A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU?

At some point, you have to decide whether you want to walk with Jesus or walk with the world. Jesus walked nearly everywhere he went during his ministry years, and nearly every step he took, he was followed by his disciples and other assorted hangers-on. Crowds pressed in on him from every side wherever he preached, but few people actually made the commitment to walk with him day in and day out. Some walked with him for a little while and then fell away. Some walked with him for a little longer before falling away. Very, very few made it all the way to his resurrection and beyond.

Following Jesus is not a part-time leisure activity. It’s a full-time commitment. When I called the 40-day Bible read-through back in July, a lot of people told me they intended to do it, but I’m not sure how many actually did. It only involved an hour or two a day for less than six weeks, and even that was too much for some.

As paradoxical as it sounds, most Christians haven’t made the commitment yet to follow Jesus. They’ve made a conditional commitment (IF I have time, IF I’m not too busy, IF I can find someone to look after the kids, etc.), but they haven’t made the kind of full-time, unconditional, no-holds-barred, life-long commitment that’s required if you’re going to make it all the way to the end.

You won’t win a marathon race if your only training is running for the bus. Yet most Christians think they’ve got a guaranteed ticket to Heaven just for showing up at church. They think that’s the extent of what it means to be a Christian, because that’s what they see other Christians do. They follow the worldly herd instead of following Jesus.

We know, from Jesus, that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. You don’t follow Jesus because it’s a law or you feel obligated to; you follow Jesus because you need to, just like you take a day of rest because you need one. Being a Christian isn’t an obligation; it’s a need, because it’s the only way you’re going to get home. Jesus says that no-one comes to the Father except through him.

The world is the realm of tests and temptations. When you spend all of your time and energy catering to worldly obligations and chasing worldly temptations, you show where your heart is. We’re expected to keep earning our daily bread even as we do ministry work, but our priority should always be the Kingdom. If earning our daily bread interferes with our work for the Kingdom, we need to find another way to make money. Jesus completely gave up his carpentry business and his disciples also quit their jobs, but Paul made tents so that he wouldn’t be dependent on hand-outs. He quit his day job, but he kept doing manual labour so as not to be a burden to anyone. Even so, his tent-making never interfered with his ministry work.

God doesn’t command you to make a commitment to him or to Jesus. These are free-will choices that you make of your own volition. But once you make the commitment, you need to clear out of your life everything that may interfere with it, and that includes relationships. The more you give to God and Jesus, the more you get in return. The less you give, the less you get.

This is very much an “I set before you life and death; choose life” scenario. If you’re born-again, following Jesus is not something you do on the side: It’s your life. Anything that interferes with that has to go.

One of the reasons why Jesus started his ministry work with a 40-day fast in the wilderness was to get rid of all the worldly obligations and habits he’d accumulated. He did a total life reset. He went into the desert Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph, and came out of the desert Jesus the Christ, son of God.

As Paul says, we only have one life, one shot at getting it right, and then comes the judgement. If you think you need to do a reset to become who you need to be to follow Jesus, then now’s the time. You might not get time later if the thief comes already tonight.

Even if you’ve made the commitment to follow Jesus, it’s still a good idea to take stock of how things are going in your life, to see whether you’re still putting God first in everything or if something (or someone) else is taking his place. It’s good to take stock every now and then. It’s like spiritual house-cleaning or a mini-reset. Jesus did little mini-resets during his ministry years, going off by himself to the mountain to pray. If even Jesus needed to step back from the world occasionally to refocus and renew his commitment, how much more we need to do those things.

I hope you take some time today to either make a commitment to follow Jesus or to renew your commitment. God will help you with that, and bless your efforts.

ARE YOU WORTHY OF BEING A CHRISTIAN?

Some verses in scripture tend to jump out at you more than others. For me, one of those verses is that you’re not worthy of following Jesus unless you hate your closest family members and friends. What on earth is that supposed to mean? Doesn’t it fly in the face of honoring our parents and loving our neighbours and enemies?

On the surface, yes, the messages seem to contradict, but let’s dig a little deeper, since this is important. I don’t think any of us want to be considered unworthy to be Christians, any more than we want to hate people just because they don’t believe in God.

In Deuteronomy 13:6-11, Moses warns us that if a close family member or friend tries to privately lure us away from serving God, we need to publicly out them and then stone them to death. In Matthew 10:34-37, Mark 10:29, Luke 12:52-53, Luke 14:26-27, and Luke 18:29-30, Jesus gives us a similar warning, but stops short of telling us to kill the offenders. What’s implied is that we should leave these people in our rear-view mirror and not look back.

It’s not advisable to live or hang out with unbelievers. To do so means that you love them more than you love God. This makes you unworthy to be a follower of Jesus, since loving and serving God should be your one and only priority, and habitually spending time with an unbeliever negates that. Just as you can’t serve God and mammon, you can’t value God while at the same time valuing those who hate him or don’t even believe he exists.

If you say, “Well, I can love and serve God and still hang out with unbelievers”, you’re fooling yourself and/or are a hypocrite. Hanging out with unbelievers is a form of spiritual adultery. Jesus ate and drank with sinners, yes, but he didn’t live with them or habitually hang out with them. After he started his ministry work, he didn’t even spend time with his family. Did he still love them? Of course he did, but they didn’t believe he was the Messiah, so spiritually they were his enemies. He would have had to compromise who he was in order to be around them, and he chose not to do that.

He CHOSE not to do that.

It’s a choice we need to make, to put our love for God ahead of every other love, including love for our children. These are tests. Most people fail monumentally, which is why Jesus and Paul say it’s better not to marry and have a family. Our worst enemies truly are those who are under our own roof and/or are closest to us in blood, even if to all the world they seem like nice people.

I’m not advocating stoning your mother to death for trying to get you to be “less religious”. Stoning is Old Testament; we don’t do that anymore. But we still need to be aware that we can’t be around unbelievers on a regular basis, if at all. If you’re saying “But.. but… but…”, maybe you aren’t worthy to be a follower of Jesus. This is a hard teaching, but it is what it is. Jesus can’t be any clearer, and I’m just telling you what he’s saying. It’s a teaching that’s very easy to skip over if you don’t agree with it, but it cuts to the core of who we are as believers.

It OT times, legalism meant rigorously abiding by laws and statutes. These weren’t a choice; they had to be abided by. If you broke the laws or statutes, you were severely punished. This is how people were kept in line.

For NT born-again believers, it’s all about free-will choice. No-one is stoning you to death for committing adultery, but boy oh boy, will you suffer for it anyway. In some cases, you’ll wish you were dead, the punishment can be so debilitating.

So if you, as a believer, choose to put an unbeliever ahead of God in your life, you won’t be attacked by a mob and stoned to death, but you might lose your job or your home or your health, and if you still don’t take the hint, you might even lose eternity in Paradise. The punishments are just as severe for NT believers who sin as they were for OT believers who sinned; the only difference is how the punishment is delivered.

These are sobering verses. We can skip over them and pretend they don’t apply to us, or we can take a good hard look at our relationships to see if they’re making us unworthy of being a follower of Jesus. This may involve breaking lifelong ties with people, but the alternative is losing your place in Paradise.

You can still love someone and pray for them without having to spend time with them. Jesus says to love and pray for and bless our enemies, and unbelievers are our enemies. That’s just what they are. And as our enemies, we can pray for them, we can bless them, we can still love them, but at a distance.

Our love for God and our service to him should be all-encompassing, should leave room for no-one else in our life. Jesus lived among his disciples, but he didn’t give himself to them the way he gave himself to God; he wasn’t anywhere near as close to them as he was to God. And these were his hand-picked, God-approved followers.

In the end, it’s better to live alone than to live with those who’ll take your attention away from God. If you’re living or hanging out with unbelievers, you’re at risk of losing your salvation.

Ultimately, you need to choose: God, or the world; believing and abiding by scripture, or skipping past the verses that you don’t agree with.

You can’t choose both God and the world and still be worthy of Jesus. You’re only worthy if you choose God and God only.

That’s what God’s Word says.

What do YOU say?

THE CHRISTIAN PREPPER’S LIST

Bible prophecy-related predictions have exploded over the past year. Christians are panicking, believing we’ve entered the age of the mark of the beast. They point to places in the world where people are being prevented from participating in society – that is, from buying, selling, working, traveling, etc. – unless they consent to taking certain injections and showing proof they’ve taken them. Surely this indicates that the mark has arrived?

Whether the mark of the beast is here or not shouldn’t matter to us, because it doesn’t change our relationship with God and it doesn’t change how we follow Jesus. I know it’s fashionable to live in a constant state of panic these days if you’re a Christian, but when Jesus says always to be prepared, nowhere in that directive does he say to panic. Being prepared prevents us from panicking because, well, we’re prepared. We don’t have to worry. We’re ready for whatever the world throws at us because we’ve prepped in the only way that Christians should be prepping.

Here’s our preps list:

  1. Get as close as you can get to God.
  2. Get as close as you can get to Jesus.
  3. Stay immersed in God’s Word. Open your Bible EVERY DAY and read it.
  4. Keep the Commandments.
  5. Do God’s will.
  6. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  7. Love your enemies.

Note that it only involves “seeking… first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness”, because scripture tells us that if we put God first, everything else will be added to us. That means God will provide everything we need (food, water, shelter, transport, protection, good health, etc.).

So whether you’re on the run as an outlaw (as Jesus warned we’d be) or still living where you’ve been for the past while, your preps list doesn’t change. You get close and stay close to God and Jesus, you read your Bible every day, you keep the Commandments and do God’s will, you treat others well, and you love and pray for your enemies. None of that changes, whether you’re in the bosom of society or cast out of it.

Jesus says we should always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. He means ready to leave wherever we’re living, but he also means ready to leave this Earth by dying. Even so, whether we’re leaving town or leaving our body, the preps list doesn’t change. We’ll always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if we’re close to God and Jesus, reading the Bible every day, keeping the Commandments, doing God’s will, and being kind to people (including and especially the ones who aren’t kind to us). If we do all those things, we’ll be equally well-prepared to leave town or to leave this plane of existence. No panicking required.

So the next time someone tries to get you riled up about the end times or to sell you more guns and toilet paper, tell them you’re fine. You’re ready for whatever the world might throw at you, because you’re prepping the way Jesus says to prep, and that’s all you need.

THE POURING OUT OF GOD’S SPIRIT

Thousands of years ago, God promised his people that he would one day pour out his Spirit over them. He has since kept his promise. God has been with his people through his Spirit ever since the time of Jesus.

Jesus is with us, too – both God and Jesus are with us, through God’s Spirit.

That is the meaning of “God with us” – not that God took on human form and walked among us, but that he is with us through his Spirit.

Along with the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit, however, we’re also now dealing with a lot of other things being dumped on us. Those things are not from God, are not his Spirit, and are not holy. They go by the name of false prophecy.

Scripture says that where evil abounds, grace that much more abounds. By God’s Spirit, we can overcome evil that comes to us in the form of false prophecy, but only if we recognize it as such.

There is a big push in many Christian communities to “prepare”. Unfortunately, what’s being pushed as preps isn’t spiritual oil in your spiritual lamp, but food, ammo, and guns. At the same time, we’re constantly being bombarded with spiritual fear porn about the end of days, the tribulation, the rapture, and the mark of the beast.

I would be the last person on Earth to claim that we’re living in “normal” times. We’re clearly not. But even if the beast, the dragon, the false prophet and Satan all stood in front of us waving their pitch forks, our response to them should not change. Regardless of the age we’re in, as followers of Jesus and recipients of God’s promise to his people, our response to the world should not change. We are still required to keep the Commandments, still required to treat others as we want to be treated, and still required to love our enemies.

When Jesus told us to watch, he didn’t mean that we should only be watching for signs of evil. That is a position of fear, and Jesus did not teach us to live in fear. He meant that we should watch in order to be aware of what’s going on around us, to know the signs of the times, and always to be ready to leave – that is, to flee or to die – at a moment’s notice.

We are spiritual outlaws from the world. The Spirit that is in us is not the spirit that is in the world. This makes us enemies of the world. We live among enemies. The prepping we need to do, as Christians, is not material prepping – it’s spiritual prepping. If you’re being advised by a Christian to prep materially, you’re dealing with a false prophet. Jesus never prepped materially or told his followers to prep materially, beyond telling them to get a weapon as a deterrent,

How do you prep spiritually so that there’s enough oil in your lamp when you need it?

Read God’s Word every day. Read it and reread it until God’s Word becomes your words.

Choose to forgive. When you have the option to hold a grudge or let it go, let it go. Always choose to forgive.

Remember that Jesus and God are with you, through God’s Spirit, so spend time with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Let them guide you in everything you do.

Practice what you preach. Jesus says that those who hear the Word of God and then do it are like people who build their house on a rock, while those who hear the Word of God and don’t do it are like people who build their house on quicksand. The metaphor is clear enough. Make sure you not only hear, but do. The doing is more important than the hearing.

God’s Spirit has been poured over you, if you’re genuinely born-again. The measure you receive is up to God, but he bases the measurement on how much you can handle. Show him you can handle as much as he’s willing to give you, and then go for double that. The more you get, the more will expected of you, but the more you get, the more joy you’ll have, and the closer you’ll get to home.

FOCUS ON GOD

The book of Job tells the story of a man who had it all, lost it all, and then got it back in spades.

The thing about Job is that he didn’t lose everything through any fault of his own. He lost it because God made a bet with Satan.

Now, I would not be one to bet against God expecting to win. No-one beats God. Not at anything. You would think Satan would have known that, but maybe when he lost his holiness and free will, he also lost the capacity to know you can’t beat God. Or maybe he just wanted to see Job suffer. In any case, Satan was permitted by God first to take away Job’s wealth and kill most of his family, and then to take away Job’s health. Poor Job was left penniless, childless, and sitting in a pile of ashes scraping pus and scabs off his sores with a piece of broken pottery. And God permitted this to happen.

When God allows evil to attack us, it’s not always because we’ve had it coming. Most of the time, yes, we have it coming, but sometimes it’s more like Job. Certainly Jesus never earned any evil attacks, and yet he had plenty of them when he was in his earthly body. God permitted these attacks as a way ultimately to bring Jesus up higher.

God is always in control. If he permits evil to come into your life, it’s either a punishment or it’s a test that, if you pass, will bring you up higher in the Kingdom. Sometimes God permits Satan to bet against you because God’s going to use the situation to your benefit.

So the point of the book of Job isn’t why God permits evil, but why our focus isn’t more on God. When Job finally acknowledges God’s vast superiority in every regard – that is, when Job humbles himself before God – he not only gets back everything he’d lost, but God adds to it. Job comes up higher.

Our time here on Earth is a series of tests. It can also be a time of punishment, if we have it coming. But regardless of whether we’re dealing with tests or punishment, our focus shouldn’t be on Satan or on praying away the evil. Our focus should always be on God, knowing he and he alone is in control.

No matter the situation, whether good or evil, your focus should be on God. No-one but God can get you through whatever it is you’re facing. When evil attacks you, don’t focus on the evil; focus on God. When Stephen was confronted by the enraged mob just before he was stoned to death, he looked past them and saw God and Jesus. He focused on God and so was able to die with blessings rather than curses on his lips. He didn’t focus on the evil that was surrounding him, he focused on God.

If you spend all your energy trying to pray the evil away, you won’t make it. It’s way stronger than you. You need to focus on God. Even if all you see around you is evil a mile deep, focus on God. That’s how you’ll get through what’s coming.

CHRISTIANS OF CONVENIENCE: THE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TRAP

There’s a horrifying new trend developing, where people pretend to be Christians in order to claim a religious exemption from getting the shot.

When I say “horrifying”, I mean for the people doing it. Pretending to be followers of Jesus and making a mockery of God and his Messiah will not end well for them. Sitting in a pew for a wedding or a funeral is one thing; pretending you’re a believer (false swearing) and signing a contract to that effect is quite another.

In fact, it’s a temptation from the devil. It has the fingerprints of Satan all over it. In other words, it’s a spiritual trap. The religious exemption option is being offered to ensnare people, not to help them. And many are falling for it, thinking it’s a way out of their predicament.

When you fall for a temptation, you ultimately suffer. There may be a time initially when you think you’ve gotten away with something, but that ends soon enough. And if you haven’t acknowledged the error of your ways before it does end, the fall-out and punishment will be severe.

Remember the parable about the person who was at the wedding feast without the proper clothing? Remember what happened to that person?

I am not at all a fan of coerced injections, but there are other ways around a mandate besides cheapening Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s great gift of grace. It’s a form of spiritual fraud, to claim to believe in order to gain from it.

Even worse, there are now pastors selling (by ‘donation’) religious exemption letters online, no questions asked.

Christians of convenience are not entirely a new trend. For hundreds of years, when Christianity was the mainstream belief system, many people pretended to be Christians in order to gain from it politically or socially. This kind of fraud is particularly rife today within the refugee community, with people pretending to be Christians and claiming they’re in danger of persecution if they return to their home country. Christian organizations in the receiving countries (including the US and Canada) are vouching for these faux-Christians, justifying their lie by calling it a humanitarian gesture. The churches are also, of course, making money from the practice, which I suspect is their main motivation for doing it in the first place.

Having the option to claim a religious exemption for a mandatory shot is a God-send to those who are genuine believers, but a satanic trap to those who aren’t. God permits his own people to bend the truth occasionally (think of how David pretended to be insane so that his enemies wouldn’t see him as a threat), but unbelievers pretending to be believers do not fall into that category.

My prayer is that those who want to avoid getting the injection find another way around it than to pretend to follow Jesus. But if they do choose that path, I pray that the course of their lives leads them to repentance and conversion, and that they actually do end up becoming Christians.

OF GOD’S SEAL AND THE MARK OF THE BEAST

There are two kinds of marks mentioned in the Bible – one is a mark designating God’s ownership and protection, and the other is a mark designating Satan’s.

A mark is a tattoo. Scripture says that God forbids his people from getting them, in the same way he forbids his people from worshiping demons. The only one who should be worshiped by God’s people is God, just as the only mark on God’s people should be God’s.

You don’t schedule an appointment to get God’s mark. God gives it to you at a time of his choosing. The books of Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelation are clear about that. God’s mark is invisible in the earthly realm, but highly visible in the spiritual one.

You’re not born with a spiritual mark. You’re born with spiritual chains. You are born into satanic slavery but reborn into godly freedom, courtesy of God’s grace.

The so-called mark of the beast has been getting a lot of press lately, even with unbelievers. Lots of chatter over whether or not the shots or the passports are in actuality the mark of the beast, or at least its precursor. I’m not a fan of either the shots or the passports, but I don’t see them as the mark of the beast. We know from scripture that those who get that mark lose their shot at Heaven. There is no more hope for them. So when that mark is taken, the age of Mercy has to have ended.

I don’t believe we’re there yet. I believe we’re still in the age of Mercy. I believe there is still time for a few last stragglers to turn back to God and to receive the mark of his seal. There’s not much time, but there’s some. We know from scripture that the age of Judgement begins with world-wide cataclysms. These (thank God) have not yet begun. When they do, we’ll know that God’s Judgement has started.

At that point, anyone who has not be sealed by God and received his mark will belong to Satan. There is no way out of it. So the mark of the beast will just be a formalization of what already, at that time, will have been established. It will be an outward sign of a spiritual reality. Those who take the mark in order to buy and sell will take it as a matter of course, as something that self-evidently needs to be done. They will not have to be coerced or mandated to do it. The only ones who will refuse to take it will be God’s people.

Remember that during the time of the beast system, all religion will be outlawed except for Satan worship. It won’t be called Satan worship (any more than the beast system will be called the beast system), but that’s what it will be. There will also be a world government that is not just operating behind the scenes, like the current deep state. It will openly be a world government. Neither of these things have come to fruition yet, so the shots and passports currently being mandated cannot be the mark of the beast. They may be a dry run and a softening up for that time, but the lack of world-wide cataclysms, global government and global Satan worship indicates they are not the prophesied mark.

The mark of God and the mark of Satan will definitively and for all time separate humanity into two distinct groups. The larger one by far will have Satan’s mark. In fact, most souls will have Satan’s mark. Very few will have God’s mark, and even of those few, some will lose it during the tribulation.

Jesus tells us to pray not to come to the time of universal testing, to be taken home before it starts. He doesn’t say to pray to stop it, but to pray not to have to go through it. If you haven’t yet added that petition to your daily prayers, it might be a good idea to do so. In fact, it might be a good idea to begin and end your daily prayers with it.

At the same time, pray to be found worthy to receive God’s mark, and pray to remain worthy to your dying breath. Because without God’s seal of approval, you’re not going home.

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 40 REFLECTION (THE BOOK OF REVELATION)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 40: AUGUST 31

REVELATION

The book of Revelation is by far the most misquoted and misapplied book in all scripture. Most people even get its name wrong, calling it “Revelations” instead of “Revelation”. Even so, this misquoted, misapplied and mistitled book is still the most popular one in the Bible and the one that most Christians are familiar with. It’s even a gateway, for some, to scripture. So what is its draw? Why has it fascinated so many people – including non-Christians – for nearly 2000 years?

Unlike the other books we’ve breezed through over the past 40 days, Revelation is entirely a vision. And like visions, it’s less concerned with reality and more concerned with getting the details of the vision right. Not surprising, John’s vision is highly visual (which is not always the case with visions; mine mostly appear in written words and some people only hear sounds or see numbers), which can be difficult to convey in words. The vision is also highly symbolic, with, for instance, animals doing stand-ins for other beings, such as a lamb with slaughter wounds standing in for Jesus.

The vision is from God, delivered to Jesus, who then delivers it to his angel to deliver to John, who finally delivers it to us. That’s a long game of telephone tag there, namely: God -> Jesus -> angel -> John -> us. Whether anything got lost or garbled in translation, particularly in the final hand-off from John to us, remains to be seen. We know Jesus got everything right and the angel got everything right, and John was faithful in the telling, but who knows what’s been removed and/or added since it was first written down and handed over for publication.

John didn’t include the warning at the end of the book just to increase his word count. He knew his prophecy would likely be messed with. His inclusion of a warning was his signal to us to read the prophecy with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, not relying solely on our own eyes and our own limited understanding. If anything’s been removed, God will fill us in, and if anything’s been added, God will likewise let us know.

The book can roughly be divided into three major sections – the end of the Age of Mercy, the Age of Tribulation and Judgement, and visions of Heaven. Within those three sections there are further divisions which can be unpacked like Russian dolls, each one showing a scene that opens to another scene.

I’m not interested, in this reflection, in giving an interpretation of Revelation. It would take a whole book to do so. I’m more interested in relaying what jumped out at me during today’s reading and asking you what jumped out at you, since those things are what God wants us to focus on and learn from. We can then apply what we’ve learned to the situations we’ll be encountering in the weeks and months to come.

Visions are highly subjective. Most of the time, even the people receiving the visions have no idea what they mean. That’s why Daniel was called upon to interpret the visions of Nebuchadnezzar, as the king had no clue what all the images he saw meant. Daniel had no clue either; he had to ask God in prayer. God was the one interpreting the vision for Daniel, who then relayed God’s interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar. Sometimes what is seen and told in a vision is then told to be sealed for revelation at another time.

The interpretations themselves can also be highly subjective. In Revelation, John offers us very little by way of interpretation. He simply relays what he sees and hears, though occasionally the angels edify a scene for him. Recall that Daniel’s and Ezekiel’s visions were also interpreted by angels who got their intel directly from God.

Everyone loves a good mystery! Maybe that’s a big part of the ongoing fascination with the book of Revelation. For nearly 2000 years, we’ve been trying to piece together world events to fit the scenes mentioned in the prophecy, but what we’ve ended up with so far is a jigsaw puzzle with wrong pieces jammed together, forcing a fit. Square pegs into round holes. Misapplied and misinterpreted prophecy.

We know from scripture that God is the only one who knows the time of the end. Jesus doesn’t know and his angels don’t know. Only God knows. So whatever time frames are given in Revelation are cloaked. Which means, for example, the seven-year time span that is popularly applied to the Tribulation period is not actually seven years. As we just read in one of the letters a few days ago – a thousand years is to God a day, and a day a thousand years. We need to stop applying literal interpretations to symbolic visions. We need to let God read scripture to us, through his Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our own eyes or those of false and blind prophets.

When Daniel wanted to interpret a dream or vision, whether his own or someone else’s, he went to God in prayer and asked him to help him understand.

We are to do the same.

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So where does that leave us today? What jumped out at you during this final reading of our 40-day Bible marathon?

Here’s what jumped out at me:

  • During the Age of Mercy, there is still hope for all of the seven mentioned city-sites of God’s church. Even if they have strayed from the Gospel teachings, there is still hope for them if they receive correction in the spirit it was intended, and then apply the correction. Even Laodicea, the lukewarm city-site that God threatens to spew out of his mouth, is given fair warning and so still has hope if it repents and corrects its ways. While we are yet in the Age of Mercy, there is hope, including for those who’ve strayed far from God.
  • But remember that this is only for people who are in the church. The hope is for those who are in the church. Those who are outside the church do not have a share in the hope.
  • There are a lot of seals in Revelation. There are the seven seals that are on the book that only Jesus (the slaughtered lamb) can open; there are the seals that are placed on the foreheads of God’s people; and there’s the seal on Satan when he is bound in chains for a thousand years. All of these are God’s seals. Then there’s the mark of the beast, which is not God’s seal. It is the opposite of God’s seal, so that if you receive it, you just got yourself a one-way ticket to the lake of fire. The mark is also a form of seal. That is one seal you never want anywhere near you.
  • After the Age of Mercy, there is no more repentance, and if no more repentance, no more conversions and rebirths, and if no more rebirths, no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, and if no more admittance into God’s Kingdom, no Heaven as a reward. After the sealing of God’s people, when the trumpets start to sound and literally all hell breaks loose on Earth, there is no more repentance. No matter what God throws at people to get them to repent, they continue to curse him. There can be no conversions without repentance.
  • The Age of Mercy is the time of repentance; when that ends and the time of Tribulation and Judgement begins, anyone who hasn’t accepted God’s Way as their way will be lost for all eternity in the lake of fire. This is a hard teaching. Other belief systems promise other options after death, like reincarnation or purgatory or a golden age even for unrepentant sinners. Such rosy options are perhaps one of the main reasons why people choose to embrace and cling to these belief systems rather than to God’s Truth. They want to live their lives however they want to live them, and then get a spiritual participation trophy at the end. God’s Truth is a shining beacon to those who choose and hold to God’s Way, but condemnation to those who don’t.
  • When I first read the book of Revelation the day after I was reborn, God showed me that the Whore of Babylon was the papacy, otherwise known as the spiritual Roman Empire. I remember staring in disbelief at the page when God revealed that to me, but nothing I have seen or read since has contradicted the revelation, including today’s reading. The seat of the Whore is a city that sits on seven hills. Rome (and by extension the Vatican) is the only ‘great’ city that fits that bill. The Babylonian aspect is the Babylonian (heathen) demon gods that have their home in what eventually became Catholicism, and who teamed up with the Roman and other demon gods to form an immensely powerful spiritual stronghold that has held sway over large parts of the world, mainly through ungodly alliances.
  • We cannot possibly look at Vatican City and see it as representative of Jesus’ teachings. It is the dead opposite of Jesus’ teachings (the demon-worshiping obelisk at the center of St. Peter’s Square, transported straight from the heart of heathen lands, is kind of a dead giveaway). Despite the “holy” that was added to the Roman Empire in the fourth century AD when it allegedly became Christian, Jesus and God have never been in that spiritual building. It was and is a demon stronghold.
  • Steer clear of Catholicism. It is not the “one true church”, as it claims. It is a demon stronghold that will ultimately crash and burn, along with all the other demon strongholds. It is already – THANK GOD — crashing and burning.
  • Lots of press over the past year about the mark of the beast, particularly, more recently, about the buying and selling aspect. I’m guessing it’s driven a lot of traffic to online versions of the Bible. It would be interesting to see how big a spike there is for Google searches of “mark of the beast”. Let’s pray that many who do those searches read farther and eventually embrace God’s Truth.
  • I’m not going to say anything else about the mark of the beast here today (since it didn’t particularly jump out at me), other than to mention that you get the mark by default if you don’t have God’s seal. You get one or the other – either God’s seal or the beast’s. Every human soul is marked. God claims his first, and the devil gets all the rest. Those who take the mark of the beast take it because they don’t have God’s seal. They have no problem with taking the mark of the beast. To them, it’s self-evident that it should be taken. Note that God’s people can’t be tricked into taking it, so don’t be afraid you’ll take it by mistake. The mark of the beast will very much be labeled as such.
  • Pray with all your heart and soul that God finds you worthy to receive his mark. In answer to your prayer, God will show you what you need to do either to receive it or to hold it, if it’s already been received. He will show you, just like his church at the various city-sites was shown what to do. Always pray to God to show you his Way. And when he shows you, do it.
  • In James’ letter yesterday, we read that God doesn’t tempt us. The devil does. God does, however, pour out his wrath on us, as we see in the pouring out of the seven plague vials. These come from Heaven and are distributed by God’s holy angels. If they come from Heaven, they originate as holy (no unholy thing exists in Heaven), which means they cause an unholy reaction only in the unholy, like in vampire movies where holy water burns the vampires as if it’s acid. So the plagues will only detrimentally affect the unholy, not the holy, as God’s wrath is holy, not unholy, and is intended to punish the unholy. Remember that.
  • John’s vision of Heaven reflects many of the earlier prophets’ visions of Heaven. In fact, there are numerous elements throughout Revelation that appear in earlier visions in the OT, like the four horses and the trees along the river. God has shown me my little piece of Heaven as well, which I’ve mentioned in this blog on occasion. He didn’t show me symbolically, as it’s shown in Revelation, but the way it really is. No interpretation required. John’s highly symbolic vision reflects a perfected Garden of Eden that has become an eternal stronghold known as New Jerusalem. The sprawling garden at the beginning of the Bible has been transformed into a gated community at the end of the Bible, where eating from the tree of life, far from being forbidden, is free to everyone who lives there. This is the Paradise we’re all aiming for.
  • The book of Revelation ends with a warning not to add to or take away from the prophecy. We know that those who hate God don’t fear his warnings, so we can only assume that some changes were made to the prophecy. Make sure, when you teach the book of Revelation to others, that you don’t add to or take away from John’s vision. False interpretation is a form of adding to and taking away, especially if the interpretation is done to further an agenda. Pray not to do that.  You want your name to remain in the Book of Life, not to be blotted out of it.

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And now, congratulations are finally in order! If, as of today, you’ve read all the way through the Bible for the first time, GOD BLESS YOU! And if you’ve read the whole Bible, before but joined in the read-through because you felt called to do it, GOD BLESS YOU, TOO! Whether it’s your first read-through of the Bible or your hundredth, reading the Good Book within a relatively short time-frame gives you a better grasp of where we were as God’s people, where we are now, and where we need to go. We need to see that big picture every now and then. It gives us context and a sense that we are a continuation of what came before us, the fruit of many people’s labours, just as someday others will hopefully be the fruit of ours.

This is my prayer for all of you who joined in the BIBLE READ-THROUGH – that you never put the Bible down until the day you die, that these 40 days and 40 nights have formed a Bible-reading habit in you that will continue for the rest of your days, and that you’ve become even more addicted to reading God’s Word than you were before and even more addicted to putting God’s Word into action in your lives. I pray this for you in Jesus’ name, openly and with God’s blessing. Amen.

What is coming can’t be stopped, but we can face it head-on as God’s people. That means we face it as Jesus faced his trials and Paul faced his. There is nothing to fear. If we’re born-again, God is always with us through his Spirit. That is his promise to his people, as we saw all through the Bible, and God never breaks a promise.

Cling to God as your Father, follow so closely behind Jesus that there’s no space between you, and never give up. No matter what happens, never give up.

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

BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 39 REFLECTION (JAMES – JUDE)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 39: AUGUST 30

JAMES – JUDE

Most of the letters we read today were written by the disciples who were with Jesus during his ministry years, so it’s not surprising to hear some of Jesus’ words repeated in them. Gone are the brash and oftentimes confused young men “of little faith”, and in their place are mighty apostles, strong in word, deed and faith, and teaching others the Way as Jesus taught them.

  • A few main themes emerge in these letters. One of them is the unavoidability of suffering. Remember that during the early years, the church was under heavy persecution. Suffering was the order of the day for many believers, either through incarceration, torture, banishment, or death. We will also suffer, if we’re true believers. The world hates us and mocks us (I know, because I used to be one of the haters and mockers), and things will only get worse for us as our numbers diminish and evil expands.
  • Suffering is not something anyone willingly does, if they’re sane. Suffering is something to be endured. The letters point out that there are two types of suffering: the type that is earned by error and sin, and the type that comes from being a follower of Jesus. There are also two ways to suffer – the right way and the wrong way. The right way to suffer is as Jesus suffered – totally aware of what was going on and why, but remaining non-combative and silent, knowing it would eventually pass. The wrong way to suffer is probably the way most of us do it (moaning, groaning, complaining, blaming others, etc.) until we remind ourselves of the right way, and then (hopefully) do it.
  • As James points out, God doesn’t tempt us or make us suffer; he permits us to be tempted and to suffer. This is done through the wiles of the devil, like it was to Job. God doesn’t do evil; as Jesus stated in the Gospel, God is actually the only one we can legitimately call good; even Jesus refused to be called good. But but God did create evil, just as he created the destroyer. So if you suffer, suffer in silence, knowing you either had the suffering coming as a reward for your error or sin, or you’re being tempted by the devil as a way to prove you. God permits suffering because it has a purpose – to pay an error or sin debt, or to bring you up higher in his Kingdom. In both cases, suffering should not be fought against or cursed, but accepted.
  • I know that the unavoidability of suffering is a hard teaching and makes our skin crawl, but it is what it is. You can bet that we’ll be tested on this teaching in the weeks and months to come. The good news is that if the suffering comes from being a follower of Jesus, it’s a cause for rejoicing, like Peter and John rejoiced in Acts. If we suffer for being a follower of Jesus, it means God considers us worthy. There is no higher recommendation.
  • Another theme in the letters is a warning against those who have fallen away and are preaching another gospel. As I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection, false prophets are not a 20th or 21st century phenomenon. The early church was just as plagued by them. The letters also warn against imposters – that is, people who pretend to be believers but are not. They impose themselves on the church, but their presence only stirs up trouble. You can easily tell these people because as much as they say they are believers (and they can be very mesmerizing and convincing talkers, like skilled sales people or politicians), their actions speak otherwise. Avoid them and pray for them, but otherwise let them be. They are God’s concern, not ours.
  • The doing of faith rather than just the saying of faith is also a big theme in these letters. Talk is cheap. We know Jesus’ parable about the son who said he’d do his father’s will but didn’t do it, and the son who said he wouldn’t do it, but later changed his mind and did it. It was the son who actually did his father’s will, not the son who only said he’d do it, who was justified. A lot of people contacted me to say they would be participating in the Bible read-through, but only a handful have made it this far. People have good intentions, but if they don’t follow through with actions to back up those intentions, their words have no value. THEIR WORDS HAVE NO VALUE. We are not judged by our intentions, but by our actions. We can spout a list of good intentions until the cows come home, but only those things that we make real by our actions are counted as real. The rest is so much fluff.
  • John’s letters focus on the primacy of love. He’s not talking here about romantic love, but the love of God that works through God’s children. God is love, so if we are in God and God is in us (as he was in Jesus), God’s love will work through us. This is the very great joy of being born-again
  • God working through us is also the only way we’ll be able to love our enemies, because being kind and forbearing to people who purposely hurt us is definitely not something we can do on our own steam. Loving our neighbours and loving our enemies are decisions of the will, which, once made, God then effects by his Spirit working through us. I have been drunk with fine champagne when I was an unbeliever, and I have been drunk with God’s Spirit working through me to love my enemies, and I can tell you with all certainty that being drunk with God’s Holy Spirit is a far greater high. There is none better on Earth. And in Heaven (if we make it there), we’ll live that high all the time.


“‘Twas the night before Revelation…” – if you’ve made it this far in the Bible read-through, you’re close enough to the end of the tunnel that you’re not only seeing the light, it’s illuminating you. You’re bathed in it. Even so, congratulations aren’t in order yet. We still have one more book to get through, and what a doozy of a book it is!

That’s all I’m going to say for now about Revelation. God bless you for your efforts over these past 39 days and nights. Whatever you invest in God’s Word, you’ll get back a million-fold.

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

IS YOUR PASTOR AN AI?

YouTube is crawling with false prophets, and not only of the usual sleazy human variety.

The biggest Christian prophecy channels on YouTube are AI-generated,

As you know, AIs are artificial intelligences (computer programs, essentially) that “learn” from data. They train the same way athletes or apprentices do – by being given a task, partially failing at it, and then learning not to do the failed aspect in that exact way again.

I’ve spent as little time as possible reviewing Christian prophecy channels on YouTube, but I felt something was just so odd about some of them that I decided to do a little bit of digging (investigative journalism is not yet dead!). What I found explained not only why the videos seemed “off”, but how so many could be generated in such a short time.

The videos on numerous prophecy channels are being created by AIs. Even the the voices and text for the voice-overs are AI-generated. The whole production is as fake as you-know-what. And Christians are lapping it up.

Here’s how it works. The AI is fed a few words or a word-stream topic, such as “betrayal Jesus friends”. It then scours the Bible for relevant scripture that includes those and related terms. Next, it grabs the quotes and generates text commentary based on those quotes. That’s why these channels are so quote-heavy – the Bible quotes cue the AI on what to generate as bridge text between the quotes. This bridge text is then audio-fed as a voice-over.

You can’t see me, but I’m sitting here laughing. I can’t think of any other suitable response to this scenario than laughter. I’m laughing at the chutzpah of the people who created the channels and who are likely not even Christians. I’m laughing at the millions of Christians who are watching and subscribing to this AI-generated Bible-quote factory, and I’m laughing at the absurdity of people who prefer to learn about God and Jesus from a garbled AI word-soup than from God’s Holy Spirit. That third bit of laughter is tinged with a deep sadness and has sobered me up.

The Deceiver is all around us all the time, as scripture warns us. Everything that is of the world (like YouTube) is deeply compromised. If you want an AI as your pastor, that’s your choice, but it’s a bloody stupid one, and you’re going to be led astray. Some of the Bible quotes I saw on these AI-generated videos were inaccurate. Initially I thought it was just a translation issue, but the errors are likely being done on purpose. AI is another way to preach another gospel.

Don’t be deceived. Learn prophecy from a verified KJV Bible you can hold in your hands, read to you by God himself, through his Holy Spirit.