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“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.
One of the hallmarks of organized religion, including organized mainstream churchianity, is to make God hazy and confusing. He is framed in terms of being so far above us that we cannot possibly understand him, and the only way we can catch his attention is through ritualistic, pompous, and occasionally downright boring ceremonies. Churchianity in particular likes to drone on and on about “the Great Mystery of God”, as if God were a Great Whodunnit and we’re all little spiritual Sherlock Holmeses trying to figure him out.
God my Father is definitely great, but he’s no mystery to me. He’s my Dad. He loves me and I love him. Our relationship is very simple: he protects and guides me, and I follow his advice as best I can. There is nothing confusing or pompous about how we interact. We just do. No ceremony or ritual required.
Jesus’ ministry was all about the simple and close relationship we can have with God. He said that God is looking for worshipers to come to him in Spirit and in Truth, and that going into a building or into the Holy of Holies or to a specific geographic location is no longer required. We just have to go to God with a willing heart, and he takes it from there.
I mention this because along with making God a “Great Mystery”, churchianity and other organized religions like to muddy the water when it comes to God’s will. This is another one of those “great mysteries” that we just have to take on faith, according to the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The truth of the matter is, though, that God’s will is very accessible. All you have to do is ask him what the best choice is, and he will always show and/or tell you, even if you might not like the answer.
What I’m saying is that God’s will is no mystery. He never meant for it to be a mystery. That’s why he always sent us prophets to give us scripture, and he gave us the Commandments. If we don’t know enough to go to him directly in prayer, then we can refer to the prophets and the Commandments. On top of that, as Christians, we also have the examples set by Jesus. We can know God’s will in general by seeing the kinds of choices Jesus made in his life. To know God’s will in particular for each of us, all we have to do is ask him.
God’s will can be defined simply as the best way forward from any given point in time. This applies to everyone in general and to each of us as individuals. Note that God’s plan and God’s will are not the same thing. God’s plan has already been revealed to us through the prophets, including the one who wrote the book of Revelation. God’s plan refers to a set outcome that will not change. His will, on the other hand, is living and fluid and changes according to the situation. Jesus never knew more than a few days in advance what God’s will was, and neither should we know.
God’s will cannot be a mystery to us because aligning our will with God’s is the foundation for building a strong faith. Without aligning our will with God’s, our faith cannot grow. Every time we choose to do God’s will (that is, every time we choose to do what God shows us is the best way forward, even and especially if it doesn’t look like the best way forward to us or to others), our faith grows. Jesus had tremendous faith – the strongest of anyone who ever lived on Earth – because he always did God’s will. He told us he did. Jesus couldn’t have done God’s will if it were a “mystery” to him.
Don’t let the churchians make God hazy or confusing or out of reach to you. Know that God is your Dad and that he’s even more accessible than dialing “0” for the operator or “911” in an emergency. If you want to know what God’s will (advice) is, ask him. His will will never deviate from the prophets, the Commandments, or Jesus’ teachings.
God especially loves it when you tell him that you love him, when you come to him for no other reason than to say “I love you, Daddy”. In those moments, your will and God’s will are perfectly aligned.
God holds his children to a higher standard of behavior than the children of mammon. To compensate for this, God gives his children special gifts that the children of mammon rarely receive, the main one being the gift of revelation. What we do with that gift determines in large part whether we grow closer to God or fall away.(more…)
God’s justice is perfect. Everything about God is perfect. There is no imperfection in anything he is or does, so his justice must also be perfect.
God’s justice permeates Earth and everything and everyone on it. You cannot escape God’s justice; it is built into you and everyone around you. You may say that you don’t believe in God or don’t agree with his justice, but God’s justice will still prevail over your beliefs and opinions. It is inescapable and perfect.
I mention this because there is currently a pandemic of people in every nation complaining that the state of the world is unjust, and that the way to make the world just is to defund the police, tax the rich, replace politicians, topple statues, redistribute money and property, shorten the work week, and so on and so on. The gist is that the way things are is wrong and so it must be changed, and violently if necessary.
But this “the world is unjust” viewpoint clashes with the perfection of God’s justice. Those who are unhappy with the way things are are looking for scapegoats (history, politicians, police officers, pancake syrup, etc.), insisting that if these scapegoats were removed, erased or canceled, justice would reign and peace would finally be established (“no justice, no peace”). (more…)
The Bible is full of secrets. Some of the secrets are meant to be told and some are meant to remain hidden until another time. Scripture tells us that Jesus often kept things to himself, knowing peoples’ hearts and so knowing that some of his followers weren’t ready to hear God’s secrets. In John’s gospel, Jesus states openly that he has much to tell his followers, but they aren’t ready to hear it yet. He promises them that when the time is right and they’re ready, God’s Holy Spirit will tell them. (more…)
If you’re genuinely following Jesus, very few people want to hear what you say.
The first thing that all of Jesus’ disciples did was leave their jobs, their wives, their children, their homes, and their stuff. None of Jesus’ followers had property or spouses or children. THERE WERE NO CHILDREN LIVING AMONG THE FOLLOWERS. There were children who came to listen to Jesus as he taught (and he welcomed them with open arms and blessed them), but there were no children living among the followers, just as there were no people living with spouses. Jesus’ followers lived childless, celibate and without stuff, as Jesus did.
If you’re genuinely following Jesus, very few people want to hear what you say. (more…)
There’s a curious but pivotal scripture that “gentle Jesus, meek and mind” Christians tend to skip because it doesn’t fit their image of Jesus. You know the one I mean – where a hungry Jesus curses a fig tree to death and then goes on a hangry rampage in the temple, overturning tables and whipping the moneychangers for violating God’s law.
Ya gotta admit – when Jesus does hangry, he does it memorably. Most of us when we’re hangry just snap at people and then head to the corner store for a candy bar or a bag of Doritos, but Jesus let it all out. And when he did, he did it with such impact and such righteousness that we’re still talking about it today. (more…)
In his letters, Paul was very clear about one thing: No earthly suffering is too much if it leads to Heaven as the reward.
Heaven is our reward if God judges that we’ve earned it. Most Christians have lost sight of that. Instead of longing for Heaven, they do everything in their power to postpone death. They run to the doctor, they demand a cure, they beg for prayers so they won’t die. Why is that? (more…)
When Jesus was 12, he gave his parents the slip and snuck off to the temple in Jerusalem to talk scripture. The learned elders were amazed at his knowledge and perceived he was clearly a prodigy destined for great things. But his parents experienced this event somewhat differently. For three days and nights, they frantically searched for their son. When they eventually found him, instead of apologizing, Jesus simply stated that he needed to be about his Father’s business. His parents, however, discerned otherwise, and back under their wing Jesus went. We hear nothing further about him until his “coming out” miracle at the wedding at Cana 18 years later (prompted, tellingly, by his mother, who signaled to Jesus that yes, it is finally time to be about your Father’s business).
Like the precocious 12-year-old Jesus who reveled in his knowledge of scripture, fully-grown men and women today engage in the same type of display. But instead of using temples, they vie to one-up each other on blogs, online forums or YouTube videos. And in so doing, they completely miss the point of knowing scripture. (more…)