A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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LEAVING JESUS

As born-again believers, we can only imagine the shame the disciples felt when they realized they’d left Jesus all alone to face the soldiers, and certain death. Peter in particular, after boasting he’d rather die than desert Jesus, must have himself felt like dying. But Jesus was undeterred: He knew beforehand that all his followers would leave him, and so he’d prepared himself accordingly.

He didn’t blame them; he pitied them, knowing their weaknesses.

And he forgave them.

Tonight at midnight marks the anniversary of when all of Jesus’ disciples deserted him. The spirit of fear is a powerful force that can make you do things you hadn’t expected you’d do. For instance, God gives women that charming involuntary response of a loud piercing scream whenever they encounter something that makes them unexpectedly afraid. It’s a defense mechanism. I’ve experienced that involuntary defense mechanism myself on occasion: The scream rips out of you before you can stop it. It’s like a reflex.

I think the disciples’ desertion of Jesus all those years ago was also like a reflex. They vamoosed before they realized what they were doing; maybe they even thought at first that Jesus had vamoosed with them.

But Jesus hadn’t vamoosed. He’d stood his ground, completely immune to the fear reflex. No scream escaped his lips. He went to his crucifixion willingly. He even took a moment to lecture one of his followers on the right way to treat others, including the soldiers who were arresting him. As the storm of evil churned and howled around him, Jesus stood in the eye of it, calm and unflappable.

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We are to celebrate Passover as Jesus taught us to celebrate it, in memory of him.

Tonight is Passover.

We are to purge our homes of yeast, as Moses taught us to do. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is the continuum of the Passover feast. We’re to purge our homes of yeast because God said to keep this feast for all time. That means it’s ongoing until the end of time. We’re not at the end of time yet, so we keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. We keep keeping it, because we are the spiritual offspring of the children of Israel, and the children of Israel must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for all time. That is a scriptural command straight from God.

If you haven’t yet done so, now is a good time to identify anything in your cupboards or fridge that has yeast in it, and throw it out. Better still, instead of throwing it out, give it to the birds. Don’t give it to people – give it to the birds. Don’t poke it away for later – give it to the birds. But get it out of your house.

That is a command from God.

We’re to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread just as we’re to celebrate the Passover.

The Passover is tonight, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread continues where the Passover lets off and goes for seven days. The Passover is a reminder of God’s supernatural protection of his people, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a celebration of the Hebrews being sprung from slavery. Their freedom came so quickly and unexpectedly, they didn’t even have the chance to put yeast in their bread dough. They had to vamoose with unyeasted dough. Jesus tells us we should live our lives with loins girded and shoes on our feet, always ready to leave at a moment’s notice with little more than the clothes on our back. That’s how the Hebrews left Egypt; that’s how Jesus’ parents left with him when they fled Herod’s murderous decree; and that’s how the early Christians lived: Always ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

These feasts are not optional: they are a command.

Jesus told us to celebrate the Passover – not Easter, not Good Friday, not the Last Supper – Passover.

Passover is tonight.

We celebrate the Passover the way Jesus showed us to, and we keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the following seven days.

We do this because we’ve been told to do it.

We do this because man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus told us to do it and Moses told us to do it, which means that God told us to do it.

I hope you enjoy your Passover celebrations tonight and that you purge your home of yeast for the next week.

Blessings will follow if you keep God’s commands.

Curses will follow if you don’t.

A CALL TO SPIRITUAL ARMS: PREPARING FOR PASSOVER

When I started this blog several years ago, it was not my intention to form a ministry. This was never meant to be an outreach or evangelical site. It was just intended to be a place where born-again believers could touch base, see their views reflected, get some guidance, and maybe get a spiritual spanking, if one was warranted. There are few places like that left in the world, even online, and even fewer among those spaces designated as Christian.

My intentions for this blog have not changed over the years. This is still not a ministry and still not an outreach or evangelical site. If anything, I work hard to push people away by constantly challenging them. It’s more a boot camp than anything else and I’m the drill sergeant. I play the role willingly and well. That’s why God put me here.

If you’re not DAILY examining your conscience before God, comparing your thoughts and actions with those of Jesus and adjusting them accordingly, then you’re falling short of your duties as a born-again believer and you’re getting spiritually flabby. Those who are spiritually flabby won’t make it home. I don’t care what your worldly pastor or some donation-grubbing, feel-good “Christian” on YouTube tells you – being born-again is not a guaranteed ticket to Heaven. Being born-again is a pass that gets you into the Kingdom and a blank check that pays for the services of God’s Holy Spirit to guide and protect you as you make your way through the temptations of this world. But born-again believers can still lose their grace. That is scriptural. “Once saved, always saved” is a lie to keep you spiritually flabby.

In the Bible, every major transition to a higher spiritual state is preceded by a fast or some form of significant separation from the world that lasts 40 days and 40 nights. We see it with Noah during the flood. We see it with Moses on Mount Sinai. We see it with Jesus in the wilderness and again after his resurrection, when he appeared to his followers off and on for 40 days and nights before his ascension. The 40-day-and-night time span is clearly important in God’s economy, so we need to pay attention to it. We should be constantly striving to evolve to a higher spiritual level by following ever closer behind Jesus and drawing ever closer to God.

Over the next seven weeks leading up to Passover, we have the opportunity to do a 40-day fast of some kind. How you choose to fast is between you and God, but I strongly suggest that you do it. A reminder is in order here that Jesus says God requires mercy not sacrifice, and that Isaiah 58 gives a very clear explanation of the kind of fast required by God and the rewards that come from doing it. Again, I’m not telling you how to fast (that’s between you and God); I’m just saying that you should fast in the weeks leading up to Passover.

For us born-again believers, Passover is the annual commemoration and celebration of our freedom from physical, political and spiritual slavery. It also commemorates and celebrates our reconciliation with God. Through Moses, God told us we should always celebrate Passover while we’re on Earth, and through Jesus, God showed us the new way to do it – with wine and bread, rather than with blood and a slaughtered lamb.

We should be constantly challenging ourselves as born-again believers. We should never be satisfied to remain where we are spiritually; we should always be striving to be better than we were yesterday, with our ultimate goal to “be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect”. No, we’ll never attain that goal while we’re in our imperfect bodies, but we still need to strive for it to our dying breath.

To do this, we need to be constantly comparing ourselves with Jesus, not with the world. Our standard should be Jesus, not the world. If we have problems, we turn to God, not to the world. If we need guidance and healing, we look to God, not to the world. If we’re angry and frustrated, we go to God, not to the world. Jesus always went to God, and we need to do that, too. But we can’t do it if we’re too attached to the world and its ways. The world has a way of coming between us and God. We need to prevent that from happening.

Separating ourselves from the world through a 40-day fast is a good way to refocus everything on God.

You have your marching orders.

Passover starts at sundown on April 15th, 2022.

GOD’S JUDGEMENT IS NOT A MOVIE

One of the more disturbing trends that’s emerging in mainstream Christianity is the eagerness of some Christians to witness firsthand the destruction of God’s enemies. They try to smooth it over by saying they’re looking forward to “Jesus coming back”, but they can barely contain their glee when they talk about how all those condemned souls will finally ‘see the light’, though too late to do anything about it. It’s as if these Christians want to feel vindicated and have their I-told-you-so moment, or they’re channeling demonically-inspired schadenfreude. But this is obviously not what God wants.

When God makes his final move to deliver his judgement collectively during the tribulation, he doesn’t want us to watch. God’s judgement is not a movie. He doesn’t want us munching popcorn and peeking out from between the blinds while doing a play-by-play commentary and keeping a body count. He wants us to go into hiding, pray, stay away from windows, pray, and not come out until he gives us the all-clear.

There are many reasons for this, but the three main ones are that he doesn’t want us to rejoice over the execution of his justice, he doesn’t want us to try to intervene, and he doesn’t want us to get swept up in the ensuing chaos.

The slaughter of millions over a relatively short period of time will not be pretty. We are not supposed to be joyful about the dispatching of so many condemned souls to hell. Even if we believe they had it coming (and we should believe they had it coming), we still need to grasp the solemnity of the event. This is not a time for celebrating. This is a time for mourning, fasting, praying, and laying low.

God’s justice is perfect. As born-agains, we know that. Even so, we’re compassionate by nature, and if we see people suffering when we know we can do something to alleviate their suffering, we may be tempted to intervene and try to help them at the same time as God is delivering their punishment. This would obviously lead to all kinds of problems, mainly for us. There is a time for mercy and a time for judgement. God is able to make the switch, but we might not be as able to, which means we would be better off staying far far away from wherever the judgement is taking place.

Lot was hurried out of Sodom by the angels and told not to look back; Noah was kept holed up in the ark for half a year; and the Hebrews at the first Passover were warned not to go out of their houses when all the first-borns in Egypt were being killed. When it’s time for God to deliver his justice in the form of collective judgement, we shouldn’t be anywhere near where it’s happening, or if we are near, we need to hide and pray. The farther away we are from the destruction the better, as the less likely we’ll be to get involved.

Vengeance is God’s job. He’s not asking us to hold his beer while he takes care of business and to cheer him on from the sidelines; he’s warning us to make ourselves scarce. We are to hide our eyes from the execution of God’s judgement so that we don’t gloat over our enemies, don’t try to save them, and don’t get caught up in the confusion. God warns us outright in scripture: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” In telling us that vengeance belongs to him, God is essentially telling us to stay out of it. We shouldn’t even have an opinion on the matter, other than, like the angels in Revelation, to affirm that God’s judgement is true and just.

So the next time you come across a discussion about how Jesus is coming back soon and his enemies are going to be destroyed, remind the people that if Jesus does come back when we’re still here, we won’t be watching the destruction from front-row seats. If we’ve endured to the end (as Jesus says we must as a condition of salvation), we’ll be in the process of being gathered together by the holy angels and whisked off to Heaven before the destruction starts. And If we’re still around when some form of collective judgement is rendered before Jesus gets back, we need to hide and stay hidden for the duration. No watching, no attempting a rescue of the condemned, and definitely no gloating.

When it’s time for God to collectively take care of business, it’s time for us to collectively mind ours.

   “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

Isaiah 26:20

PIZZA FOR PASSOVER

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.

KEEPING THE LORD’S NEW PASSOVER

 

bread and wine

On his last night on Earth in a mortal body, Jesus gave us a new Commandment to add to God’s Big Ten – to love one another as he loves us.  He also asked us to do something in memory of him. That something he asked us to do was to perform a new ceremony during the annual meal commemorating Passover. He asked us to raise a cup in his name and to share it among ourselves, and to acknowledge that this cup represents his blood. But unlike the blood of the lamb that is smeared on the doorposts, this “blood” we are to drink in spiritual solidarity with Jesus, in memory of him. Same with the bread, which Jesus broke apart and shared among his followers; we are to eat the bread as if it were Jesus’ “body”. This is not an act of spiritual cannibalism but a recognition that Jesus is God’s sacrificial lamb, and that if we want the benefits of that sacrifice, we must do as Jesus’ told us to do – to drink the blood of the lamb and to eat its flesh so that it becomes a part of us, so that Jesus becomes part of us. (more…)

JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS!

foam finger

If you loved me, you’d be happy for me, for I go to the Father.” Jesus said this to his followers during the Passover meal he shared with them the night before he was murdered. Some of his followers were crying. All of them were sad.

But imagine, if instead of being sad, they did what Jesus suggested and were happy for him? Imagine if, instead of standing at a distance and weeping for him, they cheered him on the way a marathon runner is cheered on in the final agonizing stretch of the race? Imagine how those cheers would have encouraged Jesus to “hang in there!” and “keep going!”

Imagine what the crowd would have thought if Jesus’ followers started shouting “Hang in there, Jesus! We know you can do it! Keep going! We’re praying for you! We love you! You’re almost there! You’re almost home! You’re Number 1! GO, JESUS!!!” Imagine what the crowd would have thought if Jesus’ followers had shown up at the crucifixion wearing paper crowns and holding up the first-century version of the foam finger while chanting Jesus’ name over and over and over again.

“JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS!”

Their cheers might even have drowned out the jeers of the unbelievers. Imagine the good this rambunctious support would have done Jesus in his dying moments. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of crowd cheers knows how invigorating those cheers can be. There’s a reason why the proverbial “hometown advantage” is proverbial.

“JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS!”

Yes, his supporters might have been arrested for “outing” themselves, but let’s imagine for a moment that they wouldn’t have been. Let’s imagine that, instead of weeping and praying silently, they clapped and cheered and hooted and hollered and shouted their love and encouragement to Jesus as his mission on Earth reached its glorious climax and the Sin of Ages was wiped away.

“JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS! JEEE-SUS!”

Imagine how much easier it might have been for Jesus if he’d heard cries of love instead of howls of hate. Imagine how different his death scene might have been.

Imagine.

It’s too late now to do this for Jesus, but we can do it for each other.

Imagine people cheering us on as we die. Because this is what they should be doing, encouraging us to “hold fast” not to life on Earth but to our commitment to God as we approach our final test. As born-agains, we should be happy when it’s our time to die, because, as Jesus told us, we’re going home. It’s what we’ve prayed and prepared for all our born-again lives.

Imagine how joyous our deathbed scene would be if Jesus’ words were adhered to. Imagine tears and whispered condolences being replaced with shouts of “Good for you! You’re almost there!” and “I’m SO jealous!” Imagine people surrounding us with boisterous encouragement, chanting our name as we round the final bend and come in view of our earthly finish line. This is the kind of jubilant death scene we should be having as born-agains, not tears and regrets and tubing and machines and pleas from relatives to ‘hang on’ to this life as long as we can.

Heaven is so far above and beyond anything that Earth can offer, it only makes sense to be happy for whoever’s going there.

At our funeral, it should be our death that is celebrated, not our life. And instead of a cross with “R.I.P.”, our tombstone should be a big stone foam finger emblazoned with “JEEE-SUS!” and “THANK GOD I’M OUTTA HERE!”

If you loved me, you’d be happy for me.” Remember this when it’s your time to go home.