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BECOMING MORE YOU
I’ve written here before about nonsensical phrases like “for the greater good” that hide a diabolical agenda under their sickly sweet surface. I am unabashedly a supporter and champion of the individual rather than the collective. Jesus also championed the individual, which for me is one of his most endearing qualities.
You don’t have to give up who you are or what makes you you to become a Christian. In fact, when you’re born again, you become more you than you ever were living in the world under the world’s authority and expectations.
God made you to be you. He made you one-of-a-kind and thoroughly unique. He doesn’t want you looking in the mirror and not liking what you see or wanting to be someone or something else. If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, it’s because you’re trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. That someone else isn’t God.
The devil is notorious for making people feel bad about themselves, for luring them into wanting to be more or to have more (prosperity preachers, I’m talking to you!). God doesn’t do that. He never lures us into wanting to be more or to have more, unless it’s to be more like Jesus and to have more treasures stored up in Heaven. But worldly desires based on worldly expectations don’t come from God.
Another thing God never does is to try to beguile us into wanting ‘”to be part of something bigger” than ourselves, as if just being ourselves on our own is somehow insignificant and unfulfilling. To be honest, I’ve never wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and frankly I’m not even sure what it means. But I have a sneaking suspicion it’s probably as nonsensical as “for the greater good” and has at its core the same diabolically-inspired agenda, which is to get you to trade your individuality and everything that makes you you for something that represses your uniqueness. At the same time, phrases like “for the greater good” and “be part of something bigger” let you know that you as an individual are of such little consequence in the grand scheme of things, that your being subsumed into a large faceless crowd is likewise of no consequence, because you have no or negligible value.
That is the devil speaking. God values you for you, because he made you to be valued for who and what you are. He did not make you to be part of a faceless crowd and thinking that you only have value when you’re part of one. He didn’t make you to reject who and what you are. Again, the devil is behind that.
The Bible is full of gloriously individual individuals just being who they are. The closer they grow to God, the more they become themselves. It’s like God’s Spirit in and around them unleashes their true being. You never hear Jesus wishing he were someone else, or Paul wishing he were someone else, or Moses wishing he were someone else, or David wishing he were someone else. No, these people who were (and are!) so close to God were at the same time fully and authentically themselves during their time in a human body, which is what makes their individual characters so compelling and real to us, even though we only know most of them through the written word.
When you become born-again, you automatically become part of something bigger without consciously having to join it or giving up anything of yourself. That “something bigger” is the cloud of witnesses Paul talked about. You don’t have to sign up to be part of that cloud; you’re automatically enrolled at your rebirth. And lucky for you, you don’t have to change anything about yourself to be in it: You don’t have to wear anything in particular; you don’t have to make secret hand signs or slip secret words into your conversation; you don’t have to attend meetings and put yourself under the watchful eyes of mentors. No, you don’t have to do any of those things. You just have to be you, the reborn you – the real you – the one that God made and the one that the devil and the world are constantly trying to steal from you.
There’s true freedom in being who you are, not in giving yourself up to become part of something you’re not. By all means, join large organizations or movements, if that’s what you want to do, but if they require you to change who you are to “fit in”, they’re not from God. If you choose to be part of something bigger than you that makes you change who you are, you’re saying that God made you somehow deficient or inadequate, that for some reason you can’t stand on your own and need other people or things to prop you up and give your life meaning. But that’s not how God made us. He made each of us to stand as an individual among individuals, helping and supporting each other as individuals, not as interchangeable beings melting into a faceless crowd.
Every society that devolves into collectivism soon self-destructs. So it’s not surprising that the devil is pushing the notions of “for the greater good” and “be part of something bigger than yourself” at this particular point in time, when Christendom is imploding and evil is growing day by day. As more and more people turn from God, we see more and more evidence that people hate who they are and wish they were someone or something else, including the opposite sex. Self-loathing is a clear sign of profound spiritual crisis.
I love me. The world looks at me and sees multiple flaws (hoo, boy – you should see the ads that pop up when I go on certain websites! lol), but I love me just the way I am. I would not change one thing about me, other than to follow ever closer behind Jesus and to grow ever closer to God. Those are the only changes I would make, and they’re not so much changes as natural spiritual growth that unfolds over time. God gives us the capacity to grow; we aren’t made to remain spiritually stationary. Wanting to follow ever closer behind Jesus and to grow ever closer to God are built-in characteristics that are part and parcel of who I am. They were there even when I was a suicidal atheist and loathed myself. They’re not imposed on me; they’re an opening up within me, like a flower opening its petals to the sun.
God made us to want the good and to love him. He made us to be individuals among individuals and to love who we are. Jesus exemplified this par excellence. God did not put within us the desire to do something “for the greater good” or to be “part of something bigger” or to want to change ourselves into something we’re not and were never meant to be. The devil does that. The devil wants us to trade our God-given uniqueness, as expressed in our individuality, for a cheap knock-off that will never quite fit because it can’t fit. The devil, as scripture tells us, comes only to lie, cheat, steal, kill and destroy. His success rate, sadly, is increasing day by day. Don’t let him get you, too. The only change you should want to make is to be more and more like Jesus, which ironically will make you more and more yourself.
ON TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK: A CASE STUDY, WITH CHIPS
The devil works overtime, through people, to twist and outright change the message of the Gospel.
One of the his favourite tricks is to try to show Christianity as a weak and effeminate belief system.
But the Gospel message as delivered – and lived – by Jesus is anything but weak.
Take the teaching on turning the other cheek, for example. If you ask most Christians or non-Christians what “turning the other cheek” means, they’ll probably use words like ‘compromise’, ‘tolerance’, ‘back down’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘compassion’, ‘meekness’, etc., to describe it. But the fact is, turning the other cheek has nothing to do with those things.
Turning the other cheek means fearlessly standing your ground.
When you turn the other cheek, you stand your ground. You show no fear and you show no animosity, you simply stand your ground. You don’t escalate the situation, but neither do you cower from further assault: You stand your ground. There’s no compromise involved, no tolerance for wrong-doing, just quiet strength in the face of evil.
That’s what Jesus meant when he taught us to turn the other cheek.
I had an opportunity to test this out in real life a few weeks ago. I’d gone into a store to buy some chips. I don’t as a rule eat chips anymore, except for one day a week when all healthy food rules fall by the wayside and I eat what I want. So there I was, getting my weekly bag of chips and feeling rather chipper (lol groan) about it. I am not ashamed to say that I can at times be very food-motivated, especially when it comes to tasty treats.
I was next in line from being served at the cash register when I noticed that the guy in front of me had about 20 items to ring through, which meant it was going to be at least another minute before it was my turn. So I thought I might as well make use of that time to grab a second bag of chips to have on hand for next week’s junkfoodapalooza.
I had brought my own personal shopping cart with me into the store. My cart was heavily laden with items I’d bought at other stores. I left it in line to hold my place while I walked the few paces to get the second bag of chips, and then I retraced my steps to get back into the line. The whole process of leaving the line and getting back into it took less than 10 seconds. However, when I went to rejoin the line, I saw that the guy behind me had pushed my cart to the side and was standing where I had been standing.
He’d stolen my place in line.
There were about a dozen people waiting for their turn at the cash register at that point. The guy with the ~20 items had just finished having his things run through, but now he seemed to be having problems with his payment. The manager was being called over the loudspeaker. So my ten-second dash to get a second bag of chips had not caused any hold-up in the movement of the line whatsoever. However, the guy behind me didn’t see it that way.
“You left the line, so you lost your place.”
“No,” I said. “I left my cart here to hold my place.”
“A cart can’t hold a place. It’s not a human. Only a human can hold a place in line.”
At that point, I figured the guy must be joking, so I started to laugh. He stared at me, stony-faced.
So I said: “You’re joking, right?”
“No, I’m not joking. You lost your place in line.”
That’s when the guy behind him chimed in.
“Actually, you need to get to the back of the line.”
I looked at them both and saw only cold disdain in their eyes. I had never before experienced anything like this at a store. The guys were probably in their early thirties, which meant I was old enough to be their mother. I was the elder in the situation. Pushing my cart out of the way and barking at me to get to the back of the line was not how you treat an elder, and definitely not how you treat a woman.
Not in Canada.
The guy at the cash register was still having problems with his payment. I looked at my chips and I looked at the guys behind me, and I thought “I don’t need this BS. I might as well just go.”
So I put the two bags of chips on the table in front of the cash register, preparing to walk out the door. That’s when the second guy picked up one of the bags and flung it down the aisle. The violence of his movement jolted me out of my complacence and I decided then and there that wasn’t going to be pushed around. The argument that only a human could hold a place in line was specious at best (what about people who drape a jacket over a seat at the cinema to hold a place for their friend?). At root, what was going on was bullying. I was being bullied and I didn’t accept it.
So I picked up the bag of chips I’d just placed on the table and remained where I’d been standing. At that instant, the manager behind the counter called “Next!”, and I walked up to pay for the chips. I told her that I would pay for two bags, even though I only had one with me. I told her I would get the second bag on my way out (the chip rack was next to the door). So she rang up two bags of chips, I paid for them, and I took my receipt.
In leaving, I turned around to the guys who’d treated me so despitefully, and I pleasantly and pointedly wished them a good day.
This, my friends, is a real-life example of turning the other cheek. Yes, it may seem trivial to do it over a place in line and a few bags of chips, but it’s good practice for when I need to apply it to more serious matters.
Certainly, I could have left the store when the guys started bullying me. I could have argued with them and thrown their rudeness back in their face. Or I could have caved to them and slunk to the back of the line so as not to cause any problems. But what would that have achieved? The bullies would have won.
I was not wrong that a personal cart full of personal belongings can hold a place in line. In leaving for a few seconds to get the chips, I had not caused any slow-down in the proceedings. I had not disturbed the holy order of shopping. There was no reason for me to go to the back of the line, just as there was no reason for the guys to bully me, other than that they saw what they thought was an easy mark, a pushover.
Boy, did they think wrong.
I did not fight with them. I did not argue with them. I just politely pointed out the obvious (that a personal shopping cart full of personal belongings can indeed hold a place in line). I let them rail at me and did not respond in kind. And after my initial impulse of wanting to leave (which was motivated by my shock at their rudeness, more than anything), I’m happy to report that I was able to successfully practice turning the other cheek in real life: I stood my ground. I kept my place in line. I did not return evil with evil.
And I got my chips. (Both bags!)
I WILL FEAR NO EVIL: DEALING WITH UNHOLY CURIOSITY
Years ago, I lived in a Victorian row house in the Kensington Market area of Toronto. Next door lived a rescued pit bull named Max. Max did not like me, and whenever I would venture into my backyard, he would lunge and gnaw at the chain-link fence that was the only thing standing between his jaws and my certain death. Although an avowed atheist at the time, I thanked God every day for that fence.
The occult is a major draw even for those who say they don’t believe in anything. As a former dabbler in the occult, I can tell you that the ‘draw’ comes directly from the demons and other evil spirits themselves. They constantly surround people and put ideas into their heads as a way to gain access to their soul.
Not understanding the nature of the supernatural, many people attribute magical powers to places and things. We know from scripture that places and things have no such powers. An idol is just wood or metal in a particular shape or form. In and of itself, it has no power because it has no life.
Even some Christians are confused about this concept. They believe that places or things can be evil in and of themselves (or, conversely, that places or things can be holy in and of themselves), but evil can only exist where there is life: It feeds off the life. Evil needs life the way a toaster needs a live electrical outlet to function. So there are no haunted houses, just haunted people who live in or visit them.
God gives us the Commandment not to bow down before idols not because the idols in and of themselves have any power, but because of the power people attribute to them. During my early years of rebirth, I attended Catholic mass daily for more than three years. I was there so often that, in the final year, I was given a key to the church so I could come and go as I please. I mention this as evidence that I know a thing or two about Catholicism not from hearsay, but from extensive personal experience.
Catholicism encourages idol worship. Catholics are taught to bow down (genuflect) before statues of alleged saints, to bow down before crucifixes, to bow down before obelisks, to dab themselves with ‘holy water’, to light the ‘blessed’ candles next to the altar (for a fee) that will then somehow turbocharge their prayers. They are also taught to wear certain talismans on different parts of their body, to pray to angels, to kiss and touch containers holding ‘holy relics’ such as the bones of alleged saints, and to pray to ‘saints’ (that is, to certain dead people). Catholicism is steeped in superstition, which is a polite way of saying it’s steeped in paganism, which is a polite way of saying it’s grounded in the occult. That all of these things Catholics are taught to do are not only forbidden by God but severely punished by God in the Old Testament is lost on most Catholics, as most Catholics have never read the Old Testament. Catholicism does not encourage Bible reading.
I started reading the Old Testament the morning I left Catholicism, and then I dropped off the key at the church office the next day.
I have not been back since.
As born-again believers, we need to be clear within ourselves about the nature of evil and its power over people. Jesus defeated Satan through his sacrifice on the cross, but Jesus didn’t purge the world of evil. He succeeded in establishing God’s Kingdom on Earth as a refuge for born-again believers. A refuge from what? From evil. The world, as Jesus tells us, is under Satan. We, however, are not under Satan. Evil has no authority in God’s Kingdom, which means it has no authority over God’s people unless we permit evil to have authority over us by inviting it in.
Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry casting out evil spirits. They didn’t have a hope against him because, as Jesus explained, he cast them out by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. All the demons in Hell cannot stand against even one believer who operates in the power and protection of God’s Spirit. Evil simply has no authority over that person. The demons well know this, so it’s important that believers know it, too.
In casting out demons, Jesus didn’t need any paraphernalia such as holy water or other ‘blessed’ artifacts. He didn’t need to recite church-sanctioned poetry (otherwise known as vain repetitions). He simply asked the demons their name and then ordered them to leave. Jesus could do this because he operated in God’s Spirit. The demons knew who he was and knew they had to do what he said. No longer having free will, they had no choice: They had to obey.
As followers of Jesus, we’re expected to cast out demons. We’ve been given the means to do it by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, so we’re expected to do it. In exorcising demons, we shouldn’t be afraid of them, but at the same time we shouldn’t toy with them. We shouldn’t go looking for them or summoning them. And we should never act proudly with them. We in and of ourselves don’t have the power to cast out demons; God has the power. We in and of ourselves have no authority over them; God does. The demons are not afraid of us; they’re afraid of God. They have very limited spiritual space to act within (as a minister once put it, they’re on a very short leash) and can only go where they’re welcome, so don’t welcome them. Only deal with them if God gives you the signal to do so.
The presence of evil in the world will increase, not decrease, in the years to come. We know this from scripture. Hell is scheduled to empty out on Earth some day, and we can only pray that we’re not here when it does. There’s no need for us to fear evil, because God protects us from it by the power of his Spirit, but we need to remain vigilant not to invite evil in. We should never converse with demons beyond asking their name and telling them to leave, like Jesus did. We should never be curious about them or try to get information from them, such as about future events. We should never argue with them or curse them. We should not study them, even from an intellectual perspective. It is best, regardless of how protected we are, just to leave them alone unless God indicates we need to cast them out.
Hauntings are real, but only people – not places or things – can be haunted. Don’t join their ranks. Demon-summoning isn’t a parlor game, and neither is exorcism. Obviously, you should never summon demons, but you also need to wait for God’s guidance and direction before casting them out. Never do it on your own volition. There’s a good description in Acts about what happens to people who try to exorcise evil spirits without God’s help. That cautionary tale was put there for our benefit.
As born-again believers, we are a protected people, but don’t let that fact go to your head, and don’t presume a power or an invincibility that you don’t have. We need to be ever on our guard, even as God’s children, because we live in the midst of an ongoing battle between good and evil. The Kingdom is our spiritual safe space, but outside its boundaries the battle rages.
If I’d ventured, all those years ago, into Max’s backyard, I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have mauled me to death. I was safe on my side of the chain link fence, but only as long as I remained on my side. We are safe in God’s Kingdom as long as we remain within it and don’t rattle or sit astride or jump over the spiritual chain link fence surrounding it. Everything we need to know about evil we can learn from the Bible or from God and Jesus. We don’t need to consult other sources.
Please remember that.
THE ONE WHERE THE JUICE DRIPS ONTO EVE’S BARE BREASTS…
The first thing Jesus did when he called his disciples was to get them to leave their wives and children. This was a replay of the days just before the building of the second temple, when the men of the newly resettled Jerusalem were asked to leave their families. But it goes back even farther, this call to believers to shed whatever might be holding them back from doing God’s will, from giving God their everything. Women tend to hold men back, and men tend to hold women back, and children and jobs and possessions can be a spiritual sinkhole.
From scripture, we know that Adam took Eve’s advice rather than God’s. Had she beguiled him, or did he just want to keep the peace between them? When Eve invited Adam to eat the fruit, he must have known it was in violation of God’s rule. It couldn’t have slipped his mind. They had total liberty, he and Eve, to do whatever they pleased, with the sole warning not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And yet there Eve was, standing beneath the forbidden tree, naked and calling his name. Her lips glistened with the juice of the fruit she had just taken a bite from and was holding out for him to eat. Some of the juice had dripped onto her bare breasts. They glistened and looked delicious. Why had they not looked delicious before? Adam suddenly felt ravenous. Eve looked like lunch.
What’s a fella to do?…
Again, I don’t know if Adam was beguiled by Eve or just wanted to keep the peace, but he went against God and chose instead to please his wife.
This is why Jesus had his disciples separate from their families. This is why, before the building of the second temple, the men were ordered to leave their pagan homes. This is why Solomon in all his wisdom should have known better than to mince, increment by increment, deeper and deeper into the wiles of his demon-worshiping wives and concubines until he’d lost his way altogether.
It’s easy to turn from God when there’s a bright and shiny object catching your eye. That’s why the devil comes as an angel of light, to sparkle and shimmer his way into your soul. He wants you to look in his direction, not in God’s; he wants you to heed his advice, not God’s. We humans are so easily sidetracked and persuaded. Is it because we naturally want to choose the course of least resistance, like an inbuilt spiritual gravity pulling us ever downward, or is it because there’s an allure of the senses in rebellion that excites us in a way that we think obedience never can?
Jesus, from personal experience, well knew the dynamics of family life. He knew that if his disciples stayed with their families, they’d hold them back, they’d be calling the shots, and the discipleship would take a back seat to what the wife wanted, to what the kiddies wanted, to what the boss wanted.
Recall that Jesus’ mother and sisters came to take him back to Nazareth from Capernaum. They tried to stop him from doing his ministry work. They thought he’d gone mad; they thought his life was in danger from the claims he was making and those being made about him. But Jesus is no Adam. He saw through his family’s concerns and spied the devil peeping out from behind their skirts, holding out delicious dripping fruit for him to eat. He was not hungry for that fruit, and so he remained in Capernaum and continued the work set out for him by God.
A year or so earlier, prior to starting his ministry, the first thing Jesus did was to shed everything he had and was. The 40 days and nights in the wilderness were a transition as well as a test. Jesus could not have done his ministry work had he not first made this transition. Jesus the carpenter, the son of Joseph, had to become Jesus the rabbi, the son of God. And the only way for Jesus to do that was to physically separate himself from his home, his family, his job, his possessions, and everything that had formerly defined him.
Well, you say, that was Jesus. We don’t have to do that because he was the Messiah and we have a different mission.
True enough, that Jesus had a different mission than us, a different role to play in the Kingdom, but we’re his followers, so we’re to do as he did. That’s what it means to be followers. Scripture shows that like his disciples, his early followers also left their families and possessions and went all-in for the mission. At least the genuine followers did.
Jesus advises us to become eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Paul advises us not to marry. Both admit that this particular advice is not for everyone, as not everyone is willing to go that far to serve God.
What about you? How far are you willing to go? Part of the way? All the way? Have you done your 40 days and nights in the desert? Have you left you behind? Have you separated yourself from your family and friends and everything that defines the pre-ministry you from the one who serves God and God only?
Or are you following the devil’s version of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, clinging to your former life and meekly following behind your family when they come to take you back?
To separate yourself from your loved ones doesn’t mean you have to hate them. It just means you love God more, as per the Commandment. It just means you choose to follow Jesus’ advice rather than the world’s.
The choice is always yours, but the path has been laid and the right way forward is clearly marked. You can’t remain in the world, in the bosom of your family, and at the same time follow Jesus. If that were possible, Jesus would not have had his disciples leave their families as a first order of business.
Again, the choice is always yours, but the path has been laid and the right way forward is clearly marked.
Nothing in your life should sidetrack you or prevent you from serving God and God only.
IS JESUS COMING BACK SOON?
In a pivotal scene in the movie Independence Day, a crowd stands on the rooftop of a high-rise building, waving welcome signs at an alien ship hovering over them. They’re as giddy and awestruck as teenage girls crowding the stage at a boy-band concert. A few seconds later, the alien ship unleashes a lethal beam of light that destroys the high-rise and everyone in it, including the UFO fans.
So much for the welcome wagon.
The aliens have shown their hands, and the people of Earth have learned the hard way that they have not come in peace.
Have you heard that Jesus is coming back soon? I assume you probably have, because I’ve been reading it and seeing it everywhere, including on financial forums. And if I’ve been reading it and seeing it everywhere, I’ll bet you have, too. In fact, it’s getting downright impossible to avoid hearing about Jesus coming back soon, if you consult any kind of media these days. All the signs of his coming are there, according even to secular pundits. These must be the end times for sure.
The only problem with the “Jesus-is-coming-back-soon” mantra is that Jesus himself warned us that he would come at a time when we least expect him. That’s right – when no-one at all expects him to come, that’s when Jesus will show up.
So according to scripture, the “Jesus-is-coming-back-soon” mantra is complete bollocks.
What isn’t bollocks is the evil intent to deceive us underlying the mantra. We know that all religions feature the arrival of some kind of a messiah or messiah-like figure at the end of time. For Christianity, it’s the second coming if Jesus, while for other belief systems, it’s the arrival of a high-ranking military or political hero with supernatural powers. What all belief systems have in common is that the hero will appear in the midst of extreme global chaos and destruction, but this is where the commonalty ends. Mainstream (that is, heavily compromised, worldly, non-scriptural and commercialized) Christianity then branches off from authentic Christianity (that’s us!) and joins forces with the other non-Christian religions in believing that this hero will save the world from the sorry state it finds itself in by setting up a world government. His purpose in doing this is to create a new Golden Age characterized by peace.
Jesus very clearly states that he’s coming back in glory (my emphasis) in a glorified body (again, my emphasis), not in an earthly one. He also states that the angels accompanying him will gather whatever few believers are still left on Earth, presumably then to take them to Heaven (why else would the angels gather them?). Nowhere does it state that Jesus will come to save the world from itself or that he’ll even hang around long enough to touch down on the planet, let alone to set up a world government. He already did the heavy lifting 2000 years ago; he’s not coming for a redo: He’s coming back to say “I told you so”, and then he’s gone.
And we, if we’re still here when he comes (and if we keep our spiritual noses clean), will go with him.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus provides a little more detail about the itinerary of his second coming. He states that he’ll sit on the throne of his glory (not on the throne of his temple, a very important distinction there) and will judge all those who are left on Earth, dividing them into “sheep” and “goats”. Those who did his father’s will (the sheep) are fast-tracked to eternal life, while those who didn’t (the goats) are dispatched to eternal punishment. Again, nowhere does it state that Jesus is setting up a worldly kingdom to lead the people into a new Golden Age. The dispatching to eternal life or eternal punishment happens immediately.
These details are important, because they and others like them inform what separates the scripture-believing sheep from the false prophet-believing goats. We need to learn and hold scripture-based beliefs to guide us, which is why Jesus was as much a teacher as he was the Messiah.
Is Jesus coming back soon? I’m guessing that if even unbelievers believe he is, then he highly likely isn’t, particularly if they’re eagerly looking forward to his coming as a means to resolve the many (for the most part manufactured) crises around the world. Scripture tells us not only that Jesus will come back when we least expect him, but that there will be weeping and wailing by all those who rejected him when they see Jesus coming in glory and realize in an instant what they’ve lost; there won’t be a raucous drunken welcome party on the roof of the local high rise: there’ll be mass instantaneous insanity.
If not Jesus, then who might actually be coming soon are the dragon and false prophet who lord over the beast system. The false prophet might in fact go by the name of Jesus (or “The Prophet Formerly Known As Jesus”). Muslims believe that Jesus will return and serve as an advisor to a benign world ruler. Commercialized Christians believe that Jesus will set up a world government. See how nicely the devil’s lies dovetail? This is why we need to stick to scriptural fact rather than worldly fiction.
The Kingdom of God exists here and now. I know, because I live in it and have lived in it since I was reborn over 23 years ago. Jesus is not coming back to set up his Kingdom because it already exists. His Kingdom is a spiritual realm, not a worldly one. You cannot see it with your physical eyes, but genuine born-again believers can see it with their spiritual eyes. So no, Jesus is not coming back in glory in his glorified body to set up a worldly kingdom; he mentioned several times that his Kingdom is not of this world – that is, his Kingdom is a spiritual realm, not a worldly one. Jesus is coming back in glory in his glorified body to judge the world before its final destruction, nothing more and nothing less.
But according to scripture, much needs to happen yet before Jesus comes back to judge the “quick and the dead”. There’ll be massive world-wide cataclysms that take place everywhere at the same time, a collapse of a third of the world’s ecosystems, and a world war that results in the killing and die-off of most of the world’s inhabitants. There’ll also be the building of the third temple and the establishment of the “beast system” that has at its core the infamous and dreaded mark. None of these events have occurred yet; at least I haven’t seen them, and I’ve been watching every day, all day, just like Jesus told us to do.
So is Jesus coming back soon? That depends on how you define ‘soon’. Christians who base their beliefs on scripture say “no”, false prophets say “yes”.
Who ya gonna believe?
If someone does come soon claiming to be Jesus, will you be up there on the roof with the commercialized Christians and unbelievers, waving welcome signs?
Or will you be in your secret place, praying to God to know his Truth from the devil’s lies?
ON GOD, SATAN, AND DOING GOOD
Just a reminder – God is in control. He put the world under the directorship of Satan (as Jesus told us), but God is ultimately in control. That means his justice reigns, even here on Earth. It might not always reign through worldly justice systems, but it reigns nevertheless. Nothing can override God’s justice.
Satan administers the world, he doesn’t override God’s justice. Satan can only do what God permits him to do. This is critically important to understand. Remember that Jesus says he has overcome the world. Yes, Satan administers the world’s systems and appoints those who serve him to positions of authority, but God is ultimately in control (Satan can do nothing without God’s permission) and Jesus has overcome even Satan. So we, as Jesus’ followers and born-again believers, have also overcome Satan. He has no power over us because he has no jurisdiction over us. We live in God’s Kingdom on Earth, which Jesus established already 2000 years ago. Satan has no authority there. Over the world, he has authority (again, restrained by God’s permission), but over us he has no authority.
Please remember that.
At the same time, God permits evil (which he created) as a just payback for thoughts and actions that are against his will or as a test (remember Job). Evil is not God’s will. He permits evil because it’s a part of his justice, but evil is not God’s will. God does not impose evil, any more than he punishes people for nothing, on a whim.
Jesus is very clear that the measure we mete is the measure we get in return. What goes around, comes around. A tit for a tat. If we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. Treat other people as you want to be treated. This dynamic is so simple, even a child can understand it, and yet most adults still haven’t come to grips with it and still ask the age-old question: “Why is there evil in the world?”
We get the lives we’ve earned as a result of our thoughts and actions. We are also constantly tempted and tested. And keep in mind that we asked to be here, to be given a second chance. If we come into this world destitute, blind, lame, deformed, and riddled with disease, it’s because of what we did before we got here (remember the war in Heaven?). Or we’re being tested.
God is good, his justice is perfect, and the world is the way it is because of the choices people make, most of which (unfortunately) are now bad, meaning, against God’s will. People lie, cheat and steal and consider it “clever” or “reparations”. But if you lie, cheat and steal, you will pay for it one way or another, regardless if the world gives you a free pass. God won’t.
So again, evil is not God’s will. God is by nature good; Jesus says there is only one who is good, and that is God. Being good, God cannot do evil. However, he did create evil and he does permit it as a part of his justice. Everyone gets what’s coming to them as a result of their thoughts and actions. No-one escapes God’s justice, though they might avoid it for a time. But ultimately, no-one escapes God’s justice.
This should be a comfort to you. It is to me and helps me to stay on the straight and narrow rather than on the broad way. Most people have chosen to live their lives on the broad way. That’s their choice, but it’s the wrong one, and they’ll reap the rewards of that. Better to suffer now and get onto the straight and narrow than to put off suffering (as some do, by signing an oath to and serving the devil) until after death. Better to suffer now and learn right from wrong. Better to make the same choices as Jesus made, even if it means you stand alone in opposition to everything in the world, as he did. The world is on the broad way to the lake of fire. You don’t have to be.
God is not evil and does no evil. Neither should you. What others do is their business and is between them and God. You worry about your own soul and serve as an example to others of the right way forward. Don’t look to the world for justice, because you won’t find it there. Look to God.
We can only get back what we put out, so do good and you’ll be rewarded in kind, if not in this world, then in the world to come (remember Lazarus).
Just a reminder.
Now go out there and do good.
SIGNS OF THE END TIMES: ARE YOU READY?
We have a tendency, as Christians, always to be ‘watching’, because Jesus told us to watch. What most of us are watching for is definitive signs of the end times, much the same as Jesus’ first followers were doing.
But we have to be careful that in watching, we don’t focus so hard on looking for signs that we miss everything else going on around us and even overlook our whole reason for being here.
Case in point: I took a 2-month train trip across Canada a few years ago. While I was on the train, I bought a book with fold-out maps that showed all the milestone markers along the train tracks. So for the next few days after I’d bought the book, I was glued to the train window, watching for the next milestone. In fact, I was so focused on looking for the milestone markers, I missed bear sightings, moose sightings, mountain peak sightings, etc. Sure, I was able to check off milestone after milestone in my map book, but what good did that do me? In hindsight, I would rather have seen the bears and the moose and the mountain peaks than the milestone markers.
We need to be careful that in watching for signs of the end, we don’t overlook everything else going on around us. We need to be careful that in focusing on end time prophecies, we don’t forget what it is that we’re actually here for – to learn our lessons and to help others with theirs. A focus on the end times can lead to bizarre and very un-Christianlike behavior, such as joining doomsday cults that pick a date when Jesus is allegedly to return and then run with it. If we know scripture well enough, we know that we cannot know the date or time of Jesus’ return in glory. Also if we know scripture well enough, we know that when Jesus does come, we won’t have to glue our noses to a train window, watching for milestone markers, or use a spiritual magnifying glass to find and decipher the signs. Because Jesus tells us that when he does come back, it will be like lightning flashing from one horizon to the other. We won’t be able to miss it. The signs will be so huge and obvious, everyone will see them, including unbelievers who have no interest whatsoever in looking for them.
You won’t have to pore over obscure writings that aren’t included in the Bible. You won’t have to click on yet another false prophet’s click-bait headline on YouTube. You won’t have to consult with an “end times expert” or attend special meetings at a sketchy church downtown to learn what to watch for. You’ll just have to still be on Earth and be your normal attentive self.
Eschatology is an entire field devoted to the end times. I don’t think that becoming a devotee of eschatology is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to “watch”. Always to be alert and aware like he was, yes, but to be so obsessed with end time prophecies and signs that you forget about loving your enemies and following the Commandments, no. Loving your enemies and following the Commandments take priority always. Treating others as you want to be treated takes priority always. Whether or not this or that celebrity may or may not be the antichrist, or whether or not this or that invention may or may not be the mark of the beast – these are the spiritual equivalent of gossip and hearsay. If we spend any time at all on these and similar speculations, it should only be in passing. We should never focus on them.
If you find yourself being drawn to blogs and videos about the end times or trying to overlay current events on the laundry list of signs given in Matthew 24, you need to stop. It’s a temptation. Jesus advised us to watch for signs of the end times, not to obsess over them. More important for us is to be ready, because even though Jesus’ coming in glory will be so obvious that even a blind man will see it, he will come at a time when we least expect it.
I believe this will be a supernatural suppression of expectation for everyone, not just unbelievers.
Which is why Jesus wisely advised us that, instead of only watching for signs of the end times and his coming, we should ALWAYS TO BE READY FOR IT.
Being READY is even more important than watching for signs.
If we’re ready, it won’t matter if we miss the signs, because we’ll still be good to go.
“Therefore be ye… ready: for in such an hour as ye think not
the Son of man cometh.”
WITH APOLOGIES TO (SOME) THEOLOGIANS
To dissect something, you first have to kill it. If it’s not dead before you start dissecting it, it will die shortly into the procedure, the way that people declared “brain dead” will physically (that is, actually) die shortly AFTER the organ harvesting procedure begins.
But I digress.
To humanely dissect something you first have to kill it. Then you affix it so that it won’t be jarred out of position during the dissection procedure. Then you can start the incisions.
I hated biology class when I was in high school. I refused to dissect the frog that I was supposed to dissect as part of the course requirements. Even as an atheist, I didn’t see the frog as a thing, but as a living being that had been “sacrificed” (actual scientific terminology) and preserved in formaldehyde solely so that I could get at least a passing grade in a course I had no desire to be taking in the first place. This didn’t sit well with me, and anything that didn’t sit well, I rejected. My reward for sparing the frog was expulsion from biology class, which contributed to my failing the course, which caused me to fail the year, which led me to dropping out of high school.
But again I digress.
We cannot approach God as a dead thing, affixed and immovable, to be dissected like a biology course sacrifice. This, I would argue, is the way that most theologians approach God. I had to throw “most” in front of “theologians”, because God’s been on my case to be kinder to those who make a career out of studying him. Some theologians actually are believers, though they make up a tiny minority. So, in deference to God’s wishes and respect for the few theologians who do believe, I will be kinder.
In Jesus’ day, theologians went by the names of “Sadducees”, “Pharisees”, “Scribes” and “Lawyers”, and we know what Jesus thought of (most of) them. Even so, Paul was a Pharisee before his conversion. Paul’s background training is important for me to remember and helps me stay on course to be kinder to theologians.
God cannot be dissected, because he is eternally alive. The most we can do is describe what we know are some of his characteristics, such as being all-powerful, perfect, merciful, and just. Those of us who know him as our heavenly Dad can describe his voice (the most beautiful you’ll ever hear!) and his playfulness with his children. To me, his daughter, he is indulgent but also at times very firm. I don’t get away with anything, and in fact get a harsher punishment than someone who does the same thing but is not a believer. This is just, as I should know better. Those of us who are graced with grace and God’s Spirit should always know better and set the good example, the way Jesus always did. I’m learning, but I have a ways to go before I catch up to Jesus.
The majority of theologians are not believers and so come by their knowledge of God mainly from the Bible. I cannot imagine poring over scripture for the sole purpose of winning an argument or finding some ‘angle’ to exploit for academic brownie points. I know people who read the Bible just to memorize it. This is a mystery to me, why someone who doesn’t believe in God would want to memorize the Bible. As an atheist, I couldn’t stand to have a Bible anywhere near me, let alone to read it enough to memorize it. Nowadays, I can’t stand not having a Bible near me. I always travel with at least one, as most hotels and motels in Canada don’t provide a Bible in their rooms anymore.
Scripture is not a dead thing to those who love God. We believers read the Bible with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is very much alive and “quickens” our understanding of scripture. There is no other way to read the Bible, if gaining a better understanding God and his Word is your intention. Sure, you can read it as just a collection of facts encapsulated in words, but that’s not how it was intended to be read. It was written to be digested and absorbed. You are to feed on God’s Word, which is filled with spiritual nutrients. You are to take a bite, chew on it, swallow it down, and let it become part of you.
Jesus suggested we do the same with him – chew on his flesh and drink his blood. Some of his followers were disturbed by this dinner invitation, but Jesus didn’t back down. He insisted that those who wouldn’t ingest and absorb him had no part in his mission. He later explained that he meant we should ingest the words he was speaking, “as they are spirit, and they are life”.
Scripture is a dead, fixed thing only to those who don’t love God. For those of us who do, scripture is very much alive and cannot be affixed to anything, as it moves and morphs and changes with each reading. God’s Word is eternal and his Truth is unchanging, but our understanding of it is fluid: as our faith deepens, so, too, does our understanding of God.
I am not sure that this dynamic happens to those who read the Bible not to feed on it but to exploit it for personal or professional gain. I think they receive only a very superficial understanding of it, if their interpretation is to be classified as an “understanding” at all. This is why they are constantly squabbling over minutia that God never intended to be squabbled over. The deeper meaning – the Holy Spirit-conveyed meaning – evades them, and all they’re left with is the spiritual equivalent of a crucified frog with its sad little fastidiously labeled guts hanging out.
It is infinitely better to know God one-on-one than to know of him only by hearsay. We cannot study God like a dead thing or like fixed words on a page, because God is not only alive, but Life itself. He evades being known by those whose reasons for seeking him are not righteous. They’re like little kids pressing their noses against the display counter at the pastry shop, eyeing the wedding cake. Little do they know that the “cake” is only cardboard covered in icing and was made just for show.
The real wedding cake is kept out back, in a room only the baker and his apprentices can enter.
DANCING WITH GOD
The physicality of God, in addition to his spirituality, is a contentious issue among theologians. I’m not – THANK GOD – a theologian, so I’m more interested in approaching this topic from the perspective of Truth (that is, from God’s perspective) than from the perspective of stubborn adherence to creed (that is, from man’s perspective).
God has a body. In fact, he doesn’t just have one body, he has an infinite number of bodies, and all of them are perfect. He can manifest into the bodies whenever he chooses to. They’re different shapes and sizes and colors, but each is totally flawless. It would be impossible for God to be in an imperfect body because his very nature is perfection. Each of God’s perfect bodies aligns perfectly with the situation he is manifesting into. That is, he’ll appear to you as you wish to see him or believe him to be or in the way that he knows you need to see him. That’s why there are so many different descriptions of God in the Bible.
Recall that we’re made in God’s image. If we ideally have two arms, two legs, one head, etc., then so does God in his infinite number of perfect bodies. But God, being God, to whom all things are possible, might also possibly manifest as a perfect form of something else. It would be his perfect prerogative to do so. Recall that God appeared to Adam and Eve, habitually walking with them in the Garden of Eden. Recall that God appeared to Moses and that Moses spoke to him face to face on occasion. Recall that Moses once witnessed God’s body from the back. How anyone can read the Bible and still assert that God doesn’t have a body is beyond me.
Jesus famously stated that God is a spirit, and as such should be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth. For most of us mere mortals, God will be to us a spirit during our time on Earth. He is to me. We born-agains know God as a spirit, because that is the fulfillment of the promise. God is with his children through his Spirit, in the same way he was with the OT prophets on occasion. The difference between born-again followers of Jesus and (most) of the OT prophets is that we have God’s Spirit with us continuously; most of the earlier prophets had to make do with cameo appearances and “sneak peeks”.
But if we make it to Heaven, I have no doubt whatsoever that we’ll be talking to God face to face. I have no doubt that we’ll be hugging him and getting hugged in return. And I have no doubt that we’ll be dancing with him – you won’t know what it means to dance until you’ve danced with God in Heaven! His perfect body will be perfectly matched to your perfect body. He will anticipate your every move and move with you in perfect rhythm and perfect form. There will be no time but the beat of the music, no faltering, no missteps. There will just be perfect fluid movement in perfect motion, with feet barely touching the floor. It will be more like floating than dancing, because it will actually be more like floating. No earthly laws of gravity in Heaven!
“But Charlotte, how can you know this?”, whines every theologian everywhere.
Well, you could say I’ve had a vision, or you could say I’m just dreaming, or maybe you could say it’s a little of both. We know there’s going to be a wedding feast for those who make it to Heaven. Scripture says so. What would a wedding feast be without dancing? And what would dancing at a wedding feast be without a Father-Daughter dance?
These are the dreams and visions that sustain me. Paul says we see God now as through a glass darkly, that is, we can only have a vague idea of him; we’re not made to know him as he really is. Not yet. Not while we’re in an imperfect body with limited senses. But Paul also says that when we get Home, we’ll see God “face to face”. Paul doesn’t say we’ll “perceive” him as he is, but that we’ll SEE him as he is. Only the physically manifested can be seen.
We tend to focus entirely on Jesus, which is understandable, considering that he is our Leader and the one whose example we’re to follow. But Jesus himself focused on God during his time on Earth and promised us that we’d have the same relationship with the Father as he did. He was insistent that we get to know God as our Father – not just as our God, but as our Father. So the more we focus on God, the more we become like Jesus and the clearer God becomes to us. And the clearer God becomes to us, the closer we draw to him and to Home.
We will not be dancing with God as a spirit in Heaven, but with God in a very real, very touchable body that is the most perfect among perfected beings. And to you, he’ll look exactly as you imagine him, and to me, he’ll look exactly as I imagine him, because that’s what God does: He fits himself perfectly to each one of us, whether we’re still here on Earth in our flawed human body or in Heaven in our perfected one. Or perhaps he’ll appear as he wants us to see him, because he can do that, too.
As Jesus told us, God is Spirit. That fact is indisputable. But just as indisputable is God’s ability to manifest as a body, as scripture well attests. God will appear to you as you believe him to be, and he’ll appear to me as I believe him to be. When we’re speaking to a baby or a young child, we adjust our tone and facial expressions to soothe and engage. We don’t want to frighten the little ones; we want to make them smile. God does the same with us. His aim is not to overwhelm us, his children, but to connect with us and let his love flow through us.
That is like dancing: the flow of love across and between bodies in motion. We can do that now with God, in Spirit; but in Heaven, oh, in Heaven, that’s when the real dance begins.