Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I know, it probably should be “Christmas and me”. Or is it “Christmas and I”?

You decide, as I talk about this unique phenomenon we call “Christmas” as seen through the lens of my heart.

There are questions within the community of sincere believers as to whether this event warrants nearly the focus it gets, especially when compared to the world-changing end result: our Savior’s blood being shed for our cleansing and to make a way for us to be saved, His rising from the dead and opening a door for us to have new life.  The joy that accompanies the recognition of Him pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh is the celebration of the Promise of the Father which was shed forth as prophesied, first in Acts chapter 2, then throughout the time of the Apostles, down through human history, and then in my heart.

It is, I understand, impossible to make a case for the way Christmas is observed being in the Word. But is there a place for it, or could it be seen as serving some purpose?  I know we are not commanded to observe it, nor do I personally find a place where it is clearly forbidden (I know that line of thought opens a whole other set of questions). I realize there are people who feel very strongly about this issue and would be well prepared to enlighten all on the dangers of the celebration as it now stands.  I believe sincerely-held convictions should be kept, and anyone has the right to explain and defend them as they see fit.

It is just not my intention here to enter that debate, and I respectfully ask that it not be carried out in response to this little presentation of my perspective.

Christmas?

It surprises some who are out of the mainstream of Christian thought that there would be any question about whether Christians would celebrate Christmas. Please note, again, that I am not using this platform to offend anyone who has sincere convictions against any aspect of this celebration. I get that there are people who go into debt to impress people who care nothing about them, just because the season “calls” for gifts to be given. I get that people get deeper into their shame and ungodliness because tradition “calls” for a bigger party this time of year. I get that retailers make huge profits off the mania that entices parents to buy the latest and greatest and biggest and best for kids and grand-kids.

I even get that “Christmas” is not in the Bible, as “Easter” is.  There is no recorded instance of its being observed, as the Apostle Paul spoke of traveling to Jerusalem in time for Easter. And I get that the “-mas” part of the word was referring to the Catholic mass, which is far away from my idea of “church”.  At the time it became a celebration, though, “mass” was the only recorded type of service being held, as the officially recognized church body (and the one that created the narrative of history in that time period) was the Roman Catholic church.

When the prophesied Gift was first given, it was, in fact, only recognized by a host of angels in the heavens who chose to reveal it to a few shepherds, and later by wise men from the East who followed a star. So why would someone whose faith draws the lines between herself and the world a lot further back than most people even consider dipping a toe in the pool of Christmas celebrations as they are today?

Why indeed?

Because HE CAME.

The God of Heaven, Who created all things by His Word, chose to robe Himself in flesh and come to the world: the frail, foil-able humans He made, who couldn’t seem to get it right no matter how hard they tried.  That was the moment that all of the world — all of history  — changed.  Forever.

The fact that He chose to keep the advent of His power-robed-in-flesh almost a secret in the beginning makes it all the more powerful. It would be easy here to review so many prophecies that were fulfilled by the way He came: the place, the time, the kings (wise men) coming to the “brightness of His rising”– the magi who followed the star — the wrath of Herod seeking to destroy Him and bereaving Rachel of her children in the process…

The balance of this post could cover those.  As I’m referring to my perspective, let me just say that studying how those things fell perfectly into place, whether or not it was understood that way at the moment by those involved, brings welling-up joy to my spirit.

Listing my favorite scriptures along this line would be a worth-while use of my time and yours. I’ll suffice it, though, with my very favorite, Isaiah 9:6:  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Did you hear that? The Mighty God. The Everlasting Father.

I have elaborated elsewhere on where this scripture fits in our understanding of Who it was that came.

But my goal in the time I have your attention as a reader (if that hasn’t already run out) is to shed light on another aspect: what happens to the world at this time of year.  Yes, I said, the world.

It’s different at Christmas

We have the sense that special things happen this time of year.  To what degree that perspective is influenced by sweet stories thought up by writers like me is difficult to determine> But still, I believe special things do happen around Christmas.  If people are going to think of their families, make an effort to be with them by any means possible, and in some cases reconcile long-held differences, this is more likely to happen during this season.  In all fairness, if families are going to split over whose house the grand-kids go to first, or how much to put on the credit card, this is also more likely to happen.

Still, there is a moment in the year when some stop to think, even on a shallow level, of something, and Someone, they would not otherwise think of. I believe the divide between man and Heaven grows thinner for a few days at this season, and that hearts can be enticed to consider something they otherwise are not wont to think of.  I submit that even the inappropriate addressing of this season by some still serves to point to the fact that it exists, for better or for worse.

I submit that the most amazing thing about Christmas is that it happens, year after year.  Somewhere around Thanksgiving we begin to turn our hearts from the mundane of what our schedule requires to consider a wonder beginning to take place.  In the book that launches the Pevensie children into Narnia — The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — a sad state of affairs where evil’s grip has imposed a cold so pervasive that it is “always winter but never Christmas” begins to subtly change as Aslan, the figure whose presence represents a redeemer, begins to make his influence known in that land.  Ice begins to thaw, snow turns to slush, and soon sunshine, green grass, and flowers appear.  That phenomenon parallels what I begin to feel as the season draws near, and I ponder the wonder of what happened when He came, and what occurs every year at the remembrance of it.

Is this okay?

So what about the weird, wild, or crazy things that people are doing in the name of Christmas? Is that okay? I somewhat believe people keep – or don’t keep – Christmas according to what’s already in their hearts.  Those who have chosen debauchery as a lifestyle, choose that at Christmas-time as well.  Those who are choosing to seek the Holy One the rest of the year are seeking how to honor Him best during this time.  And those who aren’t sure how to please Him, but sincerely want to know, are those who most are needing His touch. I submit that touch is best made transferred through the hands and hearts of those of us who know Him.  Whatever our choices are at this season, let them be made with a love and adoration that is a real and true reflection of the truth of God that will work in any month of the year.

I was blessed to get a degree in psychology and sociology for my undergraduate studies.  That didn’t qualify me to do a whole lot, but to observe how we tend to think and behave, both individually and in groups.  One of the most convincing aspects of there being a reality to Christmas is how we change at this “most wonderful time of the year”. You can’t deny people start to look at things differently; there’s some joy here and there, some kindness, and some caring.  Please know that I’m not such a Pollyanna that I only see the good.  I realize that losses and sadness and loneliness are much more keenly felt as well, but only (I believe) because there is so much joy that surrounds this season until the lack of expected joy seems so cruel to those who don’t have it.

Even efforts to stamp out the phrase “Merry Christmas” from the lips of employees calls attention to the fact that there is a “Christmas” to be celebrated at all.  It really doesn’t matter to me if they say Merry Christmas or “Happy Holidays”, as this most special one falls within a trio that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.  Collectively it’s easier to wish someone joy for all than for each one separately.  Let each person say what fits their conscience.  They’re not going to damage Christmas, in my opinion.

The joy

There is much more that could be said, but it’s Christmas, and we don’t all have our presents wrapped yet.  Just think on this: in the midst of the self-imposed craziness — because we try in good faith to do more than we possibly have time to do — turn your heart upward for a moment, and say, “Thank you, God, that You came. Teach me to joy in your presence and to honor You with my observance of that awesome moment in history.”   I believe the God Who instituted seven separate times of feasting for His chosen people in the Old Testament will not necessarily take offense that we have a celebration over His coming to earth to redeem us from our sins.

I truly wish you and yours a most blessed and joyous holiday season, and especially a glorious remembrance that He came.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Read it again, Mommy.”

I really don’t remember the number of times, but I know they were many. I picture where they all took place.  As we snuggled in for bedtime reading after family prayer, my young daughter would ask for the story about the three Hebrew children of Daniel chapter 3.  For several weeks it was the only story she wanted to hear.

We began to feel we were marching in with Nebuchadnezzar’s guests: the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces. The melodic names of instruments danced off our tongues: the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music.  You remember the story, right? The beautiful tones signaled the throng to bow themselves and worship the Babylonian king’s enormous golden image.

The most memorable part, of course, was the choice of the three young men, dubbed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo — captives, exiles, cut off from their opportunity to worship God as they knew to do, but elevated to the king’s ministry by their distinction above his other ministers. These worshipers of the One True Living God stood up to Nebuchadnezzar and declared that they would not bow, that their God was able to deliver them, and this: “But if not, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not bow.” They would be delivered, or else they would die, but they would not surrender.

In May, 1940, 350,000 British and Allied troops faced certain destruction when they became trapped at the port city of Dunkirk, France. The Nazi Blitzkrieg had just raced across that country and outmaneuvered what were thought to be impenetrable defenses. It appeared the entire British Expeditionary Force — practically all of Britain’s army — was about to be annihilated, along with thousands of others standing in defense of Europe against Hitler’s maniacal aggression.

The story is told of a British commander who telegraphed this simple message to his homeland: “But if not”.  The intent was instantly recognized.  The troops desired, of course, to be rescued; they wanted to avoid the destruction heading their way. But whether it came or it didn’t come, they would not bow, they would never surrender.

In this case, as in the original story, help did come.  Their choice of response to certain death galvanized a rescue effort that came to be known as “The Miracle of Dunkirk”. The inadequate number of military vessels in the harbor were joined by private fishing boats, yachts, lifeboats, rowboats, and any other craft that could be floated, ferrying 338,000 men to safety. An equally brave force stayed behind to engage the enemy and delay its advance.

As of this writing, we in the U.S. who worship the One True Living God remain comfortably isolated from the choice faced by those three Hebrew boys.  “Turn from your faith or die” doesn’t often come up on this shore. Believers in other parts of the world face it daily.  Do you realize that there will come a day when no one is spared? Whether that comes in our lifetime or not, we must not see this persecution as to whether it effects “us” or “them”.  True followers of our Master know that the Body of Christ has no geographic boundaries, and that when one member suffers, all suffer. At the minimum, we must pray for those in persecution’s grip today, advocate for them where we can, and assist in any way that is opened to us.  But for Biblical prophecy to come to pass, as it seems to be rapidly doing, we must wake ourselves from slumber and recognize that the current state of things will not always be.

We must be ready to die.

How does that make you feel? Have you thought lately that the way the world is shaping up, where hackers can access your bank account at any time they set their sights on it, where the most closely-guarded servers have to repel attacks continuously, where illegal drugs, guns, and terrorists’ weapons of choice are traded daily beneath the radar of law enforcement, there is coming a day when “the solution” will be introduced?  I posted on Facebook after the bombings in Paris that terrorized people become willing to accept greater controls over their liberty than those who feel they securely occupy their land.

This is not a exegesis on the book of Revelation, but the most elementary student of the Bible knows that a time is coming when no one can buy nor sell without something that is imposed upon them, stamped into their flesh, which allows them to continue to participate in commerce as they did before.  I could go on for awhile about how much more immediately relevant those prophecies seem today than when I first believed 30 years ago (for example, the idea that those who refuse the mark will be beheaded sounded symbolic for execution in general back then, as I wasn’t aware of much beheading being done since the French Revolution of the 18th century; it is a gruesome daily event in many areas today.)

Being inflammatory is a great way to get people to read and respond to what you are saying.  I try to avoid that cheap trick at all costs.  You either read someone’s blog because it speaks to you, or else you move on to something that does. But if God has given me a platform to have others consider anything He wants them to be thinking on, then there are times when the only option is to stand and say, “This is what the Word says, and we must hear and consider its implications for our own lives.”

I say again, “We must be ready to die.” That is the only way to face the “mark of the beast”. Many are prepping for a breakdown of the things we know.  But stores of things will not only run out, they will also make the owners targets.  After they run out, then what? Have we gained that much by extending our security just a little? Many who experienced the devastating floods in Louisiana weren’t “preppers” as the term has become popular, but had enough to spare and to share. In 24 hours time, they had nothing but the help of others to rely on.  I say that not in any way to be critical, for we should do the best we can with what we’re given, but it amazed me how quickly even the fruits of wise living evaporated before our eyes; as even as lives were forever changed.

In the days to come, we would be the most thankful that we were spending these days not prepping by storing up things, but by getting our hearts ready. Ready to live without our mobile devices and technology, because the God who sent Philip to find the Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot without a GPS can bring to us the information we need when we walk in His Spirit.  Ready to not know where the next meal is coming from, because the God Who sent the ravens to feed his prophet knows where we live. Ready to face uncertainty about our family members, because we were already told that when we truly follow our Master, we are taking up a Cross — something He gave up His life on — and putting Him ahead of father, mother, sister, brother, and child.  Again, this isn’t a “somewhere in the bye and bye” for many who profess Christianity today.  Crucifixions are regularly carried out by ISIS, as but one of their gruesome execution methods.

If we are ready to leave this world if deliverance doesn’t come, and if we are full of His Spirit when the final choices come, then when we refuse the mark of the Beast, we must understand that we will live as long as He wants us to — sustained by a raven if that’s what He chooses, or martyred for His glory. You see, the story of the Gospel is that sometimes the “bad guys win”, but only for a night.  Joy — eternal joy — comes in the morning, but only if the corn of wheat falls to the earth and dies.  I know I could have written about many more enjoyable things today, and God willing, I will do so again.  But it is most needful that we look at the reality of the scriptures, and the world around us.  Pastor Bowen has talked of being stirred much in the past few months to pray that God will help us be ready for what is coming on the church.  God doesn’t waste that kind of stirring.  Be uncomfortable.  Stir yourself to seek God.  Make up your mind that now will be the time you will begin to dig more deeply and if necessary, to forsake all and follow Him.  You will never – now or in eternity – be sorry you did so.

Read Full Post »

This isn’t a post about being without earthly possessions, though it wouldn’t be a bad thing to call attention to — there are certainly people in that situation.

Instead it’s a reference to a message Bro. Aaron Dutton preached recently, and its after-affects in my heart. I’ll try not to ruin the message for any who might have the chance to hear him preach it elsewhere, but its effect was profound.

Jacob, the son of Isaac and father of the twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, had spent many years in the certainty that the coat he had been given one terrible day was evidence that he would never see his beloved son Joseph alive again. Joseph was Jacob’s obvious favorite, the first son of the wife he most loved, and the jealous older brothers had chosen to finally remedy themselves of this thorn in their sides by selling him to a band of traders — making him a slave — when Joseph had been sent by Jacob to see how they were doing with the sheep they were tending. For a cover once they’d done the deed, Joseph’s beautiful coat, the very symbol of his father’s favor, was dipped in animal blood and taken home for whatever conclusions his father would draw from seeing it. The evidence was strong enough to convince the heartbroken jury of one that it was over. Joseph was never coming back.

We spend a lot of time sure of some “never’s” in our lives, as well.
But there would come a day when Jacob was told that the “dead” son was in fact very much alive and was sending for Jacob to come to where he was. He looked up and saw the evidence with his own eyes: a stream of wagons Joseph had sent for him, loaded with provisions for the journey to Egypt, where Joseph was now second ruler over all the kingdom, with enough corn for their starving family to survive the rest of the famine.

O, joyous day when that “evidence” he’d clung to in sorrow was proven to have been a lie! He would never have to wonder again, never have to listen to the false testimony of that coat again! His eyes had seen the proof.

There have been times in a period of prolonged difficulty that I’ve felt joy, I’ve seen my faith rise, and known God was telling me that He would in fact have His way in the end of my difficult situation. He would answer. He would work. I’ve even seen times where there were results, breakthroughs, that seemed as though the end of the long dark period was at hand. But I’ve seen things appear to slip through my fingers, again. A new layer at times added to complicate the situation.

And when I looked down, it appeared what I had left … was still that coat.

You see, the only thing Jacob had for years and years was the coat. Joseph was out there somewhere. But Jacob had no idea; he only had Joseph’s bloody coat. What could Jacob have done? We only read about his decision to grieve until he died, refusing all comfort. The sons who had so cleverly ridded themselves of a troublesome brother had also lost their father in the process. He was never the same again, and they were no more in his favor than when Joseph was among them.

Great loss, and great trouble, can bring great burdens. Jacob had those things to deal with. But would he have had a choice in his response? Consider the situation that came upon Job. Could Job have also said, “I will go to my grave grieving for my sons and daughters?” Of course he could have, and all the world would have said that was appropriate. But we are forever inspired by Job’s responses: “The LORD giveth, and the LORD taketh away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

I know that I serve the God who made Heaven and Earth, who robed Himself in flesh so that He could come and shed His own blood for my sinful soul, the God who found a way to reach fallen man, and fill us with His Spirit, and walk with us daily, to shed His love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. Is anything too hard for God?

Does it matter if I’m looking at the wagons or the coat today? Can I be like the widow before the unjust judge who just kept showing up at the place where her help was coming from? Can I be like the Syrophonecian woman who turned the refusal of Jesus to heal her daughter into her miracle, by simply saying “Yes, Lord…”, and that hour received what she was so desperate to have?

I know that my Redeemer liveth. If things are to be fixed, they will be fixed by His power, His hand, His Spirit, His Word, and in His way and His time. His question was, “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith in the the Earth?”

From Jacob’s story, I can conclude that when all I have is a coat, I can know that my God is still working on my behalf. I don’t know when the wagons are going to come. But I believe there’re dust and rattling wheels in the distance. As Job also said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him.” God loves me, and He will not fail, and I can choose to worship and praise Him when I cannot see. The coat does not have to steal my joy.

There may be more days with no good news, days that continue to come for weeks or months or even years after the message we’ve heard preached that inspired us to high hopes.

Yes, there will be days when all we have in our hands is a coat. How do we walk through those days? As though in our hearts, we can see the wagons that are on the way.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Read Full Post »

Maybe I should have packed faster. Then I could have pleaded with Joseph to leave sooner. We should have had a room…

 

Maybe I should have asked those kings why myrrh was brought to my baby. People are buried, wrapped in myrrh. Maybe I should have sent that back home with them. It always made me wonder…

 

Maybe I should have pressed the man Simeon to tell me what he meant about that sword piercing my heart. If I had understood then, maybe I could have changed something, somewhere, somehow…

 

Maybe I should have spoken to those doctors of the Law my son was out-talking in the Temple. Three days it had taken us to find him once we’d discovered he wasn’t with our family on the way home from the feast. I could have told them that up til then he’d just been a good obedient boy; he was just a boy. But that strange reply when we rebuked him,that he had to be about his Father’s business… Still, maybe I should have explained more. Maybe I could have kept them from later growing so angry when the grown-up Jesus told them what they didn’t want to hear in front of those they’d been trying to impress. Maybe they wouldn’t have wanted him dead so badly…

 

Maybe I should have just let that wedding feast go down in dishonor. I knew what he could do, and I was anxious for others to know. He told me his hour wasn’t yet come. Maybe if I hadn’t pushed him…

 

Maybe I should have elbowed my way into that home the day he refused to come out and talk with me and his brothers. We’d heard the Pharisees were working on a plan to kill him. They were calling him a devil. I needed to talk to him, and I just wanted him to step outside. Just a private moment with his mother, to warn him, to talk with him about his teachings that were upsetting so many. If something wasn’t done, this wasn’t going to end well. But his words, “Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?” Then, pointing to those disciples in the room, he’d even gone on to say, “Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” I was so embarrassed and stunned. I just quietly left. But if I could have gotten over myself, persisted as some of those women who needed something from him had done, maybe it could have all changed right there …

 

Maybe I should have been willing to go and try again after John was imprisoned and killed. I should have understood these people would stop at nothing…

 

Maybe I should have died trying to tear him off that cross. They would have speared me and kept on with their mocking, never missing a beat. But wouldn’t that have been better that watching him die? There was nothing left for me to do, but to wonder over all the things that maybe I should have done before. The pitiful form with no resemblance to who he was; the groaning, the agony. From the glorious beginning with the angel in my room, how could so many things have gone so horribly wrong? The gift I was trusted to give life to, to nourish and to nurture, for God Almighty to be born in flesh: I must have been the worst failure God could have chosen for the mother of the man Christ Jesus. Somehow that day, through bloodied eyes, he had seen me there. He had given me to John, who took me home from that day. I had sons left. But John believed. Maybe I should have understood what he was trying to tell us all sooner…

 

Maybe I should have been the first one at the tomb on the third day. Mary Magdalene was there. She was with him at every opportunity while he lived. From the time her sinful wretched life was changed by his word, when seven devils had left her by his mercy and power, nothing could turn her away. I kept hearing he’d been seen by the disciples. I should have made sure I was with them at least once. I would love to have seen him more, before…

 

Now it’s been ten days since we saw him go up into the Heavens in a cloud. He told us to tarry for the promise of the Father, and I came with the eleven disciples and the other faithful women. I watched Peter and the others of the eleven choose a disciple to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus to the murderous crowd. We have prayed earnestly and fervently day after day, but most of the five hundred who were there on the hillside have already gone away. Maybe I should have done more to make them stay. There are only one hundred and twenty of us here now. Is there some reason we haven’t seen anything happen yet? What else I should have done…?

 

But now, what is this? Something is changing. I feel something inside that I’ve never known — or have I? It’s like what I felt whenever He was near me! What I felt when he spoke! When he healed! When he touched me! Tongues of fire are on each of our heads, and there’s a sound of a rushing mighty wind! Languages we’ve never learned to speak are pouring from all our lips! I don’t understand what I’m saying, but some in the crowd are beginning to understand — I’m speaking in their language about the wonderful works of God!

 

Oh, glory to God! This has to be what he promised, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you… He that believeth on me as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water…” This is the Comforter he spoke of when he said,”…ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you…” He is here! He is in me and speaking forth! Oh joy and wonder!

 

This is why he came! I see it now — all of it! It was as it had to be. I was not failing him, I just didn’t understand why he came the way he did, lived the way he did, and why it all changed so when he began to preach. He died the only way he could die to take my sin and the sins of the world, and it was all for this!

 

Peter is beginning to preach, “…this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, …In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” He is showing them through the history of our people that Jesus answers all the prophesies about the Messiah!

 

The crowd is convicted; they see who it is they have killed, as Peter says, “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. They ask what they must do. Peter is replying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call…” Even his killers are being baptized in Jesus name and this Holy Ghost is filling them just like it has us!

 

This is what he came to do. This is what it all was for. This is why I brought forth my firstborn son and laid him in a manger…

 

And I can see the real story is just beginning…

Read Full Post »

9/11 is our modern “day that will live in infamy”.  Like the first day to be so designated, it probably didn’t have to happen.  in-depth research by the 9/11 Commission revealed gaps in communication among agencies, lack of immigration enforcement, and failure to heed warnings that certain individuals posed a threat, among many other factors. In our wildest collective national dreams, no one could picture illegal immigrants, trained as pilots on our soil, wreaking total havoc on businessmen and women, simply “guilty” of going to work, and on grandparents travelling to see their grandkids. To a deadly degree, we underestimated our enemy.

And we haven’t stopped.

We expect of our government a level of excellence in detecting and immobilizing threats to both national and local security. If a Boston Marathon Bombing or a Shoe Bomber incident occurs, we demand answers as to why they couldn’t prevent such an attack or near-attack, and rightfully so. But I warrant there is an Enemy many are still underestimating, perhaps even some who read this.

A new way to die

I remember quite clearly on Tuesday evening, 9/11/2001, after our church’s specially called prayer meeting, turning to a fellow church member  and stating,”We learned a new way to die today…Go to work and sit at your desk until a plane-load of innocent people crash through your building.” Why did I say that? Because we had never thought of that being a way to die before that date, but we can never think the same about security at work, or anywhere else, again.

Notwithstanding the political implications of failing to learn from the past, I certify you that many people seem unsuspecting that the Enemy of our souls could still be using weapons of mass deception, which he introduced in ancient times, even on us. Consider this:

All the same

When Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh, and Aaron cast down his rod, as God had directed Moses in the wilderness as a sign that God was with him, the rod became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians  immediately threw down their rods, which also became serpents. How? By God’s power? Of course not. By Satan’s power?  Well, there are only two options, and we’ve ruled out the other one, don’t you agree?

So are God’s power and Hell’s power equal? Absolutely not! The rod of Aaron ate up the rods of the magicians — a demonstration of superiority that the pharaoh-worshipping, God-hating, heathen magicians could not mimic.  Would the demonstration of two powers have appeared to be equal, initially, to the untrained observer? Absolutely!   

Now, consider who we’re talking about here: The sworn Enemy of God Almighty, and the sworn Enemy of your soul. Yet so many live life as if this Enemy would never use such a trick again. He would never allow some doctrine or religious system that is not of God, but claims to believe in all the tenants of Christianity, to produce signs and wonders and good feelings and good works, again. If people are basically good and they do good works and they feel something they believe with all their heart is God, then to many, it becomes vicious, self-righteous, judgement to suggest that they are not truly following God according to His Word.

They underestimate our Enemy.

The origin of what appear to be options

The root theology of many religious groups today, including the Catholic Church and all mainline denominations that branched off during the Protestant Reformation (this includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc.), is to insist that the Godhead is best understood as a trinity, and that failing to stand on this idea is heresy. What is not taught is where and when the doctrine emerged.  

For the period of history covered by the Book of Acts,  through around 64 A.D.,  the primary teaching of the church was that the true implementation of Jesus’ charge to the disciples to go into all the world, making “disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”, was to baptize in the one name that encompasses all of these: Jesus (see Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 19:5). A wealth of scriptures explain how they knew the “name of Jesus” had to be what Jesus meant by what He said.

Yet, over time, the exact thing that Jesus and the Apostles warned believers  would happen after their time on earth not only began to happen, but multiplied:  “Beware of false prophets…” (Jesus – Matthew 7:15), “After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you…speaking perverse things…” (Paul – Acts 20:29-30), “…there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies…” (Peter – 2 Peter 2:1), “For there are certain men crept in unawares…denying…our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Jude – Jude 4), “For many deceivers are entered into the world…” (John – 2 John 7).   By the second century, the voices that clamored for a shift from baptism in Jesus’ name to a formula that incorporated the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost, no doubt insisted that nothing was to be lost, but rather gained, for the Early Church by making this change. (Note that the Book of Acts records no baptisms being performed where these titles were used in place of the name of Jesus for baptizing believers). By the third century, the new doctrine was becoming law, and the original doctrine was beginning to be excluded from the official debate.  Didn’t Jesus warn his disciples: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake?” (Matthew 10:22, 24:9,Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17)

Though it is impossible for both ideas to be right (i.e., baptizing exclusively in the name of Jesus vs. baptizing in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), they were put forth to believers, first perhaps as being equal, then as the trinitarian formula being superior, somehow, to the “only name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved”, Jesus (Acts 4:11-12).  Though there is much to be said on the formula for baptism and the understanding of God as One, notice what happened in history around the time the relatively new doctrine was adopted as the official one at the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D. The Great Persecution of the church, under the Roman Empire, ceased around that time. The Council had been convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine, with the stated intention of bringing “unity” to the church.  The doctrine of One God whose name is Jesus, (called “modalism” by theologians) was outlawed, and documents supporting it destroyed. It continued to be reported on from time to time by opponents continuing to work to stamp it out. 

Is it uncomfortable to think that banning baptism in the name of Jesus, in favor of one that leaves out the only saving Name, was the price paid by the powerful Early Church and its descendents, for being relieved of persecution?  Not all of them took this option, of course, but the records of their history is sparse, as noted above. Is it odd at all to you to believe that the actions of the Apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts were supposed to be overridden by later theologians? Does it seem most likely that what God really meant by the Great Commission was not truly discovered until 200-300 years after Calvary? Or does it seem possible that this is a duplicated “rod-serpent”, put forth to distract from the original?

Does the idea that the basic theology of your church, if it does not insist on baptism in Jesus’ name exclusively, and the teaching of God as One, and not a trinity, descended from this act (which essentially instituted the Catholic church as we know it)? It is incredible for you to believe that your Enemy could have pulled off an illusion of this proportion on modern society, to the point that good people fight against the original doctrine of the Apostles (or at least bristle at the suggestion that it should now be taught and followed exclusively)? If so, then you have seriously, and perhaps tragically, underestimated your Enemy.

So your basis for being sure you are right, and this is wrong, is the fact that you feel so strongly about what you’re doing, and are surrounded by others who are the same.  Is that a safe basis for being sure the doctrine of the Apostles is no longer the only doctrine safe to base your eternity on?  Can I share with you that I have friends and former co-workers who are just as adamant about their conversions to Mormon theology and the Jehovah’s Witnesses as I am to what I say and as you are to what you say?  They are faithful to what they believe and recount with excitement their conversions to what most readers of this blog — whether they share its theology or not — would consider false doctrine. I realize they teach a different view of Jesus and hell and other things than mainline denominations, but they are sincere and are good people, the same argument many use to justify their unwillingness to change or investigate the scriptures behind the One God theology.

An ever-evolving threat

Shortly after the birth of my daughter, the fear of potential harm caused me to pack a bag and leave the home I’d rented for a number years in the hands of the husband who had joined me there, just three years before.  Most of the possessions that meant anything to me were necessarily left behind.  As the separation became prolonged, and legal options for protection led to the unsavory process of divorce, several people questioned the safety of my things still quartered where an angry and unpredictable man was dwelling.  I confidently replied that what I knew of him was that he of all things was not a thief, and I truly believed with his other considerable deeds and potential ones that his pride would not lead him to taking what was not his.  You learn a lot about someone during a divorce.  Once a court decree finally restored those things to me, some of them that I treasured most were marred permanently from being hid in a location somewhere that exposed them to moisture. I had grievously underestimated one who should not have been, but had become, my enemy.

People often cling to a belief that is being challenged, because of their not being sure of the alternative.  They are somewhat comfortable with what they know, even when it does not fully fit the facts presented. Often, someone becomes interested in seeking a change, or more truth, for a time, but are unsure of where to safely inquire about it. That is a real concern.  Every flavor of “Pentecost” that Satan can dream up and is still dreaming up, has been evolving for nearly two thousand years: those who seem to worship as Pentecostals, but still teach a trinitarian form of baptism; those who teach Baptism in Jesus name, though not exclusively, and with no standard of separation from the world; and those who teach the doctrine and a standard of separation, but have no true balance, no joy, or have been affected by the tares Jesus spoke of, to the point that people are made merchandise of, and those who associate with their churches are left bitter toward even the real, true church, should they find one. But there are still those that have the power of the Holy Ghost flowing in them, with sincere and unpretentious worship, and  alignment with the commandments of the Apostles to baptize in the name of the One who bought our salvation with His blood.

Know the real

You know –if you’ve read the Book of Acts–that teachings of the Early Church are different from your own, if you’re part of a religious group that insists on the trinitarian formula for baptism.  Two thousand years’ worth of theologians’ reasons why this shouldn’t bother you have been thrown at you up to this point. But make no mistake: day after day, someone is being taught a Bible study about the foundations of the Apostles’ doctrine and why it applies today, and is seeing that they were misled by their denominational teaching up to that point. If you feel any curiosity at all about what you’ve read, and if you’ve never had someone who believes that baptism in Jesus’ Name is the only saving message, and who lives a life that you could point to as being separated from the world, and possessing the power that God intended for the church to have, to sit down with scriptures and show you what they base that belief on, you owe it to yourself to seek that out. 

You may contact me through the Comments section of this blog, the Contact tab of this website, email me at SusanJenkinsMS@gmail.com, or visit our church, First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ in Bay Springs, (www.fpcbaysprings.com)  if you’re in this local area.  I challenge you to size up your Enemy, and make sure he hasn’t pulled you in with one of the oldest tricks in his book.

Read Full Post »

Last year, on this commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wrote my thoughts on the State of the Dream, all those years later. I’d briefly like to revisit that idea.

LIBERTY

Our country in general enjoys a liberty that was purchased by the blood of others.  From the American Revolution to the Greatest Generation to the brave men and women sacrificing to keep us free from radical Islamists today, their work has carved out a country where we have the liberty to agree or disagree, to raise our families in the faith of our choice, to push and fight and work and sweat and gain more than we ever thought we could have — because of freedom purchased with blood.

Dr. King fought persecution and stood for the ideals of liberty for an oppressed people, that he eventually gave his life fighting to achieve.  I credit him and others like him with the fact that years ago the disgusting physical signs of senseless separation have been obliterated from society, and justly so.  We have to ask ourselves the question, though “Did the heirs of the dream get all he lived and died to attain?”

If breaking the chains that seemed so permanent when he marched and preached and addressed the nation so eloquently was what he came to do, then the answer would be a resounding “yes”. Institutional prejudice is simply not tolerated in this day and time, where in his day it was insisted upon and maintained. If changing the willingness of the majority to treat the minority with respect where it’s due was part of it, the answer still would be a “yes”.  Living right in the heart of Mississippi, “Yes, sir” is dispensed where appropriate regardless of race, though in my childhood it was certainly not so.

REVOLUTION

I recently re-read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, set in England and France during the period of the bloody French Revolution.  It is not easy reading, and certainly not for the faint of heart or the immature, but I recommend it as a classic that has endured for a reason.   A bitterly repressed and cruelly abused underclass of people, who were seen to exist solely for the sake of the aristocrats, as slaves were once viewed in this country, had no hope. They weren’t technically “owned”, but may as well have been for all the options they had on improving their situation. They had no political voice or political power whatsoever. The rulers of their day were unable to see that the boiling point for that “underclass” of people was near, until the pent-up rage exploded and brought down the King of France and all the established religious and political society in cruel fashion.

I have often credited Dr. King and others who insisted on nonviolent approaches to the inequalities of his day with avoiding a bloody civil war or conflict in our country.  Heaven knows it was bloody enough as it was, but what could have been did not materialize.  In that sense, the excesses of a revolution were avoided. But there is an aspect of the French Revolution that was captured by Dickens, through his character Madam Defarge, that  bears looking at.  Once the threats of real opposition to the underclass had been annihilated by the revolutionaries through summary executions at the guillotine, the architects of the overthrow seemed to have no further plan than continued annihilation. Rather than finding a place to rebuild and start to support meaningful advancements for those they were supposed to fight for, they began to arrest others for the slightest “crime” (passing many laws and making the appearance of any dissent to their cause punishable by heinous death). When Madame Defarge, the prime mover in Dickens’ account of the Revolution, is questioned by her husband  about “a place to stop”,  Madame Defarge’s response is, “Tell Wind and Fire where to stop, but don’t tell me.” Though the story reveals how her history of wrong suffered had built the bitterness up in her soul, the result, in the story and of stories like hers in the reality, was devastation that healed nothing.

History bears out that the French Revolution began as something perhaps unavoidable under the circumstances, but snowballed into the Reign of Terror, where people who were not prepared to govern no longer knew what to do with themselves after seizing control, except to continue to exact judgement on the perceived persecution that long ago had been stamped out.  I realize any comparisons are minimal and potentially confounding to my point,  but to my personal observation, the real forces that once kept a Black man or woman with a true will to advance from prospering, as someone of another race with that same will could do, “died off” a long time ago (don’t tell Oprah — she wouldn’t understand).  The greater threat to liberty and prosperity for Black men and women I see is the perceived injustice fomented by a sector that simply doesn’t know what to do with itself if it can’t find a White majority enemy to name as the bad guy.  I don’t believe Dr. King gave his life for that.

REASON

I remember when I first read in school that had Abraham Lincoln been allowed to live and oversee the aftermath of the Civil War, the Reconstruction lunacy would not have occurred.  His desire was for a peaceful, orderly reconciliation that brought healing and growth to the nation.  Perhaps if Dr. King had been allowed to live and continue to speak into the gains made by the Civil Rights Act and similar successes, the true goal of his efforts — that an equal opportunity for advancement would exist, wherein people of all races were viewed for their abilities and achievements rather than the color of their skin — would have been championed, rather than what we have swirling around those actualities today: voices that continue to whisper “you’re not really free as long as anyone else has more than you do, however honestly they got it.”

I cannot say what I perceive in the world today, particularly in the political arena, more eloquently than Louisiana Senator Elbert Guillory did when explaining his switch of political parties within his state.  I implore you to hear what he has to say. I am not writing here about parties, because I see faults in all the political system, but one party has tended to hawk the idea that meaningful change sans permanent social programs is a blow to Black Americans.  I agree with the good Senator’s take on that. How can I view you as a capable, intelligent, responsible citizen, while simultaneously making long-term plans to feed and house you because I do not anticipate your becoming able to do so for yourself?  That is not the respect Dr. King sought.

REVERSE

So how are the heirs of the dream faring? Worsening social climates in the last few years, that inadvertently (or otherwise) encourage Black on White violent crimes and make young Black men and women think they are gaining something by doing so is a reproach to Dr. King’s legacy. Refusing to discuss the idea that free enterprise is a better way out of poverty than welfare would disgust him, I believe.

Nipping at one another over any disparaging remark made in public toward a Black person shuts down public dialogue, and shouts the message, “There is nothing about me that could be the basis of your disagreeing with me other than my race — in other words, I have no thoughts, no ideas, no personal habits or traits that could possibly spark your disagreement; there is nothing of substance to me other than the color of my skin.” I don’t believe that is the case for one second, but when certain voices who claim to represent the Black community lash out over any disagreement as though it must be racially motivated, they are in effect saying that very thing.  I can disagree with you on your dialogue and your ideas because that is what intelligent, intellectual people do: They dialogue, find areas of agreement and sort through their areas of disagreement.  They don’t smile and overlook what they don’t agree with for risk of offending the other party, for by doing so they would be dubbing that personal incapable of rational argument.

So, final thoughts? I think, sadly, it is quite possible that there was an arc of change sparked by Dr. King’s legacy that is now trending downward, because the very tools that some used to help press for change could not be abandoned when change came.  Senator Guillory says it’s because one group actually seeks to control another, but it’s not the group you think.  I pray there can be true change, but it comes with truly seeking the One who made us all, and truly submitting to His laws that are “of no respect of persons.”

Read Full Post »

THE MAGI AND THE GIFT

The journey…
We traveled far — led by a Star — from a land hungry for light,
To find the infant Hebrew King, whose glory rose so bright.
Gifts we’d chosen just for him – treasures of our land.
How could we think to see his face with only empty hands?
We’d brought him gold and frankincense – gifts of noble worth.
But the question gnawing in my heart was, “Why did we bring myrrh?”

“The gold I bring is fit for a king who’d reign o’er all the earth.
A sacrifice with frankincense proclaims his royal worth.
But myrrh is death’s anointing oil, though we’ve come to welcome new life.
How could sorrow’s pain be felt, this blessed joyous night?”

The meeting…
One look into the young child’s eyes – I knew three gifts would not suffice.
There’d have to be a sacrifice, for a wretched heart like mine…

“The gold we bring is fit for the King who’ll reign o’er all the earth!
A sacrifice with frankincense proclaims His Holy birth.
Still, myrrh is death’s anointing oil – such a gift, to welcome this child!
Yet is it sorrow’s pain I see, shining through his smile?”

The outcome…
But all of that was long ago, and now I have grown frail and old.
I’ve wondered often how the story’d go, and what the end would be.
Then today a man preached in our land how Jesus lived, and died, and rose again;
Ascended high to send to men, the Holy Ghost so free.
How a cruel cross once raised, became a symbol of men’s faith,
And myrrh on clothes left in a grave, said we can all go free!
Then I repented of my sins, washed in His name I’m cleansed within.
I lift my hands to welcome in, this Gift He sent to me!

The glory…
My praise I bring to worship the King, who reigns o’er all the earth!
The sacrifices of my lips – proclaim His Holy worth!
Death to myself was the only way, my soul could welcome new life!
Sorrow’s pain has turned to joy, like darkness in to light!
My darkness into light…
Our darkness into LIGHT!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Compassion Services International News

In Depth News from Compassion Services International

KennethBow's Blog

Ain't Life a Journey!

The Ballestero Blog

"That's what I'm talking about!"

Susan Jenkins Writer

Writing to serve...

%d bloggers like this: