Be it Unto Me: Thoughts on Mary’s story

If I could have known how the words I spoke that day would carry me through so many broken places, I am not sure I could have even uttered them then. But, oh the joy that has come from my surrender and my steps through paths that were unknown then!

Scene one

It was an angel! A real-live breathing, shining, frightening angel. I was no one. A young woman in a small town from a small family with no right to hear the words that he came to bring. Yet he was real, and his words struck my heart, touching something deep within me that I had not known was there until that moment. Feelings rose that I could not put into words. And when he showed me what was to come, what God had said what was going to be, I was amazed. But he answered my one question, “How can these things be?” He told me the Holy Ghost will do the work, and I believed wonderful things were about to unfold just as he said! There was nothing left for this simple handmaiden of the Lord to reply, except, “Be it unto me according to thy word!”

Scene two

Not here! Not now! Not in this horrible, nasty, crowded, confusion of a city with a census in full swing. Could I not have stayed where I had prepared to bring this God-touched child, this God-conceived holy one to birth? How could this happen? Have I already brought shame on my Lord who trusted me to carry this child? And yet here He is, my precious baby, Jesus! And yet still, shepherds – of all people, shepherds – are here surrounding this lowly manger to tell us that not one angel has appeared to them, but a whole heavenly host of angels filling the sky! The angels have told them that He is here! I see it. How could this not be the will of God, even as wrong and out of place as a birth in this stable seems to be? As far as it was from my plan? I must say, “Be it unto me!”

Scene three

Egypt! Why here? Our people were warned never to return to the land of our fathers’ captivity, and yet Joseph says an angel showed him this is where we are to be kept safe. It started with those wise men, majestic kings from the East bringing their unspeakably beautiful gifts. What riches! We had never seen such wealth in all our lives. They bowed in reverence to this precious child as to the true King of Kings! They even shared how they were led by a star to the very spot where we stayed with our young child.

But they had stopped to ask that wicked King Herod where He was. Oh, how long will we be here? The angel in Joseph’s dream said that Herod would be seeking Jesus’ life. Even now I have a horrible foreboding of what could have happened in Bethlehem after we left. Herod is so ruthless. Not one child would he spare in his desperate attempt to clutch his kingdom to himself. Whatever God’s plan for keeping this treasure He has brought into our lives safe from the enemy’s wiles, I can only say, “Be it unto me!”

Scene four

I do not understand. Crowds of people throng the house where He sits to teach. Is it safe? Is it wise to allow this to happen with the Romans about everywhere? Will they not at some point or another come here to see what is going on? These rulers, unlike the ones who were sitting within the temple when He was a boy of twelve, reasoning with them like the wisest of priests, now want to watch him, looking for every word they think might be wrong. Oh, would they not love an opportunity to turn Him over to the filthy clutches of those demonic soldiers who delight to do us hurt at every opprtunity? I must go to Him. I am His mother. If anyone can show him how he is putting himself at risk, His brothers and I must be the ones to speak reason unto Him.

Scene five

We are here at the house where too many are gathered. We cannot even get in at the door! I must have someone tell Him we are here. He will come for me.

How can this be? His only response to the summons that His mother and His brothers are here and waiting to talk to Him was, “Who is my mother? And who are my brothers?”

What is this? Who has He become? I know He would never have said these things when we were alone in our home where I raised Him and nurtured Him and cared for Him. How has He become this person who does not seem to value His own mother?

Yet, what He said – what was it? “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.” It recalls to me the moment when we understood that what we thought was disrespect, as He intentionally chose to stay behind without a word to us, knowing we were leaving Jerusalem: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” At only twelve years old He had put this thing He felt He must do ahead of our relationship. Is that what He is communicating to me now? “If you want to be among those who are close to me, it cannot be by hindering what I am doing or asking me to place any earthly kinship ahead of my calling. I must only do the work of my Father. Do you want to be a part of that, or will you stand on ceremony, insisting you are right, and not move closer to me?” Oh, dearest Jesus, I will go with you. I will follow you and not suggest that you must go my way. With all my heart I cry unto you now, “Be it into me according to thy word!”

Scene six

All my fears are coming true in one day. Arrested, beaten, and now, a cross! A cross! Oh, if only I could have saved him from this end. I knew they would not abide His teachings going against their authority forever. Even I could never have fathomed the depth of their hatred for Him. No more cruel death ever known than this. How can I even bear to look up at His bruised and bloodied face? And yet, I must! If I had not known him as my son, I could not even recognize him now! The words flood back to me of the aged Simon when we had brought our precious eight-day-old baby to be circumcised: “Yea, and a sword shall pierce thine own soul, also!” There were times I believed my pain was that prophecy coming true, but today there is no doubt left.

Oh, now He speaks to me! From his agony as He hangs there, he is mindful of me! “Woman, behold thy son,” and to His beloved disciple, John, “Son, behold thy mother.” Now John is here to comfort and support me, though he has no words. We are all broken together. I am a mother who submitted to the will of God for bearing a child conceived by the Holy Ghost. I do not understand how it could have come to this. Oh, how can it be, that in my heart swell the words that I uttered to the angel and to the God who sent him to me. With my head bowed in sorrow, my spirit somehow whispers, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

Scene seven

Risen! That tomb is empty! He has been seen now of over five hundred people! Ascended – caught up into the Heavens in the clouds. An angel was there, declaring, “…He shall come again in like manner…” Instructions to wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Father.

I must be there! I must receive this promise! I will not miss anything my risen Lord has asked me to do. As beautiful as it was when the Holy Ghost overshadowed me to conceive, what will it be like to receive the Holy Ghost as Jesus said?

An upper room. Fervent prayer. Then, tongues of fire! A rushing mighty wind! One hundred twenty of us all speaking in unknown tongues at once! Joy unspeakable and full of glory! No joy I have ever felt compares to the love, the flood of power and joy flowing out of my innermost being! It is truly the river of living water Jesus spoke of.

Peter is preaching to the amazed crowd who have gathered to hear and to see. He tells their convicted hearts what to do about their sin. They know now that they have crucified the Lord of Glory! He gives them hope: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

We are being baptized in the lovely name, the only saving name, the name of Jesus. Three thousand people today. This will grow and cover the whole earth as God desires.

I know the officials will fight against it, as they fought everything else that He did, but I know, too, that this is the reason why He came! I see it now. I understand all that He did, taught, and suffered was to bring us – even me – to this appointed time when God’s laws would be written in our hearts, and this precious Son I bore and raised and gave up to die would conquer death and come to live in me as the Holy Ghost! What more is there to come? I cannot say, but I will shout these throughout my days on earth and into eternity, “Be it unto me according to thy word! Oh, hallelujah! Hallelujah! Be it unto me!”

Denying Jesus

What does denying Jesus look like? How does it sound?

We who are striving to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost are aware there is a time coming upon the earth (that has already begun in many places) when believers will have to choose to deny the Lord or be killed. We know a man of sin is to be in power who will require a mark to be taken by all living upon the earth in order to buy or sell, but to take it will be to damn one’s soul to hell.

We are fully assured that we will stand for Jesus to the end, if we are doing our best to obey and serve Him now. I want to be ready for what is coming on the earth and be serving God with all my heart in this hour, to be ready for that hour.

The idea of denying Jesus is on my mind this week since reading the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s responses. Jesus had just told the disciples they needed swords (Luke 22:36). They told him they had two, and Jesus said, “It is enough.” Not surprisingly, one of them belonged to the bold and sometimes brash Apostle Peter.

Peter was no doubt sure of his course of action as he faced a multitude from the high priests and Pharisees carrying swords, torches, and lanterns. He drew his own sword and made a stand, though greatly outnumbered. Though Jesus rebuked Peter for this response and allowed himself to taken into custody, we see that Peter’s desire to fight for his Lord was strong.

No doubt confused and uncertain where this would lead, Peter followed the crowd from afar. John records another disciple being there, but all the rest had all fled. I cannot claim to understand what Peter was thinking; we only know what he said and what he did with what was going on around him.

Think on Peter a moment. Here is a man who has been told he would deny his Master. He had vehemently insisted that this would not happen, and then had demonstrated his readiness to fight when the first wave of danger hit. As he stood by the fire in the hall where Jesus was held, his thoughts had to be on what the Lord had told him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat…” Luke 22:31. Jesus had warned them all that they would be offended, and when Peter protested Jesus said, “…this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice,” Mark 14:30.

Peter, I believe, would have been on guard about Jesus’ warning. Knowing a pit is ahead should, in theory, enable you to avoid falling in, right? What if Peter intended to watch for an opportunity to grab Jesus and get out of there when they let down their guard? We know he was watching what he could of the proceedings, and I imagine he was playing out in his mind the scenes that might occur. If Peter and I have anything in common, he would have been the hero in every one.

Would this be a possible reason for his brushing off questions from the crowd watching Jesus as he was? The ones questioning him were not officials, just servants or other members of the public as far as we are told. If Peter intended to make a stand for Jesus, even one where he could lose his own life, surely he pictured it being with the high priest or some other official demanding to know his allegiance, don’t you agree? These minions standing around the fire with him were not who he had come to stand against.

Could we pretend for the sake of creating a picture of his mental processes that he was trying to keep his cover intact so that he was not escorted out of the hall, or else arrested and kept from any role where could have helped?

Make no mistake, I make no excuses. I am only wondering whether Peter recognized too late that these small occurrences were what mattered so much to Jesus. Peter had in fact denied Jesus three times before he realized the real test of his allegiance had already come.

Perhaps in his bitter weeping, he remembered some of the words of Jesus:

“He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much,” Luke 16:10.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heave,” Matthew 7:1.

“Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,” Luke 13:27

The spirit of the words of the Apostle Paul would pen later could been in his spirit as well:

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him…,” Titus 1:16.

Peter knew in that moment that nothing of what he had said for Jesus could redeem his failure to act on His behalf in what may have seemed mundane at the moment.

Peter had intended to stand, and had even made a stand. Perhaps he failed because he was unable to recognize that this scenario mattered. He was ready, he felt, for the big moment when he would show his fierce devotion, but he tragically overlooked the little things that mattered to Jesus right at that moment.

Jesus turned and looked Peter in the face as the sound of a cock crowing rang out in his ears.

Are there things in the Word of God you are overlooking while holding on to the image of walking boldly to the executioner to take your stand for Jesus? Are you being faithful with what is put in your hands: time, money, or the intercessory Spirit Jesus longs for you to use?

Worse, yet, have you undersold the idea of whether obedience to the commandments of Jesus is even essential to see Him in peace at His return? I submit to you that unless you are committed to being diligent in obedience, you will never make it through the the things that are coming on the earth, not the least of which is the prominent spirits of lethargy and apathy.

Obedience matters.

Details matter.

Holiness matters.

Will you take a closer look at how you have viewed your obedience in the light of how Jesus views it? Have you stepped over the original message of salvation in favor of a more modernized version that doesn’t make as many waves? Are you sure your obedience qualifies you to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” when Jesus returns?

Check out these other ideas on standing for Jesus or denying Him:

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First Pentecostal Church of Bay Springs, Sunday 10 AM and 6:30 PM, Wednesday, 7:30 PM.

The Name of Jesus

We were singing about the name of Jesus, so beautiful and wonderful, and I was feeling something special as I pictured what that name signifies.

A whispered, “Jesus!” brings His presence so tenderly to me when I am hurting.

At the name of “Jesus” every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

My heart, through the powerful move of God’s Spirit, was seeing the two images alternating in succession: the Jesus who is “nigh to all who are of a broken heart,” (Psalm 34:18) and the Jesus who will step into Earth’s last battle and destroy the Wicked one with the spirit of His mouth.

Jesus will reign forever and ever: nothing and no one can stop Him.

The same Jesus who robed Himself in flesh to walk humbly upon the earth, who would not break a bruised reed, who gave His life willingly for me that I could miraculously know Him (as a gentile Christian I am ever amazed that He opened the door for my salvation), who rose again, ascended, and sent back His Spirit to live in us, is walking and working to draw souls to Himself. His mercies are new every morning.

Yet, in the events of the end time, when we will face tribulation such as has not come on the earth since the world began and will not be after (whatever your thoughts about our departure, we must be ready for whatever will come on us before we leave this world), Jesus is able to keep us in Him until His triumphant return.

Oh, the power available to the One who draws near me when I weep!

I am so very safe in His arms, for the events of my little life, or of this whole world, are no surprise to Him.

Getting into God’s presence, where the Holy Ghost is poured out in a church that stands for the same truth the Apostles preached (and died for), is what will keep us in the love of God through whatever comes our way: the losses in life that we are to navigate by His grace and mercy, or true persecution such as was faced by the early church and is coming again upon the earth.

Our God reigns. He is the eternal King of Glory, and He is the Lily of the valley–my valley–all powerful, yet gentle and near to those who call upon Him in truth.

What a powerful name, Jesus! There is none like it in all Creation!

There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:12). Jesus said we must be born again of the water and of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). Peter preached the first message of the church age with the undying plan of salvation when he told those who asked that they must repent, and be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (which is the birth of water), and they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (which is the birth of the Spirit). Peter’s message, echoing Jesus‘ commandment, continues for us today: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, to them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

If you have not experienced the Lord Jesus in this way, I urge you to take a fresh look at what He has commanded all men.

There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain. He will break whatever chain has held you from seeking Him with all your heart, moreover from striving to enter into His kingdom. He said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” Luke 13:24. Verses 26-27 describe those who said they were serving God but found out in the end that their effort was not what He required. If you make striving to obey and to walk with Jesus your top priority, letting go of all claims to what obedience is supposed to “look like” or “sound like,” and determine to obey His word in all things, you can press toward that mark of being among the called, and chosen, and faithful who will be with the Lord of lords and the King of kings when He ultimately overcomes those who make war with Him. (Rev. 17:14)

Whether in the whisper of need or the shout of victory, the name of Jesus is above every name!

Don’t move that Bible for me!

bible

“Don’t move that Bible for me! I don’t get that many chances with God!”

We were headed to lunch when I scooped up my Bible from the passenger seat to clear a spot for the social work intern to sit. Her protests would have amused me, except she seemed in dead earnest. In the ensuing discussion she described her upbringing in a strict Catholic tradition. Her earliest faith memories had stuck, as a perspective of “As long as I don’t mess up and offend God too badly, maybe He will let me into Heaven.” Those early experiences were her only concept of God.

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Sweet aromas? Offensive odors?

So there you are, snoozing away.  All is calm, quiet, peaceful. Then you hear it:  the whine.  Not one of the kids this time — no, this is the whine of flight, the high-pitched sound of tiny wings. Near your head. You feel the brush of six little feet against your face, and “whack!”, you’ve slapped yourself right out of a good nap.

With advanced education and efforts for mosquito control, there are fewer incidents of this nature at my house these days. I am thankful.  Besides ruining naps, the nasty things carry serious diseases in their minuscule frames.

Have you ever wondered how they find you even in the dark?  I recently read the answer.

You smell.

I know, that’s an offensive thought, but really, you do.

Mosquitoes are genetically wired to detect the carbon dioxide you exhale, along with subtle scents given off by your skin.  So all that is required for you to attract a mosquito is to be. . . alive. They fly around in the dark — hungry, wondering where their next meal is coming from — until they feel the clouds of CO2 pushed from your lungs closing in around them.  They’ve found the smell that is so sweet to them: the signs of life, which of course is accompanied by the blood they crave. I know, that’s disgusting.

So after I read this awhile back, something began to come together in my mind. If our breath attracts insects that are almost unseen, is there a parallel in the spiritual realm?  There is for most things. God is a Spirit. He makes His angels “ministering spirits”.  Satan and his fallen angels (devils) operate as spirits also.

I assure you I don’t walk around wondering if everything occurring is set in motion by some spirit or another, but it cannot be ruled out that there are influences from that side of reality. If there are spirits obeying a master who, as the Bible says, walks about seeking whom he may devour, wouldn’t it be realistic to think there is a way to signal to them that we are vulnerable?

These spirits are not omnipresent, nor can they read our thoughts — but they can hear our words and watch our reactions in various situations. There’s a smell they’re drawn to.

The Bible doesn’t record Satan having to walk Eve over to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to tempt her.  Not to put words in where they don’t belong, but was he watching her and perhaps noticed her gazing at it one day? Had something begun to work in her heart — a curiosity, a comparison of that fruit to the wonderful things she could have, a sense of ownership of that garden she’d helped tend for all those years and should be able to handle every part of by now (1 John 2:16 records the elements of this and every sin: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life)? Did Satan see something that alerted him to the time being right to present his ploy?

Notwithstanding spiritual attacks when we are living right — just because we are a threat — it stands to reason that we can become more or less vulnerable to some things by our actions. God Himself warned Cain: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. . .” (Genesis 4:7).  Cain was angry over God’s acceptance of Abel’s blood sacrifice as opposed to his harvest of his field — God’s preference for one over the other was obvious to Abel because of God having to slay an animal to make coats of skin for Adam and Even when they’d sinned at that tree.  This story unfolded with Cain maintaining his anger until he was standing over the bloodied body of his brother.  Not the outcome you’d expect from the second generation of God’s Creation, right? Yet Cain’s clinging to anger had opened him up to the influence of the darker side of his own nature, and undoubtedly that side of spirit world eager to wreak havoc as well.

I’ve heard it preached that drug use and feeding one’s heart on music of a darkened nature open us up to spirits that would oppress or possess us.  Are there other things that give off an aroma in the spirit world that would make us attractive to them? Does the stream of breath from our bodies — speaking blessing or cursing, bitterness or praise — determine what we are attracting from the other side?

There are incredibly horrible thing happening in the world today.  Those who weren’t raised to be terrorists no doubt had no aspirations to bring murder and mayhem to the world as they grew up. Somewhere, somehow, something changed. We prefer to think there was some factor in the lives of those who do carry out attacks or kill their kids or do other horrible things that could not be a factor in our own lives.  But is that always a given?

Less newsworthy, but more pervasive, are the families that crumble due to long-standing anger and infidelity. Where did that start?

Somewhere there was an attraction or even a wound to the spirit that wasn’t dealt with, and a thought, a seed, began to grow and be watered.

What’s the remedy?

God loves worship, praise, and speaking right things concerning Him. His Word records that He is drawn to it:  “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.”  (Malachi 3:16)  But God desires more than to simply hear the voices of those who care to praise Him.  He is looking for the signs from you that they are open to:  repenting of the sins and attitudes that invite His Enemy to have a field day with them, to take the step of washing those sins away in His blood by being baptized in Jesus’ name, and having Him fill them with the power of His Spirit, the Holy Ghost.  He’s attentive to the words from our mouths that draw Him near.

God notices what we say.  The Enemy or his minions, when passing by, hear our words as well.

So what are you attracting?

When my daughter opens the window of her shaved ice stand to take an order or serve up a cup of sweet, colorful shaved ice, waiting flies tend to seize the opportunity to dart in past her.  She works to exterminate them, of course, but the scent of sugar seems to give them courage to brave any pest control. Never one to let a problem linger without investigating a solution, I bought her one of those fly traps with the liquid attractant to hang out back.  You know, the stinky stuff.   Coming to open the shop on the 4th of July, it seemed every fly in the county had been invited to the party. Even more than the smell of sugar, they were drawn to the smell something dying.  The trap had to be quickly disposed of, because it tripled the problem rather that solving it (now there were more and bigger flies trying to come in). The experience made me think.

What do we smell like when we’re holding on to anger, guilt, and refusal to forgive?

King David, who wrote so many psalms, said this, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.”  (Psalm 19:14) If we were to make that the cry of our hearts, wouldn’t our attractant cause the dark side to at least see us as less than an easy target?

That verse is the last in a psalm that praises God for His works and Creation, uplifts His Word as the only thing that can change us on the inside by converting our souls, and asks for God’s help to be kept from sin, that it would not have dominion over us.

We have choices.  Fight back. Pray. Praise. Read God’s Word and ask His help to obey it.  Then follow where He leads.

Smell good.

 

Maybe I should have…

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…

We underestimated our enemy

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.

THE MAGI AND THE GIFT

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!

So, what gets you?

You’re strong, successful in your sphere of influence, important to people close to you — perhaps even to some you’ll never meet in person.  That didn’t happen by accident.

To accomplish what you have, you’ve chosen carefully the paths you’ve taken, rejecting what wasn’t compatible.  To maintain what you’ve achieved, you’ve guarded your perimeter:  you’ve set and kept boundaries, the realm of safety that only admits the influences you choose.  You continue to protect yourself and those closest to you — the ones you’re responsible for.

But I submit to you that there’s a flaw in your plan, a weak place in the field of well-thought protections with which you’ve surrounded your family, business, and career.  You may somehow realize that is the case, or you may be oblivious to the fact that anything is wrong.

Nature has a parallel

Removing brush that was previously cut but left in place at the edge of my yard a few days ago, I found most of the bushes light from drying and easy to handle. When one branch unexpectedly tugged back as I tried to pull it out of the surrounding growth, I looked more closely to determine why. My examination showed an attachment that had formed to the bush well before it had been cut. Something the size of a few strands of human hair had wrapped slowly and quietly around that branch while it was in the process of growing to its present size.  A thorny vine, which eventually made my handling of the brush a bit more uncomfortable, had proceeded to make itself at home in an otherwise healthy, strong plant.

I thought how quickly, subtly, and painlessly the direction we have chosen can be affected by something we hardly notice until its effects have forever changed the outcome of our plans, goals, and dreams.

The danger of safety

The great story of Samson (the closest thing I find in the Bible to our modern concept of a super-hero), is that of a man whose incredible strength came from his separation to God. Before Samson was even conceived, an angel of the Lord had directed his parents in how to raise him as dedicated to the service of the Lord – what to do, and what not to do.

Samson was not, in himself, a strong man, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him when it was needful to do so, and by that strength, he took out thousands of enemy warriors in a day, single-handed, with the jawbone of a donkey for a weapon. He once pulled up entire set of city gates and carried them on his shoulders, and he continued to outsmart his enemies, while taunting them with his strength.

But over time, Samson took for granted this power (there is no recorded time when he prayed, built an altar, or worshiped God as his forefathers had done).  A woman he loved, Delilah, was approached by the enemies Samson was to deliver his people from, and offered wealth to sell him out. There is no record that she even argued with the people who asked her to betray him.  The woman he loved repeatedly prevailed on Samson to tell her the source of his strength, and though each time he offered her only some ruse in reply, she immediately acted on whatever he had said would work to quell his power, even inviting the enemy to apprehend him once she rendered him powerless.

Somehow, in the midst of this obvious effort to do him in, Samson managed to hold tight to his sense of security, and as Delilah pressed him over and over with her “if you really loved me, you’d…” ploys, he finally broke and “told her all his heart”.  He gave away the secret of the one thing that God had given him as the source of his strength, knowing it was something that she could easily take away from him.

Did he remember that everything he’d told her so far, she had tried? What did he do after disclosing to her the real truth of how to disable him?  Run?  That would have been a sensible plan, but no, he didn’t.  Did he at least ask her to promise not to use the information against him?  No record of that.  What did he do?  He put his head in her lap and went to sleep.  In the place where he was in the most grave danger he’d ever faced, he behaved as one who felt perfectly safe.  If you’re not familiar with how the story turns out, I encourage you  to read it for yourself, (Judges 13-16), but suffice it to say that, after that night, he was never able to feel safe again.

The chink in your armor?

Your flaw may very well be simply feeling you are safe in your own strength and ability.  You’ve done all you can to help your family be financially stable, functional in society, and happy with one another.  Those things are all good. Who gets the credit?

The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest figures in history, leader of the early church, and author of  at least half of the New Testament, summed up his abilities this way: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18).  Was that some notable false humility from a super-spiritual leader? If you read the context of that chapter, he acknowledged the struggles (really failing to get it right sometimes) that he faced with doing the right thing, then asked, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  He answered his own question with, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Paul couldn’t do it, but he knew who could.

In the “Never let ’em see you sweat!” society in which we live, confessing that we are not the ones to bring and to hold our own personal world together seems like the weakness that would get one eaten alive.  But that is just what we must do to have real security: trust in the one who made us, and who came to live among us and to redeem us.

Hey, last week even the government recognized that it isn’t totally in control of things that matter, as evidenced by NASA’s advice  to Congress on the best course of action, should a large asteroid be found hurtling toward Earth: “Pray”!

Calling out to the One who alone can add the extra layer of security we could never attain, is the only true way to have security. Jesus is the only one who is powerful enough to safely hold you and your personal world. He’s also the one who holds all the world (and that includes all the asteroids) in his hand.