A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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THE GREATEST TEMPTATIONS

As we born-again believers make our way – God’s Way – along the strait and narrow of this life, we need to keep in mind that our greatest temptations probably won’t look like temptations; they’ll look like everyday concerns or ways of the world. They might even look like shortcuts that promise to get us to Heaven faster and with less effort.

Satan, for all his brilliance, still relies on the same old tricks that he used with Eve all those years ago: He finds our weaknesses and exploits them. He relabels forbidden fruit as “New!” and “Improved!”, burying the truth of the matter deep in the endless fine print that no-one bothers to read.

One of the worst things about temptations (if avoiding them is your goal) is that God supernaturally hides from you that they are temptations. You go into a temptation spiritually blind. God does that on purpose so that we’ll react organically to the scenario, not in a pre-processed way. I have been tempted on numerous occasions since I was reborn, and I’m sorry to report that I fell for many of them. The only positive thing I can take from my spiritual failures is that I learned from them by suffering the consequences of my bad choices, and the failures humbled me.

As we get closer and closer to our time to go Home (or in the other direction), we can be sure that our temptations won’t be the over-the-top type that Jesus was subjected to in the wilderness just before the start of his ministry. No, they’ll be much more subtle, which makes them that much more dangerous to us. For example, we might be tempted to break one or more of the Commandments, but it won’t appear as if we’re breaking them, either because “everyone is doing it” or the law of the land permits it. This is why we need to very clearly distinguish between God’s Law and worldly laws, between what is right in God’s eyes and what is right in the eyes of the world. Taking up arms with the intent to kill is a major temptation that born-again followers of Jesus hopefully never fall for, regardless of whether it has the blessing of the state.

Another temptation that comes to us disguised as something good is earning money. How much money do we need? Based on Jesus’ example, I’d say we need as much as it takes to put a roof over our head, food in our mouth, and clothes on our back, with a few extra pennies to pay for incidentals. Anything we earn beyond that is a temptation from the devil. God told me once that it’s useful to think of money as cancer cells, in which case we wouldn’t want to have any money at all, or at least no more than what we need to keep our immune system primed and pumped and humming along.

For many people, earning more money than you need is a lifelong temptation, though I’ve yet to hear of a deathbed confession that mentions any regret over not earning more. It’s like impending death completely cuts through the delusion that money has any real value beyond a roof, food, and clothing. If you take money concerns out of your life and let God dictate the amount you need, you free up a good portion of your day and your mind. For born-again believers, money should only be a tool; it should never be an end in itself beyond the bare minimum requirements.

Probably one of the biggest temptations in most people’s lives these days is complaining, especially publicly and before giving the offending person a chance to correct the wrong. Social media is usually the vehicle of choice for the complaining. Scripture tells us that if someone does something wrong, we need to go to that person and talk to him or her PRIVATELY. We’re not to make a show of it by standing up in public and thundering “J’ACCUSE!” That’s Satan’s job, to accuse. Our job is to take someone aside and quietly suggest that a change of behavior might be in order. If that doesn’t work, we’re to take a few more people to that person and quietly suggest the same. If even that fails, we need to pray for that person, but keep our distance. You don’t complain about them, not publicly and not privately. You pray for them.

Keep this in mind the next time you feel the urge to leave a bad review on social media. It’s a temptation. Best not to leave any review and let God deal with your grievance in his time and his way.

This category of temptations is called provocations, because they’re intended to provoke you into acting badly.

For the past month, I’ve been traveling for the first time in nearly two years, and I can tell you that the attitude of the people working in the hospitality industry in particular has changed drastically. I’ve suffered rudeness and arrogance that I’ve never experienced in all of my previous travels combined. Each time someone snaps at me or studiously ignores me, I have to bite my lip not to say anything that I’ll regret, just as I have to physically restrain my fingers not to type anything on a review that I’ll feel bad about later. So I instead step back and look at the goodness and kindness of the situation, if there is any (and there is always something), and I choose to overlook what wasn’t so good and kind. I choose to be grateful for small mercies rather than to be resentful. Note that I say “I choose” to do these things. Sometimes I have to make the choice with my nails digging into the palms of my hands. I have to learn (and relearn [and re-relearn]) to do this, because my default tends to be to get provoked, at which point my back goes up, my mouth opens, and out pours the invective. Mind you, what comes out isn’t necessarily inaccurate; it’s just not the best way to handle the situation.  

These are temptations in the form of provocations, and they are everywhere these days. We need to be on our guard, even knowing that God will prevent us from seeing these temptations as provocations, watching to see how we respond. I think that when we get to the point where our default is to have compassion for the offender rather than condemnation, we’ve passed that particular test, overcome that particular temptation.

And then on we move to the next one.

GOD’S HOLY SPRING

Spring is a curious thing: out of the seemingly dead ground, green shoots emerge; out of the seemingly dead branches, buds burst through. Birds build nests and fill them with their eggs. The combination of longer warmer days and the angle of the sun triggers this activity.

Or so the story goes.

God has hardwired into his earthly creation new growth out of old. Renewal is part of the life cycle. We can expect it and celebrate it and thank God for it: as long as there is life in a living thing, there will be cyclical renewal, whether based on the sun’s position or not.

We humans are no different. We are hardwired for physical renewal on a regular basis. Some Christians talk about renewing their faith, and I believe that the desire and ability for faith renewal is also hardwired into us – the desire to want a refreshing, a plumping and smoothing of our belief pillows.

But what isn’t hardwired into us is spiritual rebirth. Rebirth is a process that comes from without – from God. We can’t direct it; we can’t demand it; and we can’t plan it to happen: it is 100% organized and enabled by God as an “add-on” feature to the human experience.

Spiritual rebirth isn’t the same as spring: some people compare rebirth to the renewal of spring, but that’s not an accurate comparison. Spring is hardwired into God’s creation; spiritual rebirth is not. Jesus says the Spirit goes where it wills, not where we will it to go. Paul says we become a new creature at rebirth, so that we are no longer Greek or Roman, or Black or White, or male or female: We are no longer quite human. That part of us that was hardwired to want to reproduce is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to protect our own (through violence, if necessary) is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to accumulate the world’s resources into personal wealth is overwritten. We become, as Jesus says, eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, enemy-lovers for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and poor for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and we do it all as if it’s our default, because it becomes our default when we’re reborn.

We are all born of the same Spirit at rebirth – God’s Holy Spirit – so born-again believers are all the same spiritual family and an entirely new spiritual creation. This family forms and inhabits God’s Kingdom on Earth. We humans have been hardwired in such a way that rebirth can be added to us, but our factory settings don’t include rebirth. That’s why most people never experience it.

We didn’t always have rebirth as an add-on option. It was launched with Jesus 2000 years ago. John the Baptist, according to Jesus, was the greatest of all people who were born of a woman, but even the least of those in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist. That’s because God’s Spirit inhabits born-again believers, whereas those who aren’t born-again can, at most, have only temporary visits from the Spirit. Not being born-again (Jesus’ sacrifice not yet having been made to enable it), John had only temporary visits from the Spirit; we born-agains have God’s Spirit with us full-time.

It’s God’s Spirit within born-again souls that makes those souls great, not anything they do or are on their own.

Born-again believers should embrace and welcome the cyclical renewal of the earth as well as of their own mind and body. But refreshing ourselves in God’s Spirit is something that should be done every day (or even several times a day, as required), not once a year. Every day we should be renewing our faith and re-examining our conscience. Every day we should be consciously in God’s Spirit, open to advice and encouragement and reprimand. What did I do wrong yesterday? How can I make up for it? How can I avoid doing that wrong thing today? What did I do right yesterday? How can I make sure I keep on doing it?

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as Jesus tells us. We take our lives day by day, and learn and apply our lessons day by day. In the same way, we should examine our conscience and spend time with God and Jesus through God’s Spirit day by day. For born-again believers, our spring renewal comes every day through the spring of the Holy Spirit that is constantly welling up inside of us, as Jesus promised us it would. Even in the dead of our own personal winter, the Holy Spring is there within us, ever ready to wash away what doesn’t belong and to renew our faith and promises and set us firmly back on the road Home. This spiritual healing and rejuvenation we have access to every day, all day. It is a very great gift of God to his children, given to us at rebirth.

We must never forget that we have this gift of perpetual renewal and cleansing, and we must never let it go to waste.

FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS – LESSON THREE: THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

“Thou shalt not steal.”

(Exodus 20:15)

Welcome to the Foundational Tutorial lessons on the Ten Commandments! These lessons are intended for you to learn what you need to learn; they are not meant as a condemnation or judgement. As born-again followers of Jesus, we’re all still here on Earth because we’re all still learning about the Kingdom and how to live in it. As much as he was the Messiah, Jesus was also a teacher during his time here. His followers are likewise expected to teach others, after they themselves have learned what they need to learn, and practiced it.

We aren’t expected to be perfect (even Jesus wasn’t perfect), but we are expected to strive for perfection (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) and to constantly work at improving ourselves.

The foundation of Jesus’ teachings was the Ten Commandments and everything that stemmed from the Commandments, so we clearly need to focus on them. They are the lifeline for staying on God’s Way, particularly in times of trouble and temptation. You’ll note that there are no asterisks (*) on any of the Commandments. That means there are no exceptions to these ten rules. You break them, you pay the price.

For an overview of the blessings that come from keeping the Commandments and the curses that come from not keeping them, see Deuteronomy 28.

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LESSON THREE CONTENTS

  1. STEALING: A DEFINITION
  2. WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL?
  3. WHY DO PEOPLE NOT STEAL?
  4. STEALING AS A CULTURAL NORM
  5. THEFT AS A SPIRITUAL FELONY
  6. WHO REALLY BENEFITS WHEN WE STEAL?
  7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

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1. STEALING: A DEFINITION

Satan is constantly presenting us with temptations. It’s up to us, as born-again believers, to see them as such in order to avoid falling for them. We need to pray for help with that, like Jesus did.

Stealing is a major and omnipresent temptation. It comes in many different forms, but the most common is theft of money and material goods. Theft of time, reputation, opportunity, and health are also examples of stealing, as is withholding something that is owed. Anything of value can potentially be stolen.

As with the other Commandments, there are numerous examples of theft in scripture. Stealing is in fact one of the three main tasks that Jesus tells us Satan has come to accomplish – to kill, steal, and destroy. But Satan doesn’t actually do the stealing (or killing or destroying); he gets us to do it, by tempting us. Judas stole from what was essentially the disciples’ joint bank account (the bag that he was entrusted to keep), and the Old Testament teaches us that withholding what is owed to God in the form of tithes, offerings and thanksgiving is also considered theft.

Of all the Ten Commandments, the one not to steal seems to be the most straight-forward. It’s also usually the one we learn first as children. Most of us, from a very young age, have been taught what stealing means (taking what doesn’t belong to you), and most of us have also had ingrained in us from a very young age that we shouldn’t do it. But even the simplicity of the Commandment doesn’t stop a lot of people from breaking it.

Why is that?

2. WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL?

There are as many reasons why people steal as there are people who do it. Even so, probably the main reason is that they want something they don’t or can’t have. Maybe they can’t afford it or maybe they’ve been told they can’t have it, but stealing presents itself as a way to get what they want. Some people also steal just for the thrill of it or to show themselves or others that they can get away with it. Or some people steal because they’ve been ordered or feel pressured to steal.

Another reason why people steal is that theft is quite easy to do. It doesn’t require a lot of planning or forethought and can be done within a few seconds of conceiving the deed (that is, within a few seconds of being tempted). And while the official consequences of theft can be quite deadly, depending on the legal system under which it’s done, most of the consequences are indirect and come via God’s justice. Unfortunately, people who don’t believe in God or don’t understand how God operates in the world won’t make the connection between their stealing escapades and their lousy life. They’ll believe they’ve gotten away with the theft and that their subsequent lousy life is completely unconnected from it.

There are also people who steal believing what they’ve stolen is owed to them. In these cases, either they believe that they’ve been deprived of what they need, or they’re simply balancing the scales by taking what they deem to be rightfully theirs.

Some people even steal because, according to them, they can’t help it. Kleptomania is allegedly an illness that manifests as a compulsion to steal. People diagnosed with this condition claim that it overcomes them seemingly out of the blue and they can’t stop themselves from stealing. The devil operates under a lot of different names these days.

3. WHY DO PEOPLE NOT STEAL?

On the other hand, there are those who have a heightened awareness of the wrongness of theft, and I hope I’m including us born-again believers in that category. However, you don’t have to be a Christian to know that stealing is wrong. Scripture tells us that God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so even if no-one teaches us not to steal (and even if the laws of the land permit us to steal), we can still know that stealing is wrong and choose not to do it.

When I was too young to remember, I once walked out of a grocery store carrying a bag of bread that I hadn’t paid for. My mother had given me the bread to hold while we were in the store, but she forgot about it when we were at the cash register. Only when we were walking home did she realize that I had “stolen” the bread. Again, I was too young to remember (not quite 3 at the time), but she marched me back into the store, mortified, and profusely apologized for her part in the theft. For my mother’s generation, being thought a thief was unthinkable.

Years later, when my parents were visiting me in Toronto, we ended up with someone else’s paid-for whole roasted chicken among our groceries, which we didn’t realize until we got back to my place. When we found the “hot” chicken among all the bags, my parents immediately wanted to return it to the grocery store, which was a half-hour’s drive away. It took a lot of fast-talking on my part to keep them from hopping into their rental car and making the return trip to the store. They are of an upbringing and a generation that still finds theft or the appearance of it abhorrent.

Western culture, though no longer Christian, is based on Christian precepts. These precepts form the basis of Western laws and norms that still, for the most part, dictate Western modes of behavior, but this is rapidly changing.

4. STEALING AS A CULTURAL NORM

Not all cultures and generations are as squeamish about theft as those of my parents. Stealing is relatively easily accomplished and, unlike my 2-year-old self, most people who steal do it on purpose.

Shoplifting is another term for stealing in a retail environment. Unfortunately, shoplifting has become so rampant over the past few generations that businesses now cost it into the price of their merchandise, knowing that deterrents such as security tags and surveillance cameras will only stop a small percentage of the theft. “Shrinkage” is the official term allotted to profit that disappears from the balance sheet through shoplifting. Due to shrinkage, we pay more for merchandise, because the business assumes that some of it will be stolen and they need to cover their losses.

Mass shoplifting events or “looting”, where a gang of shoplifters converges on a business, overwhelming the staff and security personnel, are becoming more and more frequent. The frequency of these events is making them more and more expected and, sadly, more and more accepted as an emerging norm. Looting is particularly prevalent (and expected/accepted) during natural disasters and protests.

Theft, however, should never be expected or accepted as a norm, no matter how widespread it is or how “justified” someone tries to make it. Like every other Commandment that decrees not to do something, the Commandment against stealing has fallen out of fashion in the hearts and minds of some cultures and sub-cultures, including in former Christian nations. So, for instance, social justice in many Western countries now conceives of theft as permissible for some people of a certain race or socioeconomic status, leaving us with new laws like theft under $1000 no longer being a felony. The response to these new laws has in some cases been a serious run on stores in places where the laws have taken effect. People are showing up with empty garbage bags and cleaning out whole aisles before casually walking out, dragging their overflowing loot bag behind them. The staff, during these attacks, no longer even bothers to call police, as the police in most cases won’t show up.

Some non-Western cultures consider successful stealing a sign of high intelligence, and some parents even teach their children to steal (pick-pocketing, bike theft, etc.) as a means of earning a living. Considering that God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts – without exception – the lessons in theft these children learn from their parents may be be winked at by God while the children are still young. When they reach the age and maturity level where they’re able to know right from wrong, however, God will hold them accountable for their thefts from that point onward, regardless of what they were taught by their parents or culture. Having been taught to steal by your parents or being encouraged by your culture to steal doesn’t exonerate you from unrepentant sin (in this case, theft) on Judgement Day.

5. THEFT AS A SPIRITUAL FELONY

Regardless, and no matter how it’s dressed up to appear to be “nothing” or a sign of intelligence or a career choice, theft is a spiritual felony that has spiritual if not legal consequences. Broken Commandments always require some form of payment in hardship and pain, and the payment is always extracted one way or another. And unless we have a deal with the devil to defer that payment until after death, we’ll feel the pain already in this life.

As God told me at the moment of my rebirth: “The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned.”

Repayment of theft through suffering is guaranteed, regardless of whether you’ve been taught that stealing is right or wrong or somehow justified. As mentioned above, God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so if you break a Commandment – regardless of your background – you will suffer for it. Satan knows this, and in his position as ruler of the world, he works overtime to downplay and rebrand theft, in much the same way as he downplays and rebrands every other spiritual felony so that we’ll suffer for it. His aim is to get us to sin in the same way as he got Eve to sin – by overriding our first instinct not to do something we know is wrong. If he can get us past our initial squeamishness and implant in us some kind of justification for the sin, he knows he’s got us.

Ultimately, whether or not someone steals when given the opportunity is an excellent basis for measuring that person’s character and trustworthiness, given how easy it is to steal and how many opportunities present themselves on a daily basis.

6. WHO REALLY BENEFITS WHEN WE STEAL?

I was on a forum recently where some participants were bragging about how self-check-outs and “bring your own bag” policies have made shoplifting that much easier for them. Reading their accounts of how much they claim to have stolen, I couldn’t help but wonder whether making it easier to steal isn’t one of the underlying motives for doing away with cashiers and store-provided bags. These policies are being uniformly applied around the world all at the same time and seem to fly in the face of common business sense: any savings brought by replacing human cashiers with machines or by not having to provide bags to customers would certainly be offset by the surge in shoplifting. The only one who truly benefits from our being more and more tempted and falling for the temptations is Satan, and Satan, as Jesus reminds us, is in charge of this world and its policies.

7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

  • From a young age, most of us learn that stealing is bad, but many of us still end up doing it.
  • The reasons why people steal are as many as there are people who steal, but the main reason is that people want what they can’t otherwise have.
  • Theft is mostly vilified in Western culture due to deep-rooted Christian norms, but these norms are changing to view some theft as justified or acceptable up to a certain amount.
  • Some non-Western cultures view stealing as a sign of high intelligence and encourage it.
  • Regardless of whether or not stealing is considered good or bad within a culture, God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so stealing is a spiritual felony and will result in some degree of suffering by the thief.
  • Satan works overtime to arrange opportunities for theft to present itself and also tempts people into trying to justify stealing.

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“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”

Psalm 119:71-72

FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS – LESSON ONE: THOU SHALT NOT COVET

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

(Exodus 20:17)

Welcome to the Foundational Tutorial lessons on the Ten Commandments! These lessons are intended for you to learn what you need to learn; they are not meant as a condemnation or judgement. As born-again followers of Jesus, we’re all still here on Earth because we’re all still learning about the Kingdom and how to live in it. As much as he was the Messiah, Jesus was also a teacher during his time here. His followers are likewise expected to teach others, after they themselves have learned what they need to learn, and practiced it.

We aren’t expected to be perfect (even Jesus wasn’t perfect), but we are expected to strive for perfection (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) and to constantly work at improving ourselves.

The foundation of Jesus’ teachings was the Ten Commandments and everything that stemmed from the Commandments, so we clearly need to focus on them. They are the lifeline for staying on God’s Way, particularly in times of trouble and temptation. You’ll note that there are no asterisks (*) on any of the Commandments. That means there are no exceptions to these ten rules. You break them, you pay the price.

For an overview of the blessings that come from keeping the Commandments and the curses that come from not keeping them, see Deuteronomy 28.

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LESSON ONE CONTENTS

  1. COVETING: A DEFINITION
  2. A WANT OR A NEED?
  3. SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, prepping
  4. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET
  5. CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS
  6. THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING
  7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

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1. COVETING: A DEFINITION

Coveting is no different than any of the other Commandments that we’re not supposed to break. It’s not optional not to covet: It’s a Commandment not to covet.

But what exactly is coveting?

The world “covet” is rarely used these days, and I would argue that the word’s fall out of fashion is by design – of the devil. If you don’t know you’re doing something wrong, you’ll likely keep doing it. That’s a form of temptation. But not knowing you’re breaking a Commandment doesn’t make you entirely guilt-free, because God’s Commandments are written on your heart, just as they’re written on mine and on the heart of every person on Earth, including unbelievers. We may not call what we do “coveting”, but we do have the sense that it’s somehow wrong and is prompted by a spirit other than God’s. As born-again believers, it’s our job to know a temptation when we see one, and it’s definitely our job to know and keep the Commandments, even the ones that seem to belong to another age.

The Commandment not to covet specifically frames coveting in relation to your neighbour. However, we know from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan that your neighbour can be anyone and everyone, not just your actual next-door neighbour. Your neighbour can even be a bank, a business, or even your enemy. So coveting has quite a broad reach.

But again, what is coveting? Simply put, to covet is to have an inordinate (unnaturally strong) desire to acquire something that you don’t actually need. It’s a want rather than a need – something or someone you desire without God’s prompting or blessing. It may also be something (or someone) that someone else has and that you want to take possession of. In this way, coveting includes aspects of greed and jealousy mixed in with desire and pride. Coveting is progressively obsessive and can lead to breaking nearly all the other Commandments in one fell swoop (think of David’s coveting of Bathsheba, and the fall-out from that).

In short, if you want what someone else has but you don’t need, you’re coveting.

The opposite of coveting is contentment with what you have, and cheerful and generous charity.

2. A WANT OR A NEED?

How can you make a distinction between things that you want and things that you need? When you covet (that is, desire something that you want rather than need), it’s almost like a game that you can’t stop playing. You strategize the acquisition; you plan the acquisition; you obsess over the acquisition. You must have the acquisition, and at any price. Maybe you saw what you want in an advertisement, or maybe you saw something that someone else has and that you decided you also must have. This is the classic “keeping up with the Joneses” that was the foundation for much of the now defunct American Dream.

Mass consumerism is based on coveting. It’s the devil’s temptation, mainly through ads, to get you to want what you don’t need, and to prompt you to act on your wants with lures and pressure tactics such as “no money down”, “zero interest payments”, and “Today Only!”. If you want to know what your neighbour has coveted in the past, go to a garage sale. Wants that weren’t actual needs are on full display, ranging from barely used gym equipment to “As Seen On TV!” kitchen gadgets with their box seals still unbroken. None of these things, obviously, were needed or they would have been used and would still be used.

Jesus says that God knows what we need even before we tell him. God knows what we need, and he’s ready and eager to provide it for us. All we have to do is say the word that we need this or that, and if God deems that it is a need, he will provide it. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’ll have extensives experience with this.

3. SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, and prepping

People who engage in collecting, investing and prepping are actually breaking the Commandment not to covet, as collecting, investing and prepping are a form of serial coveting.

  • COLLECTING:

You can argue that a child needs a doll, but there is no arguing that an adult needs 100 dolls, or 100 collector plates, or 100 pieces of art. Collecting is a form of coveting. It is always prompted by desire or obsession to have something, rather than the need to have something. It may, on the surface, seem relatively harmless, but it is still a form of coveting and shouldn’t be done.

  • INVESTING:

There is also no arguing that an adult needs 100 homes (or even more than one). Real estate investment is a major temptation in coveting, and we’re seeing the impact of this particular form of coveting today. The more people pour into the real estate investment market, the higher the demand for real estate, and so the higher the real estate valuations. The result is skyrocketing real estate prices that are not only preventing much of the world’s population from purchasing a home, but also causing rental prices to soar. The cost of basic shelter now takes up most of renters’ earnings. The coveting of real estate by investors is the reason for this. If you currently hold a mortgage, you’re part of the problem. You’re also guilty of coveting.

Investing in the stock market is another glaring form of coveting. The whole idea behind it is to get more money than you need by investing more money than you need. If ever there was a realm of mammon, this is it. Stock market investing also includes elements of obsession, greed, addiction, recklessness, and fear-driven decision-making. Steer clear of the stock market or any form of investment.

Besides, investing is a form of money-lending. Jesus says we’re to lend, expecting nothing in return, and that’s not much of an investment strategy. You’re better off taking any “extra” money you might have laying around and giving it (not lending it, giving it, no strings attached) to someone you know personally who’s working hard but struggling financially. That is far better stewardship of God’s blessings to you, and you will be bountifully blessed in return.

  • PREPPING:

As much as many of you won’t want to hear this, prepping is a form of coveting. When you buy or plan to buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, you’re coveting food and supplies. We live in New Testament times, not Old Testament times. We’re not like Joseph in Egypt, who stashed away enough food for seven years to survive a famine; we’re like Jesus, who had just enough food for his needs at any given time.

Now, your needs at any given time are linked to your access to food and supplies. If you only go shopping once a month, you should get a month’s worth of food and supplies; if you go shopping once every six months, you get six months’ worth of food and supplies. God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. It would be illogical and foolish to get one day’s worth of food and supplies if we’re not able to shop again for nearly a month. We should get what we need, not what we want or what others tell us we should want.

And there’s the crux of prepping: Prepping is an industry that is at heart a cult. As an industry, it’s built on pressure sales tactics, and as a cult, it’s driven by fear. According to preppers, you can never have enough food or supplies stashed away, so you’re always accumulating more and more, well beyond your needs. This is all done in preparation for a fabled time (SHTF) that has yet to come.

You should also keep in mind that when you buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, the demand for the food and supplies goes up, which means the price goes up. So prepping is not only contributing to shortages in food and supplies for other people, but is also contributing to increases in the cost of food and supplies. If you’re a prepper, you’re guilty of causing hardship to others through shortages and rising costs.

If you’re still hanging onto Joseph as an example of your alleged need to prep, remember that Joseph was a prophet. Through an ability and blessing given to him by God, Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about the coming famine. Joseph didn’t advise Pharaoh to accumulate 7 years’ worth of food and supplies because he was pressured into doing so by sales tactics and fear; he acted based on a dream interpretation given to him directly from God.

Finally, does your desire to prep come directly from God or from the prepping cult? In one of his parables, Jesus talks about a prepper-type character who had enough food and supplies to last him for a lifetime. He had so much, he had to tear down his storage barns and build bigger ones to hold everything. But did Jesus admire him for him that? No, he called him a fool. Within 24 hours of the guy thinking he could take it easy for the rest of his days, he died. All his prepping was in vain. He had put his faith in his own preps instead of putting it in God to provide for him. As a born-again believer, you don’t want to be that guy.

4. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET

John was Jesus’ cousin and was older than Jesus by a few months only. Even so, he’d started his ministry work well before Jesus did, and had gathered quite a loyal following by the time Jesus arrived on the scene. As a prophet, John well knew his role as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight”. He baptised people in the River Jordan as a sign of their repentance. He even baptised Jesus.

During one of his baptising sessions, John was asked by various people how they should live their lives as newly baptised penitents. This is what he advised:

“He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise…. Exact no more than that which is appointed you…. And be content with your wages” (Luke 3: 11-14).

This is a good summation of how to live a life free of coveting, to show gratitude to God for his blessings, and to cheerfully and willingly help others in need. Being born-again doesn’t make you exempt from any of these things; in fact, being born-again makes you even more beholden to live a life that’s free of coveting.

5. CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS

The Old Testament tells us that “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, and Jesus tells us that we should “lend without expecting anything in return.” Both of these directives fly in the face of borrowing or lending money through common mechanisms like credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.

It’s quite possible to live without a credit card. I do. I have a “smart card” that acts like a VISA card, but is loaded with my money. If you’re a born-again believer, there’s no reason to have a “dumb card” (that is, a traditional credit card) if the smart card option is available. Non-smart credit cards act as a form of loan, which means they are a form of coveting that enables you to buy more than you need. You don’t need to use them.

It’s also quite possible to live without a mortgage or any other form of loan. I do. I rent and I make do with the money that I earn or is given to me. It’s always enough. It’s extraordinary how God provides exactly the amount I need at any given time, almost to the penny.

As my grandmother used to say: “The Good Lord provides”, and indeed he does. As long as we keep our end of the deal, God will keep his. The only time I ever went short as a born-again believer was many years ago, when I broke a Commandment and didn’t heed God’s advice to do something. I learned my lesson from these mistakes and have never done them again.

We can’t expect to live as we choose, breaking the Commandments at will, and then expect God to keep blessing us. Born-again believers are especially held to task in this regard: We’re like the family’s eldest children who have to set a good example for the younger ones. That’s also Jesus’ role for us.

There’s no need either to lend or to borrow, not for any reason. If we keep up our end of the deal, the Good Lord provides us with more than enough. If you can’t afford to buy a house, rent one. There is no excuse or justification for a born-again believer to be in debt to anyone for any reason. Jesus never was, and we’re to follow the example set by Jesus, not by the world.

6. THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING

The root of coveting – the reason that it’s wrong – is this: When you covet, you’re saying that God is either unable or unwilling to provide for your needs. You’re saying that you know better than God, and that what God is providing for you is insufficient. Coveting is a sign of ingratitude for God’s blessings. It’s a sign of weak faith or even no faith. Instead of saying “I rely on God”, you’re saying “I rely on me”. It’s a shifting from worship of God and his abilities to a worship of you and your abilities. It’s cutting God out of the life equation.

Are you guilty of coveting?

This is the question you need to ask yourself.

Don’t tell me the answer; I don’t want to know. It’s none of my business. You’re the only one who needs to know whether or not you’re guilty of coveting, and if you are, you’re the one who needs to make the decision to stop doing it. That’s the right thing to do. God is patient, but at some point, time is up, so don’t wait too long do to the right thing when you know it is the right thing to do.

Remember that, when they got the call, Jesus’ disciples and followers walked away from everything – homes, spouses, children, jobs – everything. God then provided for their every need as it arose. The spirit of coveting drives us to acquire things that we want rather than need and to be discontented with the blessings that God has already given us. As such, coveting involves major aspects of “the grass is greener on the other side”, but we know from personal experience that it is never greener; it only appears to be greener when viewed from a distance.

If you are guilty of coveting through any of the various ways and means that the devil uses to tempt us, you need to stop doing it. That’s the bottom line. How and when you stop is up to you, but the sooner, the better. You have no idea how much more time you have on Earth, and you don’t want to be standing before God on Judgement Day, knowing you should have stopped doing something but choosing to keep doing it. That is not how you want to be standing before God when you’re time comes.

Again, when they got the call, the disciples left everything. They just got up and left. Jesus did, too, prior to starting his ministry work, and Paul followed suit after he’d converted. These are all excellent examples of lives lived without coveting. These examples are meant to be followed.

7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

  • If you have more than you need or want more than you need, you’re coveting and need to stop doing it.
  • Coveting comes wrapped up as all kinds of temptations, from collecting to investing to prepping, and even to borrowing money to buy a house or car. If you have to borrow money to buy something, you don’t need it. If you continue to want what you can’t afford and can only get through borrowing, you’re coveting.
  • If you keep God’s Commandments and follow Jesus’ example in everything you do, God will provide for your every need. Jesus told us that God knows our needs even before we know them ourselves, and just as he provides for all his creatures on Earth, he gladly provides for us.
  • If you’re grateful for and content with what you have, you will avoid coveting. Be grateful and content. Keep God’s Commandment.

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“Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in my affliction.”

(Psalm 119: 92)

YOUR GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO SAY NO

I hear a lot of people these days claiming that they didn’t have a choice. They did what they did because they “didn’t have a choice”. They did it to keep their job or to travel or because everyday life would be too difficult if they didn’t do it. The fact that they always had the option to make the opposite choice never seems to occur to them. It’s as if they’ve lost their understanding that they have God-given free will, and that their free will is inviolable.

No-one can force you to do something against your free will, and no-one can take your free will away from you during your time on Earth, not even God himself. In fact, your free will is you: it bears the record of everything you’ve done while you’re here, and in large part determines the course of your life now and your eternal reward later.

Your free will is you, and there is never a circumstance during your time on Earth when you can’t exercise it. So if you say “I didn’t have a choice”, what you really mean is that you used your free will to choose something you didn’t fully agree with. But you did have a choice. While you’re here on Earth, you’ll always have a choice.

When I was an atheist, I made a lot of bad choices. I then lived the consequences of those choices, so I had a pretty crappy life. Like many people today, I also claimed “I didn’t have a choice” as a justification for choosing what I knew in my gut was wrong, but which I thought was the best way forward at the time.

For those of you thinking that you don’t have a choice, I’m here to remind you that you do. If you feel you don’t have a choice, it’s either because someone’s lied to you by telling you don’t, or because you’re thinking short-term.

You always have a choice. Your free will is God-given, inviolable, and quality-controlled at the gut level.

Use it wisely.

TREASURES ON EARTH

I have a houseplant named Florence. She’s a poinsettia. My mother gave her to me last Christmas. I’ve moved 6 times since last Christmas, and each time Florence has moved with me. She just had her first birthday on Christmas Day, celebrating in grand style by showing off her brand new red leaves.

Poinsettias are fascinating plants. Many of us buy them at Christmas time and then discard them before Easter, but I can’t kill things that are still alive and breathing. Not even bugs. I let them live until God takes them home. So Florence will be with me for as long as she keeps breathing.

I didn’t know much about poinsettias until I got Florence. As you may or may not know, poinsettias are native to Mexico, so they’re not big fans of the Canadian climate. Florence would die if I planted her outside, even in the summertime. She was born in a pot and she’ll die in a pot.

Plants can teach you many things about life. I’ve moved so often over the past several decades that I’ve never bothered to get any plants. It wasn’t practical for me to have them. The few plants I did get were given to me by my mother, maybe in a subconscious attempt on her part to get me to stay in one place for more than a few months. So when Florence was deposited on my doorstep last Christmas, my first impulse was to give her away. I’m glad I didn’t. Here’s what she’s taught me so far.

Plants have friends. When I first moved out to the country, I rented a furnished house that came with a live potted cactus. It was just a little wee thing that I called Shorty. I set Florence down next to Shorty, and over the next few months, the strangest thing happened: They started growing towards each other. I had set them in front of an east-facing window, but instead of growing towards the window, they grew towards each other until their leaves were touching. At one point, I turned the plants around so that their “backs” were towards each other, but their leaves on that side started doing the same thing. They were friends.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Shorty behind when we moved to where we are now, but that was a life lesson for Florence, I guess. She’ll make other friends someday, and she’ll see Shorty again when she gets to Heaven.

Plants need down-time. Poinsettias are primarily green plants when they are thriving. They only turn red during their down-time, which is the cooler and darker months of the year. The red color of their leaves indicates an absence of chlorophyll. In the cooler darker months, poinsettias shut down most of their chlorophyll production in order to survive as a plant. The lack of chlorophyll results in the brilliant red leaves that are the plant’s calling card. So what we’ve come to associate poinsettias with (brilliant red leaves) is actually a sign of their partial hibernation in survival mode. Poinsettias turn red for much the same reason as trees turn red in the fall.

To get Florence to turn red for her first birthday (December 25), I had to give her her own bedroom and put her to bed at sundown every day, starting in October. She needed total rest and darkness for at least 12 hours out of 24, followed by indirect sunlight only, so I gave her the northeast-facing bedroom. She seems to like it there. I’ve been rewarded for my diligence with a burst of red bracts just in time for Christmas.

Plants do not like to move. They are rooted for a reason. Every time I move Florence, she weeps white liquid and her leaves completely droop. I guess that’s her stress response to rapid changes in lighting, humidity, air pressure, etc. As soon as I set her down someplace that isn’t moving, the weeping stops and her leaves slowly return to their normal position. Florence doesn’t even like a breeze. I set her outside a few times in the spring, on warm days with the lightest of breezes, but she completely drooped then, too. She is decidedly a houseplant.

I was a reluctant plant-mother, but I’ve grown into my role nicely. Poinsettias are a relatively low maintenance plant-child. The only other time I had a plant was when my mother gave me one to put into a hanging pot outside of a house I was renting one summer in downtown Halifax, nearly 10 years ago. I didn’t have a place to hang the plant, so I would set it down on the doorstep each morning and take it into the house each evening (I didn’t want it to get stolen). I called the plant “Flower”, and that was that. Once you name them, they’re yours for life.

Unlike Florence, who is growing upwards, Flower was a spreading plant. It was her nature to spread out. Within a year, she’d outgrown three pots, and by the time I moved her to her final resting place, I had to move her in a wagon on the back of a pick-up truck (lol). I had bought the wagon specifically for her.

Flower’s in Heaven now. Shortly after her first birthday, I planted her in a location that she did not take to, and she died soon afterwards. I guess, like Florence, Flower was a houseplant at heart, too. I know for sure she’s in Heaven and flourishing, and I’ll see her again when I get there.

God surrounds us with living things that we can share our time on Earth with. Each of these things we can have a relationship with and learn from. We can show them good stewardship and treat them as we would want to be treated, if we were them. If God puts them into our hands in some way, he wants us to look after them, so we have to look after them. They’ll look after us, too. Then, when it’s their time to go home, God will take them, but we’ll see them again when we get there.

I have lots of treasures in Heaven. Jesus says that Heaven is where we should be storing our treasures, so that’s where I’m storing mine. Flower’s in Heaven with Pumpkin (my pet cat) and Priscilla (my pet fly), and someday Florence will be there, too, waiting for me. They’ve all shared their life with me, as I’ve shared my life with them, some for a short time, and some for a longer time. In Heaven, we’ll be together forever. That’s the joy of it. And that’s a big part of what draws me home.

GETHSEMANE AT CHRISTMAS

It’s a strange thing to think about Jesus’ death a few weeks before the holiday commemorating his birth, but we don’t always get to choose our thoughts.

Jesus didn’t want to have to suffer in order to do what he knew he had to do. So he asked God if there was some other way to accomplish the same ends. God told him gently “No”. God told him gently “No” three times before Jesus’ resolve finally kicked in. Thank God it did, because then Jesus was unstoppable.

It’s critically important to understand that JESUS DID NOT WANT TO SUFFER. If he had wanted to suffer, it would have been an indication that he was spiritually unwell. People who are spiritually sound do not want to suffer. They may choose to suffer because they know it’s part and parcel of what has to be done, but they don’t rush up to volunteer to suffer with a big grin on their face, waving their arms in the air and yelling “ooh ooh ooh, pick me, pick me, I want to suffer!”, and then proudly displaying an “I suffered for YOU!” sticker on their shirt.

People who self-flagellate or have themselves crucified are not well souls. God doesn’t ask us to voluntarily suffer or to hurt ourselves as a grand gesture in his name, though sometimes suffering is part of the package deal of doing God’s will. In those cases, the suffering is a means to an end, like it was for Jesus, not an end in itself.

We’ll all be in our own Garden of Gethsemane at some point in our lives. When you find yourself there, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t want to suffer. Don’t think that you’re somehow spiritually inadequate because you want to find a way around the suffering in order to get where you need to go. It’s OK not to want to suffer. It’s OK to ask God if there’s some other way to do what has to be done. It’s OK for your whole being – body and soul – to recoil at the prospect of what lies ahead. It’s OK to ask God not once, not twice, but three times or more if there’s some other way around the suffering. God understands. Maybe there will be a way around it for you, or maybe there won’t.

Jesus did not want to suffer. He chose to suffer, but he didn’t want to do it and he hated every second of it. He did it because it was the only way through, not because he wanted to suffer, and not because he saw suffering as an end in itself, like some form of masochistic self-sacrifice.

There are very few things I find more repulsive and aggravating than when people claim that being a Christian means embracing a life of self-sacrifice, self-effacement, and humility. This could not be farther from the Truth. Being a Christian means we’re to follow Jesus’ example of how to live life, and Jesus lived every day to the full – when he was hungry, he ate; when he was tired, he slept; when he was angry, he let loose; when he had a Word to preach, he did it without restraint; when he wanted a drink, he went to the pub; when he wanted some alone-time, he went up the nearest mountain – this is not a man who lived a life of self-sacrifice, self-effacement, or humility. On the contrary – this was a man who was his own person, who made his own decisions, who did not suffer fools gladly, and who hated suffering, because God made us to hate suffering, not embrace it.

Jesus was a healer: He healed people, he didn’t hurt them. He preached and practiced healing, which is the opposite of suffering.

Which is why Jesus’ agreement to suffer the worst kind of death for the sins of others is so monumental.

God is not asking us to suffer for other people. That was Jesus’ job at the end of his ministry, and it’s over and done. Our job is to treat others as we want to be treated and to pray for them. Suffering is sometimes part of the job, but it’s not the job in and of itself.

When our Garden of Gethsemane moment comes (and come it will for each of us), remember how Jesus dealt with it. Remember how he was up-front with God about not wanting to suffer. Remember how he asked if there was some other way around the suffering, and then remember how he accepted that it was God’s will that he suffer for a brief time, and how rock-solid his resolve became after he accepted it. This is our model. This is how we need to respond when the time comes.

But willingly choosing to suffer for the sake of suffering? That is not what Jesus did and that is not what God requires of us. You do not get spiritual brownie points for willingly choosing to suffer when you don’t have to. In fact, you only get the spiritual booby prize – the same prize that people get when they trumpet their charitable acts for others’ approval or pray standing up in public for all to see. As Jesus said, they have their reward.

When you give charity, do it anonymously so that only God knows; when you pray, do it privately, so that only God hears; and when you suffer, do it silently, so that only God sees.

I hope you have the best Christmas of your life.

ON THE MOUNTAIN

We don’t know exactly what Jesus did when he took off by himself for a few days every now and then. Scripture just says that he went up to the mountain to pray, so I guess we should take that at face value. Except I won’t, because I think whatever Jesus did on the mountain when he, according to scripture, went off by himself to pray needs to be talked about. Because we also need to be making our little escape trips every now and then, and what we do up there on our mountain should reflect what Jesus did on his.

Ministry work is oftentimes like performing – exhilarating and draining at the same time. It also puts you constantly in fast-forward mode, so that you’re never really you and never really in the moment. You’re always anticipating, always considering the impact of this or that word, this or that gesture, always aware that the spotlight is on you, exposing you, and that even as some people hang onto your every word, others are lurking in the background waiting for you to mess up. It’s like a tightrope act that requires you to be assiduously careful even while appearing to be carefree and spontaneous. Only there’s no safety net under you in ministry work, and when you fall, you may take others down with you.

It’s no surprise that Jesus needed to get away from the performance pressure every now and then, to realign himself with himself and with God. I think the Jesus who taught in the synagogues was not the same Jesus who taught his disciples privately and also not the same Jesus who spent time with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. These were all different Jesuses. I think the real Jesus is not in scripture and only appeared on the mountain when he was alone with himself and with God.

That is the Jesus that I want to get to know and that I’m getting to know – the Jesus on the mountain. There are flashes of him in scripture, but the real Jesus – the one God knows inside and out – is elusive because he can’t be captured in words. Imagine that – the Word can’t be captured in words! You need to get to know Jesus one-on-one, and only when you’re on your mountain, and only when you’re you.

It’s tempting to want to stay on your mountain, to just go there and stay there. I’m sure there were times when Jesus wanted to stay on his mountain and not go back down for the next performance or the next work shift. Remember that ministry, if done properly, is work. It’s not play. If you approach ministry work as something that should always be enjoyable, you’ll eventually give it up, and likely sooner than later. Jesus was very clear that he was doing his father’s work, not his father’s hobby or his father’s playtime. He was doing God’s work, and work is by definition mostly hard, tedious, and frustrating, even when it’s for God. It’s also done mainly for the reward, not for the work in and of itself.

Very few ministers talk about this, about how tedious and frustrating ministry work can be at times, and how the only way you can get through those times is to focus on your reward. In Jesus’ case, his was a Heavenly reward, and so is ours. Our reward will not be given to us on Earth for doing God’s work. Certainly, God will provide for us, in the same way as companies provide their employees with food, shelter, medical care, and other necessities when they work long shifts in remote locations, but our reward for our labour is in Heaven. Our paycheck is in Heaven. That’s what we’re aiming for and what we’re working for. Whatever God is providing for us now is not our reward. It’s our room and board.

There were times on the mountain when Jesus met with others from Heaven besides God. This was also one of the reasons why he went up to the mountain. He took a few of his disciples with him once to show them what he sometimes did there. The so-called transfiguration wasn’t a one-off event. I believe it happened many times, but only once was it witnessed by the disciples. Moses shone when he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, just like Jesus shone during the transfiguration. The remoteness of the mountain is ideal for meet-ups with Heavenly emissaries.

The different things Jesus might have done during his time on the mountain (and why he went up there in the first place) is something we need to think about because we need to be doing whatever he did if we’re to succeed at our ministry work. We need to take time every now and then (and we’ll know when it’s time to take time) to get back to ourselves as God knows us, not as the world knows us. We need to take time away from the performance exhilaration and the work tedium so that we can again, for a time, be who we are. We must never lose touch of who we are, as it is the true measure of our soul. We need to know where our soul is in relation to where it needs to be if we’re to be fit for Heaven.

So the next time you feel called to go up to the mountain to pray, make sure you go by yourself and make sure you be yourself. It’s a very great privilege and honor to be called exclusively into God’s presence over a period of days, to recoup and regroup as only can be done with God’s help and guidance. And who knows – you might even meet with a surprise guest or two while you’re up there.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance, and give thee peace.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 22 REFLECTION (PROVERBS 26 – ISAIAH 16:14)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 22: AUGUST 13

PROVERBS 26 – ISAIAH 16:14

LOVE ME SOME ISAIAH! You know it’s coming straight from God’s mouth when it feeds you in the way that only God can. That’s why Jesus was so effective in teaching and preaching – God spoke directly through him to the people in real-time. Isaiah was one of the “thus saith the Lord” prophets who heard from God first and then relayed what he heard later, but his words still have much of the same immediacy as Jesus’. You get the sense that they were written down as soon as God spoke them to him. That’s why they’re so fresh even after nearly 3000 years.

  • Compared to yesterday’s proverbs, Solomon really switches gears here in Ecclesiastes and then again in the Song of Solomon. I find Ecclesiastes very approachable and always learn from it, but the song leaves me scratching my head. There’s also a deep sadness that pervades Solomon’s writings. This is particularly evident in Ecclesiastes. I hesitate to call it depression, but it seems that even with all his wealth, power, wisdom and wives, Solomon was not a happy man. Maybe he had too much of everything. And maybe, judging from some of his words, he knew it.
  • I also find it very telling that many of Solomon’s proverbs mention how it is better to be poor with few cares than wealthy with many. He seemed to romanticize material poverty the way most poor people romanticize material wealth. In any case, something ultimately drove him into the arms of countless strange women, to be seduced there by their strange gods. This is not a happy ending. Solomon was renowned in life not for his joy and faith, but for his wealth and wisdom. His legacy is the same to this day. A tribute to Solomon in song is below the read-through schedule.
  • It’s no secret that Isaiah was Jesus’ favourite Olde Tyme prophet. When he came out as the Messiah in his hometown synagogue, Jesus stood up and read a passage from Isaiah as evidence that God’s Kingdom had come. For his trouble, he was immediately run out of town. We can see even from the few chapters we’ve read of Isaiah today that Jesus is all over it, as are descriptions of the Kingdom as a spiritual realm. Isaiah more than any other prophet made it very clear that Zion was a spiritual safe haven, not a geopolitical one. Jesus’ famous phrase “my kingdom is not of this world” is in large part premised on the writings of Isaiah.
  • Jesus learned from God directly what it meant to be the Messiah and what he had to do and accomplish and endure as the Messiah, but he also learned at the feet of Isaiah. Now we’re sitting there learning, too.
  • I find the passage about what it means to live in Zion (another name for God’s Kingdom on Earth) particularly inspiring:

16 And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left… like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.

12 And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

Isaiah 11:16-12

  • Jesus quoted and paraphrased Isaiah throughout the Gospels. For instance, Matthew 24, which is about the time of tribulation and judgement, includes verses from Isaiah 13, some word for word. We can know which of the prophets most heavily influenced Jesus by how often he quotes them, and Isaiah wins that prize hands down. I’m so looking forward to the next few days of Isaiah readings!

What are your impressions of today’s scripture? Does the Song of Solomon leave you scratching your head, or does it make sense to you? And what jumped out at you in Isaiah? For me, every time Isaiah mentions the remnant, I see him waving to me. We born-agains are the prophesied remnant and we live in spiritual Zion, which is God’s Kingdom on Earth. Jesus made that very clear, and so does Isaiah.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 13 REFLECTION (1 KINGS 12 – 2 KINGS 13:25)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 13: AUGUST 4

1 KINGS 12 – 2 KINGS 13:25

The back-sliding of Israel and Judah is vividly on display in today’s reading. I haven’t done a head count, but I’m pretty sure if I compared the number of kings who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” with those who “did right in the sight of the Lord”, there would be more doing evil than doing right. What happened to the children of Israel to make them turn from God and embrace demons?

  • A bit of a theme is developing of women leading men astray. We saw this in earlier readings all the way back to Adam and Eve, but it’s here again, most prominently with Jezebel leading Ahab astray. What is it with so many strong and beautiful women that they turn from God to follow demons, and what is with men that they are so easily swayed by these women? Is it just their beauty, or is there something else involved? I ask this as a woman. I sincerely ask this as a woman. I thought the children of Israel had set up a patriarchal social order? I thought women were considered inferior to men and incapable of ruling? And yet time and time again in scripture we see them ruling over their husband-kings, and not for the better.
  • Always a joy to read about Elijah and Elisha! They were both so matter-of-fact about slaughtering the demon-channeling prophets and getting ‘er done all in a day’s work. We have baalim worshipers today that bend the knee to Baal, only they go by the name of BLM supporters. (BLM = BaaLiM.) Steer clear of that temptation wrapped up as an alleged social justice virtue. God will deal with it and all those who follow it, after he gives them due time to repent. Nonetheless, it’s yet another clear indication of how far we’ve fallen as “former Christian” nations and how blind people are nowadays to the devil’s work.
  • Lots of miracles in this reading, especially by Elijah. Love how he made fun of the Baal prophets (the only way to deal with them) when Baal was M.I.A. no matter how much they cried out and cut themselves to get his attention. And how Elijah drowned the altar in water to make it impossible for any kind of natural fire to take hold. It was like Elijah saying to the Baal prophets: “See? I give you a head start and you still lose, and then I make it impossible for myself, but I still win.” He rubs their noses in their failure, and then he slaughters them. That’s how examples were made in those days. And it worked, because the people (other than the Baal prophets) who witnessed this miracle repented and acknowledged that God was Lord.
  • The Spirit of God stayed strong in the prophets even when most of God’s people strayed from him. God says he’ll never leave or betray his children; it’s his children who leave and betray him, and he lets them go. Those who choose to remain God makes stronger and stronger with his Spirit. It’s like they get the portion of his Spirit that the others rejected.
  • The scripture in this reading mentions several times that the same material is also presented in Chronicles, which we’ll start to read tomorrow. Chronicles goes into more detail about those who “did right in the sight of the Lord”, including, of course, David. (yay!  :D) The repetition helps in both the teaching and learning processes, and the greater detail fleshes out what we already know about these kings. Not just today’s reading but many sections throughout the OT make reference to and reflect other sections in the OT, and the NT does the same. In fact, much of the NT doesn’t make much sense without at least a passing acquaintance (such as what we’re doing now) with the OT. How many prophecies about Jesus have you found so far in the readings? Always a little jolt of pleasure to come across those!
  • Remember that, for centuries, people were not only discouraged but prevented from reading the OT by the same organization that today considers itself to be the “one true church”. The so-called dark ages was a concerted effort on the part of the papacy to keep people literally in the dark about the Bible by keeping them illiterate, so that the only things they learned about Jesus and God were from the papacy. Reading through the OT, we can see why the papacy didn’t want their people to read the OT – because many of the things that the papacy did and Roman Catholics were taught to do are in direct violation of what God told his people to do. You’ll see more of these direct violations in upcoming readings.

Hold your Bible tight and cherish every word! We are greatly privileged to live in an age and a nation where we can openly read and discuss God’s Word, but this privilege will likely be revoked in the years to come. Some people bury money and gold; some people hoard food and water (and toilet paper); and yet others stash away seeds. But we, as born-again believers, need to prepare for a day when Bibles will be outlawed. If you prep for nothing else, prep for that.

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The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF is directly below: