spin: I could only glide gracefully around and around, backwards and forwards, in circles.

Skating wasn’t a talent God gave me. It was something I worked at, but it wasn’t a talent. In the body of Christ, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth (otherwise known as the Church founded by Jesus), we all have a God-given talent that we’re good at and that we’re expected to invest in the Kingdom. That talent is something we’re completely comfortable with and doesn’t feel like work. It’s as natural to us as breathing, and no matter how long or how often we do it, we never tire of it.

Jesus found his several talents in teaching and preaching and healing and casting out demons. He’d learned how to be a carpenter, but that wasn’t his talent. He was probably pretty skilled at carpentry work, having learned it from his dad from a very young age, but being a carpenter was not what he’d been called to do. He was called to heal the sick, cast out evil, and teach and preach God’s Word. Because he was called to do these things, he was given the talent to do them, which meant that he was able to do them night and day and never tire of doing them.

That, ultimately, is what a talent is – a God-given, God-driven, and God-fueled ability to do your calling. It’s that thing you do well that you then need to put to the service of the Kingdom. Paul reminds us that there are many different parts of the body of Christ, and that each part works in tandem with the others, the way organs and systems in a body work together. We can’t all be eyes or ears or gall bladders in the body of Christ, or it would be a pretty funny-looking Church.

What’s your talent? Some of us are good at teaching. Some are good at charity work. Some are good at ministering to the poor and homeless. Some are good at witnessing. Some are good at ministering to the elderly, and some are good at ministering to children. Some are good at listening and advising. Some are good at working quietly behind the scenes. Some are good at healing. Some are good at casting out spirits, some are good at Bible research, and some are good at preaching. These are just a few of the talents within the body of Christ.

Have you found your talent yet? If so, are you investing it in the Kingdom? When I was first born-again, I thought I had to do everything – charity work, teaching, preaching, witnessing, ministering to the poor, etc. None of these things were my talents, so I kind of bombed at them. I also felt out of place doing them, which was very discouraging to me. I didn’t feel forced to do them; I just assumed I had to do them. I later realized I was wrong, and I learned first-hand that God doesn’t expect us to do what we’re not good at. Being a follower of Jesus is not a “to do” list: It’s a calling.

God doesn’t want us pursuing activities in the Kingdom that are not our talents. He doesn’t want us slip-sliding along the boards, holding onto them for dear life, or falling flat on our backs the minute we try to step out to do something we’re not equipped to do. And he also doesn’t want us to work at something for years and years just to have the ability to skate around and around in circles, going nowhere.

The talent that God’s given you is what he expects you to pursue, not the things you see others doing and so want to do yourself. A talent is also not something that you can do competently enough but just competently enough. God doesn’t want you wasting your time on those things. He’s given you at least one talent, and he expects you to use it in the service of his Kingdom, like Jesus did. If you choose to do that, God will work through you and give you success in your efforts. All he asks of you is a willingness to invest the talent he’s given you back into the Kingdom.

I hope you choose to do that. I hope you find your talent (or talents) and go for it. We need all hands on deck in the Kingdom these days. Don’t bury your talent and don’t waste whatever time you have left on Earth pursuing things that are not your talent. Let the parable (below) and my four-year-old howling self be your warning.

(And for you literalists out there, yes, I’m aware that the parable is about money, but it’s also applicable to abilities.)

__________

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 
 Matthew 25:14-30

OUR SISTER, MARY

I tread very carefully as I write this, because I have enormous love and respect for Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother and our sister. At the same time, I don’t want to trample on the sensibilities of anyone who sees her as something she is not. But it’s important for the sake of the Gospel – God’s Truth – that the record on Mary be set straight. It’s also important for her legacy that she be seen as she is, not as some religious authorities want us to see her.

Mary was a mother first and foremost before she became a follower of Jesus. In fact, her role as Jesus’ mother initially blinded her to who Jesus was. Throughout Jesus’ lifetime, including during his ministry years, Mary saw Jesus as her son and perhaps maybe as a prophet (like his cousin, John), but she didn’t see him as the Messiah. It wasn’t until sometime after Jesus rose from the dead that she understood who he was and became his follower.

I’ve written before about how difficult it is for most people, especially unbelievers, to see born-again believers as the new person they’ve become. If you’re genuinely born-again, you know what I’m talking about. It can be frustrating, but it is what it is. You roll with it, like Jesus did. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, you move on. If you and God’s Word are not welcome, you move on. You don’t force the Word on anyone; Jesus never did. But he was always adamant that the record be set straight in matters of scriptural Truth. That was his special ministry to his enemies in Jerusalem.

I now offer the same special ministry to my enemies.

Mary did not live her adult life as a virgin. She was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, as we know from Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah and also from the Gospel. As well, we know that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. But after that she assumed her wifely duties with Joseph. The Gospel specifically tells us that Joseph did not “know” Mary until after she had given birth to Jesus. I don’t know how much more explicit the Gospel can be about Mary and Joseph’s conjugal relations, short of dropping a sex tape. So yes, Mary was a virgin when she conceived, carried and bore Jesus, but she then had marital relations with Joseph, from which children were born, of which we know of Joses and James by name, and also Jesus’ sisters.

Mary was not Jesus’ first disciple. She was not anywhere near the front of that line. Yes, she gave Jesus the nudge that had him perform his first public miracle (at the wedding in Cana), but that in no way signalled her discipleship to Jesus. In fact, Mary was more a stumbling block than a disciple throughout Jesus’ ministry years, so much so that she even attempted to stop his ministry work altogether when she, accompanied by her daughters, went to his house in Capernaum to take him back to Nazareth. She knew that what he was doing was dangerous and she was trying to protect him, but so was Peter, and we know what Jesus said to him.

Again, we need to learn and absorb scriptural Truth rather than what some religious authorities want to force-feed us. Nothing I’m saying here is in any way contradicted by scripture. Mary, as we know, was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, but we have no evidence that she held his lifeless body in her arms, as Michelangelo would have us believe. What we do know is that Jesus gave her into John’s care while she stood near the foot of the cross, and that she likely joined the disciples from thereon in. But again, even none of the disciples at that point (Jesus’ crucifixion) believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They considered him a great teacher, yes, and a great prophet, but not THE Prophet foretold by Moses in his farewell speeches.

It wasn’t until Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself to them that the penny dropped for most of them and they believed. This likely includes Mary, but that is speculation on my part. What we do know is that Mary was with the disciples and other followers shortly after Jesus’ ascension and before Pentecost. That scriptural passage (Acts 1-14) also mentions that Jesus’ brethren (her children) were there with the disciples and followers as well.

I love Mary. In temperament and demeanor, we couldn’t be farther apart, but I have utmost respect for the fact that God chose her to bear Jesus and to mother him, and that when it was time, she turned. She converted and became a follower of Jesus. Yes, she was still his mother even then (she is and will eternally be his mother), but she is first and foremost his follower. Her relationship is no longer that of a mother to a son, but that of a follower to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Messiah.

When Christianity became the state religion of Rome back in the 4th century A.D., the figure of Mary was conflated with those of Isis (an Egyptian ‘deity’), Artemis (a Greek ‘goddess’), and Diana (a Roman one) in order to make Christianity more acceptable to the pagan masses. The conflation continues to this day. Rather than the humble mother of Jesus who eventually became his follower, Mary was mischaracterized as a perpetual virgin and “Queen of Heaven” who needs constant worship, petitions, prayers, and offerings. The Roman church authorities superimposed the pagan deities on Mary, mainly because of her storied virginity at Jesus’ conception and birth. Needless to say, those authorities were wrong to teach their adherents to worship Mary. We shouldn’t worship her (she’s our sister and fellow believer; we’re to worship God), and we definitely shouldn’t pray to her or bow down before statues that represent her. If you find yourself mumbling a “vain repetition” addressed to Mary, stop yourself. We pray to God and God only, in Jesus’ name. We do not pray to people and we do not pray to angels: We pray to God and God only, as Jesus did, and in his name.

If you’ve been caught up in the cult of Mary-worship, please consider the above. But be warned: In reading this far, you no longer have a cover for your guilt. It’s only your ego and pride keeping you from acknowledging God’s Truth, and it’s high time you let those things go.

I hope that you get to know Mary someday, if and when you make it Home. I know I’m looking forward to getting to know her, if and when I make it Home. We’re polar opposites in personality, Mary and I, but we’d find our common ground in our love for God and our discipleship of Jesus. There is nothing better, whether here on Earth or in Heaven, than to love God and to follow Jesus wherever God’s Truth leads.

HAVE YOU BEEN PIGEON-HOLED? SEPARATING WHO YOU WERE FROM WHO YOU ARE

As many of you know, I was born again from atheism 23 years ago. For me, the switch from atheism to God worship was easy-peasy, because God did all the work during my conversion. All I had to do was agree to his terms (to choose to forgive), and I was an atheist no more. I didn’t have to work at being born-again; it just happened.

Since my conversion, I think and feel and speak as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus, at least in my own mind I do. But people who knew the atheist Charlotte have a hard time letting her go. You see, we get pegged as being either this or that and as having either these or those characteristics and traits. And for most people, these characteristics and traits are set in stone. They have no intention of changing their impression or opinion of you, no matter how much you actually change.

We all get pegged and pigeon-holed. Jesus was pegged and pigeon-holed in Nazareth. Even when he returned home as a renowned healer after he’d started his ministry, he was still, to the Nazarenes, the son of Joseph the carpenter. They couldn’t get past who he had been to see what he had become. He had been pegged and pigeon-holed for life, regardless of the miracles he performed or his newfound eloquence in scripture. The Nazarenes – including his family – still had him pegged and pigeon-holed as Joseph’s son, and the brother of Joses and James and the rest of Mary’s brood.

This is why Jesus ultimately left Nazareth permanently and warned us that we will never be taken for who we are by those who knew us as we were. Like everything else Jesus said, he was bang on the money. Every now and then I get contacted by people I knew before my conversion, and once they find out I’m a Jesus freak, they disappear down the communications black hole, never to be heard from again. Some of my old friends who contact me actually ask outright if I’m still a Christian, and when I say “yes, of course”, the conversation pretty much ends there. I don’t take it personally; I know how I’d feel if one of them converted and I’d remained an atheist: I wouldn’t even have bothered to contact them. I would have written them off completely and in derision.

We need to accept that we’ve been pegged as we were pre-conversion by those who knew us and who are not born-again. The sole exceptions are other converts. People who are genuinely born-again know that I’m genuinely born-again, but I know only one such person from my past, and that person is now gone. I’m not sad about her passing, because I know that if I make it Home I’ll see her again and forever. But for now, I’m just grateful that at least one person who knew the atheist Charlotte was able to make the leap to the born-again believer Charlotte, and to see me not for who I was, but for who I am. So far, it’s only been the one person who was able to do that, but it was enough. It was affirmation.

Maybe I’ll live to see a few more take the leap before I go Home.

In the meantime, I generally avoid people I used to know as much as they avoid me. I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not anymore, and it’s frustrating to see people look at me like I’m crazy simply for being a believer. It’s also frustrating when people treat me as if I’m still the cursing, drinking, “for-ny-kating”, lying, cheating bad girl I was before my conversion. That person is dead (she always was, spiritually) and gone, and she ain’t comin’ back. Jesus had the same problem of being perceived as Joseph’s son rather than God’s son, which is why he told us that, as children of God, we are prophets everywhere except among our own people. With few exceptions, we will remain to them whatever we were before our conversion (something something “first impressions…”).

It can be a temptation to turn back to who we were, if for nothing else for the companionship we used to have in the world. I don’t dislike the people I used to know before my conversion; I just don’t have anything in common with them anymore, and I make them uncomfortable. It’s like we’ve become strangers because we actually are strangers. We would not have formed a friendship in the “old days” if I’d been a convert then. It’s better just to admit that rather than to keep trying to force proverbial square pegs into round holes.

My friendships now are all in the Kingdom. Paul tells us that we’re surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, and he’s right. I can’t see my “invisible friends”, but I know they’re there. If you’re genuinely born-again, we’re friends. We may never meet or speak to each other, but we’re friends. I know you’re there and you know I’m here, and that’s enough, at least for me. And then there’s the spiritual realm of those who live permanently in God’s Kingdom in Heaven – they’re all our friends, too, which at last count was almost infinite in number.

Yes, the world has pegged and pigeon-holed us for whatever we used to be, but God and those who love him, and Jesus and those who follow him, know us for who are. That alone should suffice and sustain us for the rest of our time on Earth.

BUT DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN GOD?

In the Gospels, Jesus gives us an excellent description of who and how God is. Whatever Jesus doesn’t touch on, the Bible fills in. So we have no excuse not to know that God is omnipotent, omniscient, just, loving, fiercely protective of his children, immeasurably patient, merciful even to the unmerciful, and the only one who is actually good. In short, God is all the things that we ourselves strive to be but never can be because we’re not perfect like he is.

So if you say you believe in God, you’re essentially saying that you believe God is all those things Jesus and the Bible say he is. To believe in God is to believe he is as described by Jesus and the OT prophets.

If that’s the case, and you say you believe in God, why are you afraid of the world? Why are you hoarding food, fearful that you might otherwise starve? Why are you doing everything you can to prolong your time on Earth rather than lining up to go Home at the first available opportunity?

Why are you afraid to get sick?

Why are you afraid to die?

If you live in the Kingdom, which you do if you’re genuinely born-again – if you live in the Kingdom, there’s no place for fear of the world. There’s no cause for such a fear and no place for it. Fear of the world cannot enter into the Kingdom. I’m not talking about being foolhardy or what Jesus calls “tempting God”. There’s no need to be foolhardy. There’s no need to walk naked through back alleyways at 3 in the morning, believing you’re safe to do that because God is always protecting you. There’s no need to be foolhardy. But there’s also no need to be afraid of every little bump in the night or every news item that doesn’t align with Jesus’ teachings.

We know the world is under Satan and as such is opposed to God. Jesus told us that already 2000 years ago. Nothing that happens in the world should surprise us or faze us in any way. Jesus never got fazed by the world, and things were much worse in Roman-occupied Judea than they are here now. For example, crucifixions were the norm then, not the exception, and corpses were left to hang for days as a warning to others. Public executions were a daily occurrence. Pedophilia was the norm. Sodomy was the norm. Men behaving like women was the norm. Corruption of people in positions of authority was the norm. Slavery was the norm. Human sacrifice was the norm. Decrees to kill children was the norm. Raping and pillaging was the norm. Stoning people to death was the norm. Cooking and eating your own babies was, if not the norm, at least considered marginally acceptable if things got bad enough. People went to their local arena not to watch a sporting event, but to watch people kill each other for sport or to watch animals maul them to death.

So, yes, things were definitely worse in Jesus’ day than they are now, but Jesus was never fazed by it because it wasn’t his concern.

The world wasn’t his concern: the Kingdom was.

The Kingdom should also be our sole concern. The world is only something we should watch at arm’s length, so we know where we are in the end-times timeline. We should never try to intervene in the world or in any way try to steer events. We should never vote. We should never get involved in activist activities. We should never sign a petition. We should never fall for the lie that we need to try to “make the world a better place”. You can’t improve on God’s perfect justice, and the state of the world is God’s perfect justice playing out in real time.

So why are you afraid of the world if God is ultimately in control?

When someone has suffered enough, God will take them. There is no need for anyone to intervene in ending a life. Euthanasia, like abortion, is another word for murder. God does not hold innocent those who choose to end their own life, any more than he holds innocent those who choose to support or promote this form of murder. God alone decides when a life needs to end. God, and God alone.

The world, of course, will tell you otherwise. The world will tell you that euthanasia is a ‘mercy’ and that it’s cruel to prolong a person’s suffering. Or the world will lecture you that it has the right to decide when it’s had enough. The world, of course, is the mouthpiece of Satan, the arch deceiver. Tricking people into wanting to kill themselves with the blessings and encouragement of the state is one of his latest achievements. Never mind that the main purpose of offering euthanasia as a medical treatment is to secure organs and tissue for harvesting. Never mind that, back in the early 2000s, fentanyl was successfully tested as a pre-harvesting drug before it coincidentally started flooding the drug underworld. Nearly every otherwise healthy young person who ODs on fentanyl becomes an organ donor at the behest of their shocked and grieving parents so that ‘something good can come of all this’. Never mind that the organs and tissue are being used for research that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up if you only knew about it. Never mind that many of those organs end up in the bodies of the self-titled elite, and that much the rest ends up on their dinner plates.

Never mind.

Never mind that Satan well knows how to market death as life; he’s been doing it since the Garden of Eden.

Jesus tells us the only one we’re to fear is the one who has the power to condemn us, body and soul, to the lake of fire. We are to fear nothing and no-one but the one with this power. If you don’t fear God and the power he has to condemn you, body and soul, to an eternity of pain, you don’t really believe in God. You believe in the world’s version of God, the warm and fuzzy version you’re force-fed just before the offerings plate is passed. If you don’t believe in the God who can condemn you, body and soul, to an eternity of torment, you don’t really believe in God at all.

We are to fear no-one and nothing in the world, while being careful not to be foolhardy. But we are to fear God, even as we live under his loving protection in his Kingdom on Earth. We are to fear God not like a beaten dog that cowers in a corner, but as a respectful child who fears his loving parents. I was not afraid of my parents as a child, but I did understand the authority and power they had over me; that understanding was a constant presence of my childhood years. I still recall the dread I felt whenever I got caught doing something I knew I shouldn’t do. That dread was a healthy fear. We need to have the same healthy fear of God when we do something we know is wrong in God’s eyes, because his power to condemn us for all eternity is part of who he is.

If we genuinely believe in God, we fear God as Jesus feared him. If we fear God, we have a dread in our souls even thinking about doing things we know we shouldn’t. A healthy fear of God and the power he has over us is the main tool that guides us through the temptations and deceptions of the world.

To know God is to love him; to know God is to fear him: The two are the same. There is no genuine belief in God without love for him and fear of him, but the fear should never overtake the love, not in the heart of a child of God. Love God and fear him, but love him first and foremost and always. That is the Commandment. Love God first and foremost, and the rest will fall into place.

TOUGH AUDIENCE

Jesus was a brilliant teacher, the best who ever was.

Not only did he fearlessly speak God’s Truth, he delivered it in such a way that it made sense to everyone who heard him, whether they had eyes to see and ears to hear, or not.

This is no mean feat, as any teacher worth his or her salt well knows.

At the same time he was teaching, Jesus was also dodging the verbal and physical assaults of people who disagreed with him or wanted to trip him up.

And then there were his hard-core enemies, who just wanted him dead.

A tough audience, Jesus had. Every day for nearly three years he dealt with these people. But he did it because it was his job, not because he enjoyed the harassment and threats. He also did it because he wanted to get his mission over and done with so he could go Home.

You can always tell the ones God sent from those he didn’t send by how they view their time on Earth. The real prophets (that is, those who speak God’s Truth) are doing everything they can to get Home as fast as they can. The false prophets, on the other hand, are doing everything they can to prolong their time here. They have lots of reasons for wanting to stay in their human bodies, but I have a sneaking suspicion the main one is they don’t want to face God. If you know and love God and he’s shown you Heaven, there’s no way you want to spend even one second longer on Earth than you have to. The instant God gives you the signal, you’re off like a shot! Earth is the place of labouring and suffering. Why, given the choice, would you want to labour and suffer in an imperfect body if you could live leisurely and pain-free in a perfect one?

Pay close attention to how preachers and teachers talk about their future. Listen for whether they want to prolong their days here or are eagerly waiting to go Home. Wanting to stay here as long as possible is a big red flag of a false prophet.

Remember how Jesus willingly chose to go to Jerusalem at the end, knowing he would be crucified? Or how Paul willingly chose to go to Rome, knowing he would be arrested and killed? No matter how hard their friends and followers pleaded with them to stay, they were steadfast in their decision. They knew that death was just a “baptism” to get past in order to get Home. Stephen also famously looked past his tormenters to see God and Jesus waiting for him. That sight was enough for him to forgive his killers. None of these men, being close enough to Heaven to taste their reward, pleaded with God for any more time on Earth.

Jesus had some tough audiences, but he didn’t shy away from them. He also didn’t let them bully him or get the last word in. He schooled them in the only way that mattered: setting the record straight on scriptural interpretation. Our time here is short. We’re now in the same situation as Jesus, Paul, and Stephen were 2000 years ago – labouring to finish the work God’s given us and strengthening ourselves for the final tests, temptations, and battles. Whether you face your last days like the false prophets, doing everything you can to prolong your stay, or like real prophets, eagerly looking forward to going Home, is a decision only you can make.

LEAVING CHRISTIANITY

There are two possible outcomes for people who are genuinely reborn and then choose to betray God by committing the unpardonable sin. Being genuinely reborn means that you live in God’s grace and that you have God’s Holy Spirit with you 24/7, protecting you, guiding you and rewarding you, whether for good or for bad. When you commit the unpardonable sin (which, because it’s different for everyone, is not specifically named in the Bible) – when you commit the unpardonable sin, you grieve the Holy Spirit, as Jesus phrased it. You grieve God’s Holy Spirit, who had taken up residence with you since the moment of your rebirth. When God’s Holy Spirit is grieved, he leaves, or rather you drive him out, because holiness cannot live in the same place as evil.

So when you grieve the Holy Spirit through your fully conscious decision to commit the unpardonable sin, you drive God’s Spirit out. And with him goes all the protection you had throughout the time of your rebirth as well as prior to your conversion, when you were watched over by God’s holy angels. This protection that you had both before your rebirth (from God’s holy angels) and during it (from God’s Holy Spirit) comes crashing to an end, and you are completely at the mercy of beings who have no mercy because they no longer operate in God’s Spirit.

When this occurs, when you’ve committed the unpardonable sin and have driven out the Holy Spirit, there are only two possible outcomes for you from that point onward. These two outcomes are:

  1. Sudden death within a very short time, which is what happened to Judas Iscariot. There is no wiggle room for mercy once you’ve committed the unpardonable sin; there is only damnation and the sure understanding that you brought it on yourself. Again, the unpardonable sin is unique to each one of us, but always results in grieving the Holy Spirit, who then has no choice but to leave because you’ve driven him away.
  2. Last-minute deal with the devil. You can imagine that this deal is not going to be slanted in your favour. You won’t be in any position to bargain, so you’ll essentially have to take whatever the devil offers you. The contract is time-contingent, and when it comes to an end, you’ll again be at the non-mercy of whatever demons are attending on you at that time. Your death with be swift and horrendous, your damnation sure, and throughout it all you’ll know exactly why you ended up as you did.

These are the only two possible outcomes for genuinely reborn Christians who choose to commit the unpardonable sin and grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Remember that God will never leave us unless we want him to, as he’s promised never to leave us or forsake us. We, however, have made no such promise to God, as we can’t make that promise, not with our ongoing state of free will. In other words, we can’t say “I WILL NEVER” and mean it, not as long as we’re still free to choose. That means we remain vulnerable to being tempted into committing the unpardonable sin as long as we’re still in our human body.

Very sobering words, these, and for me truly frightening.

The information I’ve provided above scares the you-know-what out of me. And yet we know that the reward of sin is death, because scripture plainly tells us and shows us. And we know that the reward for the unpardonable sin is the grieving of the Holy Spirit, which then causes him to leave us (because we’ve driven him away), at which point we exist entirely unprotected and are either killed and dispatched to Hell, or end up on the duty roster of Satan. Serving Satan is, however, only a stalling tactic. Everyone who’s rejected God ultimately ends up in the lake of fire after Hell empties out. This outcome is non-negotiable and scriptural, no exceptions.

Most Christians are blissfully unaware of these facts. Some even labour under the lie of “once saved, always saved”, which has no basis in scripture and is in fact directly dismissed by Jesus and Paul as a fallacy. I am genuinely born again from atheism and have been so for 23 years. And yet I, as I’ve written here a few times already, did something really stupid about 7 years into my rebirth that earned me severe punishment from God, and rightly so. But it wasn’t the stupid thing that I did that almost lost me my grace – it was something I later planned to do that I thought was righteous that almost had me condemned. As I was riding along on my bike one day, formulating what I thought was a righteous plan, God literally stopped me in my tracks (I almost went over the handlebars) and let me know that if I did what I was planning to do, I would lose my grace. My understanding at that moment was as clear and as sure as my understanding at the instant of my rebirth. I can remember both scenarios as vividly as if they happened just now, so deeply are they etched in my memory.

Needless to say, and as I’m still here and still operating in God’s grace, I did not do the thing I had previously thought was righteous. I instead backed away from it (ran screaming, actually), like someone with vertigo would back away from the edge of a cliff.

So you see, I know from first-hand experience, as well as from scripture, that ‘once saved, always saved’ is a lie. Oh, it would be nice if everyone who claimed to be a Christian had an automatic ticket to Heaven just by saying they believe in Jesus, but what kind of place would Heaven be if that’s all it took to get there? Because most of the so-called Christians I’ve met in my years on Earth are not people I would want to spend eternity with. “Fine,” one of you out there sniffs, “Heaven is a big place. There’s room enough for everyone, even people you don’t like. You don’t have to spend any of your eternity with them, if you don’t want to. And another thing, Charlotte, you seem to forget that we’re but imperfect beings here; God will make us perfect in Heaven, including washing away all our sins.”

Thanks for your input, but these are clearly lies of the devil. The sin-washing needs to happen while we’re yet in a human body, followed by conversion, and both have to happen BEFORE we get to Heaven. Conversion can’t happen in the afterlife. It may happen after “brain death” or even very shortly (I’m talking milliseconds) after physical death, but it doesn’t happen in the afterlife, once a soul permanently leaves its body.

Paul said that we die once only, and then comes the judgement. The state of our soul at death determines where and how we’ll spend eternity. I don’t make the rules, I just report them, and I know them to be True and Just, because God is True and Just, and these rules come from him.

If you commit the unpardonable sin and grieve the Holy Spirit into leaving, there are only two possible outcomes for you: either swift death followed by damnation, or servitude to the devil, followed by damnation.

If neither of those options appeals to you, I’d strongly suggest not committing the unpardonable sin and grieving God’s Holy Spirit. I’d also strongly suggest doing whatever it takes to remain under God’s protection and in God’s grace for the rest of your time here on Earth. If you do that, you’ll be in Heaven for all eternity, because those who die in God’s grace (that is, in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit) automatically go Home.

As for those who claim to be former Christians but who’ve left Christianity for another belief system, they were never Christians to begin with. There’ll be a lot of “I left Christianity and I’ve never been happier!” claims as we move deeper and deeper into the end times, just as there’ll be a lot of (false) claims of conversion to Christianity. But we don’t need to worry about those people or their claims. Jesus said that he prays not for the world, but for those who are his in it. So our concern should be for those who love God and follow Jesus, and for those who desperately want to love God (that is, who value Truth above all), but who are temporarily blind or have lost their way.

The rest we can let go, as they, like Judas, have chosen their reward.

BECOMING MORE YOU

I’ve written here before about nonsensical phrases like “for the greater good” that hide a diabolical agenda under their sickly sweet surface. I am unabashedly a supporter and champion of the individual rather than the collective. Jesus also championed the individual, which for me is one of his most endearing qualities.

You don’t have to give up who you are or what makes you you to become a Christian. In fact, when you’re born again, you become more you than you ever were living in the world under the world’s authority and expectations.

God made you to be you. He made you one-of-a-kind and thoroughly unique. He doesn’t want you looking in the mirror and not liking what you see or wanting to be someone or something else. If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, it’s because you’re trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. That someone else isn’t God.

The devil is notorious for making people feel bad about themselves, for luring them into wanting to be more or to have more (prosperity preachers, I’m talking to you!). God doesn’t do that. He never lures us into wanting to be more or to have more, unless it’s to be more like Jesus and to have more treasures stored up in Heaven. But worldly desires based on worldly expectations don’t come from God.

Another thing God never does is to try to beguile us into wanting ‘”to be part of something bigger” than ourselves, as if just being ourselves on our own is somehow insignificant and unfulfilling. To be honest, I’ve never wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and frankly I’m not even sure what it means. But I have a sneaking suspicion it’s probably as nonsensical as “for the greater good” and has at its core the same diabolically-inspired agenda, which is to get you to trade your individuality and everything that makes you you for something that represses your uniqueness. At the same time, phrases like “for the greater good” and “be part of something bigger” let you know that you as an individual are of such little consequence in the grand scheme of things, that your being subsumed into a large faceless crowd is likewise of no consequence, because you have no or negligible value.

That is the devil speaking. God values you for you, because he made you to be valued for who and what you are. He did not make you to be part of a faceless crowd and thinking that you only have value when you’re part of one. He didn’t make you to reject who and what you are. Again, the devil is behind that.

The Bible is full of gloriously individual individuals just being who they are. The closer they grow to God, the more they become themselves. It’s like God’s Spirit in and around them unleashes their true being. You never hear Jesus wishing he were someone else, or Paul wishing he were someone else, or Moses wishing he were someone else, or David wishing he were someone else. No, these people who were (and are!) so close to God were at the same time fully and authentically themselves during their time in a human body, which is what makes their individual characters so compelling and real to us, even though we only know most of them through the written word.

When you become born-again, you automatically become part of something bigger without consciously having to join it or giving up anything of yourself. That “something bigger” is the cloud of witnesses Paul talked about. You don’t have to sign up to be part of that cloud; you’re automatically enrolled at your rebirth. And lucky for you, you don’t have to change anything about yourself to be in it: You don’t have to wear anything in particular; you don’t have to make secret hand signs or slip secret words into your conversation; you don’t have to attend meetings and put yourself under the watchful eyes of mentors. No, you don’t have to do any of those things. You just have to be you, the reborn you – the real you – the one that God made and the one that the devil and the world are constantly trying to steal from you.

There’s true freedom in being who you are, not in giving yourself up to become part of something you’re not. By all means, join large organizations or movements, if that’s what you want to do, but if they require you to change who you are to “fit in”, they’re not from God. If you choose to be part of something bigger than you that makes you change who you are, you’re saying that God made you somehow deficient or inadequate, that for some reason you can’t stand on your own and need other people or things to prop you up and give your life meaning. But that’s not how God made us. He made each of us to stand as an individual among individuals, helping and supporting each other as individuals, not as interchangeable beings melting into a faceless crowd.

Every society that devolves into collectivism soon self-destructs. So it’s not surprising that the devil is pushing the notions of “for the greater good” and “be part of something bigger than yourself” at this particular point in time, when Christendom is imploding and evil is growing day by day. As more and more people turn from God, we see more and more evidence that people hate who they are and wish they were someone or something else, including the opposite sex. Self-loathing is a clear sign of profound spiritual crisis.

I love me. The world looks at me and sees multiple flaws (hoo, boy – you should see the ads that pop up when I go on certain websites! lol), but I love me just the way I am. I would not change one thing about me, other than to follow ever closer behind Jesus and to grow ever closer to God. Those are the only changes I would make, and they’re not so much changes as natural spiritual growth that unfolds over time. God gives us the capacity to grow; we aren’t made to remain spiritually stationary. Wanting to follow ever closer behind Jesus and to grow ever closer to God are built-in characteristics that are part and parcel of who I am. They were there even when I was a suicidal atheist and loathed myself. They’re not imposed on me; they’re an opening up within me, like a flower opening its petals to the sun.

God made us to want the good and to love him. He made us to be individuals among individuals and to love who we are. Jesus exemplified this par excellence. God did not put within us the desire to do something “for the greater good” or to be “part of something bigger” or to want to change ourselves into something we’re not and were never meant to be. The devil does that. The devil wants us to trade our God-given uniqueness, as expressed in our individuality, for a cheap knock-off that will never quite fit because it can’t fit. The devil, as scripture tells us, comes only to lie, cheat, steal, kill and destroy. His success rate, sadly, is increasing day by day. Don’t let him get you, too. The only change you should want to make is to be more and more like Jesus, which ironically will make you more and more yourself.

ON TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK: A CASE STUDY, WITH CHIPS

The devil works overtime, through people, to twist and outright change the message of the Gospel.

One of the his favourite tricks is to try to show Christianity as a weak and effeminate belief system.

But the Gospel message as delivered – and lived – by Jesus is anything but weak.

Take the teaching on turning the other cheek, for example. If you ask most Christians or non-Christians what “turning the other cheek” means, they’ll probably use words like ‘compromise’, ‘tolerance’, ‘back down’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘compassion’, ‘meekness’, etc., to describe it. But the fact is, turning the other cheek has nothing to do with those things.

Turning the other cheek means fearlessly standing your ground.

When you turn the other cheek, you stand your ground. You show no fear and you show no animosity, you simply stand your ground. You don’t escalate the situation, but neither do you cower from further assault: You stand your ground. There’s no compromise involved, no tolerance for wrong-doing, just quiet strength in the face of evil.

That’s what Jesus meant when he taught us to turn the other cheek.

I had an opportunity to test this out in real life a few weeks ago. I’d gone into a store to buy some chips. I don’t as a rule eat chips anymore, except for one day a week when all healthy food rules fall by the wayside and I eat what I want. So there I was, getting my weekly bag of chips and feeling rather chipper (lol groan) about it. I am not ashamed to say that I can at times be very food-motivated, especially when it comes to tasty treats.

I was next in line from being served at the cash register when I noticed that the guy in front of me had about 20 items to ring through, which meant it was going to be at least another minute before it was my turn. So I thought I might as well make use of that time to grab a second bag of chips to have on hand for next week’s junkfoodapalooza.

I had brought my own personal shopping cart with me into the store. My cart was heavily laden with items I’d bought at other stores. I left it in line to hold my place while I walked the few paces to get the second bag of chips, and then I retraced my steps to get back into the line. The whole process of leaving the line and getting back into it took less than 10 seconds.  However, when I went to rejoin the line, I saw that the guy behind me had pushed my cart to the side and was standing where I had been standing.

He’d stolen my place in line.

There were about a dozen people waiting for their turn at the cash register at that point. The guy with the ~20 items had just finished having his things run through, but now he seemed to be having problems with his payment. The manager was being called over the loudspeaker. So my ten-second dash to get a second bag of chips had not caused any hold-up in the movement of the line whatsoever. However, the guy behind me didn’t see it that way.

“You left the line, so you lost your place.”

“No,” I said. “I left my cart here to hold my place.”

“A cart can’t hold a place. It’s not a human. Only a human can hold a place in line.”

At that point, I figured the guy must be joking, so I started to laugh. He stared at me, stony-faced.

So I said: “You’re joking, right?”

“No, I’m not joking. You lost your place in line.”

That’s when the guy behind him chimed in.

“Actually, you need to get to the back of the line.”

I looked at them both and saw only cold disdain in their eyes. I had never before experienced anything like this at a store. The guys were probably in their early thirties, which meant I was old enough to be their mother. I was the elder in the situation. Pushing my cart out of the way and barking at me to get to the back of the line was not how you treat an elder, and definitely not how you treat a woman.

Not in Canada.

The guy at the cash register was still having problems with his payment. I looked at my chips and I looked at the guys behind me, and I thought “I don’t need this BS. I might as well just go.”

So I put the two bags of chips on the table in front of the cash register, preparing to walk out the door. That’s when the second guy picked up one of the bags and flung it down the aisle. The violence of his movement jolted me out of my complacence and I decided then and there that wasn’t going to be pushed around. The argument that only a human could hold a place in line was specious at best (what about people who drape a jacket over a seat at the cinema to hold a place for their friend?). At root, what was going on was bullying. I was being bullied and I didn’t accept it.

So I picked up the bag of chips I’d just placed on the table and remained where I’d been standing. At that instant, the manager behind the counter called “Next!”, and I walked up to pay for the chips. I told her that I would pay for two bags, even though I only had one with me. I told her I would get the second bag on my way out (the chip rack was next to the door). So she rang up two bags of chips, I paid for them, and I took my receipt.

In leaving, I turned around to the guys who’d treated me so despitefully, and I pleasantly and pointedly wished them a good day.

This, my friends, is a real-life example of turning the other cheek. Yes, it may seem trivial to do it over a place in line and a few bags of chips, but it’s good practice for when I need to apply it to more serious matters.

Certainly, I could have left the store when the guys started bullying me. I could have argued with them and thrown their rudeness back in their face. Or I could have caved to them and slunk to the back of the line so as not to cause any problems. But what would that have achieved? The bullies would have won.

I was not wrong that a personal cart full of personal belongings can hold a place in line. In leaving for a few seconds to get the chips, I had not caused any slow-down in the proceedings. I had not disturbed the holy order of shopping. There was no reason for me to go to the back of the line, just as there was no reason for the guys to bully me, other than that they saw what they thought was an easy mark, a pushover.

Boy, did they think wrong.

I did not fight with them. I did not argue with them. I just politely pointed out the obvious (that a personal shopping cart full of personal belongings can indeed hold a place in line). I let them rail at me and did not respond in kind. And after my initial impulse of wanting to leave (which was motivated by my shock at their rudeness, more than anything), I’m happy to report that I was able to successfully practice turning the other cheek in real life: I stood my ground. I kept my place in line. I did not return evil with evil.

And I got my chips. (Both bags!)

Win-win-win-win. 😀