Christianity, Christmas, God, Uncategorized

And yet I show you a still more excellent way…

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42, NASB)

 

In a way, we all become like Martha during the Christmas season. It comes with lots of shopping and preparations for guests that will be arriving. When Christmas Eve/Morning finally arrives, everyone rushes to the tree to receive their presents, but this writer would like to ask, is this all there is?

 

The Savior came down from heaven in the form of a man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. And because of His perfect sacrifice, we now have access to the very Throne of God. When we think about these things, one would think that Jesus would be the focus of the entire season, but from this writer’s experience, He only gets a cursory mention (if any mention is made at all) before the wrapping paper starts flying off the presents. Is Jesus really the reason for the season?

 

When we open our presents, what are we really getting? Did Aunt Sally get her nephew a sweater in the right size this time, or did she remember to include the receipt so we can get in the exchange line later? Did your spouse get your subtle hints about what you want, or are they breaking new ground? Whatever is under the tree, it’s all material. It will wear out, go out of fashion, or break and be discarded eventually. Nothing material will ever endure, but that’s what we give each other anyway. As I said in the title, there is a better way.

 

What this writer is asking the readers to consider is doing Christmas, and every day of the year differently after this. Instead of looking to this temporary visible material world for presents, let’s look to the invisible world of the spirit which is eternal. You may say, “but we did a Christmas Eve service already,” but this is far beyond that. You might ask, what can we get from the invisible world of the spirit? Just this: His presence.

 

If Jesus really is the reason for the season, then get out of the shopping line with Martha and sit at the Master’s feet with Mary. Choose to be in His presence instead of focusing on presents. Jesus isn’t impressed that you were able to get your kids the most popular toy for this season, but what moves Him is when He sees the child He died for wanting to be with Him. Aren’t we forgetful hearers if we are focusing on presents when we could be in His presence?

 

I know this is a major paradigm shift, and we don’t do Christmas this way. But this writer feels the time has come to stop giving material things that wear out to receiving eternal things that never fade away. Jesus wants to spend time with you!! If you will decide with your family to come into His presence instead of focusing on presents, the smiles of heaven will be on your family. You have chosen the best part along with Mary, and it shall not be taken away from you.

 

God wants you to go deep with Him, but many people are content to stay in the kiddie pool instead of swimming in the deep waters of His presence. He longs for you to be closer to Him, and to show you great and mighty things you didn’t know. He wants to give you gifts: Peace that passes all understanding, love, joy unspeakable and full of glory, healing, and giving you beauty for ashes. These are found in His presence, and He invites you to join Him.

 

And yet I show you a still more excellent way…choose His presence over presents!

 

Be blessed my friends!

 

Chislev 20, 5777

 

cell-phone-basket

Putting the phones away helps stop distractions when you’re seeking His presence.

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Christianity, current events, God, morality, November 2016 election, politics, religion, Uncategorized

Now That The Election Is Over….

Mr. Trump has been elected to the great relief of many conservatives and Christians, but this is no time to think the battle is over and the work is done. More than ever this is the time the church needs to be in prayer for our President-elect and our nation. Here are some things to keep in prayer:

 

Presidential leadership/appointments

 

President-elect Trump will be at the helm of this nation as it goes through some of the most difficult times it has ever faced. This will require wisdom that is superior to what the world has to offer. Our President-elect will need wisdom from above to do the right thing no matter how much it conflicts with the world’s point of view. Our President-elect will also need strength and perseverance because the forces that will oppose him are strong, they are entrenched, and they aren’t about to just give up and go away. It may be a long and protracted fight, but it’s a fight we cannot afford to lose. We must pray that our President-elect surrounds himself with the right people and has a team that will faithfully stand by him when the battles rage. It’s going to get very hot in the kitchen, and our new President needs people who can handle the heat. I would also urge us to pray that our President-elect will steer a course that God wants us to take. I have heard a lot about “Make America Great Again,” but that will only happen if our priorities align with God’s priorities. I am sorry, but this really isn’t that time to focus on jobs and the economy; it’s time to focus on the repentance and repair the spiritual problems that got us in this mess in the first place. Our President-elect will need godly priorities!

 

Judgment is still coming

 

Judgment may be delayed, but it is still coming; it will begin in the house of God. The church will be shaken like a tree in a strong wind, and what is rotten will fall off. This is the time to get your house in order. Leave the nets behind like Peter did and follow the Lord Yeshua with all your heart. Go in with all your heart without looking back or go home; it’s better to be hot or cold than lukewarm.

 

We must also keep our nation in prayer. The spiritual condition of America is very serious, as evidenced by the election results. Over 60 million voters voted to go in a direction that would make things even worse, so we need to realize we aren’t out of the woods just because this election is over. The reason we have this is because of division. Division has always been a favorite strategy of the enemy, and America is deeply divided. We have deep divisions over God, race, priorities, politics, right and wrong, etc. This isn’t just division in the world, the church has a bad case of division itself. The Adversary loves it when the people of God are fighting each other because it makes it so much easier for him to do his work undisturbed. We get so distracted fighting each other we don’t understand that we have allowed the enemy to set up shop in our midst. Christ is not divided, and so let’s unite against the real enemy of our souls and country and stop fighting among ourselves.

 

We see that in politics Donald Trump’s transition team is already at work in Washington, but the kingdom of God also has a transition team. God has chosen certain vessels who will work to prepare the way for the King of kings! The reign of darkness is coming to an end, and they aren’t about to go away quietly. The darkness knows that its time is short. All of God’s people are supposed to be on this transition team, but for whatever reason, not everyone is making themselves available. Things are also going to heat up spiritually, and this is the time to prepare. That’s what wise people do; they know what’s coming down the road and take appropriate action. If you have choking weeds in your heart, repent and ask God for help so you can be fully focused on His will. Let all other considerations be rescinded so that His will has first place in your heart. The judgment is still coming; will you make yourself available for God’s transition team?

 

This is just a short post and a call to prayer. Judgment begins in the house of God, and America will become great again by humbling herself before God and repenting first. Please pray!

 

Shalom friends!

 

Heshvan 18, 5777

 

 

 

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Christianity, current events, God, religion, Uncategorized

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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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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Uncategorized

The difference that faith makes

Faith is never more disparaged and mocked than in the arguments of science articles and their apologists; they see no use for something that would cause people to believe that the world was created in six days or that all life originated from God. They believe the world around them is understood through empirical observation, as such they see faith as a relic of times past. Since faith deals with the invisible realm of the spiritual and the supernatural, they feel it served a purpose at one time when mankind didn’t understand how the universe worked thousands of years ago. But now that we are enlightened by the advances of science, the secular world feels confident that we can put away such childish things. It would be a huge mistake to dismiss faith because it isn’t empirical in nature, so with this in mind please join me in examining the benefit faith gave a woman who lived thousands of years ago in Canaan. She was an unlikely candidate for membership in a faith based community, but we should not quickly dismiss anyone’s faith just because they don’t fit our idea of what a person of faith should be. The people of faith can (and do) turn up in the most unlikely places, even in a place that God has devoted to destruction. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses reminded them that:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Deut 7:1-2 (ESV)

These were Joshua’s marching orders when Israel crossed the Jordan, but something unexpected was about to happen. Unknown to Joshua, there was a prostitute in Jericho called Rahab. She was a native Canaanite; the bumper stickers on her chariot said “Got Walls?” and “I heart Jericho.” At the same time she was also different from everyone else in Jericho; she may live in Jericho, but she was not of Jericho as we shall see. This difference is what would save her life.

Joshua had sent two spies into Canaan to scout the land, and he was particularly interested in Jericho, which was known for its thick and high walls. The spies were found out in Jericho and took refuge in Rahab’s house. Rahab misled the searchers and told them the spies had already left. As they were settling in for the night, Rahab told the spies:

 I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Josh 2:9-11 (ESV)

Let’s examine some things here. We should note that everyone in Jericho was aware of what God had done for Israel. They all knew about what happened at the Red Sea and the fate of the Amorite kings Sihon and Og. Now that the spies of Israel have been discovered scouting their city; it can only be a prelude to an attack. Look at how the news was received. On the one hand, there were the inhabitants of Jericho whose hearts melted with fear when they heard the things the Lord did for Israel. They looked at things naturally, so they were in dread and fear of what was ahead for them; they had no hope and they saw no way to escape what was coming.

On the other hand, there was Rahab. She was also concerned about the immanent attack, but her reaction was entirely different. If she had the same mind as her countrymen, she could have made herself a hero by turning in the spies, but she welcomed the spies in peace instead. She saw things differently, so she had a spark of hope that it was possible the destroying army would pass her by. She implored the spies to treat her father’s house with kindness:

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.

 Josh 2:12-13 (ESV)

The spies then told her what she must do to be saved:

The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear.  Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Josh 2:17-21 (ESV)

Faith is the difference between the Rahab and her countrymen. The people of Jericho wanted to capture the spies, which would be the natural thing to do. Rahab welcomed them in peace by her faith. When she hid the spies by faith, she received a good report in the camp of Israel, and Joshua gave the army instructions concerning Rahab and all who were in her house, so that the destroying army would pass her by. The people of Jericho tried to find safety behind their walls, but by faith Rahab followed the spies’ instructions and saved her household. The people of Jericho lived in fear about the coming destruction because they looked at things naturally (without faith aka empirical observation), but Rahab had hope because she looked at the situation with eyes of faith. Jericho was destroyed, but  Rahab survived and lived in Israel; she even appears in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Himself: “and Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” Matt 1:5-6 (ESV). Her faith made her a child of Abraham.

We can see from this that the Abraham’s children really do appear as the most unlikely people and in the strangest places. Even though Rahab was a prostitute and lived in the midst of a people marked for destruction (which would seem to disqualify her from being considered a person of faith), she survived the destruction of Jericho because she had faith, which the world considers foolish. This confirms what Scripture tells us:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

1 Cor 1:26-29 (ESV)

Jesus told the Jews that “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” John 8:39 (ESV). What did Abraham do? He believed God, and as a result of his faith God considered him righteous. Rahab really was a child of Abraham because she also did the works of Abraham. Rahab was also considered righteous because of her faith, and she experienced a type of Passover in Jericho. Don’t believe the arguments of science that mock your faith as irrelevant and unenlightened. Faith is life giving; it is the difference between life and death for all of us.

Why mention all of this? We will need faith now more than ever because there is another time of trouble that is coming on all who live on the earth. It will be the worst time in the history of humanity. In the last days Jesus tells us:

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Luke 21:25-26 (ESV)

When this time comes, some people will look at the events happening around them and literally faint with fear like the people of Jericho. Empirical observation will not bring hope for them because it is not faith based. On the other hand, some people will look up with joy and hope when these same events happen because faith has assured them what will happen; they know their redemption is almost here. Faith made the difference for Rahab, and faith is what will make the difference for us also. The time to prepare for all of this is now. Got faith?

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