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Every so often, Jesus is resurrected in the entertainment industry as the latest fad. The productions are usually presented as “true to the gospel” or “based on the historical Jesus”, but there is always something slightly off about them. I’ve been born-again for nearly 21 years, and I’ve seen my fair share of these faddish entertainments come and go. The latest is a multi-season miniseries called “The Chosen”, which, according to the show’s director, is loosely based on the life of Jesus.
I have no problem with people depicting Jesus or his followers as a form of entertainment, if the depiction is true to the gospel. Jesus himself said that those who are not against him are for him. He also taught using vivid parables and whatever props were at hand (including small children) and encouraged his followers to do the same. So presenting God’s Word as a form of entertainment is a built-in feature of spreading the Good News. However (and this is a big however), from what I’ve seen and heard in “The Chosen”, the writers take liberties with the gospel that would make even Judas Iscariot blush.
Take, for instance, the character Matthew, who suffers from autism. In case this bypassed the writers of “The Chosen”, Jesus is a healer. If the actual Matthew had Asperger’s, Jesus would have healed him as a first order of business. He would have cast out the demons oppressing Matthew and there would have been no more twitching or depression for him to deal with. And we know that Matthew did not, in fact, suffer from any form of oppression because Jesus told his disciples that they were all “clean”, other than for Judas Iscariot. So depicting Matthew as demon-ridden indicates to me that this show is, well, just another faddish Jesus show at best (written by those who don’t know Jesus and don’t know the gospel) or “another gospel” at worst.
The litmus test for any representation of Jesus or the gospels is what it makes you want to do. If it makes you want to read God’s Word and grow closer to God and Jesus, then it’s likely inspired by God. If, however, it makes you want to watch more of the same show (rather than read the Bible) and get to know the actors and producers and directors of the show better (rather than get to know God and Jesus better), then the work is likely not inspired by God.
In watching the few minutes of the show that I could endure, the only thing I wanted to do was turn it off. There is something very “broad way” about “The Chosen”, but again, I can only speak for myself and my own impressions. Perhaps the show is inspiring others to draw closer to God and Jesus, or perhaps it’s only drawing them closer to whatever screen they’re watching it on.
In any case, God can work through anything, including depictions of Matthew as a demon-plagued outcast. I myself will be steering clear of “The Chosen” (I would rather spend my time hanging out with God and Jesus, reading the Bible, and teaching God’s Word), but I pray that those who do choose to watch it will be inspired to want to get to know God and Jesus better, and to pick up a Bible and read the gospel for themselves.
Whose voice do you hear – the voice of the world or the voice of God?
And whose voice do you obey?
The voice of the world tells you to be afraid, very afraid, of everyone and everything around you, even and especially of the very air you breathe. But God through his holy angels tells you to “FEAR NOT!” Through Jesus, God tells you the only one you should fear is he who has the power to cast you, body and soul, into hell. There is no-one and nothing else to fear.
The world tells you to stifle your breath and muffle your words, making it hard for people to hear and understand you. But God tells you speak his Word loud and clear, as the Word you speak is his through the power of his Spirit. Do not stifle or muffle God’s Spirit.
The world tells you to fear people and to stand far away from them. But God through Jesus shows that even lepers can and should be touched.
The world tells you to veil your face even in the holy congregation, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has forever removed the veil between God and his people. There is no reason to veil your face before God, if you are his. To veil your face before God is to deny the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of God to protect his people.
The world tells you to “trust the science” to heal you, but God tells you to trust only him. Jesus healed people by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and so should his followers.
So I ask you again: Whose voice do you hear – the voice of the world or the voice of God?
Remember that God put the world under the control of Satan, so when you obey the voice of the world, you’re obeying Satan. When you bear the symbols of obedience to the world and take them into your body, you’re bearing the symbols of obedience to Satan. You’re showing the world – and God – who you really obey.
Be careful whose voice you hear, and even more careful whose voice you obey.
The Bible is a big book. I’ve written about it here and here, and I’ll probably never stop writing about it until the day I die. There are no Bibles in Heaven (which may surprise some people), but there are billions of Bibles on Earth. Sadly, most of them aren’t read.
The Bible is a big book with lots of words. Knowing that, and also knowing that most people won’t read the Bible, Jesus summed it up for us in seven simple words: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. He told us that is the Law and the prophets. It’s also the core of his gospel message: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, whether you’re sick or well, whether you’re (as Paul would say) “abased or abounding”, whether you’re hated or loved, you treat others as you would be treated. You don’t just treat Christians as you would be treated, you treat everyone as you would be treated, old and young, rich and poor, friend and foe, black, white, and everything in between.
When you do that, when you treat others as you would be treated, Jesus doesn’t just stand at the door and knock, he comes right in to live with you and brings God’s Holy Spirit with him, the same Spirit that was in the Old and New Testament prophets, and the same Spirit that was in Jesus during his time on Earth. You’ll know when God’s Holy Spirit has arrived because you’ll have no fear, the way Jesus had no fear. You’ll only have love and joy and compassion. Not once was Jesus shown to be anything but cool as a cucumber, even in his anger against the hypocrites, even when he was getting the bum’s rush from Nazareth, and even during his crucifixion. You don’t get cool like that on your own merits; that level of cool only comes from the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
So when you treat others as you would be treated, in season and out, in good days and bad, God’s Spirit will be with you, and you’ll keep your cool. You’ll stand your spiritual ground. You’ll endure to the end, which is what we’re all here for. If you don’t treat others as you would be treated, God’s Spirit won’t come to live with you, you won’t keep your cool, and you won’t endure to the end, which means you won’t get to Heaven, no matter how hard you try.
Seven simple words: TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD BE TREATED. That is the Law and the prophets and the gospel.
Do that, and you’ll live.
God’s holy angels were at the empty tomb, declaring Jesus’ resurrection, just as they had been at Jesus’ birth, declaring him the Messiah. The angels are often overlooked in the resurrection narrative, but they appear to be the first witnesses, and their job was to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen and to tell them to tell others.
Angels were a constant presence in Jesus’ life on Earth, from just before his conception to just after his resurrection. They manifested in visual form (that is, visual to humans) when they had a particularly important message to convey. And when they manifested in their heavenly form (with glistening white robes), the message was of utmost importance.
The angels who appeared at the tomb were wearing their glistening robes. We don’t know their names, but their job was to bear witness to the resurrection. Since those few precious words spoken at the empty tomb nearly 2,000 years ago, their witness has been repeated millions upon millions of times, creating a long human and angelic chain of “HE IS RISEN!” echoing through the ages.
When we declare Jesus risen – that is, that Jesus is Lord and Messiah – we stand with God’s holy angels who appeared at the tomb. We repeat their message, which was given to them directly from God: We repeat God’s words. We bear witness to the resurrection and all that it implies.
Our robes may not be glistening white (or even robes), but the words – “HE IS RISEN!” – are just as precious as they were when they came out of the mouths of the holy angels. And like God’s holy angels, we are also tasked with telling others the good news.
In doing this, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the angels and join the chain.
HE IS RISEN!
Now go and tell others.
Well, I’m officially crazy: I just baked an organic pizza for the local sea gulls.
Let me explain.
It’s almost Passover, which means it’s also almost the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Jesus commanded his followers to celebrate the Passover, which includes eating unleavened bread during the meal.
For the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we’re supposed to remove all yeasted products from our home. I had a frozen pizza sitting in my freezer for the past few months, so out it goes (yeast in the crust). But I couldn’t just throw it in the garbage (what a waste!) and I couldn’t give it to the birds frozen (they might complain…), so I baked it for them.
Passover begins this evening at sundown. I wrote last year about how important it is for Christians to celebrate Passover and by extension the Feast of Unleavened Bread. While it’s true we’re no longer under the Law (meaning, we don’t have to sacrifice animals to atone for our sins), God did direct his people to celebrate the Lord’s Passover for all time. It’s a directive that has as much weight as a Commandment.
In keeping the Passover, we commemorate the Hebrews’ final night in Egypt before the Exodus. On that night, the people were directed to eat a special meal in haste and to smear their doorposts with the blood of a slaughtered lamb to protect them from God, who would at midnight “pass over” them and their animals while killing every first-born among the Egyptians. The Passover also involves the reading of certain Bible passages and the singing of psalms, all to be done with shoes on and “loins girded” in expectation of a hasty departure.
Jesus urged his followers to continue keeping the Passover, but to keep it as he showed us during his final meal on Earth. The wine was to represent his blood instead of the ritual lamb’s blood, and the unleavened bread was to represent his body instead of the ritual lamb’s meat. This new Passover meal of Jesus’ blood and body was to commemorate the sacrifice that would take place the next day, with Jesus himself as the sacrificial offering. Remember that, by God’s decree, no bone was to broken in the Passover lamb, so even though the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, they left Jesus’ legs intact.
The Lord’s Passover is a bittersweet festival. As much as it celebrates God’s rescue of his people from slavery, it also commemorates the slaughter of millions of first-borns, including Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I tend to speed through the description of Jesus’ crucifixion as fast as I can when I read the gospels, just as I speed through the description of the slaughter of the firstborns. I don’t think these events should be dwelt on or even looked upon (see what happened to Lot’s wife when she turned to watch the destruction of Sodom). God’s judgement in action can be brutal for those on the receiving end. It’s enough for us to know that it does happen, and that it’s perfect.
I hope you choose to commemorate the Passover as God and Jesus directed us to do. If you still have yeasted products in your home, now’s a good time to remove them. I’m sure you can find some hungry birds who would be only too happy to take them off your hands.
His own people, at the time of his first coming, didn’t recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy because he was of such low birth. How could a carpenter – and the son of a carpenter, at that – be the Messiah? The Israelites had built up in their minds a vision of the Messiah as a great military leader who would overthrow the Roman invaders and fortify the borders of the Promised Land, keeping them safe from their enemies for all time. But Jesus had no intention of instigating a military coup. His kingdom, as he told his followers repeatedly, is a spiritual realm that is not of this world. Those who refused to accept him as Messiah had misinterpreted prophetic scripture because they had hardened their hearts to the truth. In other words, they believed a lie.
Many Christians today also suffer from the same false expectations, and for the same reason. They’ve built up in their minds a vision of end-time scenarios that must unfold, and in so doing have hardened their hearts to everything but the latest popular interpretations of prophetic scripture. Can it be that the exact same worldly misinterpretation of scripture that prevented his own people (the Israelites) from recognizing Jesus as “the one who was to come” is again playing out today for Jesus’ second coming, and again with Jesus’ own people (the Christians)?
Just like 2,000 years ago, people are expecting Jesus to set up a worldly kingdom based on superior (or even supernatural) military strength. I guess the Devil thinks if his lie worked so well the first time around, it will work again, and he’s right. Many have fallen for the same old shtick. And they’ve fallen for it because they’ve hardened their hearts to the truth and read scripture (if they read it at all) through the eyes of the world rather than through the eyes of God’s Holy Spirit.
I have written before about how the lie of Jesus coming back to set up a worldly kingdom is a relatively new misinterpretation of scripture, and how it dovetails nicely with the likewise relatively new misinterpretation of Jesus being God. At the same time, other worldly belief systems are expecting a great leader to establish a powerful earthly kingdom; some even expect that leader to be called “Jesus”. For Christians, scripture had to be slickly “reinterpreted” so that their end-time beliefs align with those of other worldly religions. Considering that most Christians today do actually believe that Jesus is coming back to set up a worldly kingdom, I would say “mission accomplished” to everyone who propagated the lie.
Jesus tells us explicitly to look at Daniel’s prophecy of end times. There is no mention of a benign Messiah setting up a worldly kingdom in the book of Daniel. What we see instead is a series of worldly kingdoms, each one worse than the one before, culminating in a thoroughly evil kingdom that overthrows all others and whose chief accomplishment is the persecution and purging of God’s people. This final kingdom is led by a “vile person” who sets himself up as God and is eventually overthrown. After his demise comes a time of great trouble, followed by the annihilation of the planet.
There is no mention in Daniel of a 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah. There are, however, two passages about a kingdom that will be set up in the midst of the other kingdoms, but this kingdom will smash down the others and last forever. Jesus told us to read Daniel. He also told us many times that his kingdom is not of this world. If you read Daniel’s prophecies of the end times and of the kingdom that has no end, and if you take Jesus at his word that his kingdom is a spiritual realm that is not of this world, you will have no choice but to accept that Jesus is not coming back to set up a worldly kingdom.
Jesus himself tells us that he’s coming back in glory – not in a mortal body, but in a heavenly one – and that all eyes will see him when he does come back. He makes zero mention of setting up a kingdom upon his return. What he does say is that he’ll be sending his angels to the four corners of the earth to gather the last of his faithful followers. Paul says that at that time our bodies will change “in an instant” from mortal to immortal (that is, from earthly to glorified). This is what many call the “rapture”, although that phrase doesn’t exist in the Bible. Rapture is just another word for a collective ascension.
The second coming will be in glory and with trumpets blaring, and all eyes will see Jesus, just as all souls, whether believers or not, will know in an instant and beyond a doubt who he is. Those who love and follow him will be gathered by his angels and whisked home to Heaven, while those who hate and reject him will be left behind in a God-less world soon to be destroyed, and mourning forever what they’ve lost.
Read Daniel. Read the gospels. There is no 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah in those scriptures. But there is in Daniel a kingdom led by someone posing as God just before the final destruction of the world, and there is in the gospels reminders from Jesus that his kingdom is a spiritual realm and warnings that we should read Daniel about end-time prophecy so that we’re not led astray.
In the end, what you choose to believe is up to you. We all have God-given free will. With my free will, I choose to believe Jesus and to follow his guidance in everything I do, including what I believe about end-time scenarios. I do not believe that Jesus is coming back to Earth to set up a worldly kingdom because Jesus and the Bible tell me he’s not going to do that. If you find a source that says something different and has higher authority than God, Jesus, and Holy Scripture, please let me know.
You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand high and nodding in agreement. Yes, I’m guilty of trying to micromanage God on occasion, making vast and detailed plans that I expect him to follow to the letter. Of course I know I should wait for his inspiration to plan anything, but I still sometimes find myself galloping ahead at full speed and then looking over my shoulder wondering where God is and what’s taking him so long to catch up.
Well, God is right here where he’s always been, and when I do the galloping thing, he’s not going to catch up with me. He’s going to let me keep going on my own until I run out of steam, and then he’s going to very gently haul me back to the starting line and remind me again to wait for his cue and his blessing before I start my run.
Many of us find ourselves running on our own steam, wondering where God is and why he isn’t blessing our efforts. I see this especially in new Christians, just as I saw it in myself when I was first born-again. Truth be told, I was so prone to galloping off in all different directions as a newborn-again that God took away my ability to write for three years. I went from generating a dozen or so pages a day pre-rebirth to generating nothing longer than a grocery list post-rebirth. It was the strangest thing, but I didn’t fight it or question it. When the words finally came again, God gave me the funds to take a year off from work, and I wrote a book called Faith Revolution. I had to learn how to write by the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit rather than the goading of the fallen spirits. I never did publish the book in its entirety, but I’ve used parts of it in this blog.
God is a great planner, and we’ve inherited that drive from him. I love making plans so much that I have to remind myself again and again to wait for God’s blessing before formulating the plans past the fantasy stage. If the plans are inspired by God, they come with God’s blessing baked in. That means you don’t have to ask for his blessing; the plans will come pre-approved and everything will fall into place. It’s only when we move ahead without God’s inspiration and therefore without God’s blessing that we fall into trouble.
Jesus did nothing without God’s inspiration. Everything he did was blessed by God because Jesus waited for God’s go-ahead before acting rather than running ahead and expecting God to bless his efforts after the fact. The one time that Jesus got ahead of himself was when he left his parents without telling them and went to Jerusalem to hang out with the temple elders. His parents were frantic, looking everywhere for him and thinking something horrible had happened to him. This is not the outcome of plans blessed by God.
Jesus never did that again to his parents, and I believe it was a very teachable moment for him about the importance of waiting for God’s signal. In fact, he learned his lesson so well that years later, when the time actually came for him to start his ministry work, his mother had to gently push him to start. The outcome was his first miracle of turning water into wine.
We need to wait for God’s inspiration and direction if we want similarly good outcomes for our efforts. It’s OK to make plans (sometimes there’s more pleasure in making plans than in actually doing them), but before you put anything into action, make sure it’s inspired by God and not just a figment of your imagination. You’ll know it’s inspired by God because it will unfold easily and without resistance. Things will just fall into place as if they were meant to be, because they are.
Your job in God’s great and perfect plan is to be ready and willing for whatever God knows you can handle. Let him know you’re waiting for his signal, and then leave the details and timing to God.
Wait on the Lord:
Be of good courage, and he will strengthen thine heart:
Wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27)
A big part of being born-again is witnessing our faith. God wants us not only to be a believer but to share our belief with the believing and unbelieving world. But what does “witnessing” actually mean? Is it giving a formal or informal presentation, like a speech or a lecture? Is it cornering unbelieving friends and relatives and grilling them on their sins? Is it going door to door or standing on a street corner handing out pamphlets to strangers?
Most Christians believe that witnessing is something you do extraneous to your everyday life, something special that you prepare in advance. But the truth is, witnessing is what you do all day, every day: In other words, it’s your life.
With our every word and every deed and every thought and every click, we witness before God and before the world of believers and unbelievers. We also witness before the spiritual realm of the fallen (whose sole goal is to get us to lose our grace), and before artificial intelligence algorithms that follow us around cyberspace and real space through internet-connected devices. Witnessing is not something you prepare in advance or do “special” – it’s everything you do. It’s how you spend your waking hours in the sight of other people, but also (and more importantly) what you do when you think no-one sees you.
That is your witness. You witness before God, people, fallen spirits, and advanced technology. When I was an atheist, one of the main reasons I dismissed Christianity was the witness of the people I knew who called themselves Christians. Sure, they went to “church” every Sunday, but Monday to Saturday they lived like me, and I was deep in sin. They never preached to me or tried to slip me a pamphlet – they just lived sinful lives in front of me. That was their witness.
We need to be aware of this. And we especially need to be aware that what we do behind closed doors, online, and in our head is just as much part of our witness as what we do in public. There is no “OFF” button to witnessing.
ARE YOU BORN AGAIN? This may seem a strange question to ask readers of a blog that is intended for born-again believers, but ask it I must. You don’t have to answer me. I’m not looking for an outward answer. You need to answer within yourselves.
Jesus said that we need to be born again. He said that if we’re not born again, we can’t see the Kingdom and can’t enter into it. And if we can’t see the Kingdom and can’t enter into it, we won’t make it home.
That’s why the question of whether or not you’re born again is so important and needs to be asked, even on a blog that’s written for born-again believers.
And if you’ve answered with “No” or “I think I am” or “I’m not sure”, you need to drop everything you’re doing and focus entirely on getting reborn.
Spiritual rebirth is not something that you can arrange like a play date. You can’t order spiritual rebirth online. You can’t buy it – not with all the money in the world – and you can’t learn it from all the world’s wisdom. Even your minister or priest can’t make you born again, no matter how hard they try. Spiritual rebirth, as John tells us, comes from the will of God only, not from the will of man.
So how can you get born again?
And the answer is: Ask God.
Since God is in charge of spiritual rebirth, it only makes sense to ask him how to get reborn.
Spiritual rebirth happens at a time and place of God’s choosing. It won’t happen simply because you want it or because you recite something or do an altar call. I’ve had arguments with people about this. I’ve also had arguments with people who claim that spiritual rebirth is a long drawn-out process that happens over time rather than an instantaneous miracle. Gestation happens over time, yes, but birth happens suddenly and with a great cry and push. It’s the same with spiritual rebirth. The long process of spiritual gestation is not rebirth: the great final cry and push that brings a new being into life is rebirth.
Ask a mother who still has a child in her womb whether her baby’s been born. She’ll look at you all kinds of strange. The same holds true for spiritual rebirth. The born-again soul is something entirely different from the soul that is still gestating.
Many people who claim to be born again are actually in a state of spiritual gestation. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not rebirth, so it’s not enough. Jesus said you must be born again. If you stop at the gestation stage, it will be no different than if you’d lived a life of unrepentant sin and died unrepentant. You’ll be like the people Jesus mentions in scripture who knock at the Master’s door, trying desperately to get in and saying: “We’ve eaten and drunk at your table, and you’ve taught in our streets”, to which the Master responds: “I never knew you.”
Imagine the horror of hearing Jesus say to you on Judgement Day “I never knew you”, knowing that because he never knew you, you weren’t going to Heaven.
I can’t think of anything worse.
And at that point, it will be too late to get to know to Jesus.
If your aim is Heaven, you need to be born again while you’re still on Earth. There is no other way to get where you want to go. Jesus says those who try to climb up some other way rather than entering through the door will not make it home. Jesus is the door, and God’s Way is how you enter.
If you’re not born-again, you need to let God know that you want to be born again. You need to let him know that you want a relationship with him as your Dad and with Jesus as your Lord, teacher, brother, and best friend. You can only have these relationships if you’re born again, and if you don’t have them, you won’t make it home. It’s that simple.
So I ask you one more time: ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?
Don’t tell me the answer. Tell yourself. And if your response isn’t a resounding “YES, THANK GOD!”, tell God in prayer that you want to be reborn. Then make being born again your one and only priority until you are.
I’m paraphrasing here, but Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) once said that it wasn’t the obscure parts of the Bible that troubled him, it was the parts that were plain and clear and that he knew he wasn’t abiding by.
Jesus taught people in two ways: in parables for those who were still on the spiritual fence, and plainly for those who could handle the truth.
One of the plainest verses in the New Testament is about what to do when you get the order from God to flee. Let’s look at it:
“Let no one on the housetop come down to retrieve anything from his house. And let no one in the field return for his cloak.” (Matthew 24:17-18)
Jesus says straight out what to expect and what to do. He doesn’t say “if you have time, go back and get what you need”, he tells us don’t even think about going back, not even for your coat.
So how does this plain-spoken warning from Jesus align with so-called Christian prepping? It doesn’t. A whole industry has grown up around “Christian end-time survival” that flies in the face of Jesus’ teachings on fleeing at a moment’s notice and with just the clothes on your back.
Jesus lived the last three years of his life on the run. He was constantly under threat of arrest, he had no possessions other than what he wore, and he never stayed for more than a few days in any one place. And yet so-called Christian preppers are, for instance, trying to sell you seeds that presumably you’re going to need more than a few days to plant, grow, and harvest. Or do you think God wants us to go on the run clutching an armful of potted tomatoes?
Let me be plain here. When things get really crazy over the next few years and the persecutions ramp up against those who won’t accept the “new normal” world order, you won’t be planting seeds, and if you do, you won’t be hanging around to watch them grow. You’ll be on the run, like Jesus, and the only thing you’ll be watching is your back to see who’s gaining on you. Whatever preps you’ve stockpiled you’ll have to leave behind for someone else. God will provide for you on the run, like he did for Jesus. But forget about bugging out to a fully-stocked and fortified bunker where you’ll be left in peace to ride out the coming purge. It ain’t gonna happen that way – not for you, and not for any real Christian.
Christian preppers are living in a fantasy world. Don’t fall for their lies. If you want to survive what’s coming, you’ll have to live like Jesus – ready to leave at a moment’s notice, constantly on the run, and traveling light. And while you’re on the run, you’ll be preaching and teaching and modeling the Word. The prepper lifestyle and the Christian-on-the-run lifestyle are dead opposite.
My advice on how to “prep” for what’s coming? Let me be plain-spoken, like Jesus: We need to do less stockpiling and more abiding by what’s in the Bible.