A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

HOW NOT TO FORGIVE

You can’t get into Heaven with unforgiveness in your heart. No unrepentant soul ever makes it Home. And since we never know when our time on Earth is up, we need to live every minute of every day with a heart clean of grudges, resentment, and sin.

I was born-again when I made the choice to forgive. It wasn’t a feeling, it was a choice – a conscious decision of the will. I didn’t want to forgive the person I was advised to forgive, but I wanted the reward of making the choice to forgive. And so I forgave that person and I continue to forgive others, based on that initial model.

Mercy is forgiveness, and forgiveness is mercy. In fact, mercy is one of the most renowned and characteristic of God’s personality features. When we forgive, we model God.

But there’s a right way to forgive and a wrong to forgive, and unfortunately the wrong way to forgive is what most people end up doing.

Here is how NOT to forgive:

  1. You tell the person you’ve forgiven that you’ve forgiven him or her.
  2. You tell other people that you’ve forgiven that particular person (you name and shame them).
  3. You tell other people precisely what you forgave that particular person for, providing all the gory details.
  4. You call the offences to mind and mull over them occasionally.
  5. You continue to talk in detail about the offences and your forgiveness, long after you allegedly forgave.
  6. You hold resentment against people.
  7. You hold grudges against people.
  8. You consider this or that offence against you to be “unforgiveable”.
  9. You tell people what others have done to you, whether recently or in the past.
  10. You call to mind and mull over what others have done to you, whether recently or in the past.

This is how you successfully fail at forgiving. This is how you remain with resentment and grudges in your heart, and this is how your soul remains unrepentant and therefore unfit for Heaven.

I don’t care how much you claim to “believe” in Jesus and are washed in the blood of Jesus, you will not get into Heaven with unforgiveness in your heart, as a grudging heart indicates an unrepentant soul, and an unrepentant soul is a soul in sin.

We shouldn’t let even one hour pass without searching our heart for grudges or resentment. They can creep up seemingly out of nowhere, so we always need to be on our guard against them. Unforgiveness is a spiritual poison that taints our relationship with God and Jesus as well as with others in the Kingdom and with the world in general.

The simplest way to keep your heart and soul clean of unforgiveness is to have no expectations of anyone at any time, and therefore to be grateful for whatever comes your way. Most grudges and resentment are the result of unmet expectations, so don’t have any expectations, and you won’t have any reason to be resentful or grudging.

Unforgiveness will keep you out of Heaven.

Don’t let that happen to you.

So how do you forgive?

  1. DON’T tell the person you’ve forgiven that you’ve forgiven him or her. Keep it between you and God.
  2. DON’T tell other people that you’ve forgiven that particular person (DON’T name and shame them). Keep it between you and God.
  3. DON’T tell other people precisely what you forgave that particular person for, and DON’T provide all the gory details.
  4. DON’T call the offences to mind and mull over them occasionally. Cast them behind you as if they don’t exist.
  5. DON’T continue to talk in detail about the offences and your forgiveness, long after you allegedly forgave. Cast them behind you as if they don’t exist.
  6. DON’T hold resentment against people.
  7. DON’T hold grudges against people.
  8. DON’T consider this or that offence against you to be “unforgiveable”. Nothing should be unforgiveable to you.
  9. DON’T tell people what others have done to you, whether recently or in the past.
  10. DON’T call to mind and mull over what others have done to you, whether recently or in the past.

But learn from the offences, the way you learned not to touch a hot stove element after you burned yourself on one. Forgiving doesn’t mean putting yourself back into the situation to be offended again. Learn from the offences. Let the unforgiveness go, but don’t put yourself back into the situation to be burned again.

Forgive like this, and your soul will always be ready for Home.

APPROACHING JESUS

Jesus is by far my one and only hero, but I don’t hero-worship him: He’s my brother. Yes, he’s also my Lord and Messiah and teacher, but our closest relationship is of brother and sister.

We are both God’s children. He was born a son of God, whereas I was adopted into the family through spiritual rebirth. Still, when we stand before God, he makes no distinction between those who were born his children and those who later became his children. He loves us all the same. He sees us as different in the ways that we are different, but he still loves us all the same.

This is a great comfort to me.

I love Jesus, but not with a cloying, sickly, sycophantic kind of love. It would be out of place and inappropriate. Jesus doesn’t want to be hero-worshiped; he doesn’t want us to pretend-marry him, like nuns do; he wants us to learn from him, the way younger siblings learn from older ones, and at the same time he’s offering to be the best friend we’ll ever have. I know, because he’s been my brother and best friend for over 23 years. He’s all the other things that scripture says of him, but I know him simply as my brother and my best friend.

And like a brother, he doesn’t hold back when it comes to setting me straight when I go wrong. We don’t stand on ceremony. He’ll spiritually tussle me to the ground if he has to, to stop me from doing or saying something I shouldn’t.

I don’t think there are any words for the kind and depth of love I have for Jesus. It’s not a love that I’ve felt for anyone else in my life. It’s unique and suited only to Jesus, mainly because he’s not only the only brother I have, but also the only Messiah.

Like John, I could spend all day – all my life – talking about Jesus and what he’s accomplished, what he’s done and is doing by the grace of God. John is right in saying that everything Jesus has done would fill so many books, the entire world wouldn’t be able to contain them, were everything written down. Our understanding of Jesus’ involvement in our day-to-day lives barely scratches the surface. I guess there’s a reason for God limiting our understanding. Maybe it would freak us out (we’re generally pretty easily freaked) if we knew how omnipresent Jesus is in our lives, the same way as God is omnipresent. Jesus promised us that both he and God would come live with us, so that we could have the same relationship with God that he had while on Earth.

He’s kept his promise, and it’s a beautiful thing.

I love my big brother. I’m proud of him and I dote on him (the way little sisters do) and I bug the you-know-what out of him occasionally (the way little sisters do), but I’m so happy that he’s my brother and best friend and Messiah. Even before I was born again, I thought Jesus was the coolest guy who ever lived. Nothing fazed him, not even being falsely accused and crucified. I liked how he stood up for people who were being kicked down. I admired his courage and his ability to cut through the crap. He didn’t take anything from anyone, and he was always bang-on in his assessment of situations and people. This is how I saw him when I was an atheist, and I still see him like this. I still admire all these characteristics that make Jesus Jesus and now do my best to emulate them.

I never saw him as meek and mild. I never saw him as a pushover or a hypocrite, but I sure as heck knew a lot of Christians (know a lot of Christians) who are pushovers and hypocrites, who are meek and mild. They do Jesus a disservice being like that while claiming to be his followers. Most Christians these days are more like Judas Iscariot than Jesus, more like the early followers who walked away when the going got too tough.

I follow no-one but Jesus. Why would I? Why would anyone, given the choice? Who is more worthy to follow than Jesus? The world throws option after option at us, trying to get us if not to switch our loyalty, then at least to spread it around a bit, to apportion a bit to Jesus and also some to this or that deeply flawed star or superhero. Romantic love is one such contrivance to get us to divide our loyalty, as is the near idol-worship of some parents for their children. Even some born-again believers get caught up in these diversions, which is one of the reasons why Jesus had his disciples leave their families when they became his followers.

There is no room for division of loyalty in God’s Kingdom. Your focus is on God and God only; your love is to God and God only, and to Jesus, as his Messiah. God and Jesus are your family, if you’re born-again. They should have all your love, just as their love should satisfy all your need for love. There is no need to look beyond God and Jesus for love. Why would you seek out imperfect and conditional feelings when you have perfect and unconditional love straight from the source?

Jesus is first and foremost my brother, who also happens to be my best friend and Messiah. He teaches me God’s Way so I’ll make it home to Heaven. This was his purpose in coming to Earth – to redeem the lost and fallen, and then to guide them home. He’s still redeeming and guiding, but from his seat of glory at the right hand of God.

I have no idea what I’ll say to Jesus if and when I make it Home. I guess “thank you for everything” would be a good start. For the time being, I’m just glad that he’s with me in Spirit while I’m still here. I can’t imagine going even one second without God and Jesus: they are every breath I breathe. They keep me honest. They keep me focused. They tickle a smile out of me even when I’m cranky. I love them so much that there are no words to describe the love. There are only tears, which God then gently wipes away.

We born-agains are blessed beyond measure to share in the very great gift that Jesus’ sacrifice enabled us to have – the gift of his and God’s presence while we’re yet here on Earth. I love my brother and I love my Father, and if I know nothing beyond my love for them, I know enough.

SPIRITUAL WAKE-UP SLAP

Daily reminder that the state of Christianity today is similar to the state of Judaism during Jesus’ ministry years. In other words, Christianity has reached the end of its run. That doesn’t mean that everything Jesus established is disappearing – far from it. In fact, the opposite is occurring – everything that Jesus DIDN’T establish is disappearing into the spiritual sinkhole it deserves, whereas Jesus’ accomplishments will remain eternally.

Also a daily reminder that you need to be born-again to see the Kingdom. I know many of you reading this are not born-again and that you struggle with many of the things I write here. That’s fine; struggle away: this blog isn’t meant for you. If you know you’re not born-again but you still consider yourself a Christian, then you’re part of the problem. You’re part of the problem that has watered down God’s Word to the point of inanity, as without spiritual rebirth, Christianity makes no sense and is D.O.A.

You have a choice: You can continue to be part of the problem, or you can get down on your face and tell God you want to be born-again because Jesus said you need to be. It’s your choice. I’m not going hold your hand and tell you everything will be fine; if you hold out your hand to me, I’ll grab it and use it to slap you in the face, hard, so you’ll know to get serious about what needs to be done.

Consider it a spiritual wake-up slap.

I’m frankly sick and tired of dilettantes playing at being Christian. So is God. So is Jesus. You’re either a Christian or you’re not. You’re either born-again or you’re not. If you’re not born-again, you’re not a Christian. You’re a fake Christian.

And fake Christians aren’t welcome here.

Another daily reminder that to be a follower of Jesus means to live your life as Jesus lived his, because that’s what it means to be a follower. If you’ve been dragging your heels living the life of the world while daydreaming of working in the Kingdom, do yourself a favour and slap yourself hard. Maybe slap yourself a few times hard, whatever it takes to wake yourself up. How much time do you think you have left on Earth? Do you think you forever to make up your mind about who you want to serve? Do you know your life can be cut off in an instant? And if it is, and you’re still daydreaming rather than doing, where exactly do you think you’ll end up for all eternity? Do you think Paradise is so cheaply won that all it takes are good intentions to get in?

Remember the two sons – the one who said he’d do his father’s will, and then didn’t, and the son who said he wouldn’t do it, but eventually did it? If you’re still living the life of the world, you’re the son who said he would do his father’s will, but in reality didn’t. And that’s not a tag anyone wants to be wearing come Judgement Day.

Consider this your spiritual wake-up slap.

You’re welcome.

HOW TO SURVIVE A SPIRITUALLY TOXIC ENVIRONMENT

In Canada, “pride” is not a month, but a whole season (from June to September). This has been officially declared and enshrined by the Canadian government. So that means nearly everywhere you go in the few passably pleasant months in this otherwise God-forsaken (weather-wise) frozen wasteland, you’re likely to stumble across a pride parade or other pride-related activities.

The city I’m staying in now is gearing up for its pride festivities. That’s what they’re called, “festivities”. That, and “celebration”.

I asked God how he can look down on this nation-wide, summer-long free-for-all of sin and depravity and not lose it, and he told me that he doesn’t dwell on it. He sees it, but he doesn’t dwell on it. He delegates others to monitor and record everything in minute detail for his justice’s sake (no sin goes unpunished), but he himself stands back. If people choose sin, they get the rewards of sin; if sin is what they want, sin is what they’ll get. He won’t stand in their way.

Judgement Day will come soon enough.

I sometimes struggle to apply this example in my own life. It’s probably one of the most difficult things we can do as believers – to live in the world while keeping the world at arm’s distance. Jesus had the grace to look past the sins of people who were not his targeted demographic, unless they specifically came to him for help, and there can be no doubt that anyone who worships at the pride altar is not our targeted demographic. They have another father than ours, and so we should just let them be. Paul touched on this in his teaching on how God has “given them over” to their sin instead of trying to correct them. At some point, you let them go.

You just let them go.

Jesus, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, could see into the heart of everyone he met. Yet even with that profound depth of insight, he focused his ire mainly on the religious hypocrites, not on the seemingly endless parade of sinners he came across during his travels. Still, standing back while letting sin reign seems counter-intuitive to a Christian. How can we, as believers, live in such a spiritually toxic environment?

I guess the short answer to that question is that we escape to the Kingdom. Physically, we move through the world, but our soul remains firmly in the Kingdom. The establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth is one of the major accomplishments of Jesus, heralding his victory over sin. As born-again believers, we have full access to God’s Kingdom during our time on Earth. I find that whenever the world gets to be too much, I fully cloister myself in the Kingdom for a few minutes or hours or days or weeks, however long it takes me to regain my spiritual equilibrium. I just shut the world out entirely for as long as necessary. Jesus used to go up a mountain alone for the same purpose. There’s no way you can live in a place that’s under the authority of Satan and not need a respite from the insanity. Because that’s what the world is – demon-driven insanity overlaid with the thinnest veneer of civility.

In the end, I take comfort in knowing that while pride may last for a season, God’s Kingdom lasts forever.

Remember that.

THE LIE OF CHRISTIAN WARS

 “For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”

Jesus was a big fan of pointing out that we get back what we put out; that what goes around, comes around: that we get what we deserve. Christians, on the other hand, are not such big fans of this concept. They prefer to see their suffering as “God’s will”, God’s “mysterious” will that they somehow just have to endure and that somehow has meaning, though at the time the meaning may be beyond them. I blame their pastors, in part, for keeping them ignorant of the basic spiritual premise of what goes around, comes around. But ultimately, it’s up to each individual Christian to know what Jesus taught us. You can blame your pastor for your initial ignorance, but when your ignorance becomes an enduring state, the blame falls squarely on you.

Even as recently as a few decades ago, whole Christian nations would march off to war, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Christians don’t kill. There has never been one genuine Christian in all of history who has taken up a weapon to kill, and if that one genuine Christian did kill, the murder would have been followed in quick succession by wholehearted and sincere repentance, with the promise never to murder again. And yet, throughout the past 2000 years, nations and peoples and individuals who call themselves Christian have marched off to war, weapons in hand and willingly aiming them at whoever their commanders tell them to aim them at. For a time, the weapons are aimed at this nation, and for a time, at that nation, and for a time, at another nation with the combined support of the first and second nations, as they are now no longer enemies.

And all the so-called Christians fighting for the so-called Christian nations see no contradiction between their mass slaughter and Jesus’ teachings, between their mass slaughter and suffering the rewards of it.

It’s easier to pinpoint depravity as a reason for the decline of a civilization. But the truth is that murder at the behest of the state is probably the main reason for the precipitous overall declines of former Christian nations. Your country doesn’t magically become better because people kill others in its defense. There is no improvement whatsoever when that happens. On the contrary, death is the reward of death – those who live by the sword, die by the sword. You do not sow bad and reap good from it. If you kill or actively support killing, you get the due rewards of death.

Every pastor who has led his flock in prayer for the “success” of a nation’s troops or military mission has no right to call himself a pastor. He is instead a demon-channeler who is channeling the commands of Satan straight from the source. The world glorifies war and those who fight them because the world is under the authority of Satan, but Christians are not supposed to be under the authority of Satan; that’s why Jesus died and rose again, to show he had gained victory over the world and the world’s authority. We know from the Commandment that there is no excuse – NOT ONE – for murdering. There are zero excuses or exceptions to take one’s own or another’s life. Self-defence is not an excuse. Defence of loved ones is not an excuse. Being ordered by the state to do so is not an excuse. There are zero excuses at any time, and yet nearly the entire 2000-year history of Christianity is sodden with murder committed as alleged Christians fight for allegedly Christian nations or even, at times, against other alleged Christian nations.

Do you have any idea how much of a hoot this is for the devil, to have so many Christians so blinded and so willingly doing his bidding?

There is no excuse for any of this. Ignorance doesn’t cut it anymore. You support troops or you support killing in any way, you are not a Christian.

Based on that assessment, has there ever truly been a Christian nation?

No, of course not. There is no such thing as a Christian nation. There are countries that have more or fewer Christians living in them, but a worldly nation by definition cannot be Christian. There have never been Christian nations or Christian wars or “holy wars” – even the crusades were Satan-inspired and demon-fuelled. We have been deceived for 2000 years into thinking God looks the other way when it’s wartime, that we can kill with impunity and with his blessing.

But we were wrong.

Christians don’t kill.

No genuine follower of Jesus at any time in history has ever picked up a weapon with the intention of killing. It has never happened. Not once. People who call themselves Christian have engaged in all manner of nefarious activities, but genuine Christians have not. “By their fruits shall ye know them…. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Jesus could not have made it any clearer than that. He could not have made it any clearer than “those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.

He could not have made it any clearer than “Thou shalt not kill.”

Whatever wars our respective nations are now involved in, you dare not support them or you are no follower of Jesus. You might be a state-sanctioned and -approved Christian, but you won’t be a Christian in God’s eyes.

The measure we mete out is the measure we get in return.

There is never a time when war or the support of war is genuinely Christian.

CHRISTIANITY FROM SCRATCH

When Jesus started his ministry, he had to start from scratch. What was left of Judaism at that time was essentially a lost cause. Recall that his ministry wasn’t a call to build a whole new religion; it was a call to witness the fulfillment of prophecy. It was a call to right all that was wrong with Judaism, to put faith back on the strait and narrow, so that Jesus’ followers could proceed along the right path, not along any number of wrong ones.

Christianity today is much like Judaism was 2000 years ago. It has essentially become a lost cause. Even as people claim to believe, they unapologetically live the life of the world (getting married, having kids, having a career, making investments, owning a home, etc., etc.) and still consider themselves to be “good Christians”. Many don’t even know the Commandments, let alone follow them. Most are easily deceived by their pastors into believing lies. God lets them believe lies because that’s what they want: They’re spiritually fat and lazy; they’ve become blind and deaf and dumb, and even as they claim to love with the love of the Lord, their words ring hollow. I have seen their dead eyes up close. They don’t follow Jesus; they follow tradition, just like the adherents of Judaism 2000 years ago, when Jesus came to tell them that following tradition wasn’t enough.

They rejected him for telling them that, and then they killed him.

There are 2 billion self-professed Christians in the world today. This, despite Jesus teaching us that the Way is narrow and few are on it. You would think that if the Way were narrow and few are on it, there would be far fewer Christians than 2 billion. I mean, if you take Jesus at his word (which we should). I mean, if you believe the Gospel (which I hope you do).

I would wager that nearly all of those 2 billion self-professed Christians believe they have a guaranteed place waiting for them in Heaven, because that’s what they’ve been taught by their pastors. The children of Israel were taught the same thing and believed with the same certainty that they had a place waiting for them. But when Jesus did them the profound courtesy of letting them know they were being misled by their assumption and it would take far more than just their genetics to get them into Heaven, instead of being grateful for the correction, they argued with him. Then they killed him.

I despise what mainstream Christianity has become. It is everything that Jesus hates – presumptuous, vacuous, ritualistic, hypocritical, and tired. I’ve been spending some time in an empty chapel over the past few weeks. It’s empty not because it isn’t stuffed with all manner of dusty iconography and moldering books that lay out in tedious detail how every hour of every day needs to proceed if God is to be worshiped properly, but it’s empty of believers, except for me. I’m the only human in the chapel, no matter what time I go. I’m not complaining about being the only human there (I like the peace and quiet), I’m just pointing out how sad it is that the chapel sits empty most of the time.

Jesus warned us that this day would come, that there would be a falling away. None of this is a surprise to him: Christianity has become what Judaism had become just before it was obliterated. There is no genuine worship left in the modern incarnation of Christianity. There are hollow words mumbled by a misled and distracted people; there is manic feel-goodism propped up by empty gestures of do-goodism and a frantic clutching at signs and symbols, as if wanting to believe something badly enough could somehow overcome a stubborn refusal to repent and believe the Gospel.

That’s all Jesus asks of us, that we repent and LIVE AS IF WE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. That’s all he’s ever asked of us.

If you believe the Gospel, you live your life as if you do. If you believe the Gospel and live your life as if you do, your life looks nothing like the lives of those who embrace the world. It looks completely different. It looks different the way that the lives of Jesus and the disciples looked completely different from the lives of the people around them.

This is a call for you to take stock of your life. God holds born-again believers to the highest of standards. There is no excuse for you to be living a life that is indistinguishable from those living the life of the world. If you genuinely believe the Gospel, your life reflects that. Your life looks like Jesus’ life or the disciples’ lives or Paul’s life. It doesn’t look like Judas Iscariot’s life or the lives of the people Jesus whipped out of the temple.

It doesn’t look like the lives of the alleged 2 billion Christians.

If you genuinely believe the Gospel, then your entire focus is either on preparing to preach and teach the Word, or actually preaching and teaching it. There is no other option.

You either believe the Gospel and your life reflects that, or you say you believe the Gospel, and your life reflects the world.

I have been born-again for 23 years, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of genuine born-again Christians I’ve met in all that time. Jesus had to start his ministry from scratch because Judaism was full of phonies, just like Christianity today is full of phonies. I will be cheering the ultimate demise of Christianity, just as Jesus cheered the demise of Judaism. There is no place in God’s Kingdom on Earth or in Heaven for people who say they love God and live as if they don’t.

Hypocrites are not welcome here, either.

If you’re not genuinely born-again, this blog is not for you.

WHEN TIME IS UP

The angels who visited Lot in Sodom just before that city’s destruction were not on a revival tour. They weren’t preaching repentance in advance of the fire and brimstone; they weren’t warning that if the Sodomites continued their evil ways, time would be up for them soon. The angels weren’t wagging their fingers and thumping Bibles.

No.

They didn’t engage with the locals at all, other than to strike them blind when they came too close to Lot. The time for engaging was over. God let the Sodomites carry on their merry way, as they were at that point beyond repentance.

It’s worth noting that once the point beyond repentance is reached, destruction comes soon after.

Western cities are now nearly a mirror image of Sodom just before its destruction. I include mainstream Christianity in that description. God has withdrawn his preaching forces and is letting the cities wallow in their filth. Anyone still preaching in the mainstream churches is not God’s prophet. Oh, there are still preachers aplenty, puffed up with pride and adorned with rainbows, but God hasn’t sent them. There is no God in any of the churches that go by his name, any more than God was in the temple during Jesus’ ministry years or in the few decades afterwards before the temple’s (and Judaism’s) final annihilation.

Just before God delivers his judgement, he withdraws his preaching forces. Sometimes this lasts for a few days and sometimes for a few decades. Scripture talks about the half-hour of silence in Heaven. During the silence, the Word is not spoken and mercy is withdrawn. The angels talk among themselves, just as those in the Kingdom talk among themselves, but they leave off talking to outsiders. The Word doesn’t belong outside themselves anymore. This signals that the time for mercy and conversion is over.

When God called Noah to build the ark, he didn’t also tell him to warn the locals about the coming destruction. It was too late for that: Their time was up. They had made their choice, siding against God, just as Noah had already made his choice, siding with God. God didn’t have Noah rush around begging and pleading with the locals as the first raindrops fell. No. The time for begging and pleading was over. God kept Noah busy with the animals and the final details on the ark. The sinners who had chosen sin were given over to the sin they so sorely demanded.

The chaff is separated from the wheat at harvest time, and there’s nothing that any of us can do to change that.

I have long made my peace with those I know who have sided against God. I don’t preach to them; I don’t try to intervene. I just let them be and frankly avoid them. Whatever common touchstones we once had are all but gone. They have their world of sin, and I have my world of God, and I will not budge one inch to appease them.

I have cried for them, but I cry no more. If they were looking for Truth – if they were rejecting the world – then I would do everything I could to guide them towards God. But they love the world. They embrace the lies and demand more lies, safe and effective lies.

If God has given them up, then I have to, too. I let them go like so many helium balloons, buffeted and pushed along by the winds. They are no longer my concern, any more than the Sodomites were Lot’s concern or anyone outside his family was Noah’s concern.

At some point, you just let them go, like Jesus let Judas Iscariot go.

You respect their free will, and you let them go.

A SHOUT-OUT TO THE REAL CHILDREN OF ISRAEL

There is a dangerous trend in mainstream Christianity that we, as born-again believers, need to beware: Equating the current nation state of Israel with the favoured Israel of Bible prophecy. Remember that God blesses those who do his will and keep his Commands, and the nation state of Israel has recently declared, by census, that it is majority (65%) atheist. Despite this unapologetic acknowledgement by Israelis themselves that most of them don’t even believe God exists, many Christians continue to see Israel as “the holy land” occupied by “God’s chosen people” who not only deserve our obeisance as “elder brothers and sisters in the faith”, but also our financial and moral support.

“Gotta get that temple built, or Jesus won’t come back!”

The truth is that the spiritual lineage of God’s chosen people flows through Jesus. That means genuine Spirit-filled followers of Jesus are the spiritual descendants of the Old Testament children of Israel. Physical genetics has nothing to do with it. You can’t get into God’s Kingdom on Earth based on your genetics; you can only get in through spiritual rebirth. When Christians by-pass scripture and uphold people of a certain genetics or belief system as being favoured by God based solely on their genetics or belief system, they crucify Jesus all over again and nullify the Gospel.

Don’t do that.

The worst offenders are, not surprisingly, the pastors in the megabucks megachurches. Gathering donations for Israel is an ongoing pet project that always keeps the money flowing, as who wouldn’t want to be part of “a work in progress” that the nation-state of Israel allegedly is? Who wouldn’t want to contribute to the mass conversion of Israelis that is allegedly supposed to occur just before Jesus allegedly comes back and sets up his 1000-year worldly kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem?

Never mind that Jesus himself has told us he’s coming back in glory (that is, in his glorified body) for the sole purpose of gathering the last of his faithful to take them home to Heaven. Never mind that scripture says “those who pierced him” will mourn as they realize who Jesus is and that it’s too late (at that point) for them to repent just like it was too late for Judas Iscariot. Never mind that Jesus stressed how his Kingdom is not of this world and was in fact established already during his ministry years nearly 2000 years ago. Never mind scripture or the words of Jesus: the megabuck megachurch pastors have the real insider scoop. They know better even than God.

That being said, it’s also important to remember that, while there’s still time, Israelis have the same opportunity to become born-again followers of Jesus as everyone else. Whatever favouritism God showed to them as a people ended with their wholesale rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, not to mention their general across-the-board rejection of God and his Commandments. However, God’s offer is the same to them as to everyone: If they, as individuals, repent and believe the Gospel, they will be brought back into right relationship with God.

But they’d better hurry. The way things are going, God’s mercy will be coming to an end soon, and that includes for those who were once (but are no longer) “the chosen”. Once God’s mercy ends, his judgement begins, and there will be no further conversions at that time or ever again.

WOMEN IN GOD’S CHURCH

When Jesus first burst on the scene, he was conciliatory towards all, healed all who came to him, and welcomed all who wanted to hear him, stressing the benefits of being his follower. But as his ministry progressed, he started to weed out those who were only there for the benefits. He began instead to stress the challenges that his followers would face on Earth, and many early followers then stopped following him. Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus became even more demanding in what he required of his followers; the result was that he alienated nearly everyone, including one of his twelve disciples. The only followers who remained with Jesus were those who genuinely wanted what he was offering.

Interestingly, it was also towards the end of his ministry that some people became Jesus’ followers for the first time, and most of these newcomers were women. Far from being deterred by Jesus’ warnings that they would live as outcasts and be persecuted, they were more than willing to suffer whatever was required for the Word.

I am a woman and this is my blog. Other than for one article published several years ago, I have steered clear of purposely adopting a “woman’s perspective” on the lived experience of being a born-again follower of Jesus, but a woman’s perspective still leaks through. It’s unavoidable because, as I mentioned, I am a woman. My relationship with God (as my Dad) and Jesus (as my Lord, Savior, Master, and big brother) is different in many respects from a man’s relationship with God and Jesus, and that’s fine. It was meant to be that way. It’s hardwired into us genetically for men and women to have different relationships with God and Jesus. That wasn’t a mistake or a fluke on God’s part: It was meant to be that way.

Even so, I think it’s important to point out that most of the followers who joined later in the ministry were women. Men were leaving, and women were joining. And women were not only joining, they were staying.

I am a woman, yet I’d be hard-pressed to call myself a feminist. Yes, I live alone. Yes, I travel alone. Yes, I earn my own living, and yes, I have my own business. I can do these things because I was raised (and still live) in a Western country, and it is now acceptable for women here to do all these things. It’s also acceptable now for women to remain unmarried and childless, without the stigma that used to be attached to unmarried childless women. In many Eastern countries, on the other hand, particularly the Middle East, I would not be able to live or travel alone, let alone earn my own living from my own business, and I would be heavily stigmatized by my unmarried and childless status.

I have had some exposure to the Eastern mindset when I was living in Toronto after my rebirth. I had a series of prospective landlords from Eastern countries who openly questioned why I wasn’t married and didn’t have children. These were not questions I’d fielded any time before in my life. The landlords did not ask in a polite way, but instead were gruff and demanding, as if speaking down to me. Initially, I would try my best to answer their questions, but eventually I decided it was none of their business, so I politely chose not to answer. Most of them then chose not to rent to me.

I mention this because while I say I’m not a feminist, I’ve been able to live my life, both prior to and since my rebirth, thanks in large part to feminist doctrine taking root and flourishing in Western society. Most of feminist doctrine I’m not a fan of, but women being able to live alone, travel alone, and earn their own keep from their own business I’m obviously on board with, as these things both define and benefit me in the world, and they support my Kingdom work. I’ve been independent all my life and I generally take it for granted that I can go here or there or wherever on a whim, because it’s my choice to do so. But after working closely with Muslim female clients, I realize how my independence is a not a “given” but rather a “taken”. So, to the feminists who fought for my right to live however I choose to live, you have my respect and gratitude.

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Many of the women who followed Jesus during the latter part of his ministry provided financial and logistical support. In other words, they paid for things and did the cooking, cleaning, etc. Despite their somewhat unglamorous role, the women still learned about the Kingdom from Jesus. We know this from Jesus’ interchanges with Mary and about Mary. At times, it seems that some of the male disciples were a bit resentful of Jesus’ obvious affection for Mary, which was especially clear in how he constantly defended her and took her side whenever there was a dispute involving her. Interestingly, she never started these disputes; they arose because others objected to something she was doing (e.g., sitting at Jesus’ feet learning from him rather than tending to household tasks, or applying oil to Jesus’ feet rather than selling it and giving the money to the poor). The disciples’ churlishness over Mary reminds me of my own experience with Eastern landlords in Toronto who looked down at me and then punished me by refusing to rent to me.

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This blog piece is not going where you might be thinking it’s going. I’m not here to bash men or certain cultural norms. I’m just pointing out that women through the ages have played a very specific (not special, specific) role in both the building and sustaining of God’s Church. Jesus went out of his way on several occasions to defend women, and there’s a reason why he did it. There’s a reason why Jesus did everything he did, considering that he only did what God guided him to do.

I believe the state of mind and soul of the women who joined in the ministry was different than that of most of the men. Recall that many of the men who joined were expecting Jesus to overthrow the occupying Roman forces in order to establish his Kingdom, so they were motivated to follow Jesus the way they’d follow a military leader. They didn’t come to him through repentance; they came to him wanting to fight for their cause. When it eventually dawned on these men that Jesus had no intention of overthrowing the Roman occupiers or of setting up an earthly kingdom, they moved on. That’s not what they’d signed up for.

On the other hand, many of the women became Jesus’ followers through repentance. They repented, God forgave them, and they found no other course than to follow and support Jesus. To them, it was self-evident that this is what they had to do with the rest of their lives, the same as it is for me. Since my rebirth 23 years ago, nothing else makes sense to me but to follow Jesus. If you come to God through repentance, your commitment to Jesus is going to be entirely different than if you come to God as a cultural norm, or as an intellectual or ideological pursuit, or as a familial obligation.

Women also bring a different set of emotional and perspective tools to the spiritual table, which God can then use to the benefit of his Kingdom. Because women are emotionally hard-wired (physiologically) and soft-wired (culturally) differently than men, they approach the Kingdom and spiritual matters somewhat differently. They are generally more intuitive and less pedantic. I believe that what Jesus was doing in defending Mary was validating her witness. Jesus was showing that women should not stay silent in the church, but instead should be taught and listened to.

It’s sad to me that 2000 years later, there are still men and women who call themselves Christian and yet who still think that women shouldn’t preach, based solely on a misinterpreted line in one of Paul’s letters. Women taking an active part in ministry work is part of the Gospel message. If you believe the Gospel, then you necessarily have to believe that Jesus wanted women to be his witnesses as much as he wanted men to be. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have first appeared to Mary after his resurrection and urged her to tell others what she had seen. And if he wanted women to be his witnesses, that necessarily means that he wanted them to preach and teach, just as his male followers and witnesses did.

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As I mentioned, I don’t want this piece to be a “man vs woman” tirade. I have nothing against men. In fact, I (mostly) admire them. That being said, anyone who thinks I should keep quiet in the Church can take their opinion to God, because I don’t want to hear it. Jesus, through his at the time controversial (and sadly for some still controversial) elevation of women to follower and even disciple status, clearly showed that women not only belonged in his Church, but needed to take a leading role in it, which meant taking on the job of preaching and teaching the Word. Despite the enmity of some of the male disciples, Mary continued on the path laid out for her by God and supported by Jesus.

Once born again, we’re all on that same path with the same mandate, which is to go out into all the world and preach the Good News. There isn’t one mandate for women and another for men; or one mandate for converted Jews and another for converted atheists: We all have the same mandate and directive, regardless of our sex or heritage or other background distinctions. When we become Christians through rebirth, all of those distinctions disappear, and we all have the same job description.

When you level the playing field like that, there is no more acting in a male or a female way, but in a Jesus way. By elevating and defending women during his ministry years, Jesus not only brought them into the fold, but delegated them to the position of witness, and if to position of witness, then to the role of teacher and preacher.

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I will never be silent in the Church, as that would be a disservice to God and Jesus and a renouncing of my rebirth status. However, while I’m still on Earth and in a woman’s body, I will relate to God and Jesus and the Gospel message from a woman’s perspective; that is unavoidable. Even so, my woman-ness should never get in the way of or in any way alter the Gospel message, any more than it should alter the mandate or job description Jesus gave to his followers.

I am a woman. This blog is written by a woman. But the Gospel message is neither male nor female. Salvation is open to all. The Great Commission was given to all. I know that when people look at me, they see a woman, but I pray that when they listen to me, they hear God.

AMPLIFYING THE STILL SMALL VOICE

One of the main pleasures of being a born-again believer is talking to God every day. And I’m talking conversations, not one-way petitions that are sent off like messages in a bottle, never really expected to be received. God and I talk every day, just like Jesus talked with God every day and Adam talked with God every day before he got booted from the Garden. God and I talk. Formally, it’s known as prayer, but I just think of it as talking. Sometimes I hog the conversation and sometimes God hogs the conversation, and every now and then Jesus butts in with a comment that at times makes me laugh and at times gives me pause. I never come away from the conversations without having learned something, which means I learn something new every day, simply by talking to God.

But you have to listen to hear God. He’s not going to shout over your headphones or earbuds. He’s not going to interrupt your movie streaming. He’s not going to talk over your conversations with your friends and family. You purposely open yourself to God to hear him. You purposely seek him out, the way that Moses climbed the mountain to talk to God. You make the effort, and God rewards you with his presence.

This is his promise to his children, a promise which he delivered through Jesus and is recorded in John’s Gospel. If you’re genuinely born-again, you are a child of God. Jesus said we would have the same relationship with God that he had – that of Father and child. This was a promise Jesus made to us on behalf of God, and God always keeps his promises.

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Unfortunately, today’s world does all it can to drown out the still small voice. Even God’s children are being lured away to listen to anything other than God. We are tempted with music and movies, videos and podcasts, TV and radio, and a seemingly endless assortment of audio distractions that spill over into cars with automated wayfinder systems and even onto elevators with tinkling muzak, lest we mistake the elevators for the closet that Jesus said we should go into to pray.

If you live in the world (I mean, if you’re not a child of God), the soundscape is perpetual and loud, with audio distractions being delivered through speakers in every building, loudspeakers on every street, and headphones on every head. Added to that, combustion engines are everywhere. Living in the world means never finding any peace and quiet and always being surrounded by some kind of intrusive noise, including ubiquitous white noise that you only realize is there when the power goes out.

I was startled awake this morning by a piercing fire alarm. After it stopped (it was a false alarm), it occurred to me that I haven’t heard many birds outside my window this year. What I do hear is the roar of vehicles and construction machinery, and the groaning whirr of the industrial-sized HVAC system housed a few hundred feet away from my university residence.

This time last year, I was living in a house in the country. I was in a community of six or seven houses amounting to about 15 people, myself included. Between us and the next communities were woods on all sides stretching for miles. You would think, with so few people in such an isolated environment, that it would be quiet. You would think. But even with so few people living in the middle of nowhere, we sure managed to make a lot of noise.

All-terrain vehicles, as I found out last summer, are the travel mode of choice in the country. Added to that, most of the residents in the little community were related to each other and visited each other several times a day. Despite living no more than a few minutes’ walk from each other, no-one seemed to want to stroll down their driveway and up the neighbouring one or to cut across lawns. No-one seemed to own a bicycle, not even the two children living there. So dozens of times a day I was serenaded with the growl and sputter of ten lawnmowers combined into one obnoxious ATV engine roaring past my country kitchen windows.

Sometimes, my neighbours would even get into their car and drive across the street to make their visit, and this on a sunny summer day. I thought at first that they were taking their car because they were delivering something that was too big or too heavy to carry, but no. They were just taking their car because it was easier to drive 100 feet than to walk 100 feet.

I don’t drive (not even ATVs), so I wasn’t able to contribute to the cacophony, other than when my delivery guys from the city pulled up in their mini vans a few times a week. About halfway through the summer, the dad of the two kids bought a 1940s pick-up truck whose main feature was that it backfired every few seconds. He then did something to amplify the muffler. By August, I had given up my fight against the noise and just kept my windows shut most of the day.

The nights were quiet, though.

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The world contrives to keep us overwhelmed by so much noise, that the still small voice of God gets drowned out unless we consciously and purposely listen for it. I would be lost without talking to God every day. The Bible is a comfort, but it pales in comparison to just being with God. The irony is that, when you’re in the God bubble, you don’t hear the noise anymore. It’s still there, but distant: It gets blocked out.

When you talk to God, his voice and your voice (and occasionally Jesus’ voice) are all you really hear.