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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.