A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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SAY HIS NAME

Names are important, and the Bible is full of them. I never went to Sunday school as a kid, so I’m just now (“better late than never”, right, Nanny?) memorizing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples of Jesus. The problem is, the names change spelling, depending on the source; even more confusing, one person can have multiple names, or the same name can be applied to multiple people. (And don’t get me started on ALL THE MARY’S!)

People also underwent name changes when they underwent spiritual transformation. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, Hebrews became Christians. Getting sold into slavery also got you a new name. When Joseph lived among the Egyptians he was called Zaphnathpaaneah, and Daniel among the Babylonians was Belteshazzar.

Names are important. Sometimes they’re so important that angels show up months before a birth to tell you exactly what to call your kid. That happened to John the Baptist’s father and to Jesus’ mother. So much for the element of surprise, but at least it saved the parents the hassle of knitting yellow booties; they just went straight for the blue wool!

When Jesus exorcised demons, he always demanded to know their name, and they had to tell him. They had no choice. Jesus would then speak their name when commanding them to leave (they also had no choice about leaving). Their name became part of the exorcism, because names are important.

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On Earth, there are many other people, both alive and dead, who have the same name as us. In Heaven (if we make it there), we will all have unique names given to us by God. Just as our DNA is unique, as reflected in the one-of-a-kindness of our fingerprints, ears, irises, and every other natural part of us (including our gait and our scent), there will only be one of us in Heaven with that God-given name for all eternity. However, we will not know our name before we arrive in Heaven, so forget about bugging God to know it. I can share from personal experience that he won’t tell you.

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God has nearly an infinite number of names. He reveals some of them in scripture (Heavenly Father, Almighty God, Jehovah, Jah, Jahweh, I Am) which we use publicly, while others he shares with his children privately. In fact, he invites his children to name him in the same way we give pet names to those we love. In this, the power is not so much in the names we choose, but in the force of our love as we speak those names. Jesus called God “Abba”, which is Aramaic for “Father” or better said “Daddy”. It denotes a deeply personal relationship with God not as a “being” who is “out there somewhere” and to be visited only on occasion through formalized rituals, but as someone who is ever-present, intimately known, profoundly loved, and needed on a visceral level. This is how I know God, and I have many names for him that only we know.

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The Christian naming ceremony (called “christening”) used to be a big thing in the Western world. It was combined with infant baptism and occurred around the third week after birth. My parents are Roman Catholic, so when I was three weeks old, they dutifully carried me, godparents and other witnesses in tow, to the church basement to be baptised. However, little did they know that the name they’d chosen for me was not considered “Christian” by the church officials, and so away I was sent, still unbaptised and officially unnamed. Over the next few weeks, my godmother came up with a name that could use my originally chosen moniker as a nick-name. The second trip to the church basement was not done with as much fanfare (no cake that time), but at least I had some water splashed on me and was entered into the church roll of names, where I imagine I still exist, despite my best and ongoing efforts to be excommunicated.

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Many people share the same name. I’ve had the opportunity to meet my name-twin virtually when I started getting emails that were meant for her. I still get some of her emails on occasion and find it amusing when I forward them to her. Our own name is such an intimate identifier of us that to see it applied to someone else can be jarring. Within our own families, we hand down names along with wealth, property, and treasured belongings, but to share the same name with strangers just feels, well, strange.

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Names are important, and the world, like the Bible, is full of them. Even so, God tells us that only one name really matters – the name that we pray in, the name that we come before God in, the name of the Messiah, and the name that is above all names: the name of JESUS.

JESUS THE CARPENTER, THE SON OF GOD

Nothing happens by chance in God’s economy. Free will and divine intervention do not cancel each other out. So it wasn’t just “blind luck” that Jesus was born and raised a carpenter’s son. As his followers, we tend to focus on Jesus as Lord, teacher, Messiah, and Son of God, but before he was all those, he was the son of a carpenter who then grew to become a carpenter in his own right, with all the skills, aptitudes, and duties that come with it.

So I got to thinking about Jesus the son of a carpenter and Jesus the carpenter. Because his father was a carpenter and he the family’s first-born son, Jesus would have been expected to carry on his father’s trade. That meant that Jesus would have grown up trailing around behind his father doing carpentry work. Jesus’ first memories probably involved carpentry, either while the family was still in Egypt or back in Nazareth.

I’m not a carpenter, so to get a better idea of what a carpenter does, I looked up the job description for carpenter online. I was surprised to see that it emphasizes math skills. You need to be good at math and calculations to do carpentry work. You also need to be able to read blueprints and take instruction from supervisors on job specifications, so you need a good memory and the ability to “see” what is not yet there based on someone else’s description and guidance. Carpentry is an intensely physical job. You need to be physically strong, but not like an ox, more like a lion, as carpenters need to crouch, bend, kneel, and stretch, and have good upper-body strength. As well, carpentry requires good hand-eye coordination, the ability to gauge and estimate measurements, and a good sense of balance, with no vertigo tendencies.

Reading about these skills and aptitudes opened up a whole new “Jesus window” for me. Jesus was not only spiritually strong, he was physically strong. He had good upper body strength along with good strong legs that enabled him to carry and place heavy loads and stand for hours while doing his work. He had good hand-eye coordination, good visual acuity, and good balance, like an athlete. He could reckon measurements with his eyes and then translate those measurements into form. His hands would have been calloused, but strong and nimble. How do I know all these things about Jesus? If he hadn’t had those skills and traits, he wouldn’t have been a carpenter.

This was not a weak man. This was not an effeminate man. Jesus was not born the son of a carpenter by chance, but by design. The skills he learned at his father’s side from the time he was old enough to remember were skills that he eventually transferred to his ministry work. Ministry also requires a strong and agile body along with strong faith. Ministry also requires a sharp mind with good reckoning and gauging skills and the ability to see what is not in front of your eyes. And ministry also requires the unwavering ability to take instruction and guidance from God the Ultimate Supervisor, and to ensure a foundation is strong and true before it is built on.

So after I looked up all the traits and skills that are required of a carpenter, I thought about Jesus the Son of God and what he would have brought to the carpentry trade. I thought about how hard he worked at his ministry, often not even stopping for meals or rest, and how everything he did was uncompromising and done to his best ability. I thought about how he was always ministering to the needs of others and spent his nights and days helping whoever came to him for help. I thought about his sharp wit (sharp enough to outwit even the temple elders) and his love for children. I thought about his fondness for wine and good food. I thought about his gentleness and respect towards women, and how he defended them over and over again, whether before a mob or his own disciples. I thought about how he consistently championed the honest and the lowly over the hypocritical and the rich.

And I took all these qualities and traits and fondnesses of Jesus the Son of God and applied them to his carpentry work. And I thought – Oh, to have just one piece that was created by Jesus! It would have been made with such love and to perfection! There would have been no flaws in it, no cut corners. The foundation would have been true, the joints smooth, and the finish like glass. He would have formed it with the same care and meticulousness as if he were making it for God, because that’s how Jesus was, whether as the son of a carpenter or the Son of God: He did everything as if unto God. And he would always have finished his work on time and to specification.

I thought of all the pieces he possibly made – the cups, the plates, the platters, the bowls, the frames for doorways and the doors themselves, the frames for windows and the shutters themselves. I thought about the furniture – the tables, the chairs, the stools, the cupboards. I thought about how he helped build people’s homes and sheds and barns and fences, and how he helped build the tools to build them. I thought about how he learned to hitch animals to the plow and how those animals would have welcomed Jesus’ gentle touch and low murmurs, thinking this human was different from the others. I thought about all the gifts and toys he would have made as surprises for his family and friends, and for the children in the village, because Jesus would not have made things just for money; he would have made them to help people and to make them happy.

Oh, to have just one piece that Jesus made! But those relics of his carpenter years are long gone. Wood, unless petrified, is not meant to last.

And then my mind took a turn, and I thought about Jesus the Son of God and the hastily hacked, crudely assembled wood pieces that were his execution device. I wonder, as he hung on the cross, if he thought about how poorly the wood was cut, and whether his inner carpenter was appalled at the crudeness of the huge nails and how inappropriate their size was to their use. I can see Jesus – not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, but strong and capable carpenter Jesus – shaking his head at the poor workmanship he had to suffer in his final hours after all those years of striving for perfection. I wonder if he gave God an earful about that, and if they had a good silent chuckle together, the way only a father and son who love each other without restraint can share a laugh even under the direst of circumstances.

You don’t forget the skills that you learn at your father’s feet. The smell of freshly cut wood would have been in Jesus’ blood. It would have been for him the smell of home. And so I think the fragrance of the green wood and the almost comical crudeness of the cross would have brought a measure of comfort and welcome distraction to Jesus in his final agonizing moments in human form. And I think God did all of this for this very reason, to comfort Jesus, and that Jesus was not born the son of a carpenter by chance, but by design.

I remember reading a while back about the ritual gesture carpenters make when they finish a job: They take the cloth that they used to clean the dust from the wood, fold it neatly, and place it to the side of the finished piece. This indicates that the work is done.

When Peter entered the tomb on the third day, he saw the burial cloths lying in a heap together, but the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face was separate, folded neatly and set to one side. Who but a carpenter would have sent such a clear and unmistakable sign not only that his work was accomplished, but that he – the son of a carpenter, the Son of God – had done this?

Nothing happens by chance in God’s economy.

Jesus was a carpenter by design.

LOYALTY TO GOD

Just a reminder that we, as born-again followers of Jesus, live in God’s kingdom on Earth.

Our loyalty should be first and foremost and ONLY to God, as it was for Jesus.

That means we put God before everything and everyone. So if someone asks you to do something that conflicts with what God would want you to do, you say no.

You don’t apologize and you don’t explain; you just say “no”.

God comes before family.

God comes before friends.

God comes before country.

God comes before work.

God comes before possessions, including bank accounts and investments.

 God comes before everything and everyone that is “not God”.

Your full loyalty should be to God and God only.

If your family, friends, country, work, or possessions are somehow coming between you and God, leading you to do something that you know is not right, separate yourself from them.

Remove them from your life.

Put them far, far away from you.

Remember also that Jesus told us not to swear oaths of any kind (including oaths of allegiance), and that our answers should be a simple “yes” or “no”, as “anything more comes from the devil.”

We serve a great God. He deserves all our loyalty, and he will never (unlike people and worldly systems) betray us.

If you make the choice to give God your full loyalty, he will honor your choice by giving back to you a hundred-fold in blessings.

There is no downside in giving your loyalty to God. No other kingdom on Earth – no matter how rich and powerful – can rival God’s kingdom on Earth.

You are blessed beyond measure to be part of it.

When you give your loyalty to God, he gives his loyalty to you.

You make a deal.

(And if you had even the slightest inkling of what that meant, you would be down on your face thanking and worshiping God night and day, like the 24 elders in the book of Revelation.)

Your loyalty should be first and foremost and ONLY to God, as it was for Jesus.

Just a timely reminder for those who need it.

TRUST NO-ONE

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.

ONE STEP AHEAD

one step ahead

We live in an age when breaking news is literally at our fingertips through internet-connected devices. But by the time the news reaches headline-making status, the event that prompted the headline is already a done deal and the spin is in full swing. What actually happened and what is reported to have happened are rarely the same thing. “Confusion comes from the devil”, as do most earthly happenings. The trick is not only to see through the confusion but to remain beyond its reach.

And there is only one way to do that.

Jesus, during his time on Earth, was always one step ahead of the game. He knew, courtesy of God’s Spirit, what was going to happen before it happened and so was able not to manipulate or stop the happening, but to be where he needed to be when it took place. This is a gift God gives to certain of us at certain times, as is needed. It was, for instance, given to Noah before the flood, to Lot before the destruction of Sodom, to Moses before the plagues struck Egypt, and to Joseph before Herod issued the decree to slaughter all the young children in Bethlehem.

These are insider tips sent from God to help the recipient escape or survive whatever is about to take place. They are sometimes delivered by angels, either in their Heavenly or earthly form, but more often they come directly from God. Again, they are not meant to stop what is coming, but to alert or warn and to prompt a response before the fact, before it is too late.

When you sign on to become a follower of Jesus through spiritual rebirth, you are automatically registered for “insider tips from God”. You receive them as a function of your rebirth and your status as a citizen of God’s kingdom on Earth. No internet-connected device is required. Not surprisingly, most of these tips come seemingly out of the blue, as the events on which they’re premised have not yet made headlines.

What do you think would have happened to Lot had he not heeded the warning to leave Sodom? Do you think God would have reconsidered destroying it to save Lot and his family? What about Noah – do you think the flood would have been delayed had Noah simply ignored God’s urging to build the ark? And Joseph? Would Herod’s thugs have somehow overlooked baby Jesus if Joseph had decided to remain in Bethlehem?

Obviously, we will never know the answers to those questions, since Lot, Noah and Joseph all heeded the warnings, but I would not want to be the one who ignores God, thinking that “this, too, will pass”. If and when God tells you to go, you go. You don’t negotiate a different “go time” or ignore the warning, hoping it will pass. You go. You go in the middle of the night with just the clothes on your back, if need be. You go alone or you take with you only whatever or whoever God tells you to take. But you go.

You just go.

Jesus has given us a general warning in scripture (Matthew 24, Luke 17, etc.) about events that will affect ALL of his followers, without exception. John also gave us a big heads-up in the book of Revelation. Note that I am talking about Jesus’ genuine followers here, not casual Christians. No genuine follower of Jesus lives in this world without persecution or the repercussions of persecution. We are, as Jesus phrased it, “hated without cause”, and that hate naturally brings with it physical danger.

We are entering a time of world-wide upheaval. Every government is moving in lockstep to impose what amounts to martial law on their people. A net has been dropped over us in the form of a pandemic declaration, and now that net is tightening like a noose. We have a very short window in which to act: We either remain trapped under the net along with the rest of the world, or we escape.

There is no third option.

I am not saying to drop whatever you’re doing right now and run screaming into the night. No, I am not saying that. I am simply reminding you, as is my duty (as is the duty of all believers), that the world is a dangerous place for followers of Jesus, and the danger level is rapidly shifting to extreme with the coming of the “great reset”. You would have to be very naive to believe that what is happening with pandemic restrictions and economic and political chaos is organic. What we’re seeing is a controlled demolition of all the world’s systems, with controlled headlines to cover the controlled aspect of the demolition. And if you think that born-again Spirit-filled followers of Jesus are going to be welcome in the satanic new world order being constructed on the ruins of civilization, there’s some prime oceanfront property in Arizona with your name on it.

We need to remain vigilant. We need to be on heightened alert. We need to be watching not the devil’s controlled headlines but what God is doing in the foreground and the background and all around us, especially behind the scenes. Now is not the time to sit back and murmur “this, too, will pass”. Now IS the time to hunker down with God and his Word, “loins girded”, and ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Lot didn’t flee Sodom in fear, but with urgency. Noah didn’t build the ark in fear, but with certain assurance of how and why it had to be built. Joseph didn’t flee Bethlehem in fear, but with hope of finding a safe haven in Egypt for Mary and Jesus. We do not need to live our lives in fear, even with what is most certainly coming down the pipeline in the form of worsening persecutions. We are to live our lives in Love and Grace, knowing that God has our back and will give us fair warning when the time comes.

No internet required.

No headlines required.

Just full faith in God, and a willingness and readiness to act when God says “Go!”

That is how we – like Jesus and all believers before and since – survive: by staying one step ahead, courtesy of God.

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.