A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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HOLY GHOST HIGH: THE ONE ABOUT BOOZE AND WINEBIBBERS

Jesus drank.

Alcohol, I mean.

He was accused of being a “winebibber”, which is like being called a drunkard.

I have zero doubt that Jesus was NOT a drunkard. I believe he went to pubs to talk to people and do informal ministry work (no preaching, just listening). Of course he had a few drinks while he was there, but I don’t believe he drank to drown his sorrows or because he was addicted to alcohol. He drank with those around him as a social gesture.

I mention “Jesus the winebibber” because alcohol receives mixed reviews in the Bible. In some cases (especially in the Old Testament), it’s poo-pooed altogether and considered a sign of degeneracy and sin, while in other cases it’s equated with God’s Holy Spirit. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus himself compares the effects of the Good News on a soul as being like new wine. Consider also that Jesus’ first public miracle was to turn water into wine (which was then immediately drunk and judged superior to the earlier wine) and that Jesus used Passover wine to represent the sacrificial blood of God’s new covenant with his people. A few months later, at Pentecost, the disciples are accused of public drunkenness, they’re so over-the-top animated and joyful from being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

I haven’t had a drink in years. I stopped counting just how many a while back, but it’s been more than a few. Over ten at least. Prior to that, I really enjoyed drinking. I started when I was 14. As an atheist, I was a genuine winebibber; I used to call booze my medicine and self-medicated daily. My favourite drink was the first of the day, which I usually had mid to late afternoon. And then I would drink for the rest of the afternoon, all evening, and into the night… and get up early the next morning and pop Tylenol and drink coffee until it was time for the first drink again. I did this for years while working full-time and thought it was normal. I think the term for that is “functional alcoholic”.

The days leading up to my spiritual rebirth I was on a 2-week bender. In fact, all I did was drink and write. I even forgot to eat. But the instant I was reborn, I lost my taste for alcohol and caffeine. For months after my rebirth I couldn’t drink at all. The rebirth process had reset me both spiritually and physically. I had no tolerance for alcohol or caffeine, though I slowly rebuilt it over time. I also couldn’t write anything beyond a grocery list for three years after my conversion.

Spiritual rebirth is a total reset of mind, body, and soul.

Years ago, as a Christian. I worked for the Salvation Army for a few months. They have a strict no-drinking policy for their members and heavily promote their 12-step program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. I do not support the 12-step program, nor do I support the Salvation Army any more. I believe that any attempt to overcome addictions needs to be done on a spiritual level. I also don’t believe that “once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic”, any more than I believe “once saved, always saved”.

Alcohol addiction is not a physical or mental disease; it’s a spiritual stronghold that can be broken by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and an alleged Christian organization like the Salvation Army should know that. When I was born-again, God healed me from alcoholism instantaneously. That’s how miracles work – instantaneously and perfectly. I went from being an alcoholic one second to a tee-totaller the next. No 12-step program or a lifetime of creepy and controlling “mentors” required.

As I grew and matured as a believer, God let me drink again on occasion, though I never used alcohol as a means to feel better. It was more a social thing. Eventually, I lost my taste for it altogether and gave it up over a decade ago now. I don’t miss it, but I am looking forward to having a nice big glass of perfectly chilled heavenly champagne at the wedding feast, if I make it home.

Champagne was my preferred poison. I loved how it made me feel good without feeling drunk. I used to drink Perrier-Jouët, a whole bottle in one sitting. It’s a lovely dry champagne that comes in beautiful hand-painted bottles. Drinking Perrier-Jouët, I would not feel myself going up or coming down; I would just feel a happy buzz that would unfortunately fade after an hour or so.

That’s something like the same feeling I get from God’s Holy Spirit now. The buzz I used to pay a hundred bucks a bottle for I can get for free any time of the day or night. And it doesn’t fade after an hour. In fact, it’s been with me for over 21 years. Holy Ghost High is far superior to any high I’ve ever had from a bottle.

And that’s how I know for sure that Jesus wasn’t a winebibber. God’s Spirit was more powerfully with him than with any other person on Earth. Jesus wouldn’t have needed alcohol to make him feel better because he must have felt great all the time. That’s the feeling you get from God’s Holy Spirit – you just feel great, no matter what’s going on around you or to you. There is no better feeling than the presence of God’s Holy Spirit on a soul. Always deferring to God (that means, praying without ceasing) keeps the Spirit strong in you.

Excuse me now while I go take another hit.  ;D

I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE

I have a confession to make: I don’t spend time on Christian forums. In fact, I can’t stand them.

Same with Christian churches. I haven’t been in one for years. Can’t stand those, either. I was in an Anglican chapel a few years back, but only because I was the only one there (I checked before going in). It was empty except for me. I liked it that way.

I don’t purposely avoid Christian-designated spaces. I just don’t go out of my way to spend time in them, mainly because there are usually no genuine Christians there. There’s something cold and cloying about those spaces. They don’t feel blessed by God. They tend to have an oddly vacant feel even when they’re full, as if the space is not loved, just passed through and tolerated. It does God a disservice, those spaces being like that. That’s one of the main reasons I avoid them.

I used to live in a Catholic church. Not really, but basically yes, I lived there. I was given a key by a priest so I could come and go as I pleased. I spent more of my time there than I did at home, which at that time was a converted garage that I shared with my little five-and-a-half-pound calico cat, Pumpkin. She’s gone home now to her real forever home, so this piece isn’t about her; I just mention her in passing because we had a very cozy time sharing the converted garage together.

I was living in the garage when God showed me the truth about Catholicism (that it’s a pagan cult). He didn’t show me in the garage; he showed me in the church. Even so, the garage at that time was like a shrine or an off-site chapel of the church, full of crucifixes, pictures of the pope, alleged pictures of Jesus and the saints, prayer beads, prayer cards, blessed candles, blessed salt, and even a little blessed cat (yes, I took Pumpkin to the church one day and had her blessed in a private ceremony). I thought I had to have and do all these things because the Pope said I should have and do them, and I always (in those days) did what the Pope told me to do. The Pope said that pets were to be blessed by a priest, so off I dutifully carted Pumpkin to the priest to be blessed, even though Pumpkin hated her carry case and also superstitiously believed bad things would happen to her if I put her into it. (She was usually right about that.)

Jesus tells us that God is looking for people to worship him not in a building but in Spirit and in Truth. You don’t usually find that kind of worshiping going on in church buildings. In most cases, you find people who are there out of obligation or just going through the motions, or you find people who are trying to outdo each other in spiritual enthusiasm, like cheerleaders. But people who are there just because they love God and actually want to be there? Those people are few and far between. That’s been my experience, anyway.

Same with online Christian forums. BORING! Not to mention ill-informed and tyrannical. I can be as tyrannical as the best of them, but only for the Truth. The tyranny on some Christian forums in support of outright scripture-defying lies is, to me, intolerable. You know who hangs out and dominates Christian forums (besides the occasional spook)? Modern-day Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers. All the ones Jesus locked horns with. That’s who you’ll find on most Christian forums. They’re the gatekeepers that Jesus warned us would be trying to keep us from finding and proceeding along the Way. There have been gatekeepers in some guise or other since Jesus’ day. Another name for gatekeepers is wolves.

But what you choose to do is up to you. If you like your church building, go into it. If you like your Christian forums, hang out on them. Maybe because I came to Christianity directly from atheism without any bridge other than God and Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit, I have no use for people who say they’re Christians but live as if they’re not. I have no time for hypocrites. And I have zero patience for people who teach doctrines that are a-scriptural. Most people who call themselves Christian are, by their words and actions, doing more to keep people away from Jesus and God than drawing them to them.

Jesus only taught those who wanted to learn what he was teaching. Yet he also drew people to him just by the way he was. They came to him without him trying to draw them. At one point, even people who’d been sent to arrest him forgot they were supposed to be arresting him, they were so captivated by his words. In fact, they even left without arresting him. This is the effect we should have on people, too.

We are not Jesus, but we are to be like Jesus. That’s what it means to be a Christian. People may come at us as enemies, to oppose us, but we should be able at least to give them pause. There should be something about us, something about our words and actions that makes them stop and reconsider. If the world and the hypocrites love us, we’re not doing our job. If we’re welcomed by the worldly church and feel comfortable on Christian forums, we’re not doing our job: We’re not being like Jesus.

Being a Christian means to be hated by the world and loved by those who love God and Truth, just like Jesus was. You can’t be a Christian and at the same time be loved and accepted by the world. It doesn’t work that way. But you can be a type of curiosity that draws some people who love Truth but are still in the world, like Jesus drew Nicodemus.

Jesus went to the pubs not to preach but to comfort. He knew that the people there would not be among those who followed him from place to place, and he knew they didn’t want to be preached to. But they might want to share a drink with him and shoot the breeze. So Jesus spent some time at the pubs, doing an informal ministry that mostly involved just listening rather than talking. I’m saying that’s what he likely did (though the evidence is not blatantly presented in scripture) because that’s what you do when you want to minister to people who don’t want to be ministered to – you listen to them, you offer a kind word, you buy them a drink, you spend time with them, you show them they have value.

Of course, Jesus was castigated by the Pharisees & Co. for spending time in pubs, yet their disapproval didn’t stop him from going. Nothing they said stopped him from doing God’s will, and going to the pubs to spend time with and comfort the lost was definitely God’s will or Jesus wouldn’t have done it.

There is a big difference between those who say they see and are lost, and those who are just plain lost. Jesus used discernment to know the difference between the two, and so should we. Don’t waste your time arguing with the blind who claim to see (you’ll find them hanging out on Christian forums and warming pews in church buildings); help those who God puts in your path, the ones who’ve rejected the world but can’t find the way forward because they haven’t been taught the true Gospel. These are the lost sheep Jesus came to minister to, and we must continue his work.

I have another confession to make. I prefer hanging out with atheists than fake Christians. Atheists reject organized religion, which is the right thing to do, but equate religion with God and Jesus, which is the wrong thing to do. But this is an error in judgment, not an attempt at pretence. I prefer to spend time with people who are honestly wrong about something than with people who pretend to be what they’re not or to know what they don’t. Hypocrites are just as despicable now as they were in Jesus’ day.

I know from personal experience that those who genuinely love and seek the truth eventually come to God, because what they’re seeking is God and can only be found in God.

So what is your confession? And how do you not fit the worldly Christian mold?

DANIEL, END-TIME PROPHECY, AND THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

His own people, at the time of his first coming, didn’t recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy because he was of such low birth. How could a carpenter – and the son of a carpenter, at that – be the Messiah? The Israelites had built up in their minds a vision of the Messiah as a great military leader who would overthrow the Roman invaders and fortify the borders of the Promised Land, keeping them safe from their enemies for all time. But Jesus had no intention of instigating a military coup. His kingdom, as he told his followers repeatedly, is a spiritual realm that is not of this world. Those who refused to accept him as Messiah had misinterpreted prophetic scripture because they had hardened their hearts to the truth. In other words, they believed a lie.

Many Christians today also suffer from the same false expectations, and for the same reason. They’ve built up in their minds a vision of end-time scenarios that must unfold, and in so doing have hardened their hearts to everything but the latest popular interpretations of prophetic scripture. Can it be that the exact same worldly misinterpretation of scripture that prevented his own people (the Israelites) from recognizing Jesus as “the one who was to come” is again playing out today for Jesus’ second coming, and again with Jesus’ own people (the Christians)?

Just like 2,000 years ago, people are expecting Jesus to set up a worldly kingdom based on superior (or even supernatural) military strength. I guess the Devil thinks if his lie worked so well the first time around, it will work again, and he’s right. Many have fallen for the same old shtick. And they’ve fallen for it because they’ve hardened their hearts to the truth and read scripture (if they read it at all) through the eyes of the world rather than through the eyes of God’s Holy Spirit.

I have written before about how the lie of Jesus coming back to set up a worldly kingdom is a relatively new misinterpretation of scripture, and how it dovetails nicely with the likewise relatively new misinterpretation of Jesus being God. At the same time, other worldly belief systems are expecting a great leader to establish a powerful earthly kingdom; some even expect that leader to be called “Jesus”. For Christians, scripture had to be slickly “reinterpreted” so that their end-time beliefs align with those of other worldly religions. Considering that most Christians today do actually believe that Jesus is coming back to set up a worldly kingdom, I would say “mission accomplished” to everyone who propagated the lie.

Jesus tells us explicitly to look at Daniel’s prophecy of end times. There is no mention of a benign Messiah setting up a worldly kingdom in the book of Daniel. What we see instead is a series of worldly kingdoms, each one worse than the one before, culminating in a thoroughly evil kingdom that overthrows all others and whose chief accomplishment is the persecution and purging of God’s people. This final kingdom is led by a “vile person” who sets himself up as God and is eventually overthrown. After his demise comes a time of great trouble, followed by the annihilation of the planet.

There is no mention in Daniel of a 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah. There are, however, two passages about a kingdom that will be set up in the midst of the other kingdoms, but this kingdom will smash down the others and last forever. Jesus told us to read Daniel. He also told us many times that his kingdom is not of this world. If you read Daniel’s prophecies of the end times and of the kingdom that has no end, and if you take Jesus at his word that his kingdom is a spiritual realm that is not of this world, you will have no choice but to accept that Jesus is not coming back to set up a worldly kingdom.

Jesus himself tells us that he’s coming back in glory – not in a mortal body, but in a heavenly one – and that all eyes will see him when he does come back. He makes zero mention of setting up a kingdom upon his return. What he does say is that he’ll be sending his angels to the four corners of the earth to gather the last of his faithful followers. Paul says that at that time our bodies will change “in an instant” from mortal to immortal (that is, from earthly to glorified). This is what many call the “rapture”, although that phrase doesn’t exist in the Bible. Rapture is just another word for a collective ascension.

The second coming will be in glory and with trumpets blaring, and all eyes will see Jesus, just as all souls, whether believers or not, will know in an instant and beyond a doubt who he is. Those who love and follow him will be gathered by his angels and whisked home to Heaven, while those who hate and reject him will be left behind in a God-less world soon to be destroyed, and mourning forever what they’ve lost.

Read Daniel. Read the gospels. There is no 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah in those scriptures. But there is in Daniel a kingdom led by someone posing as God just before the final destruction of the world, and there is in the gospels reminders from Jesus that his kingdom is a spiritual realm and warnings that we should read Daniel about end-time prophecy so that we’re not led astray.

In the end, what you choose to believe is up to you. We all have God-given free will. With my free will, I choose to believe Jesus and to follow his guidance in everything I do, including what I believe about end-time scenarios. I do not believe that Jesus is coming back to Earth to set up a worldly kingdom because Jesus and the Bible tell me he’s not going to do that. If you find a source that says something different and has higher authority than God, Jesus, and Holy Scripture, please let me know.

“THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE”

Before the coming of Jesus, God would visit his prophets on occasion to give them a word or a vision through his Holy Spirit. The prophets would then go forth to the people and proclaim what God had told them. This proclamation was usually preceded with “Thus saith the Lord”, indicating that the word or vision had been given to the prophets some time before it was proclaimed. In other words, there was a gap in time between when the prophets received the word or vision from God, and when they proclaimed it to the people. God’s Spirit did not remain with the prophets, but only visited them now and then. This distinction between Old Testament prophets and all prophets since Jesus is critically important.

With Jesus, there was no need for “Thus saith the Lord” because God’s Spirit was with him 24/7. God didn’t just occasionally visit Jesus with a prophetic word or vision, he was with Jesus all the time, through his Holy Spirit. So when Jesus opened his mouth to speak a word or vision, God was speaking directly through him at that time. There was no delay between when Jesus received the word or vision from God and when he proclaimed it to the people. The receiving of the word from God and the proclamation to the people were simultaneous, which is why Jesus didn’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord”.

However, this form of proclamation, enabled through the constant presence of God’s Spirit with Jesus, has confused many into believing that Jesus is God. This deification of Jesus would have puzzled not only his followers but also Jesus himself. In fact, Jesus is very clear that “the Father” is greater than he, and that he is the “one who was to come”, meaning that he is God’s Messiah, God’s son, God’s suffering servant, and God’s Prophet, as prophesied throughout the Old Testament by various prophets. Jesus himself referred to his role on Earth as “son of man”, which means “prophet” or speaker and revealer of God’s Truth. This was in reference to Moses’ renowned prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) that a mighty “Prophet” (note the upper-case “P”) would one day arise, and that God would put his words in his mouth and the Prophet would speak all that God commands him.

Similarly, the prophet Isaiah’s reference to the Messiah as “Immanuel” or “God with us” doesn’t mean that Jesus is God, but that God was with Jesus through his Holy Spirit. In the same way, God is with born-again believers through his Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised us he would be. In fact, the presence of God’s Holy Spirit with someone is the key indicator that the soul is reborn. The main difference between us born-agains and Jesus is that Jesus had the fullness of God’s Spirit with him, having been born with it (not born-again), whereas we have only a portion of God’s Spirit with us, depending on the strength of our relationship with God and the depth of our faith.

As with Jesus, when God gives us a word or vision, we also don’t have to precede it with “Thus saith the Lord”, because God speaks directly through us at any given time. His Spirit is always with us. However, it’s up to us how much we allow God to speak or work through us. We make that decision through our thoughts and actions, that is, our will. The more our will aligns with God’s, the more he can work through us, through his Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I want God to work through me as much as possible, so I want to align my will with God’s as much as I can. When Jesus stated that “the Father and I are one”, he meant that his will and God’s will were so aligned that what Jesus wanted was exactly what God wanted, and vice-versa. Jesus, in everything his did and said, reflected God’s will.

We need to strive for the same.

I KEEP THE SABBATH FOR MY BENEFIT, NOT FOR GOD’S

When Jesus stated that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, it was considered blasphemy by the religious powers-that-be. This is not surprising, given how fanatical they were not only about keeping the Sabbath, but about forcing their views on others regarding precisely how to keep it. Stiff penalties were imposed on those who violated their dictates. As a result, the Sabbath became a heavy burden of restrictions and obligations, which was the opposite of what God had intended when he handed down the Sabbath law through Moses.

A whiff of that same fanaticism can be found in some Christians today. Yes, sanctifying the Sabbath is a Commandment, but I’m firmly on the side of Jesus in believing that God gave us the Sabbath for our benefit, not for his. If we love God and make him the center of our lives, spending a day only with him and his Word is pure pleasure and rejuvenation, in the same way as spending time with someone we deeply love is pleasurable and rejuvenating. There is no burden in being with those we genuinely love and who genuinely love us in return. There is no grudging sense of obligation or feeling that we’re missing out on something, or that we’d rather be somewhere else. If we love God, we look forward to the Sabbath each week, we don’t dread it.

As I’ve mentioned throughout this blog, I’m a relatively new believer. I was raised an atheist, so keeping the Sabbath was never ingrained in me as a child. I had to learn it as an adult, after I was reborn. But that learning process was slow. Initially, the Sabbath for me just meant going to church on Sunday morning and then doing whatever I pleased on Sunday afternoon, including working. I didn’t see it as a day of rest and rejuvenation or a time to spend with God. That understanding only came later when I noticed that far from being rested on Monday morning, I was still tired from the previous week’s labours. Technically, I considered the Sabbath only as a church day, and nothing more. The “day of rest” part escaped me.

As I my faith grew and I started to get to know God as my Dad (which only happened after I’d left Catholicism, three and a half years after my rebirth), I found that I wanted to spend more and more time with him and his Word. In fact, I was taking time off from my work to spend with God, as being with him and reading the Bible were such pleasures. However, as much as God wants us to put him at the center of our lives, we still need to work. The Sabbath law not only stipulates one day of rest, it also stipulates six days of labour. In taking time off from work to spend with God and his Word, I was shirking the part of the Commandment about labouring. Just like working too much, not working enough became problematic for me.

But growing in faith is a learning process for born-agains. Babies don’t come out of the womb diaper-trained and fully able to walk and talk. It takes time and lots of boo-boos. Learning about God’s Sabbath and how to keep it as Jesus taught us to keep it was a very long learning process for me, mainly because I didn’t take it seriously enough. Seriously, yes, but not seriously enough to consider exactly what Jesus meant when he said the Sabbath was made for us.

I am happy to report that I am now out of the diaper stage with regard to the Sabbath, and that the worst of the messy boo-boos appear to be behind me. The Sabbath for me is now something I look forward to all week, not something that happens every day. I labour for six days, as required, and completely rest on the seventh (I don’t even do the dishes!). Sometimes, on rare occasion, I am called to work on a seventh or an eighth day in a row, but I never purposely schedule work. If an emergency arises, I deal with it, but then I take my Sabbath afterwards. This is what Jesus taught us to do in scripture.

The result of adopting and living what I believe is the spirit of the Sabbath Commandment is that I LOVE SABBATH! It is by far my favourite time of the week, and I look forward to it the way I used to look forward to Christmas when I was a kid. In fact, I love Sabbath so much, I start it already on Saturday evening, after sunset. (I believe that is biblically sound, for you purists out there.) During Sabbath, I keep meal preparation to a minimum, and as I mentioned, I don’t do dishes or any housework at all, including making my bed. I am a completely lazy slob for a whole day, and I love it! Even just the sight of my messy bed makes me smile, because it’s a clear sign that it’s Sabbath.

As for being with God, there is no greater pleasure than spending an entire day with him without feeling like I’m shirking my work duties in some way. It took me a while to get there, but I’m now like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, enjoying his company and learning from him, rather than like Martha, running around doing all kinds of unnecessary chores that only make me tired, cranky, and frustrated.

If your day off is not a pleasure for you, if it is not restful and rejuvenating, if it is not deepening and strengthening your faith and your relationship with God and his Word, you might want to reconsider how you’re keeping your Sabbath.

Now when Monday morning rolls around, I’m ready to face the work week again. I don’t dread it; I’m ready for it, and I look forward to whatever the week may bring. This, I think, is proof not only of the importance of keeping the Sabbath, but of keeping it as God intended and as Jesus taught us.

THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN

Scripture gives us an example of the unforgivable sin in the expulsion of Satan and his followers from Heaven. We don’t (yet) know the exact story of what happened to Satan to turn him away from God, but we do know the consequences of that turning – the loss of Heaven, the fall to Earth, and the guarantee of eternal hellfire. We also know that these disembodied fallen beings are beyond redemption and that no intervention can save them. This is the darkest of all sentences: the place of no hope. In the moment before I was reborn, I was on the doorstep of that place (not inside the door, but just outside it), and I never want to be there again. Nor would I wish that on anyone.

But the fact remains that the unforgivable sin is one that Jesus tells us we still have the capacity to commit, which means we too may end up in the same place as Satan. Much has been written about the unforgivable sin, about what it might be and whether or not the writer speculating on it may already have committed it.

I admittedly don’t know much about anything, but I do know this: if you had committed the unforgivable sin, you would not be wondering whether or not you had committed it. You would know, and you would also know the end that awaits you. These facts would not be hidden from you: You would know them just as surely as I know that I’m born-again, because God himself would tell you in person, clearly and unequivocally. There would be no mystery and no doubt, any more than there is mystery and doubt when a judge renders a verdict to the accused in a court of law: The accusation and evidence are summarized, the judgement is stated, and the sentence is passed. Your judgement will be just as clear to you if you commit the unforgivable sin.

But what is that sin? We know the consequences of it, but what exactly is the sin itself? We want to know what it is for no other reason than to avoid committing it, and by avoiding committing it, avoid its consequences.

Jesus tells us that to speak against him or against God is not unforgivable. We also know that God is merciful and patient beyond anything we can imagine, and that spiritual rebirth is God extending to us a second chance to go home. These are all good things and show how much God loves us and takes into consideration our weaknesses. He does everything he can to mitigate them while still allowing us free will.

And yet even this good and patient and merciful and loving Father has a no-go zone that we dare not pass. I know, because I was at its border, and it stopped me (thank God) in my tracks. It happened a few years after my rebirth, when I was old enough spiritually to know better, but just couldn’t help myself. I’d fallen into a series of temptations that in my mind I kept dressing up as a chance to witness. The temptations continued over a span of months, dragging me deeper and deeper into its quicksand. But it wasn’t the temptation that was the unforgivable sin – it was something that happened afterwards in relation to it.

I am not at liberty to reveal what it was (that is between me and God), but I can say this much: if I had crossed over the border into the no-go zone, I would have lost my grace, like Satan, grace being the presence of God’s Spirit with you and the promise of eternal life in Heaven. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have lost my grace, because as I was riding along on my bike that day, heading for an afternoon of skating at the local arena and thinking about that thing I would do (which in my mind at the time was an honest thing to do), God said to me very clearly: “If you do it, you will lose your grace.”

I slammed on my brakes and came to a hard stop. It had not occurred to me that doing this what I thought was an honest thing could have lost me my grace. How could honesty be a bad thing? Which is when God showed me that the pain I would cause by doing what I thought was an honest thing would come back to me amplified with such ferocity that it would equate to lost grace. I could still do that thing (I still had free will), but in doing it, my grace would be irretrievably lost – irretrievable, as in lost forever. No chance of getting it back. The same state as Satan. I would have knowingly sinned against God’s Holy Spirit by purposefully doing what I had been explicitly warned by God – in person – was wrong to do, and in the process purposely causing unimaginable pain to others.

And that was the crux of it – the pain that my “honest” gesture would have caused to others and my knowingly inflicting that pain. If I had proceeded knowing the measure of pain I would have caused, God would have had no choice but to return that pain to me in the measure that I, as a reborn soul, had earned, which would have been sufficient for me to lose grace.

Even today, I shiver at how close I came to this final fallen state.

God will not let you, as his born-again child, wander unknowingly across the border into the no-go zone of the unforgivable sin. You will be warned not by vague signs or third-party notices, but by an in-person cameo appearance by God. It will be just as memorable to you as God speaking from the burning bush was for Moses. It will stop you in your tracks. And it will remain with you for the rest of your days.

The unforgivable sin is different for each of us. There is no one unforgivable sin, but all of them are premised on the same thing: purposefully and unremorsefully doing what we have been explicitly warned by God – one-on-one – not to do, with an equally explicit warning of the consequences that will follow if we proceed. The warning comes not through a third party, but directly from God through his Holy Spirit. To blaspheme and speak against God’s Holy Spirit is to do that one thing you have been warned by God explicitly and in-person and beyond a shadow of a doubt not to do.

There is no remedy for this level of informed disobedience. There is no course of appeal. Satan and his condemned followers know that.

May you never join them.

“ARE YOU HAPPY?”

It’s a strange thing for me, as a former atheist, to hear about someone who is a self-described “former Christian”.

I cannot imagine life without Jesus and God. What I mean to say is that there is no life outside of Jesus and God. Without them, all you do is stumble from one disaster to the next, one drink to the next, one obsession to the next, never really understanding why things are the way they are or why your life is so full of pain. And so you look for an explanation by blaming others or political systems or (worst of all) yourself. Without Jesus and God, there is no real peace and no real joy, because the presence of Jesus and God, through God’s Holy Spirit, is the sole source of happiness. Jesus called this a “wellspring” surging up inside you that never runs dry.

So when I hear about people who claim to be former Christians, I can only assume they were never Christians to begin with. Because having been a born-again adult for nearly the same length of time as I was an atheist adult, I’m able to compare the two states of being, and there is no way I would give up being a Christian. There is nothing that anyone could offer me to stop being a Christian – no amount of money, and no degree of threat. And yes, I will likely be tested on this (and I pray to God that I’ll hold my spiritual ground when the time comes), but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being miserable and 10 being happy, I easily rate my born-again years as a solid 10 and my godless years, sadly, as a 1.

It’s not that there weren’t occasional flashes of something approaching happiness when I was an atheist. I found a certain measure of peace walking through the woods or along a shoreline. Sometimes I would find that same fleeting peace roaming deserted city streets at night or, oddly enough, in a library. Reading was my main escape from the omnipresent emotional pain of my atheist years, along with men, booze, travel, and learning about things (that is, learning about everything except God). I was perpetually chasing one lust after the other, one enthusiasm after the other, hoping for I don’t even know what, maybe some kind of resolution or eureka moment when “the truth” would suddenly burst into view, or someone would tenderly confirm that I had value beyond the fading desirability of my youth.

When you’re young and outwardly confident, as I was as an unbeliever, things come to you easily. People bend to you. When you mess up, they make allowances for you. You get second chances, and then third chances. I was always an exception to the rule; whatever charm I had, I worked it, and it worked well for me, or so I thought at the time. I rode the heady wave of pride, thinking I had it all figured out, thinking I could get whatever or whoever I wanted just by sheer force of will. But waves have troughs as well as crests, and all waves eventually come crashing down on a shoreline somewhere, leaving nothing behind but a bit of froth and a few bubbles.

I mention these things not because I remember my atheist years fondly (I definitely do not), but because I cannot fathom on any level that someone would consciously want to give up being born-again. Being in God’s Kingdom is exactly as Jesus says it is – the pearl of such great value that you sell everything you have to buy it, or the treasure that you hide in a field and then sell everything to buy that field so you can possess the treasure forever. Being born-again, you unhesitatingly give up everything in exchange for the presence of God’s Spirit, because there is nothing of greater value on Earth. Nothing comes close. My worst day of being a believer is still leaps and bounds better than my best day of being an unbeliever.

Do I still get sad as a Christian? Of course I do. I still have free will and emotions. People can still hurt me, and I can still do stupid things and hurt myself. But instead of running to a bottle or to other people for comfort when I get sad, or running into the woods or down to the ocean, I run to God and am healed in an instant. As an atheist, it took me days, months, or even years to get over things, and some wounds festered for decades until I was finally healed at my rebirth.

So you see, I’ve seen life from both sides – as an unbeliever and a believer. As an atheist, I was afforded all the privileges of youth, while as a believer, those privileges are long gone. But if I had all those privileges of youth as an atheist, why was I so miserable? Even more mysteriously, if I no longer have those youthful privileges as a believer, why am I so happy? Am I crazy? Certainly, there are those who knew me as an atheist and who see me now who think I’m crazy, because I’m cheerful without apparent cause. No-one can have as little as I have materially and still be happy. Right?

There was a professor in university I was inordinately fond of (to put it politely). When I was no longer his student, I wrote him a long letter, to which he responded with a few lines of pleasantries, ending with the (for me at the time) jarring question: “Are you happy?” It was an odd inquiry, given our history, and I remember being angered by it. In writing to him, I had hoped to reignite something, not discuss “happiness”, which was to me at that time a thing of little value.

That was a long time ago. I still have the letter somewhere, though I haven’t read it for years. I think if I received such a letter (or one like it) today, I would be thrilled that someone took the time to write to me, and so grateful for the extension of kindness underlying the pleasantries. As for the very pointed question at the end, I would immediately have grabbed a pen and piece of paper and scribbled in response: “Yes, yes I’m happy! Thank you so much for asking! And I hope you’re happy, too!”

These words I could never have written with any sincerity as an unbeliever, though as a believer not to write them would be a lie.

Yes, I am happy. I have been happy since the day I was born again over 20 years ago. This simple fact would have been unfathomable to me as an unbeliever. The presence of God’s Spirit makes you happy. Happiness that endures through decades is not craziness; it’s “evidence of things unseen”.

Which is why I cannot understand why someone would want to be a “former Christian”. Why would you give up the pearl of great price or the eternal treasure buried in your field? There is nothing in the world that comes close to being born-again. God’s Holy Spirit is the greatest of all treasures, which is why Jesus turned down the temptation to own “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” in exchange for giving up God. Think about it – Jesus was offered EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD and the power that goes with having everything in the world, and he turned it all down because the presence of God’s Spirit was of greater value.

We born-agains live every moment of our lives with God’s Spirit. How incomprehensibly blessed we are! “All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” still fall short in value to what each of us has inside of us here and now, and to what God has promised us if we stay the course to the end. Those who are genuinely born-again would NEVER give this up.

We need to reaffirm what it means to be a Christian.

THIS GENERATION’S HARD FORK: THE GREAT RESET

Ours is a history of hard forks in the road.

It stretches all the way back to the time outside of time when God separated light from darkness and saw that the light was good.

From there, one hard fork followed another, each one following the Light, each one following the Good.

From Adam, who was the fork in the road separating mankind from the rest of creation, came Eve, who was the fork that enabled mankind to continue his kind.

Then came the hard fork out of Adam and Eve’s home in the Garden of Eden and the start of the long trek towards Heaven.

Noah was the hard fork out of a fallen world to a renewed one, Abraham the hard fork out of heathen nations to a Hebrew one, Joseph the hard fork into Egypt as a safe haven, and Jacob the hard fork birthing the nation of Israel.

Centuries later, Moses hard-forked the nation of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, King David’s hard fork established the throne of the messiah, and Jesus took upon himself the hard fork of all hard forks that continues to this day, ushering in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

For the past 2000 years, since the coming of the Kingdom, the hard forks have consistently separated those who genuinely follow Jesus from those who don’t. Jesus’ first followers hard-forked from those who rejected him and became Christians; within the geopolitical realm of Christendom that evolved from the Holy Roman Empire, genuine Christians hard-forked and became Protestants; within Protestantism, genuine believers hard-forked and became various smaller denominations; from which individuals, time and time again, hard-forked into home churches and ministries, wanting only to follow Jesus rather than the doctrines of men.

Today, we face yet another monumental hard fork in the road. Through an unrelenting world-wide campaign of media-induced fear, coupled with the controlled demolition of economies, livelihoods and cultures, those who maneuver governments from behind the scenes have laid the groundwork for a “great reset”. But it won’t only be the economies, livelihoods and cultures that are reset – no, it will be us, or better said, mankind. And those who refuse to go along with the reset will initially be shut out of society (just as those who refuse to wear masks are now shut out) and then forcibly relocated to isolation facilities until they change their mind. Those who continue to oppose the reset will be deemed public security risks and locked up indefinitely, or killed.

This is the hard fork in the road that we now approach. The wide path follows the so-called great reset, and the narrow path follows Jesus. Like most of the other hard forks, the narrow path will be difficult and few will choose it. Of those few, even fewer will follow it to the end.

Satan has not much changed either his aims or his tactics since the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve by promising her that eating something that appeared to be good would make her better. The great reset likewise appears to be good and is promising to make us better, but at what cost?

Eve took the bait and lost Paradise.

Satan has not much changed either his aims or his tactics, and our outcome will be the same as Eve’s if we take the bait now.

ENEMIES WITHIN

Christians are constantly bombarded with propaganda about their “enemies”, which we are led to believe are unbelievers (or what used to be called heathens). What I find interesting is that Jesus never had anything to do with unbelievers. He rarely mentioned them and he never tried converting them. He simply let them be.

There’s no indication in scripture that Jesus considered unbelievers to be his enemies. He didn’t rail against the Roman occupying forces. He didn’t chastise the Romans for their pagan beliefs. Again, he just let them be because he didn’t see them as his enemies. Had he considered them his enemies, he would have said so, but he didn’t. They were of no concern to him.

On the other hand, Jesus was very clear about who he considered to be his enemies: He said our worst enemies are those under our own roof. In saying that, he wasn’t referring only to people who physically live under our roof, but to those who are (or say they are) closest to us in professed belief.

After all, it wasn’t Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus to death; it was the temple elders, the religious powers-that-be in Jerusalem at the time, who demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate, the pagan, found nothing in Jesus’ behavior that warranted execution and was resolved to let him go, but the temple elders of the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead. These were some of the same men Jesus had dined with on occasion and debated with on the streets and in the synagogues and temple. He was not a stranger to them, nor they to him. They were all children of Israel and children of Abraham, supposedly professing the same beliefs as Jesus, but that was clearly not the case when they had him arrested, tortured, and then crucified.

Another group constantly getting the finger pointed at them as “enemies” are the demonic (unholy) spirits. These unseen but still very potent beings have been blamed for everything from lost car keys to mass murder, but at no point are they actually to blame. Demonic spirits, under God’s guidance and with God’s permission, can tempt, but they cannot coerce; they can do what is asked of them or is permitted by God, but they cannot do anything of their own free will because they no longer have free will. Demonic spirits have no power or agency of their own; they only have what God gives them: in other words, they can only do God’s will.

Note that Jesus never once blamed the unholy spirits for any of his problems. He spent a good deal of time casting them out of people (the demons were entirely under his authority, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit), but he never told his followers to mount any kind of spiritual warfare against them. Even so, many Christians today ignore Jesus’ example and continue to wage prayer battles against these unseen forces, thinking they are accomplishing something useful by wearing amulets to ward them off or reciting pre-scripted “prayers” as protection.

So, if unbelievers and demons aren’t our enemies, who are?

Our enemies are the same as Jesus’ enemies – namely, those who say they believe, but are either lying or have been deceived into believing lies. Just as Saul (before his conversion) was the disciples’ worst nightmare, our worst nightmare will also be those who believe they are doing God’s will. In other words, our worst enemies are not unbelievers or demons, but people who call themselves Christians.

Remember that Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve. Like Jesus and his genuine followers throughout the ages, we will likely also one day be betrayed by those who say they’re believers. And our response will have to be the same as that of Jesus and all martyrs – to forgive and bless our tormentors, even as they’re killing us.

TEMPTATIONS AND TESTS

Your body lives in the world, but your soul lives in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

Your body is constantly tempted by things of the world, but it is your soul that is being tested.

Your body is tempted; your soul is tested.

That is life in the Earthly Kingdom.

Most of the temptations are of the garden variety and involve relatively unimportant things like food, sex, and money. These are things your body may crave but your soul, if you’re born-again, generally ignores. Jesus ate the food that was offered to him, but he didn’t line up for it. He said: “I have meat to eat that you know not of”. Jesus by-passed the sexual aspect in his relationships with women, saying: “Those who are considered worthy of the Kingdom neither marry nor are given in marriage”. Jesus used the money that was given to him, but he didn’t focus on making any. He said: “Render onto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are God’s”.

These temptations of food, sex, and money are of low importance in the Kingdom. You are expected to want what your body wants, but not to be driven by those desires. You should limit them by God’s Commandments, and if you don’t, you’ll suffer for it. You’ll know what I mean when it happens to you (and yes, I speak from experience).

Your emotions, on the other hand, are not garden-variety temptations. Your emotions, and the actions that result from them, may very well be the things that get you condemned, even if you are born-again.

We live in an age where raw emotional expression is strongly encouraged and considered a sign of good mental health. Suppressing emotions is now generally frowned upon and “feelings” are deemed of higher importance – even in a court of law – than verifiable facts. However, if you live in the Kingdom, you should beware of your emotions, as most of them are in fact temptations.

You cannot live your life based on your feelings. As a born-again believer, you have the power, through God’s Spirit, to overcome the temptations that sometimes well up and threaten to overcome you. You don’t need to be offended. You don’t need to want revenge. You don’t need to desire something or someone so much that you lose all reason and become obsessed. These are temptations. These are tests. You can learn how to pass all of them.

Here’s how:

When someone insults you, don’t be offended. Paul says if there’s anything good about someone, think about that. Focus on that. Remember only that. Jesus says to love your enemies by blessing them instead of cursing them. You love them simply by blessing and praying for them. You don’t have to like them. The liking part may or may not come later (it usually does). Your job is to choose to forgive, and to choose to bless, and to choose to pray. These are all decisions of your will that you can make even while you continue to dislike the person you’re forgiving, blessing, and praying for. You don’t have to feel like doing these things; you choose to do them. And God will take it from there.

The same with revenge. When you feel the urge to get back at someone either through words or actions, choose to see only the good in them, choose to forgive them, choose to bless them, and choose to pray for them. Again, these are all choices. Simple choices; simple decisions of the will. You probably won’t feel like making these choices, but you’ll do them anyway because you understand that your body is being tempted, and you want your spirit to pass the test.

Obsession means that you’re wallowing in temptation. Obsession means that you’ve been tempted and tempted and tempted and tempted, and each time you’ve given into the temptation and failed the test. By the time you’ve reached the point of obsession, you’re neck-deep in temptation and it’s almost too late for you.

Note that I said “almost” too late. You can still choose not to give into the temptation. No matter how compromised you’ve become, you can still choose not to think or speak or do what you know has no place in the Kingdom. There is still time to make the right choice and pass the test, but not much time. Reaching the stage of obsession is a big red flag that you’re nearing a crisis point that will resolve either in your favour or not in your favour. It’s up to you.

_________________________

When we leave one country and enter another, our belongings are usually searched at the border. The authority doing the searching is looking for things that are not permitted to be brought into the country. If some unpermitted thing is found, we are turned away or sometimes even arrested.

The same thing happens when we leave this world, only instead of our luggage being searched, it’s our souls. And if anything is found in them that can’t be brought into Heaven, we’ll be turned away.

Don’t let emotional temptations keep you from getting into Heaven. Failed tests are unrepentant sin. You cannot get into Heaven with unrepentant sin on your soul.

Recognize emotional temptations for what they are. Hatred, revenge, self-pity, manipulation, jealousy, resentment, lust, obsession – these are all temptations. Don’t let them overcome you; overcome them through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. No emotion, no matter how overwhelming, is stronger than you if God is working through you.

Let him.

When temptations goad you into thinking, saying or doing things that you know you shouldn’t, fight back by choosing to see the good, choosing to forgive, choosing to bless, and choosing to pray. That’s how you’ll overcome your temptations and pass your tests, until the day comes when you’re waved through the border, unobstructed, into God’s Heavenly Kingdom.