Sounding the shofar
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From Rome to Corinth, and Back Again: Reclaiming What Was Taken from Us

“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10: 16, NASB Update)

When Paul wrote to the Roman church, its congregation was composed of Jews and Gentiles. It was no doubt Roman Jews in Jerusalem during Pentecost that carried the Gospel back to Rome and was a factor in starting this church. It would be nice if the Gospel message of unity was in full effect in the Roman church, but there was rivalry between Jews and Gentiles. The birth pangs of division were starting to sprout to be felt, so Paul had to remind the Roman church that “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him” (Rom 10: 12, NASB Update).

 
If the Roman church was experiencing the birth pangs of division, the Corinthian church had delivered the baby. Paul writes:

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1: 11-13, NASB Update)

This persuasion did not come from the Lord or the word of God, but from man-made doctrines that cause division and contention. We still see this division today. If you visit a Baptist church, you find a congregation of Baptists. The same holds true for Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, etc. Most of the time, the only people who are not of the same persuasion are visitors. But let me ask you this, when was the last time you saw a Jewish believer in your congregation? In all of my days in church, I can honestly say I have never seen it, and this ought not to be.

 
Where are the Jews?

 
After the Holy Spirit filled believers on Pentecost and Peter gave his sermon, the believers returned home taking the word with them, but they only spoke to Jews. Later God gave Peter a revelation about the Gentiles; they were to be fellow heirs of salvation! This was confirmed when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles just like He did in Jerusalem with the Jews (Acts 10: 1-48). God’s will is to tear down the wall between Jew and Gentile and so create one flock, as His word said. Unity is something the Adversary doesn’t like, and soon he was fanning the flames of rivalry between believing Jews and Gentiles. The split became a chasm when church leadership argued that because the Jews rebelled against the Savior and had Him killed, therefore God transferred the covenants and promises from the Jews to the Church; they also changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday to make a clear distinction between Jews and Gentiles. This is part of replacement theology, and it is a sickness that still affects the Church today. It has a terrible legacy; Church leadership used this man-made doctrine to justify persecuting the Jews instead of loving them as the Lord commanded. Martin Luther did try to reconcile the Church with the Jews in his early writings, but later he became anti-Semitic and argued for synagogues to be destroyed and Jewish wealth to be confiscated. His latter writings were so poisonous that they were used by Hitler’s Third Reich to justify the “final solution,” which was the extermination of the Jews. Centuries of oppression and persecution by those who called themselves Christians has caused Jews to turn away the Gospel message. Even mentioning the name of Jesus can provoke a strong reaction with some people.

 
The word of God tells us that there will always be a believing remnant, and so there has always been a believing Jewish remnant: “The Messianic Jews.” I believe what God wants in these last days is to depart from the Corinthian church and its many divisions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, et al.) and again become one flock in which Jews and Gentiles worship the Savior together as they did in Rome (minus the rivalry, of course).

 
What you have been missing

 
Replacement theology has done a lot of damage, one of which was causing the Church to disregard the Feasts of the Lord. It’s been argued that since we are under grace, and not the Law, we don’t need to be concerned about such things. “That would be legalistic” is something I have heard. May I say to you friend, you’ve been misled and missed a great blessing. It’s premature to dismiss the feasts as something we don’t need to worry about anymore. Here’s what I mean.

 
It was written in the Torah that the men of Israel were to assemble in Jerusalem three times a year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Two thousand years ago the Jews saw the Passover fulfilled when Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. On Pentecost the Jews saw Joel’s prophecy fulfilled when the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The Feast of Tabernacles has yet to be fulfilled, and one day when the people gather in Jerusalem, the Lord will fulfill it before their eyes just like He did on Passover and Pentecost. Wouldn’t you like to be on hand when that happens? Until the Lord returns, each time the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot) is celebrated, it’s like a dress rehearsal for the real event. With that in mind, here is my recommendation.

 
You are invited!

 
I know this will be short notice for many of you, but I feel it strongly to make you aware of the upcoming holy days. Most of us have never been to these celebrations and they have passed unnoticed, but I hope that will be different after this year because I am inviting you. Rosh Hashanah (New Year) will begin at sundown October 2 and end on the evening of October 4. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) will begin at sundown on October 11 and end

the sukkah

Celebrating Tabernacles

on the evening of October 12, and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) begins at sundown on October 16 and ends the evening of October 23. I would strongly encourage everyone to find a Messianic congregation and observe these events this year and see what you have been missing out on. These events are part of our heritage as believers, but replacement theology has caused the Church to disregard them. Let’s reclaim them and experience them first hand, and in so doing we help restore the unity of the one flock that the Lord established. If you are able to participate, please share your experience with others (and I would like to hear about it too!). Be blessed!

 

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Rewinding the Torah scroll

Elul 23, 5776

 
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3: 27-28, NASB Update)

 

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Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, God, Uncategorized

The Defense Is Ready: Taking The Gospel To The People

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for your hope. Do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Posted on Twitter by @Skylarblue54

Dear friends,

As Christians, we have all encountered people who have wanted to know more about the hope the lies within us at one time or another, so we must be ready in season or out of season to make a defense of the Gospel. As the initial Scripture portion from Peter’s first letter tells us, there is a right way to do this (use gentleness and respect). I write this by way of reminder for those who want to give a defense of the Gospel and are also involved with evangelism. Apologetics and evangelism work in tandem, so I may use the terms interchangeably in this writing. According to Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who believe, it is the power of God (1: 18, also Rom 1: 16). God uses the foolishness of the message preached to save souls, but in order for the Gospel to keep its power, it must be handled correctly.

Think of the Gospel as a medicine. Whenever you get a prescription from your doctor, you can’t just take your medicine any way you please. The doctor gives specific instructions about dosage, how often to take medication, and what things to avoid so you won’t have a drug interaction problem and so that you will get the maximum benefit. The message of evangelism and the work of apologetics are like God’s prescription for the people we minister to; it makes the power of God available for salvation. We are like residents learning under the Great Physician, and so in order to effectively minister to our patients, we must not vary from His instructions. There are some things we should keep in mind.

The Gospel message must be kept pure and complete to keep its power

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus identifies Himself as the Bread of Life; He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. This was a hard saying for many of the disciples, and many of them no longer walked with Him after this (v 66). Jesus didn’t customize the Gospel by telling the audience what they wanted to hear. He was concerned that the people get the whole counsel of God, even if it offended them and caused them to turn away.

 
It is an unfortunate fact that today some people customize the Gospel in order to keep the numbers up. They add or subtract from the Gospel to make it more palatable for the masses. One well-known televangelist has customized the Gospel by never mentioning Hell. He justified this by saying there is enough negativity in the world already without adding “Hell” to it. Others have customized the Gospel by exchanging grace for works, denying Jesus as the only way to the Father, claiming Jesus is really Michael the Archangel, denying that Jesus rose from the dead, etc. People who customize the Gospel covet followers who will seek after them (as well as buy their books, attend their conferences, etc.), not the Lord. This has been going on a long time; even as the ink was drying on Paul’s epistles false brethren were altering and customizing the Gospel:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1: 6-7, NASB)

 
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a messenger or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has already come. (2 Thess 2: 1-2, NASB)

 
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? (1 Cor 15: 12, NASB)

In order for the Gospel to keep the power God intended it to have, it must be kept pure with no additions or subtractions. Customizing the Gospel creates another gospel, and if God didn’t build it, it won’t save the hearers. Keep the Gospel pure when you defend it and when you evangelize, then the power God intended it to have will flow through it and minister to those in need of a physician; it won’t return void, but will accomplish the will of the Father.

When defending the Gospel, keep it spiritual

As an evangelist/apologist, you will encounter all kinds of people seeking answers about anything under the sun. When unbelievers ask about your faith, it’s very important that you don’t try to persuade them with natural, worldly wisdom. If people don’t believe the testimony of the Scriptures, which has the power to bring salvation, will they be persuaded by a natural argument based on worldly wisdom? If they won’t listen to the spiritual, will the natural persuade them? Of course not. It is written “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside” (1 Cor 1: 19, NASB), so natural means of persuasion have no place here. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; this means we cannot expect spiritual fruit using worldly methods, which Paul called clever speech (1 Cor 1: 17). If we could persuade people with our own powers of persuasion, we could boast before God about our works, but that cannot be because it’s by His doing that we are in Christ (1 Cor 1: 30). Think about this, did Peter know Jesus was the Son of God because of a clever argument, or because he had a spiritual revelation (Matt 16:16-17)?

Apologists must keep their defense rooted in the spiritual and allow the Holy Spirit to persuade the people and open their eyes; only He can do this. Keep the focus on the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel. You may not be able to answer questions that require specialized knowledge (e.g. evolution, philosophy), but you can talk about the One who gave life to us all.

Love

I have seen many Twitter threads in which a person is talking about matters of faith, but their language is just as coarse and brutal as an unbeliever. That should not be. Can salt water and fresh water be drawn from the same well? Of course not! As we were reminded in 1 Peter 3: 15, we must be respectful and gentle when giving an answer for the hope that lies within us. We must not allow ourselves to get drawn into quarrels and foolish arguments about words and useless speculations that just end up ruining the hearers. If the conversation degenerates into name calling and quarreling, do not trade insult for insult. If you do, you are acting from the natural man and the end of that road isn’t eternal life. Keep the following advice in mind:

And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2: 24-26, NASB)

 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4: 29, NASB)

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. (Matt 5: 9, NASB)

 

You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5: 43-45)

Show kindness and the way of love in words and deeds. When love is present in the Gospel presentation/defense, it is the ingredient that sets the Gospel apart from all other narratives. Without love, the Gospel sounds like a clanging symbol and a noisy gong. People won’t care about your faith or what you know unless they know how much you care.

The Great Physician is the one who writes the prescription instructions for how the Gospel is to be administered so it doesn’t lose any of its saltiness or saving power. We are His residents, and we are responsible to administer it to those under our care. If His instructions aren’t followed correctly, the patient won’t respond as well, and their condition will even get worse. Do we want to be like the physicians who tried to help the woman with the issue of blood? Keep the Gospel pure, keep your message spiritual, and show them love.

Elul 18, 5776

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Christianity, current events, God, religion

The Superman Questions

Charlie Rose: “What are we talking about then? Must there be a Superman?”
Senator June Finch: “There is.”
Dialogue from the movie “Batman v. Superman” (2016)

In the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where various contributors discuss the Superman question and its implications. What does it mean to have a being in your midst whose power transcends and overshadows anything humanity has? The very possibility of such a reality is frightening. Vikram Gandhi raised the point that while most people believe in a higher power, when a savior character actually does come, we want him to abide by our rules. Andrew Sullivan was concerned about what, if any, moral constraints this person would follow. Glen Woodburn rightly points out that humanity has often followed after powerful people into great atrocities. Niel DeGrasse Tyson points out how having a Superman challenges our place in the universe, and shows that mankind doesn’t hold a special place in the universe after all. Charlie Rose and Senator June Finch are concerned about Superman’s interventions in human history because he acts as he sees fit (unilaterally) rather than by the consent and will of the people. These are all interesting contributions, but let’s examine the question Charlie Rose asks Senator Finch.

Must there be a Superman? Yes, because humanity has a depravity problem and we cannot solve this problem with our own power and wisdom. People don’t get along well with each other, and there should be no argument on this point because there is so much empirical evidence to support it. People malign one another and gossip about others. People divide themselves into groups based on ethnicity, economic status, etc., and are suspicious and even hostile to outsiders. When they don’t have what they want, they quarrel and fight one another to get it. We have seen rulers throughout history rise to power and then become depraved and murderous. This all points to the work of depravity, and something that is missing in the human condition, an empty place in every human heart that needs to be filled to make us complete so that we can overcome the effects of depravity: So that we will stop using our words to destroy other human beings and lift them up instead. So we come together in true unity and not divide into cliques and groups. So that leaders will rule wisely and well, and the people won’t live in fear of a government that has gone out of control. Humanity has been plagued by its problems for thousands of years, and to paraphrase the Humpty-Dumpty fairy tale, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t make humanity whole again,” even though they have tried for throughout time. Since we cannot solve our own problems with our power and wisdom, it follows that we need someone who has power and wisdom that is greater than humans who can solve the problems of depravity. The good news is that there really is a Superman today, but this person isn’t a man in a cape flying around saving the day. The real Superman has powers that far exceed anything the creators of the caped Superman could ever conceive of.

The real Superman and the most powerful man the world has ever known is our Savior, Jesus, and as such it is not surprising that He is also a figure of controversy. Throughout the centuries since He walked among us, He has been loved by some, vilified by others, and misunderstood by many. When Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was, some said He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then He asks the disciples “who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 13-16). When Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, he shows us that Jesus is not an ordinary man. Jesus is the “theanthropos,” the God-man. He is fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life and works also testify that He is no ordinary man. In John we read this about His divine identity:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, NASB)

John goes on to say: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1: 10 NASB). Can you imagine that? The Creator of everything came down to Earth and lived among us! He created us in His image, and He took on the form of man when He came down to us. He was God in the flesh, the theanthropos! Listen to what the writer of Hebrews tells us about Him; it’s truly awesome:

But of the Son He says ‘THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. THOU HAST LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, THY GOD, HATH ANOINTED THEE WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE THY COMPANIONS.’ And ‘THOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING DIDST LAY THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT THOU REMAINEST; AND THEY WILL BECOME OLD AS A GARMENT, AND AS A MANTLE THOU WILT ROLL THEM UP; AS A GARMENT THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT THOU ART THE SAME, AND THY YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.’ (Hebrews 1: 8-12, NASB)

Since God walked among us in human form, this is the reason we can say there really is a Superman.

We have all heard the saying “truth can be stranger than fiction,” but in this case, truth is much more wonderful and amazing than fiction. The fictional Superman could bend steel and leap over tall buildings, but the real Superman did the impossible: When thousands can to hear Him speak and He wanted to feed them, He used a few loaves and fishes to miraculously fed them all from what would only have been enough for one person (Matthew 14: 13-21; 15: 32-38). When people needed any kind of healing, He spoke the word and they were healed (John 4: 46-54; Matthew 8: 5-13). When demons oppressed and tormented people, He drove them out by His word and authority (Matthew 8:16-17, 28-34; 15: 21-28). Even death doesn’t have the last word because He has the power to raise people from the dead (John 11: 1-44; Luke 7: 11-15). When a storm threatened to sink the boat He was travelling in, He caused a great calm when He rebuked the wind and waves (Matthew 8: 23-27). He knew what people were thinking and what was in their hearts (John 2: 24-25; Matthew 12: 22-25). His sacrifice made it possible for people to be forgiven and born again (Luke 23: 34; John 3: 16-17). There is nothing He cannot do, which is what makes a real Superman; this is the one who has the power to solve humanity’s depravity problem and fill our hearts with His presence.

Towards the end of the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where people are honoring and remembering Superman and his life. The words written about Superman say “If you seek his monument, look around you.” These words remind people that Superman’s legacy can be seen in the lives he affected and changed while he was alive. Superman's monumentUnlike the fictional Superman, the theanthropos Jesus cannot die. After He was crucified and buried, He rose from the dead; if you were to seek His monument, it would be an empty tomb. He lives on as our High Priest, always making intercession for us before the Father in heaven. His perfect sacrifice made it possible to have friendship with God again and overcome the power of depravity that has caused so much suffering in our history. His presence fills the empty void in our hearts and makes us content in whatever circumstance we are in. His power to change lives is found in the Gospel message:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith. (Romans 1: 16-17, NASB).

He lives in the hearts of millions of people and still interacts with us today. Just ask any of His people to tell you their story about how they met Jesus and what He did for them. Then ask them what He can do for you today!

Who do you say Jesus is? This is the Superman question Jesus asks of us, and everyone must answer. Will you believe the Gospel and come to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? If you will take that step of faith today and come to Jesus, the real Superman, you will find forgiveness, mercy, and grace. All your sins and mistakes will be forgiven and you will start life anew. Come by faith believing that He is the Son of the living God and pray this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I confess that I have done many things against you. I confess that I have sinned and been rebellious, and for that I am truly sorry. I repent of all of this and I ask for your mercy and forgiveness (You can list specific things to ask forgiveness for if you want). I believe you are the Son of God, and I place everything in my life under your control. I ask you to come and live in my heart. Create a clean heart in me and give me a right spirit so that I may always do what is right in your eyes. Thank you for saving me Lord Jesus!

If you have prayed this prayer, you are a new creation, and your old life is over. Your new life has begun! Congratulations and welcome to the family of God! The important thing now is to find a good body of believers to fellowship with for discipleship and spiritual growth. Now the adventure begins!

Av 22, 5776

1 John 1 9

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Uncategorized

Testudo!

In Ephesians chapter six, Paul talks about the armor of God. Roman soldiers were a Roman soldiercommon sight in his time all over the Empire, and so when he used the Roman soldier as an illustration of the armor of God, it was easy for the people to understand and visualize what he said. Paul said that the shield represented faith, which quenched the fiery darts of the enemy. The shield was effective in protecting the individual soldier from the front, but it couldn’t protect from simultaneous attacks coming from the sides and rear. Something more was needed to protect the soldiers from these hazards, so the Romans used the “testudo” formation.

 

There are two movies (“The Eagle” and “Risen”) which have good reenactments of how the Romans used the testudo formation which turned their formations into what would be called an armored personnel carrier today. When their commander ordered “testudo,” the soldiers would position their shields to create a protective wall and overhead cover. This protected them from above, the front, sides, and rear. It took practice and discipline to perfect it, but once they were able to master it, this team effort by the Roman soldiers allowed them to conquer objectives that would have been impossible otherwise.

testudo

I mention this because in the same way the Romans used the testudo formation to win battles, the church needs to use its shields of faith the same way more than ever. The testudo could not be achieved by a single soldier, it took a number of them to properly deploy it. This demonstrates the advantages of a group, and Solomon wrote about the advantages of numbers when he said:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB)

It’s not enough to have sufficient numbers for your battle plan; you must have agreement of purpose and unity. The saying goes “two captains sink a ship.” If one is trying to go left while the other is trying to go right, what’s the advantage in numbers? The prophet tell us this: “do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3, ESV).

 

We need to unite our shields of faith church, but the problem is that the church has become fragmented and it’s fighting the wrong enemy and the wrong war; it’s actually fighting against itself! We find the same pattern in the Corinthian church when Paul wrote his first letter to them:

Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1: 10-13, NASB)

This pattern of division still exists today: we hear “”I am of Southern Baptists,” “I am of Methodists,” “I am of Presbyterians,” etc. Denominational loyalty isn’t the only source of division, many congregations have exchanged the truth of God for friendship with the world. Then there are internal quarrels which pit brother against brother, and there have been ugly church splits. In a way, attacks from within the church are worse than an attack from the enemy because we expect hostility from an enemy, but not a brother or sister. David was a man who knew betrayal, and he describes the hurt this way:

For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, Then I could bear it; Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, Then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, My companion and my familiar friend. We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God in the throng. (Psalm 55: 12-14, NASB)

Our Adversary knows our weapons are divinely powerful to pull down strongholds and spiritual wickedness, bu he can nullify that if he can get us fighting against each other. Keep this in mind though: Even if a brother or sister has caused us grievous harm and betrayed our trust, we must not allow this to sow the seeds of bitterness and forgiveness in our heart, which will choke the word of God and cause many to be defiled.  We must still obey the Lord’s commandment to love one another. Forgive that person, and get your weapons trained back on the real enemy.

 

Let me get back to the shield of faith in closing. We need to unite our shields of faith like never before, and the enemy knows the damage that this will do to the kingdom of darkness, so he does everything he can to divide us and set us against each other. In faith, one of us can put a thousand to flight, and two of us ten thousand. If one man like Elijah can pray in faith and stop the rain from falling for three and a half years (James 5: 17-18), then Satan would fall from heaven like lightening and multitudes of multitudes of souls would be set free if many of these men and women of God united their shields of faith in a spiritual testudo.

Way down in the valley, I heard a mighty roar!

It was the sound of the Army, the Army of the Lord!

Christian soldiers, testudo!

Sivan 26, 5776

Shield of faith

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The Opposite of Loneliness
Christianity, current events, Uncategorized

Revisiting Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness”

I first heard about Marina Keegan when it was reported online that she had been killed in a car accident in 2012. Her death seemed all the more tragic because she had just graduated magna cum laude from Yale only five days before. I first read “The Opposite of Loneliness” and “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” from links provided in news reports; these and other writings have been collected in book form and I have included information about this at the end of this post. Even after she had been told it’s virtually impossible to be a writer today, she announced that “‘I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer,’ she said. ‘Like, a real one. With my life.'”  It’s very easy to see from her writings that she was gifted and would have made her mark in this world as a writer, but sadly, that was not meant to be. “The Opposite of Loneliness” and what that is will be my focus for this writing. Before we discuss what the opposite of loneliness is, let’s take a look at loneliness.

 
Marina begins by saying “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I would say that’s what I want in life.” Loneliness has never been on anyone’s bucket list for things they want to have in life. Even in the Garden of Eden, the first time God said something wasn’t good was when God saw that Adam was alone. To be lonely is also to be forgotten, and no one wants to be forgotten. We want to populate our lives with people and or activities that leave us engaged with the world around us, and to be remembered. Those who have great power and wealth have gone to great lengths to be remembered. When the Pharaohs of Egypt erected massive pyramids to make a lasting legacy for themselves, it’s as if they were saying “Pharaoh was here.” In a way we also want to leave some tangible proof to the world that we were here, that we existed, that we mattered and that we were loved. For a scientist, his “pyramid” might be a notable discovery or winning a prestigious prize that secures his place in history. A politician might try to create a lasting legacy through leadership and service. Explorers want to be remembered for their discoveries. Soldiers want to be remembered for their bravery and the battles they won. Writers want to be remembered for their contributions to literature. If we are remembered, it’s because we had this “opposite of loneliness” during our life. So what is it?

 
Marina Keegan gives us a description of what she felt the “opposite of loneliness” is, and to me, it sounds like what I felt in my high school days. Somewhere in my sophomore year of high school, I realized something: “Life won’t give me a chance to repeat this time in life. Once high school is over, it’s over.” Marina described the opposite of loneliness this way:

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people who are in this together. Who are on your team…Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers—partnerless, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group texts. (1)

I realized I was about to lose my “opposite of loneliness” when it came time to graduate from high school, and like Marina, I was uncomfortable about it. I was about to enter a new and uncharted area in life, and this caused me to reevaluate what I was doing (or not doing) in school. When I finally understood that this opposite of loneliness I had was going to end one day and I would no longer have the familiar life of I was living any more, I decided to make the most of high school. I almost failed my freshman year and I didn’t care, but after my epiphany I was getting awards for perfect attendance and honor roll. Even after all these years some of my strongest and best memories are from this time in life, and it’s gratifying to be remembered at reunions.

 
But is the opposite of loneliness really something we cannot find a word for? If English doesn’t have a word that exactly fits the bill, maybe we need to look outside our language, In the New Testament Greek, they had a word called koinonia that may be a candidate for the opposite of loneliness. Koinonia was used in association with life in the early church, and as we explore what this word means, it will help us find an answer to the appellation of the opposite of loneliness. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, koinonia generally means:

“fellowship, communion, participation, sharing.” It can refer to the mutual interests and sharing of members in the community of faith, the church…John uses koinonia to refer to the Christian fellowship we have with one another (1 Jn. 1:3, 7). This fellowship is centered in and based on our common fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus (1:3, 6). (247)

The Christian concept of fellowship was founded on love and it centered on our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Those who participate of Christian koinonia were disciples who sought to walk in the same steps as Jesus. The presence of Jesus in koinonia is a different type of koinonia than one without Him.

 
The opposite of loneliness that Marina Keegan described was for a specific time. In her case, the opposite of loneliness was in effect during her days at Yale. The opposite of loneliness that describes a special time of togetherness in our lives that ends one day is only one type of opposite. There is another type of opposite that is enduring and doesn’t have an ending. This may sound incredible, but it is true, and if Marina was aware of it at the time of her writing, I feel sure she would have spoken about it. So what are we talking about? Let me illustrate it by introducing you to another young woman named Katie Davis Now Katie Davis Majors).

 
Katie Davis is close to the same age as Marina, and she was so touched by this enduring kind of opposite that it changed the course of her life. If you looked at Katie’s life from an earthly perspective, she had an opposite of loneliness that many would envy:

For as long as I can remember, I had everything the world said was important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. (XVII)

So what is the difference between Marina’s opposite of loneliness and Katie’s? We see it in Katie’s favorite Bible verse: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37: 4). The opposite of loneliness that changed Katie’s life was the Lord Jesus; His presence made the opposite of loneliness (or koinonia) something enduring and doesn’t fade away. It inspired her to a life she never dreamed for herself:

The fact that I loved Jesus was beginning to interfere with the plans I once had for my life and certainly the plans others had for me. My heart had been apprehended by a great love, a love that compelled me to live differently. I had grown up in a Christian home, gone to church, and learned about Jesus all my life. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, I began to delve into the truths of Scripture. As I read and learned more and more of what Jesus said, I liked the lifestyle I saw around me less and less. I began to realize that God wanted more from me, and I wanted more from Him. He began to grow in me a desire to live intentionally, and different from anyone I had ever known. (XVII-XVIII)

Katie Davis found an opposite of loneliness that never goes away when she allowed Jesus in to her life. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any more problems, but it does mean that the Lord Jesus is always at her side, teaching her how to live an overcoming life, loving people through her and giving her strength when she is weak. She currently lives and serves the people of Uganda thousands of miles away from her home in America and family. She has determined that she doesn’t “want to miss what He has for me. Ever, ever again.”

 

We don’t have to worry about losing the benefits of the opposite of loneliness if we will take hold of the one that never ends. We can and should appreciate the special times of our lives as we go through life, but we should treasure above all else the fact that through the love of God we have a koinonia with Jesus ends loneliness forever.

 
Please don’t interpret this post as some kind of attack on the memory of Marina Keegan; that is not my intention. Marina’s words on her graduation day were “I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself,” and from what I could see in her writings, she wanted to live a life of purpose and to make the world a better place. I want those who remember Marina to know she hasn’t been forgotten, and that her desire to live for love is just as important today as when she expressed it. My intention is to make clear that there is an opposite of loneliness that has a beginning and end, and another that never ends. Jesus Himself said:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 18-20, NASB)

This never ending opposite is available for anyone who is willing to repent, turn away from evil and receive God’s forgiveness. We have this precious promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9, NASB). When we do this, we are reconciled with God and we have fellowship with Him! Please give these things serious thought because much depends on how you receive this and act on it.

 
If you would like to learn more about Marina Keegan and Katie Davis, here is some additional information:

 
A collection of Marina Keegan’s writings are available in the book “The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories” with an introduction by Anne Fadiman.

ISBN 978-1-4767-5361-4

ISBN 978-1-4767-5391-1 (paperback)

ISBN 978-1-4767-5362-1 (ebook)

 
You can visit a Facebook page celebrating Marina Keegan’s life at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/387194241326318/

 
Katie’s ministry is called Amazima, which is a word for truth. The ministry website contains up to date information about the work of the ministry and Katie’s blog.

 

Katie Davis also has a book called “Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption.”

ISBN 978-1-4516-1206-6

ISBN 978-4516-1210-3 (ebook)

 

Sivan 13, 5776

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Christianity, current events, diversity, gender identity, morality, politics, prophecy, religion, Uncategorized

Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female?

By wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches
(Proverbs 24: 3-4 NASB).

 
America’s moral code is in the process of being rewritten and what was right yesterday is wrong today and vice versa. In this case we are talking about an ideology of gender identity, or fluidity. When the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing men to access the women’s room, House Bill 2 was signed into law to stop this ordinance and anything like it from happening statewide. Target retail stores followed suit and instituted an in store policy that also allowed men to use the women’s room. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently issued a statement about North Carolina’s House Bill 2 and made her intention known that she will counter sue North Carolina to stop its implementation throughout the state.

 
Attorney General Lynch has clothed her arguments about this gender ideology in the language of civil rights, and has said North Carolina’s response like all “discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation” such as Jim Crow laws after Emancipation, resistance to Brown v. Board of Education, and numerous statewide bans on same sex unions. Lynch goes in to say that these responses come from a fear of the unknown and discomfort with change and tells us “this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness.” Having said this, did anyone catch what was missing from this last quote? We all recognize the politically correct buzzwords of “inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness,” but it’s what’s missing that ought to concern all of us. AG Lynch didn’t say our national virtues include holiness, righteousness, and the fear of God, and when these virtues are not part of our national identity, the nation becomes adrift on a sea of relativism. Absolute truth is mocked and dismissed to make room for the cause celebre of the day, which in this case is the currently emerging ideology of gender identity. This is where the problem may be found.

 

The ideology of gender identity makes the case that gender is a social construct. If gender identity is regarded as something determined by society, then it is artificial and not firmly anchored. If people can be convinced that gender identity is an artificial product of society, it’s a short walk to the next belief in which there is fluidity between genders. A man can identify as female and dress and act accordingly, but as we will see, he can never wash himself clean from his male identity. Nevertheless, government has now injected itself into this moral realignment and is fighting for males who identify as female to have access to women’s restrooms and locker rooms. The Washington Post reports that Lynch’s remarks about the government’s decision to intervene have resonated with the transgender community “For Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the appeal of Lynch’s speech was something simple: ‘All she said was that we’re people.’”

 

AG Lynch is speaking for the Obama Administration when she made her remarks, and she makes the case that opposing House Bill 2 is a step in the right direction with these words:

This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.

She also says that we must learn from history and not repeat our mistakes, and I will agree that this is correct, but in order for this admonition to be accurate, it must include history as God gave it to us in His word. Let’s review what God’s history has told us about gender identity.

 

The book of Genesis begins with the words “in the beginning God created…,” and then the writer goes on to list the things God created. When it comes to humanity and our topic of gender identity, we find this “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1: 27, NASB). Notice that it says we are created by God, and when God creates something, there’s a reason and purpose for it. In the case of humanity, the word of God tells us:

And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1: 28, NASB)

We can clearly see three things from verses 27 and 28: we are here on purpose, not accidentally, we see that God wants to interact with us, and that when God created humanity, He made them male and female. But if God establishes a boundary, or distinction between male and female, is it fixed forever? Does God allow fluidity between males and females? The answer is that the boundary is firmly fixed and fluidity is not allowed. On what basis do I say this? Here’s a look at what God says about His boundaries:

“Do you not fear Me?” declares the LORD. “Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it.Though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” (Jeremiah 5: 22, NASB)

A boundary that has been set by God cannot be moved by any created being or power as God makes clear in this passage about His power:”For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14: 27). When we consider these things, we can say confidently that when God does something, it stays done and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.

 

In the case of gender identity, God made us male and female, and His word makes it clear He intends for this distinction to stand. We see this boundary reinforced in the Torah: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22: 5). And notice how this prohibition against same sex sexual relations is worded:

If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act: They shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13, NASB).

There are other places we could go, but these verses give ample proof that God wants the distinction between male and female respected and left intact. I wish that was the end of the matter, but just as the serpent beguiled Eve, he has also beguiled this generation.

 

God deals in certainties and truth, but we know the enemy of our souls is at work when we see confusion and every evil work. Fluidity is confusion because it erases the distinction God established between male and female. This can only happen when the real history of humanity is ignored. The ideology of gender identity that Lynch is defending is a wisdom of the world, and it is demonic. It is nothing less than an exchange of God’s truth for a lie; those who defend it suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and they are in danger of being handed over to their own lusts and depravity. They may think they are being wise, inclusive, and promoting diversity, compassion and open-mindedness, but they are really fools, and they have been blinded about their true condition by the god of this world.

 
I must disagree with the AG that acting on the basis of fear is wrong. She makes it sound as though acting on the basis of fear is never correct, but there is a time when acting from fear is beneficial and lifesaving. We see it time and again in Scripture when God’s people realized the terror of the LORD and they did everything they could to repent and reconcile with Him. That’s how acting from fear saves your life. If AG Lynch wants to avoid the mistakes of the past, let her remember this lesson from history: Nations that once knew God but turned away later suffer judgment. If you doubt me, just read the book of Judges; the same pattern happens again and again.

 

The reality is as follows. Even though a man may rage against his male identity, may dress and act as a female, and even if he were to undergo gender reassignment surgery, he is still male because God made him that way. He will never be completely female except in his mind and in his imagination. Man never has nor never will have the power to change what God has established, and since he can never make the change he wants, he will never find the fulfillment he looks for. But everyone can find true peace, happiness, and healing through our Savior Jesus. He’s already knocking at the door of your heart waiting to be invited in.

 

Iyar 4,  5776

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Christianity, current events, November 2016 election, politics, Uncategorized

Fighting the wrong war

President Obama has been criticized for his failure to name the enemy by saying the words ‘Islamic terrorism.’ He has even gone on a denial/apologetic tour to deflect any blame for the actions of Muslim terrorists, and his Administration even went so far as to say that climate change is the real enemy. While we can speculate as to why he is doing this, the fact is no corrective action will ever succeed if the enemy is not properly identified. Or if we put it another way, if the cause of a problem is wrong, it follows that any solutions to fix the problem will also be wrong.

 
This brings us to the present day with a view to the upcoming November elections. Up to this point, there has been a lot of in house fighting among conservatives about which candidate to support, but now that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have suspended their presidential campaigns, the way is clear for Donald Trump to receive the Republican nomination. There has also been a call for all conservatives to unite behind Trump and concentrate on defeating the Democrats and Hillary Clinton, who is now being billed as the real opponent we must now defeat. This is another misidentification of who the real enemy is, and I would like to show why this reasoning is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

 
We may live in a physical world, but the word of God tells us this physical world is not all there is. An unseen spiritual world also exists along with our physical world that we do see. Paul writes that “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). These different worlds also interact with each other, and events on one world can influence events in the other. We see this after Yeshua sent out His disciples to minister to the people; they returned with joy and said “’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ And He [Yeshua] said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from Heaven like lightening’” (Luke 10:17-18). Lastly, there are spiritual beings that are good and bad. The evil spiritual beings seek to blind people to the truth of God’s word so that they will perish: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4: 3-4).

 
Having said all this, we know the state of America in 2016 is not good. Today we have strife, division, variance, idolatry, divorce, avarice, debt, deception, hypocrisy, rebellion, disrespect, hatred, covetousness, pride, arrogance, and foolishness at levels that were unheard of in American history as this nation continues to exchange the light of God’s truth for the deceptive ‘freedom’ to do whatever is right in our own eyes. We are seeing the consequences of what happens if people believe there’s no God. As Dostoevsky wrote, if God doesn’t exist, everything would be permissible, and people would live their lives as if there is no governing moral code that applies to everyone. Conservatives have linked liberal politics and agendas with the decline of our nation, but does this make Hillary Clinton and the Democrats the ‘real opponents’ that they speak of? The answer is no.

 
The reason why Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are not the real opponents we should focus on is because they have been blinded by spiritual darkness, but people have become so polarized about the November elections they won’t acknowledge the work of the real enemy like President Obama won’t recognize Islamic terrorism. The Adversary has persuaded many people to accept and do things that are at variance with God’s word by blinding them spiritually, and since the problem is spiritual, it would be foolish to think this situation can be corrected at the ballot box. It must be stopped in the spiritual realm, so if you want to stop corruption in its tracks, we must exercise the authority Yeshua gives us over the enemy and take on the spiritual forces of darkness. Paul reminds us where the real fight must be fought when he wrote: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If we will do this once again like the disciples Yeshua sent out, Satan will once again fall from Heaven like lightening as he did before, spiritual blindness will be cured, and people will be set free to love God and their neighbors again. The Adversary knows that this is what will happen God’s people use their spiritual authroity, and he dreads it. But that won’t happen if all our focus is on politics and the ballot box.

Nisan 26, 5776

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