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God gave us free will as our birthright. In fact, our will is the only thing we own; everything else belongs to God.
It’s important that we understand that.
It’s even more important to understand that God respects our free will. That means, he won’t override it.
Then how do we get God to intervene when we need his help?
Prayer gives permission to God to intervene in our lives.
When we pray, we hit the override button on our free will.
God knows what we need, but we need to ask him in order for him to be able to override our free will.
So ask him!
Jesus says we don’t have because we don’t ask. We need to ask God – that is, to make an inward and/or outward statement FROM THE HEART – if we want him to intervene. If we don’t do that, even though God knows we need something, he’s not going to intervene because he respects our free will.
I’ve written before about prayer simply being a conversation with God. But prayer, sadly, is something most people only do on occasion or for special purposes, whereas Paul tells us we need to “pray without ceasing”, that is, to pray ALL THE TIME.
We need to ask God for help and advice through prayer all the time, not just on special occasions or before we fall asleep at night. We need to keep a running conversation with God all the time.
“You have not because you ask not.”
God’s people are strong-willed, even though to the world they might look otherwise. Unfortunately, strong-willed people tend also to be very independent and to think they can do everything for themselves, leaving God out of the picture. But even as strong as Jesus was (and he was by far the strongest person who ever lived), he still kept a running conversation with God, meaning that he prayed for God’s help and guidance all the time.
We need to do the same.
All the time.
Because tests and temptations come at us non-stop. We may not see them as such, but they are. So we need to give God permission to intervene in every aspect of our lives, not just the “spiritual” parts. We need to ask his help and guidance when we choose our meals and our clothing, when we’re doing business deals, when we’re dealing with difficult people, when we’re going shopping – whatever choices we make in the run of a day, we need to get God’s help and guidance. We can even ask him to get the dog next door to stop barking. God will do that, if you ask him. Or if for some reason he chooses not to stop the dog from barking, he’ll at least make it so the barking doesn’t disturb you anymore. But he won’t do that if you don’t ask him.
This is what Jesus meant when he says “YOU HAVE NOT BECAUSE YOU ASK NOT.”
We need to ask. We need to keep the conversation with God running all day long, like Jesus did. God should be the first one we greet when we wake up in the morning, and the last one we say good-night to before we fall asleep. During the day, we should know he’s with us like a faithful companion and always ready to intervene at our word. But you have to ask. Yes, God knows everything, but you still need to ask. You need to give God permission, because he will not override your free will without your explicit permission.
If you do nothing else today, open a conversation with God and keep it going until the day you die. Know that God is with you at all times through his Spirit and he wants to guide and help you in everything you do. Give him permission for each thing you want help with, and remember to thank him. Thank Jesus, too, because he’s also with you in Spirit. We’re all one family in God’s Spirit. Jesus promised us we would be, and so we are.
If we have not it’s because we ask not.
So let’s ask!
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.
Nothing happens by chance in God’s economy. Free will and divine intervention do not cancel each other out. So it wasn’t just “blind luck” that Jesus was born and raised a carpenter’s son. As his followers, we tend to focus on Jesus as Lord, teacher, Messiah, and Son of God, but before he was all those, he was the son of a carpenter who then grew to become a carpenter in his own right, with all the skills, aptitudes, and duties that come with it.
So I got to thinking about Jesus the son of a carpenter and Jesus the carpenter. Because his father was a carpenter and he the family’s first-born son, Jesus would have been expected to carry on his father’s trade. That meant that Jesus would have grown up trailing around behind his father doing carpentry work. Jesus’ first memories probably involved carpentry, either while the family was still in Egypt or back in Nazareth.
I’m not a carpenter, so to get a better idea of what a carpenter does, I looked up the job description for carpenter online. I was surprised to see that it emphasizes math skills. You need to be good at math and calculations to do carpentry work. You also need to be able to read blueprints and take instruction from supervisors on job specifications, so you need a good memory and the ability to “see” what is not yet there based on someone else’s description and guidance. Carpentry is an intensely physical job. You need to be physically strong, but not like an ox, more like a lion, as carpenters need to crouch, bend, kneel, and stretch, and have good upper-body strength. As well, carpentry requires good hand-eye coordination, the ability to gauge and estimate measurements, and a good sense of balance, with no vertigo tendencies.
Reading about these skills and aptitudes opened up a whole new “Jesus window” for me. Jesus was not only spiritually strong, he was physically strong. He had good upper body strength along with good strong legs that enabled him to carry and place heavy loads and stand for hours while doing his work. He had good hand-eye coordination, good visual acuity, and good balance, like an athlete. He could reckon measurements with his eyes and then translate those measurements into form. His hands would have been calloused, but strong and nimble. How do I know all these things about Jesus? If he hadn’t had those skills and traits, he wouldn’t have been a carpenter.
This was not a weak man. This was not an effeminate man. Jesus was not born the son of a carpenter by chance, but by design. The skills he learned at his father’s side from the time he was old enough to remember were skills that he eventually transferred to his ministry work. Ministry also requires a strong and agile body along with strong faith. Ministry also requires a sharp mind with good reckoning and gauging skills and the ability to see what is not in front of your eyes. And ministry also requires the unwavering ability to take instruction and guidance from God the Ultimate Supervisor, and to ensure a foundation is strong and true before it is built on.
So after I looked up all the traits and skills that are required of a carpenter, I thought about Jesus the Son of God and what he would have brought to the carpentry trade. I thought about how hard he worked at his ministry, often not even stopping for meals or rest, and how everything he did was uncompromising and done to his best ability. I thought about how he was always ministering to the needs of others and spent his nights and days helping whoever came to him for help. I thought about his sharp wit (sharp enough to outwit even the temple elders) and his love for children. I thought about his fondness for wine and good food. I thought about his gentleness and respect towards women, and how he defended them over and over again, whether before a mob or his own disciples. I thought about how he consistently championed the honest and the lowly over the hypocritical and the rich.
And I took all these qualities and traits and fondnesses of Jesus the Son of God and applied them to his carpentry work. And I thought – Oh, to have just one piece that was created by Jesus! It would have been made with such love and to perfection! There would have been no flaws in it, no cut corners. The foundation would have been true, the joints smooth, and the finish like glass. He would have formed it with the same care and meticulousness as if he were making it for God, because that’s how Jesus was, whether as the son of a carpenter or the Son of God: He did everything as if unto God. And he would always have finished his work on time and to specification.
I thought of all the pieces he possibly made – the cups, the plates, the platters, the bowls, the frames for doorways and the doors themselves, the frames for windows and the shutters themselves. I thought about the furniture – the tables, the chairs, the stools, the cupboards. I thought about how he helped build people’s homes and sheds and barns and fences, and how he helped build the tools to build them. I thought about how he learned to hitch animals to the plow and how those animals would have welcomed Jesus’ gentle touch and low murmurs, thinking this human was different from the others. I thought about all the gifts and toys he would have made as surprises for his family and friends, and for the children in the village, because Jesus would not have made things just for money; he would have made them to help people and to make them happy.
Oh, to have just one piece that Jesus made! But those relics of his carpenter years are long gone. Wood, unless petrified, is not meant to last.
And then my mind took a turn, and I thought about Jesus the Son of God and the hastily hacked, crudely assembled wood pieces that were his execution device. I wonder, as he hung on the cross, if he thought about how poorly the wood was cut, and whether his inner carpenter was appalled at the crudeness of the huge nails and how inappropriate their size was to their use. I can see Jesus – not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, but strong and capable carpenter Jesus – shaking his head at the poor workmanship he had to suffer in his final hours after all those years of striving for perfection. I wonder if he gave God an earful about that, and if they had a good silent chuckle together, the way only a father and son who love each other without restraint can share a laugh even under the direst of circumstances.
You don’t forget the skills that you learn at your father’s feet. The smell of freshly cut wood would have been in Jesus’ blood. It would have been for him the smell of home. And so I think the fragrance of the green wood and the almost comical crudeness of the cross would have brought a measure of comfort and welcome distraction to Jesus in his final agonizing moments in human form. And I think God did all of this for this very reason, to comfort Jesus, and that Jesus was not born the son of a carpenter by chance, but by design.
I remember reading a while back about the ritual gesture carpenters make when they finish a job: They take the cloth that they used to clean the dust from the wood, fold it neatly, and place it to the side of the finished piece. This indicates that the work is done.
When Peter entered the tomb on the third day, he saw the burial cloths lying in a heap together, but the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face was separate, folded neatly and set to one side. Who but a carpenter would have sent such a clear and unmistakable sign not only that his work was accomplished, but that he – the son of a carpenter, the Son of God – had done this?
Nothing happens by chance in God’s economy.
Jesus was a carpenter by design.
Just a reminder that we, as born-again followers of Jesus, live in God’s kingdom on Earth.
Our loyalty should be first and foremost and ONLY to God, as it was for Jesus.
That means we put God before everything and everyone. So if someone asks you to do something that conflicts with what God would want you to do, you say no.
You don’t apologize and you don’t explain; you just say “no”.
God comes before family.
God comes before friends.
God comes before country.
God comes before work.
God comes before possessions, including bank accounts and investments.
God comes before everything and everyone that is “not God”.
Your full loyalty should be to God and God only.
If your family, friends, country, work, or possessions are somehow coming between you and God, leading you to do something that you know is not right, separate yourself from them.
Remove them from your life.
Put them far, far away from you.
Remember also that Jesus told us not to swear oaths of any kind (including oaths of allegiance), and that our answers should be a simple “yes” or “no”, as “anything more comes from the devil.”
We serve a great God. He deserves all our loyalty, and he will never (unlike people and worldly systems) betray us.
If you make the choice to give God your full loyalty, he will honor your choice by giving back to you a hundred-fold in blessings.
There is no downside in giving your loyalty to God. No other kingdom on Earth – no matter how rich and powerful – can rival God’s kingdom on Earth.
You are blessed beyond measure to be part of it.
When you give your loyalty to God, he gives his loyalty to you.
You make a deal.
(And if you had even the slightest inkling of what that meant, you would be down on your face thanking and worshiping God night and day, like the 24 elders in the book of Revelation.)
Your loyalty should be first and foremost and ONLY to God, as it was for Jesus.
Just a timely reminder for those who need it.
It is never enough for evil that you simply tolerate it, that you allow it to exist at a distance and disdained.
No: Evil wants you to embrace it.
And to do that, you must first deny Truth.
This is the aim of torture – to get you to change your confession. If the torturers wanted you dead, they would simply kill you, but then you would leave this world still confessing Truth. This would not do. So the torturers keep you alive just long enough for you to change your confession.
It’s a ritual, torture, and like all rituals it is dispassionate and aloof, a set process that considers the victim only as a subject to be broken spiritually through the breaking of the subject’s will. It is a science experiment taken to extremes, a clinical trial where the participants don’t agree to the terms, but then again are not required to agree. It is cold, impersonal, seldom unsuccessful, and thoroughly diabolical.
We think about torture as something from days gone by and in distant places, but torture is as common here and now as it ever was. Propaganda, which is agenda-driven lies, is mind torture, and propaganda is the language of the world. We are surrounded by propaganda, just as surely as we are surrounded by billions of people who devoutly confess the world’s propaganda and just as devoutly want YOU to confess it.
The sole opposition to propaganda is God’s Word.
Jesus warned his followers that they would be tortured, that they would be outlaws, hunted and despised. Jesus warned us not to frighten us but to prepare us so that we could prepare ourselves and others.
We live in the realm of mind torture, where darkness is hailed as light, lies as truth, poison as cure, unnatural as natural, up as down, and black as white. If we dare speak out to counter the propaganda, we are attacked, ridiculed, shut down, side-lined, banned, canceled, threatened, and silenced. It takes a strong will to withstand these onslaughts. It takes a mind focused on God and his Word and driven by God’s Holy Spirit, not by the Father of Lies.
You can just as effectively be poisoned by the tiniest increments of toxins consumed over a long period of time as by a large dose delivered all at once. In fact, propaganda works best as a torture device when it can whittle away at you day by day, day by day, day by day, until one day you wake up confessing lies.
It is not enough for evil that you simply tolerate it. Evil wants you to embrace it, to confess it.
Your job, as a follower of Jesus, is to resist evil and to continually counter it with God’s Word. This is a process that is day by day, day by day, day by day, and that will not cease until you’ve drawn your last breath. There is no final victory here on Earth, no laying down of weapons, no waving of the white flag by the enemy. Not in this realm, not while we’re here this body.
If we’re to remain loyal to God’s Word, we have no choice but to keep fighting. The enemy will not give up. The propaganda will not cease. The lies will only become more extreme and the devotees to the lies more viciously devout. Remember that through the lens of propaganda, YOU are the enemy, and the enemy must be neutralized and then destroyed.
It is never enough for evil that you simply tolerate it. Evil wants you to confess it, to embrace it, to BE it.
Never let that happen.
Being born again is a definitive marker in a person’s history. It is that “moment outside of time” when the spirits of the world are cast out and God’s spirit enters in. The entrance of God’s spirit into a soul means that the soul has come to life, as there is no life outside of God.
You literally become a new person not by your own hand but by God’s.
But this new person still lives in the world, with all its decay, filth, and problems. Even worse, the possibility to go back to one’s “old ways” is constantly a temptation not because the old ways are better than God’s ways but because they’re familiar and habitual. Familiarity and habit are strong temptations, if they’re against God. When you become born again, you need to establish new God-centered familiarities and habits, but that takes time. (more…)
I’ve been born-again for 20 years.
Being born-again is the best thing — by far and without question — that ever happened to me. I lived as an atheist into adulthood, and then one day suddenly I was born again.
I woke up one morning an atheist and went to bed that night a believer.
It can happen that fast.
What also happened fast was the sea-change in the words that came out of my mouth and out of my pen. My voice stayed the same, but a whole different vocabulary emerged. (more…)
That moment when you realize that nearly all of the people you encounter daily are spiritually insane.
Not just a few, or some, not a vast majority, but nearly all.
Nearly everyone you encounter on this Earth is spiritually insane. (more…)
Can you imagine if Jesus had stayed in Nazareth?
He probably would have gotten married, had a few kids, taught Sunday school, and generally lived a low-key though respectable life as a competent carpenter. Every now and then, he’d think about what might have been if he’d left Nazareth and done what God had urged him to do, but then he’d push those thoughts aside. He’d made a decision, made a commitment to the life he chose, and that was that.
Jesus could have lived like this. Any number of people who love God do actually live like this – quiet, respectable lives, going about their daily business and raising families. Nothing wrong with that.
Or is there? (more…)
I have spent the past 18 years living as a Christian. Prior to that, I was a loud and proud atheist.
I have not changed.
My values have changed, but my personality has not. I am still the same impetuous, occasionally impatient, outspoken, laugh-out-loud, fearless person I always was. I did my own thing as an atheist, and I do my own thing now.
Being a Christian doesn’t prevent you from doing your own thing. It just changes what that “thing” is. (more…)