A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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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.

“WELL, THAT’S NOT VERY CHRISTIAN”: ON BEING YOURSELF

I was born again from atheism. Because of that, I didn’t grow up “in the faith”, so I had to learn everything about Jesus and God and scripture from God’s Holy Spirit, as God intended. Strangely, that’s left me at odds with many if not most Christians, and has also left me questioning at times whether or not I should do this or that, wondering whether it’s sufficiently “Christian”.

The funny thing is that the one who gets on my case the most in pushing me to be myself is God. He hates cookie-cutter Christianity. He hates people thinking they have to dress a certain way or talk a certain way or act a certain way they’ve been told is “Christian”. He hates people smothering their personality and hiding what makes them unique in order to conform to a standard that he never set and never wanted for his children.

Jesus is an excellent example of someone who loves God and who persisted in being who he was during his ministry years, despite pushback from all sides. This is another reason why we should emulate Jesus. That doesn’t mean we should grow a beard and wear long robes and sandals just because Jesus did, but it does mean we should just be ourselves, regardless of other people’s opinions.

Case in point: I started wearing make-up when I was 13, and I still wear it, several decades later. The only time, for a time, that I stopped wearing make-up was for a while after I was reborn. I thought it wasn’t “Christian” to wear mascara and eyeliner and lipstick, because I thought I had to be “pure”. That’s fine; God let me think that for a while, but I never really felt like myself when I didn’t have my face on.

If you’re a woman who wears make-up, you know that people treat you differently when you wear make-up and when you don’t. When people respond to you more pleasantly, that makes you more pleasant in return, and I have found people to be more pleasant to me when I have a face on. That’s just my lived reality.

So I wear make-up when I go out in public. It’s part of my public presentation, and it’s who I am. I like how I look in make-up. Sometimes, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll consider skipping this step or that, but God will tell me to take the time, as it will be worth my while. Yes, God himself tells me to put on make-up and to put it on with my best effort each time.

And yet there’ll still be someone reading this who’s thinking: “Well, that’s not very Christian….”

God loves his children. He doesn’t want us to think we have to change who we are to live up to someone else’s idea of what it means to be a Christian. You’re not a Christian by the clothes you wear or the jewelry you hang off yourself. You’re not even a Christian by the words that come out of your mouth; you’re a Christian by what’s in your heart, which then, by extension, affects everything you do.

So you can be a Christian and still wear make-up. You can be a Christian and still wear nice clothes. You can be a Christian and still spend time with tax collectors and prostitutes and drunkards, not preaching to them, but showing them that they’re loved and that there’s a better Way forward than the path they’re on. You can be a Christian and still be you – in fact, God wants you to be you. He doesn’t want you to change who you are to conform to someone else’s expectations.

Yes, we always need to look to Jesus for our example of the right choices to make in life (that’s what it means to be his follower), but at the same time we need to remain loyal to ourselves. God doesn’t want me to change any part of my personality in being a follower of Jesus – I’ve always been loud and spirited and vivacious and insistent and by turns a social butterfly and a loner. I’ve always been somewhat larger than life and a non-conformist. I’ve always spoken up for what I believe in, and I’ve never been afraid to jump into whatever needs to be jumped into.

And yet, for a short time after I was reborn, I became quite restrained and low-key. I bought a “Jesus shirt” (demure loose-fitting white cotton blouse), which I wore religiously to church every day. That is to say, I would wear something else until I got to the church door, and then I would put on my Jesus shirt, the way that older Italian women put a veil over their heads when they enter a church. I thought I had to be that way and dress that way to conform to my new Christian life, seeing as how most Christians I knew at the time were restrained and low-key and wore modest, shapeless clothing.

Thank God that God sprung from that delusion! The notion that Christians have to be “meek and mild” wallflowers that all dress the same and pat each other on the hands while murmuring the same lame set phrases is propaganda from the dark side to keep us down. Yes, many Christians are meek and mild, but not because they’re Christian: they’re meek and mild because that’s their personality. I tried that on for size and it wasn’t a good fit. It didn’t work for me.

So now I’m just me. I’m just Charlotte. I’m STILL Charlotte. I’m a born-again believer first and foremost, but I’m a born-again believer with the same personality I had before I was born-again. I don’t have to change that and God doesn’t want me to change it.

My values changed at my rebirth; my personality didn’t.

So if you’re being pressured by someone to change your personality to be “more Christian”, tell them Charlotte says to kindly bugger off.

Just be you.

God himself made you that way.

THE BEST JOB YOU’LL EVER HAVE

When Jesus was looking for disciples, he didn’t go to their homes or track them down at the local pub or synagogue – he went to their place of work. Why did he do that? And not only did he go to their place of work, he told the disciples point-blank to quit their jobs then and there, and follow him. He made a very public demand, which they then very publicly agreed to and therefore could not backtrack on without seriously losing face.

I think one of the reasons Jesus nabbed his disciples at their place of work was because he was acting in the role of a competing employer. Discipleship in the Kingdom is not a hobby or a leisure activity – it’s a job, and it’s a full-time one. In fact, it’s full-time with perpetual overtime and no down-time. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus and at the same time work another job, even part-time. It’s not possible. Jesus himself had to give up his carpentry work when it was time to start his ministry.

That’s not to say that you can’t do a little something to keep body and soul together, but it can’t be a job with a boss and where you have to show up at a certain time or on certain days and remain at your duties for a certain period of time. Nothing should conflict with your Kingdom duties. NOTHING. Paul, as we know, did tent-making during most of his ministry years, but he did it on the fly. His tent-making didn’t tie him to any one location or any particular time-frame, as he couldn’t have traveled if it had. And he didn’t have any boss over him other than for Jesus and God.

I think another reason why Jesus went to the disciples’ place of work was so they’d understand they were entering into a business deal in agreeing to work for and with Jesus. It was a contract they were signing off on, not just a casual arrangement that could easily be walked away from. Not only that, it was a life-time contract that had implications for all eternity. And Jesus needed to get to the disciples where they wouldn’t be influenced or overruled by their sense of duty to their families. If he’d gone to their home environment, I’m guessing their responses might have been different.

We need to pay attention to the fact that Jesus went on a hiring spree when he chose his disciples, and that he’s still on that hiring spree. It didn’t stop when he went Home to Heaven. His offer to work for the Kingdom is never for a part-time position; it’s always full-time, and he’s a jealous boss: He wants you all to himself.

Needless to say, when Jesus comes to you with the offer (if he hasn’t yet), take it. Don’t tell him you need a few days or a few weeks to think about it – take it right there and right then, even if it means you have to walk away from everything and everyone and never look back. Because first of all, no-one will ever come to you with a better offer than to work for God and Jesus in the Kingdom, and second of all, if you reject Jesus’ offer or put off making a decision about it, there won’t be another opportunity. He won’t ask you again.

And if that happens, you will lose the only thing that matters in this life and the one to come – a Forever Home for your soul.

ON ABORTION, ROE v. WADE, AND PRAYER

Women who declare “my body, my choice” in support of abortion fail to realize that the baby inside a mother’s womb is not the mother’s body.

The baby has a different body than the mother’s, with different DNA.

So the argument “my body, my choice” fails right from the start, as the baby and the mother have different bodies that may temporarily be conjoined but are still different and unique.

Women who want the right to kill their babies would have to say: “The body inside my body is my right to kill”, although I’m not sure which right they would draw on to make that assertion.

As born-again believers, we know that killing the unborn in what should be the safest place on Earth for a baby (the womb) is a demonically inspired act. In fact, it is of benefit to the Satanic realm (to which the demons belong) that babies be killed, as that prolongs the time of the Gentiles and forestalls the demons’ final descent into the lake of fire. It is to their benefit that babies be killed, and so they inspire these women to kill their children. The outcry against today’s Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling is likewise demon-inspired.

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When I was an atheist, I was intimately acquainted with the abortion ritual. I was also heavily demonically oppressed and occasionally possessed until my rebirth 23 years ago. In hindsight, I know what drove me to hate the unborn, though at the time my hatred was dressed up as a “woman’s right” I refused to concede.

After I was born-again, I hated abortion. However, I have never supported pro-life organizations. I agree with their focus on stopping abortions, but I don’t support how they do it. I don’t support their methods. They come across as finger-pointers and haters rather than as lovers of their enemies who bless and pray for expectant women who don’t want to mother the child in their womb. I think a lot more would be accomplished if people prayed for mothers who are considering abortions rather than attacking and vilifying them.

A woman who wants to kill her own child is a very sick woman and should be treated as such; she is also an expectant mother and should be treated as such. Most importantly, her illness is spiritual, so her treatment must also be spiritual. She needs to be prayed for, not attacked and vilified. And Jesus tells us to go into our closets to pray, not out onto the street or in front of an abortion clinic or hospital. We don’t publicly announce our prayers for expectant mothers who want to abort their children; we pray in secret for them.

Abortion may be made illegal in one area, but as long as Satan rather than God rules in the hearts of some expectant mothers, abortions will continue elsewhere. As born-again followers of Jesus, our job isn’t to condemn spiritually sick expectant mothers who want to kill the child in their womb, but to pray for these women that they come to repentance and are healed by God. This is the same prayer we pray for everyone God puts in our heart to pray for: Whether they’re expectant mothers or not, the same treatment applies.

We should also not be so naïve as to think the ruling today is a victory for “good”. Abortion is an industry, and the same forces that benefit from that industry lord over the Supreme Court. As Jesus reminded us, the world is under Satan. The chaos, destruction and hatred that is about to be unleashed in response to the Roe v. Wade ruling will cast long shadows spiritually over the world. We need to make up our mind right now that our response to the hatred will not be finger-pointing and vilifying, but praying.

THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT

What does Jesus think of Christianity?

I asked him, and this is what he told me.

He hates what’s it’s become, the same way he hated what Judaism had become.

He’s also not surprised what Christianity has turned into. He warned us 2000 years ago already that it would morph into something unrecognizable from what he’d established.

Is a church still Christian if Jesus has left the building?

What remains is a mish-mash of soulless rituals adapted from dead belief systems, songs of praise that sound like funeral dirges, and a worldly ideological free-for-all that would make even the ancient Sodomites blush. Yes, Jesus was notorious for eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes, but he didn’t invite them into the temple to drink. He made it very clear that the temple was set aside as a house of prayer.

In a house of prayer, you come before God to talk to him and hear from him. When you come before God, you don’t come loud and proud, demanding that God accept your sin as righteousness. If you’re born-again, you come before God as his child, respectful and loving. If you’re not born-again, you come before God penitent and humbled. There is no room for pride in God’s house of prayer.

There is no room for Pride in God’s house of prayer.

Those who feel compelled to express their pride can do it elsewhere; the places designated as God’s houses are places of prayer for all people, not places for acting out.

The penitent sinful are welcome in God’s house, but sin isn’t. Pride isn’t.

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But of course, I’m dreaming here to think that the mainstream worldly churches have the remotest grasp of these concepts now, and that even if they did, they would care to apply them. Jesus hates the current manifestation of Christianity not because of the people in it, but because of the sin in it. The one true Church that Jesus established by very definition has no sin it; sin cannot enter into God’s Kingdom: It’s a spiritual impossibility for sin to enter in. Which means the churches masquerading as his are not his.

Christian churches are not Christian.

The Church that Jesus established is the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is the one true Church and the one that born-again believers automatically become members of at their rebirth. There is no need for born-again believers to join a worldly denominational church. If you’re genuinely born again and you want to know what your Church looks like in the spiritual realm, you can see a vision of it in Revelation 7. All those white-robed people of different nations and languages standing before God’s throne day and night and waving palm fronds to witness their allegiance to Jesus as Messiah – there’s your Church. You’re among those white-robed people, if you’re genuinely born-again.

In John, Jesus prayed that his followers would be one with God as he was one with God. Jesus always got what he prayed for (as he always waited for God to direct his prayers), so we know that we, as his born-again followers, do have the same relationship with God as Jesus did during his time on Earth. God is our Father.

And having the same relationship that Jesus had with God, we are one family of believers and we all believe the same thing. There is nothing to dispute. There are no disagreements. There is no need for denominations or creeds or statements of belief. We believe what Jesus believed, not because we’re mindless zombies who parrot whatever is told us, but because Jesus believed Truth, and so do we.

We believe the Gospel. We believe God’s Word. Any deviation from that we do not believe and in fact any deviation cannot enter into God’s Church. Only Truth lives in God’s Church, and only genuine born-again believers can enter in there.

Lies, deceit, Pride, and all forms of sin cannot enter. It’s a spiritual impossibility for unrepentant sin to enter into God’s Church.

That’s how we know that the sin-laden mainstream denominational churches are not God’s Church. They are places designated for people to come before God, if they want to, they are a house of prayer for all people, but they are not God’s Church.

The Kingdom and the Kingdom only is God’s Church – the one foretold in scripture, and the one that Jesus built.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Abraham made a deal with God that if there were 10 righteous souls in Sodom, God would not destroy it.

As it were, God did destroy Sodom, so clearly there weren’t even 10 righteous souls there.

However, I’m wondering if someone had done a show-of-hands survey just prior to the destruction to see how many people in Sodom self-identified as righteous, I’m guessing a lot more than 10 people would have raised their hands.

By the same token, of the million or so souls who were of age (20 years and up) when they left Egypt in the exodus, only 2 (Caleb and Joshua) were considered by God to be sufficiently righteous to enter the Promised Land.

And of all those alive during the days of Noah, only Noah was considered sufficiently righteous to be spared the flood.

So let’s take a look at this – so far, the actual named righteous out of millions if not billions of souls who lived during those eras are 4 in total: Lot, Caleb, Joshua and Noah. (Their families were spared as chattel.)

We could also add Abraham, of course, but that only makes 5.

What about the 2 billion Christians today? How many of them do you think would raise their hands and self-identify as righteous? There were many children of Israel during the days of Jesus’ ministry who would have self-identified as righteous, too, and some of those Jesus told to their face they didn’t have a hope in Hades of getting to Heaven, not in the spiritual state they were in.

These low numbers should be very sobering to us.

Do you consider yourself to be as righteous as Lot? How about as righteous as Noah? Or maybe as righteous as Stephen, the first martyr of the church, who prayed for and forgave those who were stoning him to death while they were stoning him to death? We know that Moses made it to Heaven, too, and Elijah, because they came to visit Jesus during the so-called transfiguration on the mount. So now, along with the other named 5 souls, we’ve got a few more, but not many.

This speaks to me of how difficult it is to make it all the way Home. At the same time, it also speaks to me of how full of crap the mainstream Christian church must be to assure their adherents that Jesus did all the heavy lifting, so all they have to do is show up every Sunday and/or give money to the church, and off to Heaven they go. Or something like that.

I frankly do not consider myself righteous. I have a long way to go before I would make such a claim, if ever. And I think the point here is precisely that: We cannot judge our own righteousness or the righteousness of others. We cannot know definitively whether we’re righteous before God. Abraham thought it was a sure thing to negotiate God down to just 10 righteous souls in Sodom, thinking there must be at least 10, but he was wrong. There was only 1.

And then there was none.

*****

We read of visions of mass destruction throughout the book of Revelation and in Ezekiel 9. Mass destruction was also recorded as historical fact in the book of Jeremiah and in Genesis and elsewhere. In the visions and actual scenes of destruction, very few are spared. Jeremiah relays how mothers cooked and ate their own children during the famine when Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians, in fulfillment of Moses’ prophecies in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

It’s a nasty world out there, filled with nasty people doing nasty things. God knows that. None of what anyone does is a surprise to him. But don’t you be nasty. Don’t you eat your own children, no matter how hungry you get. Don’t you congregate around the door of your neighbour, demanding he bring out his guests so you can rape them. Don’t you strip yourself naked and dance drunk around a golden calf made from the very gold God gave you for his temple ornaments. Don’t you sell everything you have and give only half to the poor, hiding away the other half for a rainy day.

In other words, don’t be unrighteous. Be like the people of Nineveh, who repented when they were told they needed to repent. That’s how you overcome any unrighteousness you may not even know is in you.

Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry was to repent and believe the Gospel. That message doesn’t change at any point during the rest of our time on Earth. We are all in constant need of repentance and all in constant need of the Gospel, just as we’re all in constant need of being reminded how precious and elusive the reward of Heaven actually is.

It’s a numbers game. Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen; Jesus also said that the Way Home is narrow and few find it.

We need to take these words to heart and hope that in mentioning the few, Jesus was talking about us.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BELIEVE?

In John 3:16, Jesus tells us that whoever believes in him has eternal life.

That’s quite a promise. I mean, the demons believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God – the Messiah – so does that mean the demons have eternal life?

Of course not. We know that the demons are on their way to the eternal lake of fire, despite their knowing beyond a doubt who Jesus is.

What, then, does it mean to believe in Jesus? It can’t simply mean to believe that he’s the son of God and the Messiah because, again, the demons believe that for sure (scripture tells us so), but they’re not saved.

So what does Jesus mean by believing in him?

Let’s think about this for a minute.

What else in life do you believe?

I believe that if I walk out in front of a bus that’s barreling towards me, I’m going to get run over by that bus and likely killed. I don’t want to be run over by a bus and killed, so I operate in my belief and I don’t walk out in front of any buses that are barreling towards me. I act on my belief.

I think Jesus meant the same thing when he said that those who believe in him have eternal life. Many people say they believe in Jesus, but they go about their everyday lives as if they don’t: They unapologetically break the Commandments, they never open a Bible to read what’s in it, and they essentially live the life of unbelievers, even while claiming that they “believe”. In other words, they purposely walk out in front of countless spiritual buses barrelling towards them and still think they’re spiritually safe. Surely the reward of Heaven can’t be won that cheaply? Surely Jesus meant that it took more than just to say (or sing) “I believe” to get into Heaven?

I am certain that Jesus did indeed mean that it took much more than that to get into Heaven. I am certain that, in God’s economy, to believe means not just to think something is so (like holding an opinion), but to live that belief. It’s not a superficial mental or emotional state that’s referenced in John 3:16; it’s a whole-body, whole-soul, whole-mind, core position that, once adopted, guides everything you do and say. Your belief is so deeply entrenched within you, so inseparable from who and what you are, that it molds your thoughts and actions, mostly without your even having to think about them in advance.

Belief is not the steam rising from a teacup full of tea, but the tea leaves themselves resting at the bottom of the teapot. There can be no tea without tea leaves, though there can be steam from any number of sources. Genuine belief is like tea leaves infusing and informing and flavoring the water in which they rest, whereas superficial belief is like steam that looks the same whether it rises from a teacup or a sewer grate.

I would wager that the belief steam rising from most Christians these days comes from a sewer grate. Belief that is stated but not lived is not what Jesus meant in John 3:16. How do we know that? Because Jesus, in other parts of the Gospel, clearly explains that it takes a certain amount of doing this-and-that and of not doing this-and-that to make it Home. Think of the parable of the sheep and goats. Think of the parable of the virgins and their lamps. Think of the rich young ruler. Think of Jesus outright stating that those who believed they were fast-tracked to Heaven based solely on their belief of being a certain tradition and heritage were destined to remain on the outside, gnashing their teeth for all eternity. Think of Jesus stating that you’ll be held to account for every word you utter. Think of Jesus stating that you have to be born-again.

John 3:16 is a great comfort to those who truly believe and whose lives – both outer and inner – reflect their belief. But for those who mistakenly assume that just saying “I believe!” is their ticket Home, a hard awakening awaits them, like it did the goats and the foolish virgins and the children of Israel who assumed Heaven was their reward simply for being children of Israel. Think of how many who were of age (20 years and up) at the start of the exodus actually made it to the Promised Land. In case you’ve forgotten, only two made it all the way.

That’s a sobering statistic if ever there was one, and that’s just for the temporal reward of the earthly Promised Land.

Why would the eternal reward of the heavenly Promised Land be any easier to obtain?

LIVING WITH NO FEAR

Throughout scripture, fear is the great divider that separates those who love God from those who don’t. The amount of fear you have (fear of death, fear of disease, fear of poverty, fear of going hungry, fear of going homeless, fear of being outcast or ridiculed or slandered, etc.) is a direct measure of your relationship with God: the more you fear, the farther away you are from God.

Fear is also the opposite of faith.

Of all God’s prophets, Jesus not only had the greatest faith and the greatest measure of God’s Spirit, but also the least amount of fear. I would even suggest (and I believe scripture backs me up) that Jesus had no fear of anyone or anything at all, other than a righteous and holy fear of God.

We born-again believers need to be like that.

I’m talking to you, preppers, and to all those who’ve stockpiled whatever you stockpile (food, money, property, ammunition, supplies, etc.) – the more you stockpile, the more you reveal your fear and the weakness of your faith.

I’m talking to you, mandate compliers, and to all those who call themselves followers of Jesus but who still cover their faces and go along to get along, afraid they won’t be able to provide for their family or get what they need or go where they want. The more you comply, the more you reveal your fear and the weakness of your faith.

I’m talking to you, lovers of the world more than lovers of God. I see you in the pews in the mainstream churches, faces covered and bowing down to the satanic rainbow, too afraid to speak up lest you be kicked out of spiritual Sodom. The more sin you tolerate in houses designated as God’s, the more you reveal your fear and the weakness of your faith.

Jesus never prepped or complied with mandates that conflicted with his beliefs or bowed down to the world’s idols. Like Jesus, you don’t need to do any of those things if you live in the Kingdom. God will provide for all your needs as you need them, as long as you keep him and his Commandments front and center in your life. You stray off the path, things will get rough for you (speaking from experience here, lol).

But if you keep God front and center, defer to him in all matters, and rely on and follow his advice rather than that of the world, he will provide. That is his promise to his children (LEVITICUS 26 and DEUTERONOMY 28), and if you’re genuinely born-again, you are his child. You are the spiritual progeny of the perfect Father who is also the greatest force in the universe. Do you think such a perfect force would abandon his children? I don’t think so. God always keeps his promises, whether to reward or to punish. Scripture provides ample evidence of that.

Fear is the hallmark of unbelievers and of those who are weak in faith. Look around you and see who is afraid and what they’re afraid of. Whatever their fears, you don’t need to share them. Jesus didn’t. He embraced the sick and diseased, embraced poverty, embraced being shunned, embraced being outcast, and in the end he even embraced being crucified. In none of those circumstances did he show any fear.

But, you say, he was Jesus. I’m just me.

Jesus came to show us how to follow him in the Way, that is, how to live without fear. The closer you follow his example, the less fear you have, the greater your faith, and the closer you grow to God.

This is not spiritual rocket science here; it’s the foundation and cornerstone of what it means to be a Christian.

Share in the world’s fears and get the world’s spiritual rewards, or cast off the world’s fears and get the rewards of the Kingdom.

The choice is yours.

The right one is obvious.

WE GET WHAT WE DESERVE

Just as I opened a new document to type this, thunder boomed from the Heavens, right on cue:

“Righteous thou art, O Lord… because thou has judged thus

For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets; and thou has given them blood to drink

Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgements.”

This quote is from the book of Revelation, in the chapter where the angels are pouring out the vials and stating that people get what they deserve. Their statement is made dispassionately and somewhat coldly, the same way that the narrator prophet in Ezekiel 9 states dispassionately and somewhat coldly that people get what they deserve even as he watches the slaughtering of untold numbers, including children.

God’s judgments are perfect.

When I was a newborn-again, I remember pausing at that part of Revelation where the angels pour out the vials and wondering how they could be so emotionally detached from the pain and suffering they were causing. I wonder no more. After 23 years as a believer, I’m fully on board with whatever God doles out for people to suffer, as they have it coming. God doesn’t inflict anything that people haven’t earned, and even then he softens the blow through his renowned mercy.

There’s only been one person in all of history who suffered what he didn’t have coming, and that was Jesus. EVERYONE ELSE SUFFERS WHAT THEY’VE EARNED. You cannot be a follower of Jesus and not accept and believe this 100%.

*****

I went to a Bible study last week. It was more a sermon than a study, as no-one but the pastor had any input into the interpretation of the chapter being studied, which was Leviticus 26.

Leviticus 26 is basically the same as Deuteronomy 28, which is Moses’ detailed laundry list of the blessings that come with obeying the Commandments and doing the right thing in God’s eyes, and the curses that come with disobeying the Commandments and doing the wrong thing in God’s eyes. Every Christian not only needs to be intimately familiar with this laundry list, but to refer to it on a regular basis, as Jesus tells us the Commandments still apply to us. Unfortunately, the pastor only interpreted Leviticus 26 as applying to the children of Israel 2000 or 3000 years ago, not to current-day Christendom. In so doing, he missed the whole point of the chapter, which was to deliver a very real and very present warning to God’s people, so that they would make their everyday life choices accordingly.

I despise cowardly pastors. I despise them the way Jesus despised them. It took every ounce of my self-restraint not to ask the pastor how this chapter could be applied to Christians and Christendom today. But most pastors churned out by Bible colleges won’t touch that application of Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 with a 10-foot pole, as it would upend their doctrine about “just believing” and “having faith” as being the only way to Heaven. If you accept that all you need to do is “believe in Jesus” and you’re on your way to paradise, then choosing to do what is right in God’s eyes is no longer a necessity, which then negates the teachings of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. This is precisely what mainstream Christianity now does – negate the teachings of scripture.

How you can call yourself a Christian pastor and then stop short of applying scripture to life today? This is entirely the opposite of how Jesus taught. Jesus always applied scripture to the here and now, as scripture is intended to be applied to the here and now. That’s why God inspired his prophets to write it and his preachers to teach it.

Note that I said “his preachers”, meaning those who are genuinely sent from God. There aren’t many of those around today, any more than there were a lot at any time in history. The true prophets and preachers have always been few and far between, but God provides at least one for his people, and makes sure that they can be heard by those who want to hear.

*****

People get back what they put out, mitigated by God’s mercy. Once the Age of Mercy is over for a given people at a given time and their Age of Judgement begins, there will be no more mitigation (softening) of the earned blows – people will get the full measure of what they’ve earned. This is the scenario that plays out in Revelation 16 and Ezekiel 9: Judgement without mercy. It also plays out in the passages on the flood and in the passages on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I used to balk at the dispassionate coldness of those scriptural passages, but no more. People get what they deserve. Only Jesus suffered what he didn’t deserve, and he did so willingly and fully informed in advance.

God’s justice is perfect. So the next time you hear someone say “He didn’t deserve that” or “They didn’t deserve that” or “You didn’t deserve that”, correct the speaker. God’s justice is perfect.

We only get back what we put out.

We only suffer what we deserve, with Jesus the sole exception.