Friday, October 12, 2018

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN

            In 1990, Poison released the heart wrenching song, Something To Believe In.  Reaching number 4 on the Billboard Chart, this song was far more personal and meaningful to vocalist Bret Michaels than 1988's number one hit Every Rose Has It's Thorn.  Both songs were written out of personal loss, but Something To Believe In seemed to plumb the depths of the meaning of life while Every Rose was merely another song about love lost.
   

            Something To Believe In dealt with loss on a level that caused Michaels to examine life beyond the immediate, to reflect on the bigger picture. Poison was notorious for wild backstage antics and excess, living as if there were no tomorrow, yet, Michaels, like every one, eventually pondered the question, "what's it all about?"  

              In the first verse of the song, Michaels sings of Jesus, "Some say he was a good man, but Lord, I think he sinned, yeah."  Michaels rejects truth and then cries out, "Give me something to believe in."   How many, just like Bret Michaels have rejected the truth of the love of Christ only to search in futility for something to believe in?  

               Is the church somehow complicit in turning people away from truth because we refuse to confront and silence those who would use the name of God for personal gain?  The opening line to Something To Believe In: "Well I see him on the TV, preaching 'bout the promised lands, he tells me to believe in Jesus and steals the money from my hands."  Our loudest voices are sometimes the most corrupt.  Charlatans like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar and Jesse Duplantis live lifestyles of the rich and famous, profiting off the name of Christ while the hurting and lost are going to hell.  

               Oh, should I have not named names?  Well, I could name many many more!  

               Ripping people off in the name of God is nothing new.  Before con men like Benny Hinn or Kenneth Copeland came along, a Medieval Monk named John Tetzel played on the emotions of the faithful through indulgences. Indulgences were payments made to the Church promising to help free souls from purgatory.  Martin Luther, a Monk himself, understood Tetzel was using the name of God for personal gain and opposed Tetzel and the Church while maintaining his faith in Christ. Martin in turn, sparked the great protestant reformation and forever changed the world.

              Michaels chose to reject the truth of Christ, presumably because of corrupt preachers, and ended up writing a catchy song which will most likely be forgotten in less than 100 years.  

             More tragic, Bret Michaels is in danger of damnation because he rejected truth.  Bret Michaels will continue to cry out for something to believe in until he understands Jesus' word: "I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me."

Please pray for Bret Michaels. 

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell

          

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

WHEN IDEOLOGY TRUMPS TRUTH

      
Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

      Whatever happened to United We Stand?

     America is divided over ideology.  No event, except, possibly, the last presidential election, has demonstrated this truth more than the Judge Kavanaugh debacle.  All reason and discernment has seemed to have evaporated on both sides of the political divide.  Conservatives support and defend Kavanaugh with impunity, claiming him to be above reproach.

  Progressives have rallied to and supported Dr. Ford's allegations, even before any testimony was presented before congress.  Battle lines were drawn and sides taken before anyone bothered to get the facts.  Ideology, not truth, dictated, and continues to dictate, public sentiment.

     I listened, with trepidation, as conservative talk show and social media warriors attacked and maligned Dr. Ford without knowing any information other than an accusation had been made.  I watched, with bewilderment, as the same people who, just two years ago, dismissed every assault accusation made against Bill Clinton as politically motivated lies, attacked Judge Kavanaugh with abandon, simply because an accusation was made.  Before any evidence or defense was ever presented, ideological lines dictated the conclusions drawn. What a national tragedy!

       Truth is no longer important in the war of ideology.  It appears we have truly come to a tipping point in society where the end always justifies the means, no matter how damaging or destructive the means are.

       Dr. Ford trusted the Senators to protect her and investigate her allegations. Instead, they used her as a Hail Mary Pass in the final seconds of a political football game.  Dr. Ford's life will never be the same.  As the final play is under review of the officials, the country remains more divided than ever.  

       I am a conservative, I am a registered Republican (which may change) and I once supported the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the High Court. After having watched the Senatorial dog and pony show last week, I came away with a different perspective.

       Prior to hearing the testimonies of Ford and Kavanaugh, I was hoping the accusations were nothing more than a ploy of the Left to thwart Trump's conservative choice for the court.  Prematurely, however, many in the Christian community blindly rallied to the defense of a man we knew little about.  

       After hearing the testimony of both Ford and Kavanaugh, I have a different perspective.  I believe Dr. Ford. I detest the ideology of progressive politics, I support a strong constitutionalist for the Supreme Court but I no longer support Judge Kavanaugh  after witnessing his performance before the Senate. 

        To me, truth is more important than winning.  Some will say, "Did he possibly misbehave in high school and college, yeah, but he will defend our positions!"  As a follower of Christ, there is no "Yeah but..."  Right is right and wrong is wrong and a liar cannot represent us.  

       This position will make me wildly unpopular in my conservative Christian social circles.  Nonetheless, in Judge Brett Kavanaugh, I saw a man who lied about the contents of his yearbook, a man who evaded direct answers to uncomfortable questions and a man who appeared to me as a 53 year old adolescent.  I no longer have confidence in Judge Kavanaugh's character.

       Aside from Kavanaugh's ridiculous explanation for the meaning of the Ralph Club, one answer in particular told me all I needed to know about the honesty and character of this man: his explanation for the meaning of boofed.  I grew up in the 80's. I know this word is a vulgar euphemism which I will not define in this forum.  

       Dr. Ford came forth as a credible witness who lacked any evidence to support her claims.  If I were a prosecutor, I would have told Dr. Ford I believed her but would have no chance of proving her case in a court of law. There simply was no corroborating evidence. 

      Even if Dr. Ford proved to be a fraud, Judge Kavanaugh's performance before the Senate was disgraceful and juvenile. 

       What makes this political circus a national tragedy is the willingness of so many to defend someone because of an agenda rather than truth.  Prior to Dr. Ford's accusations, nothing in Judge Kavanaugh's judicial record nor his numerous background checks indicated he would behave in such a manner, yet, those who opposed his ideology immediately began to condemn him. Before Dr. Ford ever testified, those aligned with Kavanaugh's ideology defended him and condemned her.    

      The Bible says: Proverbs 18:7 - the first to state his case seems right until the other comes and examines him.  Simply put, we should never rush to judgment without all the information. That is, if we are actually interested in truth, rather than defeating our opponents at all costs.  

       What is the answer to the division tearing America apart?  Nothing short of a national revival and repentance.  Neither side of this confirmation hearing holds the moral high ground.  Both sides have disgraced themselves for their cause.  

       Change must start within the walls of the church, where we are not to be identified by political labels but by the seal of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture gives us strong warnings about making careful judgments: Isaiah 56:1 This is what the LORD says: “Be just and fair to all, do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you.

Proverbs 18:5 It is not right to acquit the guilty or deny justice to the innocent.

       If the church cannot stand for truth, we cannot stand.  The church must be the moral compass of the nation.  If the church is embroiled in politics and buys into an end justifies the means mentality the nation has no hope.  Remember, when you choose between the lesser of two evils, you are still choosing evil. Live according to truth and let God be glorified.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!





Thursday, September 27, 2018

BEWARE THE DOCTRINES OF DEMONS

   
  A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Satan (Who is Satan Really) discussing what we may or may not know about our greatest enemy.  Interestingly, in response to this post, I had a conversation with a fellow believer, involved in deliverance ministry, who made my point in practice better than I could have made it in writing.  

      This brother took umbrage with what I had written about the name of Satan.  This brother assured me Satan's name was Lucifer because demons told him so...  My online acquaintance went on to explain how he commanded demons to speak only the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore they were bound to do just that!  My misguided friend then continued to explain how he witnessed Satan, himself, cast out of many people and Satan referred to himself a Lucifer King of Demons.

         I asked the man to provide me chapter and verse to support his assertions, yet he never once provided one scripture, deferring only to his experiences dealing with evil entities.  

        The Bible specifically address this: 1Timothy 4:1  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 

      Subsequent conversations with this gentleman revealed more and more folly, as he went on to tell me about casting out the number 2 demon, made a prince by Lucifer, having been given dominion over hell as a ruler.   I reminded my brother, Satan is not the king of hell and no demon will rule over it.  Revelation 20:10  and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  

     This doesn't sound anything like ruling or reigning... 

       We must be very careful who we are listening to for information concerning the spirit world.  Alice Bailey, Madame Blavatsky and Joseph Smith all received information from entities claiming to speak truth.  All three were given false information and led millions astray.  

      The Bible is truth and the final word on all things spiritual.  Much of what we think we know about the spirit world is nonsense or lies given to us by the minions of the Father of Lies.  

    Failing to convince my protagonist involved in deliverance, I decided to throw no more pearls into the pig pen and stopped responding to foolishness.  Apparently, he would rather believe the Tommy Flanagan of the spirit world than the Word of God!

      The Bible says: "Let God be true and every man a liar"  If it contradicts scripture - it is nonsense.  Satan's goal is causing us to question God's goodness and authority, the same trick he used in the Garden.  As long as those. who should know better. continue to fall for the same old lies, the devil will continue to tell them.  Beware the doctrines of demons -  they are designed to ensnare you.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

HOW TO SELL YOUR SOUL TO THE DEVIL

   
 What would you offer for the one thing you want more than anything else in the world?   Would you be willing to strike a deal with the devil?  Would you even know how?  

         Throughout history, accounts have been written about men and women who have struck a deal with the devil in order to attain their heart's desire.  

The Faustian Deal
           In the 1500's, Scientist Johann Faust was, arguably, the first to offer his soul for his craft, allegedly trading his soul for wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the pleasures of life. Faust became so identified with his deal with Satan, subsequent partnerships with the devil are referred to as Faustian Bargains.    

The Devil's Violinist

      Two Centuries later, Violinist Niccolo Paganini, purportedly sold his soul for fame and fortune.  Known as The Devil's Violinist, Paganini's audiences reported watching him continue to play on broken strings, without missing a single note, all while contorting his body into bizarre poses.  Paganini added fuel to his mystique when, as he lay dying, he chased away the priest called to perform last rights

Goin' Down to the Crossroads

      Perhaps, the most well known musician to have struck a deal with The Lord of the Flies, is legendary blues man, Robert Johnson, who supposedly met the devil at the Crossroads and made a deal for fame through musical talent. Johnson got his fame and became the founding member of the 27 Club, all the way back in the late 1930's.  Though he only recorded for about a year, many of Johnson's 29 songs had devilish themes.  

A Millennial Dark Horse
    If you have been on YouTube, you have undoubtedly seen the video clip of Katy Perry talking about her early efforts as a Christian musician.  Perry goes on to say, "I wanted to be the Amy Grant of music, but it didn't work out, so... I sold my soul to the devil."  There is no question her work is filled with occultic imagery, but did she really make the Faustian Bargain?

The Big Question

     I guess, the big question is, "Can I really sell my soul to the devil?" Can Satan actually own your soul?  I could sell you the Brooklyn bridge, but that does not make you the owner.  

      One of the many misconceptions about Satan is he is somehow the king of hell, ruling over an empire of ruined lives.  Scripture paints a very different picture of hell and Satan's final outcome.  Jesus tells us, hell is a lake of fire, a place of perpetual darkness and torment.  Contrary to popular folklore, Satan will not be ruling as a king, but burning as a prisoner.  Matthew 24:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  

Revelation 20:10 - And the devil, who had deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and of brimstone, ... and shall be tormented day and night forever.

      I wonder if Bon Scott of AC/DC is rethinking his erstwhile lyrics from Highway to Hell: "Going down, party time, all my friends are gonna be there too!" 

Only Two Camps

      Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25 there are really only 2 camps.  One camp of sheep, or true believers and one camp of goats, or those going to hell.  Nowhere do we see the goats making a pact with the devil, in fact, they try to convince Jesus they were with Him all along. 

     Jesus also famously stated. "Your are either for me or against me."  

     The idea of selling one's soul to the devil comes form the erroneous idea most people are inherently good and happily on their way to heaven, barring some egregious sin or doing something crazy like, say, selling their soul to the devil... 

     The reality is, people are inherently evil, thanks to the antics of Adam, Eve and a certain serpent, which took place in the Garden of Eden, 6000 years ago.  So the answer to how do you sell your soul to the devil is simple - DO NOTHING.  That's right, do nothing and you can one day join Satan in the fiery pit along with all the people who think they sold their souls for some fleeting moment of fame or power.  

       All kidding aside, the very true and sad reality is everyone is born estranged from God.  Jesus' words recorded in the Gospel of John inform us we must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus also stated, most emphatically, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by me."

         If you are looking for advice on how to sell your soul to Satan, you can stop your search because unless you are a born again follower of Jesus Christ, Satan already has your soul.  

The Good News

         Since Satan really has no biblical precedent for purchasing souls, even those who believe they have entered into an irreversible pact can be set free by the blood of Christ.  Jesus said there was only one unforgivable sin, and it ain't selling your soul.  If you think you have crossed some point of no return, you have not.  

   Take heart, the devil has no power beyond which God allows. Check out the first couple of chapters of Job.  Satan is a created being, God is the creator and master of creation. There is no need to fear the devil, nor is there any need to go to him to get what you want.  True satisfaction comes from serving God and living in obedience to His will. True satisfaction is found in Christ alone.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!  

       

Monday, August 27, 2018

ARE YOU "ABEL" TO PLEASE GOD WITHOUT THE BLOOD OF CHRIST?

           
Are you sealed with the mark of Cain or by the Holy Spirit.  It all depends on the blood to which you respond. 

        Most everyone is familiar with the story of Cain and Abel.  Most everyone is familiar with the crucifixion of Jesus. Many people do not realize, according to scripture, the shed blood of Abel and the shed blood of Jesus have voices that cry out.  If you consider yourself a person of faith or a person who follows God, you are probably relating to God by either the blood of Jesus or the blood of Abel.  

 A Little Background

        In the story of Cain and Abel, you know Cain killed his brother Abel due to jealousy.  God spoke to Cain twice. First, warning him to get his act together.  In the second encounter, God asks Cain for the where about of his brother, to which Cain responds with one of the most famous lines from scripture, "Am I my brother's keeper."  God then informs Cain, "Your brother Abel's blood cries out..." and as a result, Cain lives the rest of his life under a curse.  

         Approximately 3000 years later, on a hill just outside Jerusalem, a man named Yeshua was crucified.  This man's blood was shed by hate and jealousy, same as of Abel's.  According to the book of Hebrews, the blood of Yeshua also has a voice, a voice which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:24  and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 

          
What's it all about?

      Abel's blood cries out, Jesus' blood speaks... what's it all about? What's all this talking blood saying, and what does any of it have to do with me?

       Cain killed Abel after God accepted Abel's offering and rejected Cain's.  Abel offered a blood sacrifice, signifying he understood the wages of sin equals death.  Cain offered the yield of his labors, grain or some produce from the field.  God accepted Abel's offering as it revealed Abel's heart of contrition.  Cain's offering  was rejected for it was work of his flesh. In essence, Cain was asking God to accept him based on his works while Abel was acknowledging his need for forgiveness.

         God, warned Cain, in essence saying, "Abel offered a suitable sacrifice, Abel is good, be like Abel."  I believe Cain heard, "Abel is the standard to which you are measured."  Cain attempted to eliminate the standard.  In a jealous fit of rage, Cain killed his brother, rather than submitting to God.  Cain failed to realize his relationship with God was personal.  Abel's blood was shed so Cain's works would be acceptable to God.  

          Jesus died because God knows the works of man are inadequate.  Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

 Whose blood are you listening to?

      So, the big question is: Whose blood are you listening to?  If you are under the blood of Abel, you are attempting to reach God by your own merit.  This is an impossible and frustrating endeavor!  Mother Teresa, the very epitome of service to God, wrote letters to her confidants expressing the spiritual emptiness she experienced.  Mother Teresa attempted to reach God by dedicating her life to good works, never trusting in the finished work of Christ. By her own admission, the more she served, the more she felt distant from God, the exact opposite of what she was trying to accomplish.

      If you are under the blood of Christ - you recognize you have no merit, no authorization to approach God except the authorization given you by Christ

Standing at the Crossroads

    Just like Robert Johnson, who met Satan at the Crossroads.  Many people come to the Crossroads and must choose a path to God.  One path is paved by the blood of Christ and leads to salvation, the other, paved by the blood of Abel, leading to hell as sure as signing a contract with the devil. 

      It has been said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."  I will go one step further and say the road to hell is paved with good works.  If you are attempting to be good enough on your own merit, you will fail.  

Without faith it is impossible to please God

      All the good works, acts of kindness and self sacrifice in the world will not help your soul, unless these things are the result of faith in Christ. Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 

         Whose blood are you under?  Abel's blood which enslaves you and sends you to hell, or the blood of Christ which cleanses you and endows you with righteousness?

           If you follow the blood of Abel, you are marked with the curse of Cain.  If you follow the blood of Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Abel's blood was shed to hide sin in good works, Christ's blood was shed to cleanse sin.  Be sure your sins are cleansed and your good works count.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

IS THEOLOGY HINDERING THE GREAT COMMISSION?

   


   How in the world does this happen in the        name of God?  What insanity would     
    allow anyone to think this is ok?  

 How in the world does a church bar people because of skin color?  How can so called people of God get it so wrong so often - the answer is bad doctrine. 

     There is a growing argument among Christians concerning theology and doctrine.  Some say we need to forget doctrine because of the division it causes and focus on Christ's love.  Others say we have to know what we believe and why we believe it in order to share our faith effectively.  Who's right,  can both be right, or are both wrong?        

     What good is theology when millions of people are heading for hell?   What good is theology when, what people really need to know is Jesus loves them?  What purpose does it serve arguing the mode of baptism if we are not actually baptizing anyone?  Arguing free will vs. God's sovereignty, while ignoring the lost, is a tragic misdirection of Satan.  The cliche, "no one cares what you know, unless they know you care," is true, but does it negate the need to actually know doctrine?  

Doctrine: A belief or set of beliefs held by a group.

      So is doctrine important, or are we majoring on the minors and missing the point of our faith?  

     What distinguishes denominations? Doctrine.  Do we then declare doctrine divisive and abandon it all together?  

     What if division is caused by man's attempt to use theology as justification for pre-conceived ideas about God?  What if pride, jealousy, greed and hate were the driving forces behind the development of many false doctrines held by many denominations and congregations?  

       Last week, I attempted to demonstrate some of what we erroneously believe about Satan is a result of Anti-Semitism in the early Church.  Much of what we get wrong about end time theology is attributed to the same thing.  

        You may be surprised to know John Calvin had his detractors burned at the stake and Martin Luther, a rabid hater of Jews, advocated burning down Jewish synagogues and homes.  How could these men have strayed so far from the clear teachings of scripture?  Bad doctrine.  

         The point: doctrine is important.  Knowing what you believe and why you believe it is the responsibility of every believer.  We are not all called to be theologians, but we are all called to study scripture that we may know God.  

           Bad doctrine leads to all kinds of heresy.  Just listen to the ridiculous lies that spew forth from the mouth of Pope Francis, who makes many a Vatican official cringe, and you can see how important it becomes we know what the Bible teaches.  

            The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch burnings, Waco Texas, the Jonestown Massacre - all can be attributed to bad doctrine.  Snake handlers, charlatan faith healers and televangelists all are fueled by bad doctrine.  Bad doctrine kills.
    

   How can we ensure our theology is good and accurate?

1.  Study the Bible as a whole document, rather than picking and choosing the stuff that seems to agree with what you already 
think.  

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what the scripture says.

3. Study the Bible in context.

4. Make sure what you believe lines up with the teachings of Jesus.

5. Know anything  promoting hate or violence against others is not of God.

      One of the most misused and taken out of context chapters of the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter.  While it is nice to preach from at weddings and the second Sunday in February, the intent of the passage, sandwiched between two chapters on the proper use of spiritual gifts, is to be a guide for checking your doctrine.  The basic message presented: everything we believe should cause us to love sacrificially for the sake of the Great Commission.

    We find this kind of love spoken addressed, at length, in the first epistle of John.  If your theology does not cause you to love others above your own wants and needs, your theology is worthless, according to the 1 Corinthians 13.  

     Doctrine matters and we are commanded by scripture to study and learn: 2 Timothy 2:15 - Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth  Clearly we are told to learn doctrine.  

Know what you believe and why you believe it. Test what you believe by the Bible, test what you believe by 1 Corinthians 13.  Do not throw away doctrine because others misuse it, apply it correctly and be the difference.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!
     

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WHO IS SATAN...REALLY?

     The iconic book, The Art of War, tells us, "Know your enemy..."  The most iconic book of all, The Holy Bible, tells us Satan is our enemy.       

    What do you really know about your enemy, Satan?  Where do you get your information?  Most of what we think we know about Satan is found in the writings of early church fathers, some of whom were labeled heretics.  Scripture gives us only glimpses into the unseen spirit world inhabited by angels, demons and even Satan himself.  Man has attempted to fill in the blanks and construct a history that may or may not be very accurate.   

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name?

      What if I told you Satan's name is not really Lucifer?  Well it's not and we will revisit this in a few moments.  The point is, a great deal of speculation has been taught as fact and most people just accept what they are told without ever checking for themselves.  In fact, much of what people think they know about the Bible or God is what has been heard from others, not from the actual source, the Bible itself.
                 
Allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste.

      What do we know about Satan for sure?

  1.We know he is a supernatural being who accuses us before God. 

  2.We know he appeared as a serpent in the Garden of Eden and            tempted Eve to rebel against God.

  3.We know he will one day rule earth in the form of the Man of            Perdition, aka the Anti-Christ.  

 4.We know he will be chained for 1000 years and set loose to lead       a rebellion against Jesus, only to be defeated and cast into the           lake of fire.

  5. We know he is a liar and the father of lies
  
But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game.

    The dangerous thing about constructing a history without all the information is we often get things wrong.  Misdirection is the greatest tool of the con man and Satan is the greatest of all con artists.  You may be surprised to know the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LeVay, does not even believe Satan exists.  Satan has managed to con his most high profile followers!  

      Unfortunately, Satan's con game does not end with the Church of Satan, it has also infiltrated the Church of Jesus Christ.  Much of what is taught emphatically from the pulpit is not based on inferences or misunderstandings from scripture.

      Most people believe Satan and a third of the angels led a rebellion against God, tried to overthrow Him and were summarily ejected from heaven where the angels who follow Satan are now known as demons.  Please show this to me anywhere in scripture.  

        Satan has lost his position in heaven, yet, clearly we see, he currently has access to the throne of God: Job 1:6 - One day, the sons of God came to present themselves before the Yehovah and Satan also came with them.  In the days of Job, Satan is seen standing before the throne of God engaged in conversation.  Has anything changed from Job's time to now restricting Satan's access to heaven?  No, it is not until a time in our future Satan is barred from heaven: Revelation 12:10  - And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God.

      If you hold to a literal and normal interpretation of scripture, you recognize the book or Revelation is dealing with future events.  We can understand, based on Job and Revelation, Satan currently has access to God and he uses that access to bring accusations against the saints.  

     It is from the same portion of scripture, Origen, an early Church father, presented the theory of one third of the angels following Satan in rebellion against God and teaching, as fact, these angels became what we know to be demons.  Revelation 12:3-4  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.  From this passage, an entire theology of demonism has been constructed.  Nowhere else in scripture do we find any mention of one third of the angels following Satan and nowhere are we told demons are fallen angels.  

     According to the verses following Revelation 12:10, cited above, Satan does have angels following him and they are cast to earth with him, but, again, Revelation is describing future events and the events of chapter 12 seem to take place about midway through the Great Tribulation.  

     An interesting note about Origen is he is widely regarded as a heretic due to his teachings on Universalism and his belief Satan will be restored to God at some point, directly contradicting scripture's description of the Great White Throne Judgment.

      There is no clear teaching in Scripture as to the true origins of demons, fallen angels is only one viable theory.  No where do we find this idea in the writings of ancient Jewish scribes.  

Just call me Lucifer...

     One of the biggest mistakes ever made was attributing the name Lucifer to Satan.   Lucifer is not a name, it is a Latin translation of the Hebrew word heylel meaning light bearer.  Latin, a now defunct language, originated in a province of Italy and became prominently used due to the insurgence of the Roman Empire.  Prior to the translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible, the name Lucifer did not exist.  

     Searching through the writings of ancient Hebrew scholars, we do find the name Samael, which may, indeed, be the pre-fall name of Satan.  

I've been around a long, long year, Stole many a man's soul and faith

      It seems, much of what we think we know about Satan comes from dubious sources.  Satan is the master con-artist employing misdirection as one of his greatest tools. The bold headings are quotes from Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.  Satan would love your sympathy in order to use it against you.  

      Our society has allowed our greatest enemy to redefine himself.  Even Fox Network attempted to re-cast Luicifer as a lovable rogue. Is it possible Satan is responsible for influencing much of out entertainment?  

       Scripture tells us Satan roams around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and we are also told, he disguises himself as an angel of light and that he is a liar and the father of lies.  Know your enemy, do not believe everything you hear, verify everything in scripture.  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

      

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

TRUTH, APOSTASY AND THE AMERICAN WAY

     
What happens when experience and strongly held beliefs suddenly conflict?  Is truth fluid and circumstantial or concrete and universal?  By the very definition of truth, it must be concrete and exclusive.  Two conflicting points cannot both be true, one or both must be wrong.  Everyone would agree 1+1=2  always.  This is solid undisputed truth.   The very physics of the universe demands absolute truth, otherwise, chaos would rip the fabric of the universe apart.

       In the Laws of Physics, we can agree there is absolute truth governing the universe. What about when it comes to matters of faith and ideology?  Ideologically, if not careful, we can be tempted to assign pliability based on worldview.  If truth is truth, there can be no pliability.  Suddenly we find ourselves faced with the question Pontius Pilate asked the Nazarene, "What is truth?"

Lately, I have been pondering apostasy.  Either there is a growing epidemic of people leaving Biblical Christianity to pursue a different spiritual path, or I am just now becoming aware of something that does not make sense to me.

     My understanding of scripture is a person, by faith in Christ, becomes born again, is regenerated, and adopted as a child of God.  Upon becoming born again, a person is indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit and, by Christ's own words, cannot be plucked out of God's hand.  This is the doctrine of Eternal Security. I believe this doctrine.

       My confusion sets in when I see the "testimonies" of countless people who once considered themselves Christian and now waver between  Agnosticism and Atheism.  People who once served as ministers, church leaders and Christian musicians.  People who, by their own admission, had zeal for God and seemed to bear fruit.

       According to the Apostle John, those who profess Christ and then walk away never truly believed in the first place: 1 John 2:19 - They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  

       I get this and accept it as truth.  My confusion is not in Eternal Security, but in trusting the testimony of those who claim to believe.  I have personally known more than one person who claimed faith, testified to a clear born again experience, served with zeal, bore fruit, worshiped, understood scripture, explained truth to others and then, inexplicably, decided God was not good and renounced faith in Christ.  

      I have also read numerous first hand accounts of those to whom all of the above applied and later decided God was not real embracing Atheism.  

       So, what is the lesson in all this?  Take nothing for granted!  If you are a minister, do not take it for granted your leadership is good with God. If you are a parent, do not take it for granted your children are good with God. If you are married, do not take it for granted your spouse is good with God. Do not take it for granted your friends are good with God.

       Judas Iscariot walked with Jesus for 3 years.  Judas lived and interacted with the other 11 apostles for 3 years.  The other 11 took it for granted Judas was committed and on board.  So devastating was Judas' betrayal, his name has become synonymous with betrayal.  In fact, when was the last time you met, or even heard of someone named Judas?  

       Cain asked God, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  All of scripture testifies, "YES!"  We are our brother's and sister's keeper in the sense we should be concerned about one another's spiritual life.  
  
     Oh, we are so polite and careful not to intrude or violate someone's privacy.  We assume everyone is telling the truth when we ask, "how's it going?" and they answer "doing great."  We forgo accountability for the god of privacy.  We suffer alone or allow others to suffer privately until we are blindsided when someone falls into tremendous sin, is exposed as a tremendous sinner or renounces faith.  

        Even top Christian leaders are susceptible to falling into sin or falling away.  What do we make of a Mega-church pastor with an internationally revered ministry, who falls into sin and ends up managing a night club, until he is fired from the night club, due to  rumors about improper behavior toward a minor?  How many in his inner circle knew about his struggles but turned a blind eye? 

         People are not only leaving the traditional church, but traditional faith. For the first time in American history, over 25% claim none when asked to identify faith in a deity.  Accountability, caring enough to notice someone's struggle, not taking anyone's faith for granted and encouraging one another in Christ are key practices every Christian should employ. 

     All of the above practices comes down to one word - love.  Not just feeling affection toward someone, sacrificial love that puts the needs of others before your own.  The kind of love Jesus commanded: John 13:34 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  Jesus demonstrated this kind of love when He laid down His life for the lost.

      Can someone lose salvation? I believe when Jesus says we cannot be plucked out of His hand, He means we are secure.  Can a person renounce true faith?  I must defer back to  1 John 2:19 - They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  
         Take the time to have the tough spiritual discussions with those you care about.  Be transparent enough to allow accountability in your life.  Love others enough to invade their privacy a little.  Know that most people are not really "doing great" when they tell you they are. Live consistently to your professed faith.  Love as Jesus loved.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

WHERE IS GOD WHEN THE WICKED PROSPER?

     
Does life seem to be a cycle of hardship and blessing?  As the song says, "good times, bad times, you know I had my share..." What happens when the bad times linger longer than the good times or, worse yet, seem to never end?  

       Does it ever appear to you, some have more than their fair share of good times while others seem to live in a perpetual state of bad times?  Does it seem, sometimes, those who do everything wrong manage to receive an inordinate amount of blessings while those who struggle to do the right thing continually struggle through life?

       It hardly seems fair when certain televangelists prosper and enjoy long life while, every week, good, solid, God fearing preachers lose churches due to finances or other hardships life sends along.  

      Crooked politicians continue to prosper with no accountability  while regular hardworking citizens almost never manage to get ahead.  

      Where is God in all this?  Does God not realize the inequities taking place, or does He simply not care? Is God, possibly, not able to set these things right?

        Scripture tells us God is sovereign: Psalm 97:9 - For you, Yehova, are Most High over all the earth, you are exalted far above all gods.  So we know where God is in all this, He is on His throne.  

          So, is He blind to the plight of so many?  Not according to scripture:   Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

        So, could it possibly be true God simply does not care? Again, Scripture says otherwise: 1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

       So, God is ultimately in control, He sees our struggles, and He cares for us... yet good people continue to struggle while the wicked prosper - so can we conclude God is not able?  What does the Bible say about this? 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 -  "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all" 


      So, if we agree God is real and the Bible is His revelation to us about Himself, we must conclude God is sovereign, He sees our struggles, He cares about us and He is able to do anything He chooses.  What's the deal?

       Apparently, the Psalmist Asaph struggled with the same question: Psalm 73:3 - I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  In fact, the first half of Psalm 73 is Asaph sharing his bewilderment of the prosperity and carefree lifestyles of the wicked.  It is only when Asaph begins to look at things from a spiritual perspective that he gets it.

          Psalm 73:16-17 & 27 - When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.  Those who are far from You will perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.

          God never promised us a trouble free or easy life. In fact, scripture makes it clear we are living in a world ruled by Satan.  Who will prosper in Satan's kingdom?  Those who do his will.  God's kingdom is to come.  Christians should expect to face hardship and adversity living in a world ruled by our mortal enemy.

            Ultimately, God wills none should perish, so our disposition toward the wicked should not be gleeful expectation of their impending doom but a desire to share with them the truth of the Gospel of Christ.  

             This brings us to this curious passage: Romans 9:22-23 - What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

         This passage suddenly becomes clear as we realize God has a purpose in allowing those whom He knows will never repent to prosper in this life. As the wicked become mighty and powerful on the earth, disdaining and even cursing God, there approaches a day when the mighty and the powerful will bow before Christ in judgment and declare their own worthlessness.  Those who prospered at the suffering of others, having rejected Christ, shall be thrown into the lake of fire. 

            We know the end result of the wicked is destruction, but what about the faithful who suffer?  What about those whose lives are cut short because they did the right thing or who suffer loss because the righteous path was chosen over the crooked?  Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present suffering cannot compare to the glory which will be revealed in us.

              Scripture assures us, the life to come will be so glorious, this life, with all it's hardships and injustice will seem like nothing at all.  Thus, we can heed the advice of Jesus to John the Revelator, given at the end of John's great vision of the coming apocalypse: Revelation 22:11 -   Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”   Rest assured, God sees, God cares and God will set all things right, in his time.  

Now, go live as Christ.... and give the devil hell!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

VULGAR VIOLENT ANTI-TRUMP ART AND THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE- WARNING - GRAPHIC LANGUAGE

    
  An Oregon art gallery, which I will refrain from naming, has caused a nationwide disturbance by publicly displaying an image of President Trump having his throat cut with the words F--K Trump emblazoned for all to read. 

     The Oregonian art gallery was advertising for a collection called F--K TRUMP.  What a private business chooses to display or sell within it's walls is, well, their business.  However, what a shop chooses to display on a public street is everyone's business.  

      So blinded by rabid hate, the owners of this shop completely disregarded the rights of the general public, and children especially, who would be subjected to this gruesome and vulgar display.  

        This so called art is only one more in a virtual parade of imagery depicting Trump's violent death.  Hollywood personalities, the media and now this art gallery have been irresponsibly displaying images of or joking about the often brutal murder of President Trump.  So much for tolerance...

      Sadly, Trump's defenders have now flooded this business with threats and vulgarity in return.  Now, I know not all conservatives are Christian, but, living in the Bible Belt, my experience is many, if not most, Christians are conservative, thus the term The Religious Right.  In what realm of the universe is it acceptable for Christians to threaten a business owner or his family?  What possible scenario is there for spewing hate from the same mouth from which we worship God?

       Once again, social media has created a platform for people to forget who they are in Christ and to enter into the chaotic fray.  Many of the comments suggested the building should be burned with the owners inside.  I wonder how many of those who left these hate filled comments in the middle of the week started their week in church belting out the lyrics to How Great Thou Art or In Christ Alone...   

       We have to do better as the church.  Jesus was bold and never backed down, but if you notice, His harshest words were reserved for the religious hypocrite, not the average sinner.  

         Can we voice our opinion?  Absolutely.  I am voicing mine right now, notice no name calling or bombastic rhetoric?  We should disagree and we should speak up for truth but we must do it without destroying our message with anger, hate and violence. 

          Yes, the F--k Trump poster is despicable and has no place in the public eye.  Just as despicable, possibly more, is the hateful violent retort from the so called religious right.  Shame on us...

             We can and must do better.  Stand boldly for truth, do it in love and never fight hate with hate.  We cannot use the weapons of our enemy.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!