A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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SPIRITUAL SURVIVALISM

In perilous times, the main task of believers is to survive spiritually, not physically.

That means it’s more important for us to prepare spiritually than physically.

We need to get as close as we can to God, stay close, and not let anyone or anything come between us.

The best way to prepare spiritually is to start with repentance. Is there something in your life that is preventing you from being as close to God as you can be? Is there someone keeping you from getting and staying close to God? Remember, Jesus told us that we are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength, putting no-one and nothing ahead of God. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s actually quite simple. Loving God simplifies life, because who doesn’t want to please the one they love? So if God says “Don’t do it”, don’t do it, and if he says “Do it”, do it. Very simple.

Repentance brings you back to that place where God is first and foremost in your life. You’ll know your repentance has been accepted by God when you hear a spiritually audible “click”, and everything is in alignment again. It is a place of peace and joy, even in the midst of turmoil. “There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who don’t need repentance.

Along with repentance, we also need to prepare by reading scripture daily. God will show you which scriptures to read. Sometimes he’ll get you to read whole books, and other times he’ll stop you after only a few verses. Then he’ll get you to think about what you’ve read and to apply it to your life.

What good is God’s Word unless it can be applied to your life? Jesus said God is a God of the living, not of the dead. Scripture is not an impersonal history about dead people, but a deeply personal living testament of how God, through his Holy Spirit, works and moves in our lives, guiding us, rewarding us, and punishing us according to our abilities and works. The Bible is the ultimate “How To” instructional manual and the only one you actually need. Make sure you always have at least one hard copy of the Bible on hand for yourself, and a few others in case someone else needs one.

Together with repentance and Bible reading, prayer is essential. Paul suggests that we pray without ceasing, which doesn’t mean that you should recite “vain repetitions” all day while counting beads, but that you should get to the point where you realize that God and Jesus are always with you through God’s Spirit. They’re always with you and they’re always ready to hear you. You don’t have to make an appointment once a week to talk with them; you can do it anytime.

Jesus promised us that it would be this way for his born-again followers, and so it is. This is life in the Kingdom. God and Jesus are always with you. So take the time to talk to them, joke with them, hang out with them, and listen to them. Especially to listen to them, and then ALWAYS take their advice. That is prayer.

Finally, equally as important as repentance, Bible reading, and prayer is witnessing God’s Word. This should be done to believers and unbelievers alike. Obviously, you can preach and teach to believers openly without mincing your words, but with unbelievers you’ll have to be a bit more creative or you’ll meet with hostility and accomplish nothing.

As a former unbeliever, I know what I’m talking about. Anyone, however well-intentioned, who tried to “shove God in my face” was immediately met with a barrage of curses and foul words. Now, as a born-again believer, I’ve seen that same reaction in others. Jesus called it “throwing pearls before swine” and advised us not to do it. Take his advice. Just be kind to the unkind, bless when you are cursed, and be patient. That is witnessing to unbelievers.

Witnessing to believers is a true joy. In fact, it’s such a joy that it’s like a drug you can’t stop doing until eventually all you’re doing is mainlining witnessing. That was Jesus during his ministry years. He was never not witnessing, which simply means teaching and living God’s Way: saying a thing and actually doing it. The Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and scribes also preached and taught, but they didn’t witness; in other words, they said, but they didn’t do. Jesus called them “hypocrites” and warned us not to be like them. If you are to take on the mantle of teacher of God’s Word, you need to witness not just with your words but more importantly with your actions. “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

One of the most destructive forces within Christianity today is people who say they’re Christians but live as if they’re not. It’s what turned me off to Christianity before I was born again; I would look at people who called themselves Christians and say to myself: “If that’s Christianity, I want nothing to do with it.” Witnessing should be your day-to-day life, not just something you put on like Sunday clothes. Even if you think no-one sees you do something you know is wrong, God and Jesus see you, and that’s worse than being seen by everyone in the whole world. Don’t be that person whose actions turn others off from getting to know God and Jesus.

Live what you teach and preach. That’s witnessing to believers and unbelievers.

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Spiritual survivalism, like any other form of survivalism, is not something that should be put off until tomorrow. You need to prepare now for whatever could be coming down the pipeline as early as tonight. Remember that Jesus told us that only those who endure SPIRITUALLY to the end will be saved. Jesus also tells us always to be prepared with “loins girded”, to watch, and to have sufficient oil in our lamps. Repentance, reading scripture, praying and witnessing – that is oil. So fill your lamps now – fill them all the way to the top – while there’s still time.

UNTETHERING

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.

THIS LITTLE LIGHT

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.

AS IF UNTO GOD

as if unto God

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.

Huge gaps.

Unacceptable gaps.

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.

(Sound familiar?)

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.

SPIRITUAL PORN

wink wink

No prophet sent from God hosts a YouTube channel.

Let me repeat that in case you missed it the first time: NO PROPHET SENT FROM GOD HOSTS A YOUTUBE CHANNEL. They are all – every one of them – false prophets. Most of their dreams and visions do not come from God, and the few that do come from God are tests of the so-called prophets’ abilities to discern truth from lies. Needless to say, the “prophets” fail the tests miserably.

The aim of YouTube prophets is not so much to inform as to titillate, so that you’ll hit subscribe and come back for more. YouTube prophecies are that particular kind of “tickling of the ears” mentioned in scripture. The goal is to keep you breathless with fear/excitement/longing over the catastrophic/miraculous/apocalyptic things that are about to happen. Note that these things are always just about to take place (usually within a month or two), but they never actually do take place. And the false prophets just move on to the next dream or vision without missing a beat, hoping you’ll forget about all the earlier ones that didn’t come to pass.

I admit that some of these YouTube prophets are very good at what they do (fooling people). Whether or not they set out to fool people is obvious in some cases but debatable in others. They all seem sincere enough, but so do sociopaths and psychopaths. Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 that many false prophets would come in his name during the tribulation/pre-tribulation years, and here they are, right on cue.

If you’re hooked on one or more “Christian” YouTube channels, you need to wean yourself off, or better still go cold turkey. YouTube prophecies are spiritual porn and it’s leading you down the broad path to perdition. You need to unsubscribe. You need to take the time that you would normally spend on spiritual porn and invest it instead in reading the Bible and talking to God (prayer). That is how you grow in faith. Having someone recite scripture at you and then misapply the scripture to world events will not help you grow in faith; it will, however, help you grow in confusion.

If confusion is your aim, then by all means continue with the YouTube prophets. But if being more like Jesus is your aim, ditch the false prophets, read your Bible, and spend more one-on-one time with God.

…WHEN YOU’RE NOT LOOKING

lostandfoundIt’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…)

DISCERNING THE JUDASES FROM THE PAULS

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.

I LOVE YOU, DADDY

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.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE REVELATIONS: A word to the wise

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

bow only to God

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…)