I find it interesting that Jesus lambasted his followers not for sinful living or breaking Commandments, but for not having enough FAITH. He didn’t even yell at Judas when he betrayed him, but he did frequently let loose on the disciples for their lack of faith.
If faith is that important to Jesus, then it should be that important to us.
But what is faith?
Paul calls it “evidence of things unseen”; I call it “the means to and measure of our relationship with God”. Faith is difficult to define (or at least to reach a definition consensus on) mainly because its very existence is opposed to fact and logic, the same fact and logic that is applied to creating definitions.
No matter how you define it (or choose not to define it), faith is central to being a follower of Jesus. With no faith, you will sink under the waves like Peter. Remember that he did walk on water for a few seconds, but when he thought about what he was doing (that is, when he tried to rationalize it), he started to drown.
Jesus never engaged in debate with people who tried to rationalize faith. He did not preach to unbelievers or to those who said they were believers but did not welcome his Word. He only preached to those who were open to hearing the gospel on faith.
Faith operates like that – it works only through those who welcome it and are open to receiving it. Uh, oh – did I say “receiving it”? Does that mean that faith is a two-way channel, not something that originates in us but something that flows to as well as from us?
Yes, I did say that. You have to be open to faith to have faith.
See? I warned you not to rationalize it. Faith doesn’t make any sense rationally, but for those who have faith, it’s self-evident.
I mention the importance of having faith because many of us tend to live by the witness of our eyes rather than of our faith. If you, as a believer, view the state of the world today using your physical and rational eyes, you would run into the deepest cave you could find and never come out again. But if you view the world through the “eyes of faith”, you would still see the horrors, but you would also see God’s righteousness moving through people and circumstances, and running and hiding would be the last thing on your mind.
Having faith means never giving up on God, no matter how bleak things look.
Having faith means believing in the expressed and potential goodness in people, regardless of the horrible things they might do and say.
Having faith means believing that God will keep his promises, and that we, as born-agains, live in the long-awaited Kingdom of God, where we are safe from our enemies and able to perform the same miracles Jesus did.
The disciples lacked sufficient faith not because they didn’t love God and didn’t want to follow Jesus, but because they were relying on their understanding rather than their belief.
When I was a little kid, I didn’t know anything about how the mortgage got paid or dinner appeared on the table; I just knew beyond a doubt I would have a roof over my head and food in my mouth, and I always did. In other words, I didn’t have to understand how they got there in order to believe that they would be there. I never doubted for a second.
Jesus tells us to be like little kids. A big part of being a little kid is believing not because we see or understand, but because we simply take it for granted as being self-evident.
There is no doubt in belief.
Doubt is what gets you in trouble. Doubt is the devil getting a toe-hold in you, just enough to keep you from having faith by questioning your belief, by trying to get you to apply fact and logic to something that has no place for fact and logic.
We say we believe in God, but do we really if we don’t have faith?
We say we have faith, but do we really if we don’t believe God’s Word?
We need to stop staring at the waves under our feet, telling ourselves there’s no way we can walk on water, and instead fix our eyes on Jesus and simply believe we can do it.
We walk on water not because we understand how, but because Jesus says we can, and we love and trust Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt.
That is all.
That is faith.
Jesus had two distinct lives when he lived on Earth in a human body.
His first life centered on Nazareth, his blood relatives, and his work as a carpenter.
His second life centered on God, his followers, and preaching and teaching the gospel.
There was a clear separation between his first life and second life. It wasn’t the same life divided into “before and after” getting the call. No. It was two distinctly separate lives lived by the same person in the same body.
All who are called to follow Jesus and to preach and teach the gospel experience a similar progression from one life to the next. This is demonstrated in Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their fishing business (and in Peter’s case, his wife and family) to follow Jesus. Matthew also dramatically quit his job to follow Jesus, as did Paul and many others.
Some of us try to sit on the fence between these two lives. We work day jobs and preach by night, dividing our energy between the world and God. This works for a while, the same way training wheels work for a while to get a wobbly young cyclist used to the “feel” of a two-wheeled bike. But if you leave the training wheels on too long, the child gets used to the feel of a three- or four-wheeler rather than a two-wheeler, and either fights against the removal of the training wheels or suffers a major crash when the wheels do eventually come off.
For Jesus, the switch from life as a carpenter to life as a preacher involved a great untethering. He had to completely untether himself from the commitments and bonds of his first life. This he did by walking away from them and staying gone. He didn’t go back and he didn’t look back. He simply lived as if his former life no longer existed.
Untethered, Jesus was then able to devote his entire life to God and to his ministry work. He was tied to no one location, no daily responsibilities, and no particular person. He didn’t command his followers to follow him; he invited them, and they were free to leave whenever they wanted. They, too, in following Jesus, progressed to their second lives, untied to any location, responsibilities, or persons. Untethered like Jesus, they could then wholly focus on God.
Untethering is a process. For some, it happens overnight, whereas for others it takes years. Remember that even Jesus – who was born with God’s Spirit — had to wait for the signal before untethering himself from Nazareth. Untethering is not a directive that comes from us but from God. The child doesn’t decide when it’s time for the training wheels to come off; the parents decide. We don’t decide when it’s time to untether from our first life; God decides.
But when God gives you that signal, let go.
Like Jesus and Peter and Paul, let it ALL go.
And never go back.
A gentle reminder not to be swayed by the false prophets of doom as we enter another year.
As always, Jesus says it best: “Take heed that no man deceive you, for many will come in my name… and deceive many.”
Why is it that so many who claim to love God focus only on the NEGATIVE? Why are all the so-called revelations by so-called Christian prophets almost always only about gloom and doom?
Part of the reason is that they’re not real prophets (that is, they’re not speaking God’s Truth), but the other part – and I believe the main one – is that they’re pandering to people’s desires. People WANT to hear about gloom and doom, they WANT to hear that we’re entering the Tribulation and that the “Antichrist” is waiting in the wings, and so these “prophets” give them what they want.
In an earlier blog, I called this attraction to doom an addiction to spiritual porn.
Yes, the Old Testament prophets spent a lot of time railing at the Hebrews and warning them what would come if they didn’t change their ways, but the ultimate message of each of those prophets was the good news of God’s mercy to those who willingly choose the good. The New Testament is all about the Good News (“gospel” literally means “good news”), as it is the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promise of spiritual salvation. Even the book of Revelation, for all its dire warnings, ends with the victory of God’s people and their great reward of Heaven.
God does not want us to live in fear or spend our time digging through YouTube for bad news. He wants us to live in the joy and grace of his Holy Spirit, and to teach and preach his Good News. It doesn’t matter how bad things get around us, we can still live our lives in joy, looking for and highlighting the good rather than dwelling on the bad. Jesus was expert at that: Even as an outcast from society and with a bounty on his head, he healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storm, fed the famished, taught the illiterate, forgave sinners, blessed his enemies, and just generally lived his life as a bright light rather than a shadow, choosing to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
We all have that choice, to be either a bright light or a shadow. We can seek out gloom and doom and in the process become what we seek, or we can plainly see what is in front of us but choose to see the good in it rather than the bad, and in the process let God’s love and light shine through.
Every night before I go to sleep, I pray for unbelievers. Some of them I know personally and am in contact with nearly every day; some of them I know personally but haven’t spoken to for years; and some of them I know only by name and face. I pray for these people because they need prayers as much as anyone else, and God has put it in my heart to pray for them. As an unbeliever and atheist, I was prayed for for 36 years before I turned and saw the light. I don’t think anyone is beyond God’s mercy (other than those who have consciously and with full intent made a deal with the devil, but I’m not talking about those poor souls here), and I believe there is still time for people to turn. Not much time, mind you, but still enough time. Paul tells us that God is painstakingly patient with us because he wants as many as possible to come to his light.
The start of a new year is a good opportunity for us to realign ourselves to God’s will. If you’ve developed a tendency over the past year to seek out shadows rather than light – the bad news rather than the Good – maybe now you could make the effort to once again highlight the positive, whether in people or in situations. That doesn’t mean being blind to what’s going on around you (Jesus was always hyper-aware and one step ahead of everyone else in that regard), but making a conscious choice to see beyond “what man sees” to what God sees.
God doesn’t look at us and see only the negative; he sees our nearly limitless potential to do good, no matter how deep we are in our sins. I wasn’t born again because I fasted and prayed and purified myself; I was born again because I was in the deepest depths of despair I’d ever been in and cried out for help. Even in the blackness of my spiritual filth, God saw a faint glimmer of light, a tiny flicker that he knew he could work with, and that was enough for him.
As born-again believers, we must see as God sees and do what God does. Jesus says to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We must see in the darkest of nights the promise of dawn. We must hear in the curses of people who hate us the sound of wayward passion that can be set straight and one day sing God’s praises. Paul said that if there be any good in anyone, to dwell on that. This is not an easy task, as it is far easier to give way to spiritual gravity and fall for the negative, the siren call of gloom and doom.
But let this be a challenge to you for the coming year: that no matter what happens – no matter how bad things get – you choose to see the good, you choose to be the light, even if you’re the only one shining.
A lot of information is kept from us out here in the cheap seats.
More is known about Jesus in the historical record than has been made known to the public. God permits this hiding of historical fact because our faith needs to be based on Truth, not fact. So what we know about Jesus comes from God through scripture or through private revelation, and that’s more than enough.
This is what we do know about Jesus’ birth: It likely didn’t happen on December 25 in Year Zero, but we use December 25 each year as a commemoration date. That’s fair enough (and yes, I know about Saturnalia, but if Jesus is lord over the Sabbath, then he is easily lord over Saturnalia). I think God doesn’t want us to know Jesus’ exact date of birth because he doesn’t want us to make an idol of it.
We have a tendency to do that.
I say this from personal experience.
I have a good memory. I remember nearly every day of my life, or at least those days that have made lasting imprints. I can tell you the day of the week or the exact date when this or that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago, and sometimes even the time of day. But what I can’t do is tell you the date of the best day of my life – the day I was born again. I know the day of the week, but not the date. I know the time, but not the date. I know the exact location, but not the date. I asked God once why that was, why I don’t know the date of my rebirth, and God told me it was because he didn’t want me to make an idol of it. In any case, my rebirth, being a spiritual event, happened outside of time, and so is dateless by definition.
But back to Jesus. Here we are in the midst our annual celebration of his birth or commemoration of his birth. We light things, we decorate things, we sing things, we give things, we eat things, all special things that are special to this time of year. And at the center of this specialness is Jesus, or better said the newborn baby Jesus: the promise of God.
God keeps his word. His promises are his word. In the birth of Jesus, God kept his word that he would send a “suffering servant” as a sacrifice to redeem us, to bring us back into right relationship with him, to stand in the gap between us and him and establish a kingdom that would last forever. All through scripture, God makes promises which he then keeps. The birth of Jesus was the big one. In giving us Jesus, God kept his word, as he always does: He never fails. The geographical kingdom of the Promised Land was the forerunner of the spiritual kingdom of the Promised Land.
With the birth of Jesus, which we commemorate on December 25, God kept his promise to redeem us. In so doing, he birthed the spiritual kingdom of the Promised Land. But unlike the geographical realm, the spiritual kingdom has no end and Jesus will reign over it forever. We who are born-again are living in that Promised Land now. We are living the keeping of God’s Old Testament promise. We are the inheritors.
Of all the days in creation, the day of Jesus’ birth was by far the greatest. The day of Jesus’ resurrection was also important, but at Jesus’ birth, the resurrection had already taken place. Everything Jesus ever did on Earth had already taken place at his birth, not in time, but in the same “outside of time” zone I was born again. The angels would not have been singing Jesus’ praises to the shepherds had they not already known what Jesus would accomplish. The magi would not have journeyed all the way from wherever they came from, following the star that heralded the birth of the Messiah, had they not been absolutely sure that they would find the King of the Jews. They did not balk when they saw the lowliness of his surroundings; they approached him on their knees, bowing in reverence, and proffering their gold and incense and myrrh, in fulfillment of scripture. Like the angels, they knew who the little boy was.
When we commemorate the birth of Jesus every year, we are celebrating not just the birth of a child but the birth of the spiritual Promised Land that has no end. We are celebrating God keeping the promise he made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and to Moses and to all of his people all through the ages, including us. We are celebrating God giving us his word and keeping his word in Jesus.
How you choose to celebrate the greatest event on the greatest day that ever was is between you and God, but celebrate it you must.
Don’t you ever let anyone stop you.
Imagine how different your life would be if you did everything as if unto God – if you looked after your things as if they were God’s, if you treated others as if they were God in the flesh, if you earned your daily bread as if you were doing it unto God – JUST IMAGINE HOW DIFFERENT YOUR LIFE WOULD BE!
And yet we, as born-agains, are supposed to be living our lives doing everything as if unto God already. That’s our job description. We shouldn’t have to imagine how different our lives would be; we’d know firsthand, because we’d be living it.
What would your life look like if you did everything as if unto God? I’ll tell you what it would look like: It would look like Jesus’ life.
Exactly like that.
Does your life look like Jesus’ life?
Be honest, now.
I know mine doesn’t. Can’t lie about that. Can’t quibble about that, not if I’m doing everything as if unto God, including self-examination. If I squint and turn the spiritual lights way down low, yes, I can say that my life somewhat resembles Jesus’ life, but there are big gaps where “putting God first in everything” and “treating other people as I would want to be treated” should be.
How about you – are there gaps between your life and Jesus’ life? Does your life run more or less parallel to Jesus’ life, or are you on a different path altogether?
We tend to get caught up in life’s little problems and life’s little joys, forgetting the reason why we’re here in the flesh to begin with. We’re easily distracted. We’re easily rubbed the wrong way. We generally have a low pain threshold, whether for physical or emotional pain. We generally want everything to go our way, and when it doesn’t, we pout and complain. We point fingers. We hold grudges.
Is any of this – pouting, complaining, and pointing fingers – living our life like Jesus lived his?
Is any of this doing everything as if unto God?
I’m not accusing you. If anything, this is more a self-examination on my part. I wish I had lived my life, post-rebirth, doing everything as if unto God. I wish there were no gaps between my life and Jesus’ life. I wish, if I overlaid my life course with that of Jesus, they would match up, but the fact is they don’t.
We are still here in the flesh, as born-agains, because we still need to learn what it means to be a child of God, what it means to follow Jesus in everything we do. These are the learning and testing years. These are not the years of ease and plenty; these are the laboring years. Jesus laboured; in doing everything unto God, Jesus never stop labouring until his job was done on the cross. He rarely took days off, and then only to spend more time one-on-one with God.
He turned his back on the world – not on the people who were God’s in the world, but on the world’s systems. He lived entirely outside the world’s systems.
If you start with the premise that nothing in your life is a “coincidence”, that the pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned, that all things work for good for those who are the called according to God’s purposes, that where you are now is the best possible outcome of all your previous choices – if you start from there, here is a question for you: Are you happy with your life?
I’m pretty sure if Jesus had been asked that question back in his ministry days, he would have answered “Yes”, quietly, confidently, and without hesitation.
Our answer also needs to be “Yes”, without hesitation.
If it isn’t, we’ve still got work to do.
No prophet sent from God hosts a YouTube channel.
Let me repeat that in case you missed it the first time: NO PROPHET SENT FROM GOD HOSTS A YOUTUBE CHANNEL. They are all – every one of them – false prophets. Most of their dreams and visions do not come from God, and the few that do come from God are tests of the so-called prophets’ abilities to discern truth from lies. Needless to say, the “prophets” fail the tests miserably.
The aim of YouTube prophets is not so much to inform as to titillate, so that you’ll hit subscribe and come back for more. YouTube prophecies are that particular kind of “tickling of the ears” mentioned in scripture. The goal is to keep you breathless with fear/excitement/longing over the catastrophic/miraculous/apocalyptic things that are about to happen. Note that these things are always just about to take place (usually within a month or two), but they never actually do take place. And the false prophets just move on to the next dream or vision without missing a beat, hoping you’ll forget about all the earlier ones that didn’t come to pass.
I admit that some of these YouTube prophets are very good at what they do (fooling people). Whether or not they set out to fool people is obvious in some cases but debatable in others. They all seem sincere enough, but so do sociopaths and psychopaths. Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that many false prophets would come in his name during the tribulation/pre-tribulation years, and here they are, right on cue.
If you’re hooked on one or more “Christian” YouTube channels, you need to wean yourself off, or better still go cold turkey. YouTube prophecies are spiritual porn and it’s leading you down the broad path to perdition. You need to unsubscribe. You need to take the time that you would normally spend on spiritual porn and invest it instead in reading the Bible and talking to God (prayer). That is how you grow in faith. Having someone recite scripture at you and then misapply the scripture to world events will not help you grow in faith; it will, however, help you grow in confusion.
If confusion is your aim, then by all means continue with the YouTube prophets. But if being more like Jesus is your aim, ditch the false prophets, read your Bible, and spend more one-on-one time with God.
“But let me first go bury my father.”
“Let the dead bury their dead. Come follow me.”
I remember reading those lines when I was first converted from atheism and thinking how cold Jesus sounded. I mean, the guy just wanted to bury his father! That couldn’t take any more than a day or two. And wasn’t burying his father a form of “honoring” him? Was Jesus not only being cruel here but also breaking a Commandment by telling the guy to forget about his father? (more…)
Jesus was afraid of nothing and no-one. He was prudent in leaving places where he wasn’t welcome or where there was an arrest warrant for him, but being afraid was never part of who he was or is.
The only fear that Jesus had during his time on Earth was fear of the Lord, which wasn’t fear in the sense of being afraid of God but respecting and acknowledging God’s power. Jesus feared God, he wasn’t afraid of God. Scripture tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and so we, like Jesus, should also fear God.
Jesus was afraid of nothing and no-one. As his followers, we should likewise be afraid of nothing and no-one. If you fear something or someone other than God, you are letting the spirit of fear lord over you. The spirit of fear is not from God.
The world is under the power of the spirit of fear, which is why the world is now so deeply afraid. For the world, the pursuit of safety has become the highest good. Where people used to say “Good bye!”, they now say “Stay safe!” Where people used to open their letters and emails with “I hope you’re doing well”, they now open with “I hope you’re staying safe”. The desire to be safe from whatever it is that is prompting their fears is driving the world to take drastic measures that are destroying whole economies and cultures. Some would say this is a controlled demolition that has been conceived as such (and there is ample evidence to support that theory), but still none of this would be possible if people had not given in so completely to the spirit of fear.
Followers of Jesus have no cause to fear what the world fears. In one of his final recorded prayers in the book of John, Jesus asks God to protect those who are his in the world. He doesn’t ask God to remove them from the world; he asks God to protect them. Jesus made that request to God out loud for the sake of his followers – for the sake of us – so that we would know that we are protected.
We are not to fear what the world fears. We are to fear God and God only. We are not to be afraid of those things that make the world afraid. We are to stand before God with our faces uncovered, certain of God’s protection. Born-again believers are ALWAYS before God. There is no time when they are not. We are not to cover our faces, not for any edict or mandate or policy or rule or threat or law or doctrine of man. Jesus died so that we could again stand before God without a covering veil between us. When you cover your face in response to the world’s fears, you nullify what Jesus accomplished for you.
We are not to live as the world lives or to fear what the world fears. God is protecting us to live as Jesus lived. If you are prohibited or forcefully prevented from living as Jesus lived, then you are to leave that place and shake the dust off the bottom of your feet as you go, as a sign against them.
We followers of Jesus have no excuse not to live as Jesus lived, no excuse not to live free from the spirit of fear that is deceiving the world. Through Jesus’ prayer, God has empowered us to live as Jesus lived, certain in our protection. We should be afraid of nothing and no-one.
Let the Spirit of God – not the spirit of fear – be your guide.
“It’s surprising what you find when you’re not looking.”
Any time I’ve found money on the street or a four-leaf clover, I wasn’t looking for them. They found me. It’s like a light shines on them, separating them from their surroundings. The last time that happened was a few months ago – two glistening 20-dollar bills lay side by side, waving to me from a hotel parking lot, saying: “Here we are! Come get us!”, and I did.
Near the end of the book of Isaiah, God says through the prophet: “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not” (65:1). I wasn’t looking for God the day I was born-again. He found me. People say: “I found God”, but it’s God who finds us (his lost sheep) as much as we find him. It’s a mutual finding. (more…)