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It is never enough for evil that you simply tolerate it, that you allow it to exist at a distance and disdained.
No: Evil wants you to embrace it.
And to do that, you must first deny Truth.
This is the aim of torture – to get you to change your confession. If the torturers wanted you dead, they would simply kill you, but then you would leave this world still confessing Truth. This would not do. So the torturers keep you alive just long enough for you to change your confession.
It’s a ritual, torture, and like all rituals it is dispassionate and aloof, a set process that considers the victim only as a subject to be broken spiritually through the breaking of the subject’s will. It is a science experiment taken to extremes, a clinical trial where the participants don’t agree to the terms, but then again are not required to agree. It is cold, impersonal, seldom unsuccessful, and thoroughly diabolical.
We think about torture as something from days gone by and in distant places, but torture is as common here and now as it ever was. Propaganda, which is agenda-driven lies, is mind torture, and propaganda is the language of the world. We are surrounded by propaganda, just as surely as we are surrounded by billions of people who devoutly confess the world’s propaganda and just as devoutly want YOU to confess it.
The sole opposition to propaganda is God’s Word.
Jesus warned his followers that they would be tortured, that they would be outlaws, hunted and despised. Jesus warned us not to frighten us but to prepare us so that we could prepare ourselves and others.
We live in the realm of mind torture, where darkness is hailed as light, lies as truth, poison as cure, unnatural as natural, up as down, and black as white. If we dare speak out to counter the propaganda, we are attacked, ridiculed, shut down, side-lined, banned, canceled, threatened, and silenced. It takes a strong will to withstand these onslaughts. It takes a mind focused on God and his Word and driven by God’s Holy Spirit, not by the Father of Lies.
You can just as effectively be poisoned by the tiniest increments of toxins consumed over a long period of time as by a large dose delivered all at once. In fact, propaganda works best as a torture device when it can whittle away at you day by day, day by day, day by day, until one day you wake up confessing lies.
It is not enough for evil that you simply tolerate it. Evil wants you to embrace it, to confess it.
Your job, as a follower of Jesus, is to resist evil and to continually counter it with God’s Word. This is a process that is day by day, day by day, day by day, and that will not cease until you’ve drawn your last breath. There is no final victory here on Earth, no laying down of weapons, no waving of the white flag by the enemy. Not in this realm, not while we’re here this body.
If we’re to remain loyal to God’s Word, we have no choice but to keep fighting. The enemy will not give up. The propaganda will not cease. The lies will only become more extreme and the devotees to the lies more viciously devout. Remember that through the lens of propaganda, YOU are the enemy, and the enemy must be neutralized and then destroyed.
It is never enough for evil that you simply tolerate it. Evil wants you to confess it, to embrace it, to BE it.
Never let that happen.
During his time on Earth, Jesus trusted no-one but God.
He lived in very close quarters with his disciples and other followers, but scripture tells us that he trusted none of them because he knew what was in their heart.
He taught them, yes.
He shared meals with them, yes.
He spent most of his days and nights with them, yes.
He even equipped them to go on missions to preach the Word, heal the sick, and cast out demons, but he didn’t trust any of them.
He knew what was in their heart.
He knew their weaknesses.
If you’re wise like Jesus, you’ll also trust no-one but God. You can function as born-again believers within greater society and within your circle of believers without having to trust anyone. The minute you let your guard down and reveal things that are meant to remain between you and God, you set yourself up for betrayal.
There is a reason why God emphasizes in scripture that he will never leave us or betray us. It’s his warning that everyone else WILL eventually betray us, one way or another. Judas Iscariot wasn’t the only disciple to betray Jesus on the night of his arrest: They all did.
Let your best friend be Jesus and your father be God. Give them all your confidences. Give none to anyone else.
Trust no human, not your spouse, not your children, not even your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents, not your siblings, not your cousins, not your aunts, not your uncles. Trust none of them, because Jesus says that those under your own roof – those in your own family – will be your worst enemies.
Confess your sins to one another (as Paul advises us to do), but share your heart’s desires with no-one but God and Jesus.
I find it interesting that Jesus lambasted his followers not for sinful living or breaking Commandments, but for not having enough FAITH. He didn’t even yell at Judas when he betrayed him, but he did frequently let loose on the disciples for their lack of faith.
If faith is that important to Jesus, then it should be that important to us.
But what is faith?
Paul calls it “evidence of things unseen”; I call it “the means to and measure of our relationship with God”. Faith is difficult to define (or at least to reach a definition consensus on) mainly because its very existence is opposed to fact and logic, the same fact and logic that is applied to creating definitions.
No matter how you define it (or choose not to define it), faith is central to being a follower of Jesus. With no faith, you will sink under the waves like Peter. Remember that he did walk on water for a few seconds, but when he thought about what he was doing (that is, when he tried to rationalize it), he started to drown.
Jesus never engaged in debate with people who tried to rationalize faith. He did not preach to unbelievers or to those who said they were believers but did not welcome his Word. He only preached to those who were open to hearing the gospel on faith.
Faith operates like that – it works only through those who welcome it and are open to receiving it. Uh, oh – did I say “receiving it”? Does that mean that faith is a two-way channel, not something that originates in us but something that flows to as well as from us?
Yes, I did say that. You have to be open to faith to have faith.
See? I warned you not to rationalize it. Faith doesn’t make any sense rationally, but for those who have faith, it’s self-evident.
I mention the importance of having faith because many of us tend to live by the witness of our eyes rather than of our faith. If you, as a believer, view the state of the world today using your physical and rational eyes, you would run into the deepest cave you could find and never come out again. But if you view the world through the “eyes of faith”, you would still see the horrors, but you would also see God’s righteousness moving through people and circumstances, and running and hiding would be the last thing on your mind.
Having faith means never giving up on God, no matter how bleak things look.
Having faith means believing in the expressed and potential goodness in people, regardless of the horrible things they might do and say.
Having faith means believing that God will keep his promises, and that we, as born-agains, live in the long-awaited Kingdom of God, where we are safe from our enemies and able to perform the same miracles Jesus did.
The disciples lacked sufficient faith not because they didn’t love God and didn’t want to follow Jesus, but because they were relying on their understanding rather than their belief.
When I was a little kid, I didn’t know anything about how the mortgage got paid or dinner appeared on the table; I just knew beyond a doubt I would have a roof over my head and food in my mouth, and I always did. In other words, I didn’t have to understand how they got there in order to believe that they would be there. I never doubted for a second.
Jesus tells us to be like little kids. A big part of being a little kid is believing not because we see or understand, but because we simply take it for granted as being self-evident.
There is no doubt in belief.
Doubt is what gets you in trouble. Doubt is the devil getting a toe-hold in you, just enough to keep you from having faith by questioning your belief, by trying to get you to apply fact and logic to something that has no place for fact and logic.
We say we believe in God, but do we really if we don’t have faith?
We say we have faith, but do we really if we don’t believe God’s Word?
We need to stop staring at the waves under our feet, telling ourselves there’s no way we can walk on water, and instead fix our eyes on Jesus and simply believe we can do it.
We walk on water not because we understand how, but because Jesus says we can, and we love and trust Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt.
That is all.
That is faith.
Jesus had two distinct lives when he lived on Earth in a human body.
His first life centered on Nazareth, his blood relatives, and his work as a carpenter.
His second life centered on God, his followers, and preaching and teaching the gospel.
There was a clear separation between his first life and second life. It wasn’t the same life divided into “before and after” getting the call. No. It was two distinctly separate lives lived by the same person in the same body.
All who are called to follow Jesus and to preach and teach the gospel experience a similar progression from one life to the next. This is demonstrated in Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their fishing business (and in Peter’s case, his wife and family) to follow Jesus. Matthew also dramatically quit his job to follow Jesus, as did Paul and many others.
Some of us try to sit on the fence between these two lives. We work day jobs and preach by night, dividing our energy between the world and God. This works for a while, the same way training wheels work for a while to get a wobbly young cyclist used to the “feel” of a two-wheeled bike. But if you leave the training wheels on too long, the child gets used to the feel of a three- or four-wheeler rather than a two-wheeler, and either fights against the removal of the training wheels or suffers a major crash when the wheels do eventually come off.
For Jesus, the switch from life as a carpenter to life as a preacher involved a great untethering. He had to completely untether himself from the commitments and bonds of his first life. This he did by walking away from them and staying gone. He didn’t go back and he didn’t look back. He simply lived as if his former life no longer existed.
Untethered, Jesus was then able to devote his entire life to God and to his ministry work. He was tied to no one location, no daily responsibilities, and no particular person. He didn’t command his followers to follow him; he invited them, and they were free to leave whenever they wanted. They, too, in following Jesus, progressed to their second lives, untied to any location, responsibilities, or persons. Untethered like Jesus, they could then wholly focus on God.
Untethering is a process. For some, it happens overnight, whereas for others it takes years. Remember that even Jesus – who was born with God’s Spirit — had to wait for the signal before untethering himself from Nazareth. Untethering is not a directive that comes from us but from God. The child doesn’t decide when it’s time for the training wheels to come off; the parents decide. We don’t decide when it’s time to untether from our first life; God decides.
But when God gives you that signal, let go.
Like Jesus and Peter and Paul, let it ALL go.
And never go back.
A gentle reminder not to be swayed by the false prophets of doom as we enter another year.
As always, Jesus says it best: “Take heed that no man deceive you, for many will come in my name… and deceive many.”
Why is it that so many who claim to love God focus only on the NEGATIVE? Why are all the so-called revelations by so-called Christian prophets almost always only about gloom and doom?
Part of the reason is that they’re not real prophets (that is, they’re not speaking God’s Truth), but the other part – and I believe the main one – is that they’re pandering to people’s desires. People WANT to hear about gloom and doom, they WANT to hear that we’re entering the Tribulation and that the “Antichrist” is waiting in the wings, and so these “prophets” give them what they want.
In an earlier blog, I called this attraction to doom an addiction to spiritual porn.
Yes, the Old Testament prophets spent a lot of time railing at the Hebrews and warning them what would come if they didn’t change their ways, but the ultimate message of each of those prophets was the good news of God’s mercy to those who willingly choose the good. The New Testament is all about the Good News (“gospel” literally means “good news”), as it is the long-awaited fulfillment of God’s promise of spiritual salvation. Even the book of Revelation, for all its dire warnings, ends with the victory of God’s people and their great reward of Heaven.
God does not want us to live in fear or spend our time digging through YouTube for bad news. He wants us to live in the joy and grace of his Holy Spirit, and to teach and preach his Good News. It doesn’t matter how bad things get around us, we can still live our lives in joy, looking for and highlighting the good rather than dwelling on the bad. Jesus was expert at that: Even as an outcast from society and with a bounty on his head, he healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storm, fed the famished, taught the illiterate, forgave sinners, blessed his enemies, and just generally lived his life as a bright light rather than a shadow, choosing to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
We all have that choice, to be either a bright light or a shadow. We can seek out gloom and doom and in the process become what we seek, or we can plainly see what is in front of us but choose to see the good in it rather than the bad, and in the process let God’s love and light shine through.
Every night before I go to sleep, I pray for unbelievers. Some of them I know personally and am in contact with nearly every day; some of them I know personally but haven’t spoken to for years; and some of them I know only by name and face. I pray for these people because they need prayers as much as anyone else, and God has put it in my heart to pray for them. As an unbeliever and atheist, I was prayed for for 36 years before I turned and saw the light. I don’t think anyone is beyond God’s mercy (other than those who have consciously and with full intent made a deal with the devil, but I’m not talking about those poor souls here), and I believe there is still time for people to turn. Not much time, mind you, but still enough time. Paul tells us that God is painstakingly patient with us because he wants as many as possible to come to his light.
The start of a new year is a good opportunity for us to realign ourselves to God’s will. If you’ve developed a tendency over the past year to seek out shadows rather than light – the bad news rather than the Good – maybe now you could make the effort to once again highlight the positive, whether in people or in situations. That doesn’t mean being blind to what’s going on around you (Jesus was always hyper-aware and one step ahead of everyone else in that regard), but making a conscious choice to see beyond “what man sees” to what God sees.
God doesn’t look at us and see only the negative; he sees our nearly limitless potential to do good, no matter how deep we are in our sins. I wasn’t born again because I fasted and prayed and purified myself; I was born again because I was in the deepest depths of despair I’d ever been in and cried out for help. Even in the blackness of my spiritual filth, God saw a faint glimmer of light, a tiny flicker that he knew he could work with, and that was enough for him.
As born-again believers, we must see as God sees and do what God does. Jesus says to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We must see in the darkest of nights the promise of dawn. We must hear in the curses of people who hate us the sound of wayward passion that can be set straight and one day sing God’s praises. Paul said that if there be any good in anyone, to dwell on that. This is not an easy task, as it is far easier to give way to spiritual gravity and fall for the negative, the siren call of gloom and doom.
But let this be a challenge to you for the coming year: that no matter what happens – no matter how bad things get – you choose to see the good, you choose to be the light, even if you’re the only one shining.
Imagine how different your life would be if you did everything as if unto God – if you looked after your things as if they were God’s, if you treated others as if they were God in the flesh, if you earned your daily bread as if you were doing it unto God – JUST IMAGINE HOW DIFFERENT YOUR LIFE WOULD BE!
And yet we, as born-agains, are supposed to be living our lives doing everything as if unto God already. That’s our job description. We shouldn’t have to imagine how different our lives would be; we’d know firsthand, because we’d be living it.
What would your life look like if you did everything as if unto God? I’ll tell you what it would look like: It would look like Jesus’ life.
Exactly like that.
Does your life look like Jesus’ life?
Be honest, now.
I know mine doesn’t. Can’t lie about that. Can’t quibble about that, not if I’m doing everything as if unto God, including self-examination. If I squint and turn the spiritual lights way down low, yes, I can say that my life somewhat resembles Jesus’ life, but there are big gaps where “putting God first in everything” and “treating other people as I would want to be treated” should be.
How about you – are there gaps between your life and Jesus’ life? Does your life run more or less parallel to Jesus’ life, or are you on a different path altogether?
We tend to get caught up in life’s little problems and life’s little joys, forgetting the reason why we’re here in the flesh to begin with. We’re easily distracted. We’re easily rubbed the wrong way. We generally have a low pain threshold, whether for physical or emotional pain. We generally want everything to go our way, and when it doesn’t, we pout and complain. We point fingers. We hold grudges.
Is any of this – pouting, complaining, and pointing fingers – living our life like Jesus lived his?
Is any of this doing everything as if unto God?
I’m not accusing you. If anything, this is more a self-examination on my part. I wish I had lived my life, post-rebirth, doing everything as if unto God. I wish there were no gaps between my life and Jesus’ life. I wish, if I overlaid my life course with that of Jesus, they would match up, but the fact is they don’t.
We are still here in the flesh, as born-agains, because we still need to learn what it means to be a child of God, what it means to follow Jesus in everything we do. These are the learning and testing years. These are not the years of ease and plenty; these are the laboring years. Jesus laboured; in doing everything unto God, Jesus never stop labouring until his job was done on the cross. He rarely took days off, and then only to spend more time one-on-one with God.
He turned his back on the world – not on the people who were God’s in the world, but on the world’s systems. He lived entirely outside the world’s systems.
If you start with the premise that nothing in your life is a “coincidence”, that the pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned, that all things work for good for those who are the called according to God’s purposes, that where you are now is the best possible outcome of all your previous choices – if you start from there, here is a question for you: Are you happy with your life?
I’m pretty sure if Jesus had been asked that question back in his ministry days, he would have answered “Yes”, quietly, confidently, and without hesitation.
Our answer also needs to be “Yes”, without hesitation.
If it isn’t, we’ve still got work to do.
“But let me first go bury my father.”
“Let the dead bury their dead. Come follow me.”
I remember reading those lines when I was first converted from atheism and thinking how cold Jesus sounded. I mean, the guy just wanted to bury his father! That couldn’t take any more than a day or two. And wasn’t burying his father a form of “honoring” him? Was Jesus not only being cruel here but also breaking a Commandment by telling the guy to forget about his father? (more…)
“It’s surprising what you find when you’re not looking.”
Any time I’ve found money on the street or a four-leaf clover, I wasn’t looking for them. They found me. It’s like a light shines on them, separating them from their surroundings. The last time that happened was a few months ago – two glistening 20-dollar bills lay side by side, waving to me from a hotel parking lot, saying: “Here we are! Come get us!”, and I did.
Near the end of the book of Isaiah, God says through the prophet: “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not” (65:1). I wasn’t looking for God the day I was born-again. He found me. People say: “I found God”, but it’s God who finds us (his lost sheep) as much as we find him. It’s a mutual finding. (more…)
Remember that Judas Iscariot was one of the 12.
He was part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.
That meant he preached and taught the Word. He followed in Jesus’ entourage wherever Jesus went. He was present at many of the miracles. He lived as a follower of Jesus throughout the entire duration of Jesus’ ministry. All of the disciples and other followers accepted him as a fellow believer. No-one doubted his faith. He was among the chorus of voices that claimed they would rather die than betray Jesus.
Remember also that when Jesus said that someone among them would betray him, all of the disciples (except for Judas) were confused as to who that could be. They each, one by one, even considered themselves as possible betrayers (“Is it I?”) rather than point the finger at Judas. He really had them all fooled.
All of them, that is, except for Jesus.
The same spirit that worked through Judas Iscariot is still active among us today, still in the inner and outer sanctums of Christianity, and still deceiving people into believing that everyone who claims to be a Christian is actually a Christian. We need to use discernment if we are to tell the Judases from the real disciples. We need to use the same Spirit that Jesus used.
I have written in earlier blogs about the Judases I have met over the past 21 years as a born-again believer. Most of these were priests, preachers and ministers. They were no shrinking violets; they didn’t sit in pews and let other people carry the burden of ministry. No, they were active and popular and hard-working and engaging. People liked them and responded positively to them, just as, I’m sure, people (including the disciples) liked and responded positively to Judas Iscariot during most of Jesus’ ministry. If they hadn’t liked Judas, surely that would have been a red flag to Jesus’ other disciples that something was “off” about Judas, but no red flags appeared.
The other side of this coin is Paul’s conversion to Christianity. When he first came out as a follower of Jesus, very few of Jesus’ followers believed him. Most of them doubted his conversion and nearly all of them were afraid of him, as he was on record swearing that he would incarcerate and kill any followers of The Way. In fact, it was Paul himself who many of Jesus’ followers were fleeing from.
Paul had a major uphill battle to convince Jesus’ followers that his conversion was genuine and that he was now one of them.
I mention these two sides of the same coin – falsely believing that Judas Iscariot was a genuine follower of Jesus and refusing to believe that Paul was a genuine follower – because we live in an age of profound deception. Every one of us is either being tempted (tested) or will be tempted (tested) into believing lies and delusions, and the lies and delusions will only be discernible as such through the lens of God’s Spirit. We cannot rely on our own intellect or reasoning powers to tell who/what is really from God and who/what is not. We need God’s help with that.
At the same time, remember that Jesus entrusted Judas with preaching and teaching the Word, just as God entrusted the teaching of scripture to the same hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees who had Jesus executed. We are not to reject God’s teachings because of the people who teach them; scripture shows us that even unschooled children and donkeys can be used by God to reveal his Truth. In other words, we are not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
At the same time, when it comes to choosing what is personally right or wrong for ourselves, we must 100% rely on God’s Spirit for guidance. There is no way, without God’s Spirit, that you will be able to outwit the spirit that inhabited Judas Iscariot.
Finally, remember that God’s Way is not considered “wise” in the eyes of the worldly. To those who hate or disbelieve in God, the Spirit-guided choices made by born-again followers of Jesus look very foolish indeed. You will be attacked and even harshly penalized for not following “the science”, but your job is to ignore the attacks and pray for your attackers. Even that response will be considered further evidence of your stupidity, but let the unbelievers believe what they want. The only opinion of you that really matters is God’s.