Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

Most Christians today have been convinced that God’s Sabbaths and Feast days and Old Testament laws are for the Jews only. They have been taught that they do not apply to Christians today because we no longer live under the law, but under grace. But Leviticus 23 tells us that all of the Sabbaths and Feast Days and their instructions are not Jewish only, but they are God’s Sabbaths and Feast Days. And God said His laws apply to everyone—the Jew and non-Jew alike. (Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 24:22)

Interestingly, the celebrations that are for Jews only are: Purim, Hanukkah, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day.  All of them commemorate when people tried to eliminate the Jews—but failed. And not one of these traditional Jewish observances were commanded by God, but by the Jews themselves. 

This is no different than how the Christian church has exchanged God’s Sabbaths and Feast Days for Sunday worship and other traditional holidays of man—Christmas, Easter, Lent, and Good Friday.

Over the years I have been criticized, despised and become the brunt of people’s jokes because of my speaking God’s truth from His word. It wasn’t always like that. I too believed as most Christians do. I celebrated Christmas and Easter and I had many Christian friends and had happy times of fellowship with them—As long as I stayed in the same lane as they did. But once I spoke out about how God revealed His truth to me from His word, by His spirit, all of that changed. Ones whom I thought were my friends avoided me—and even family members turned against me. All because I dared to speak God’s truth from his word. 

I have asked many Christians, “If Jesus’ death and resurrection did away with our obligation to observe God’s Sabbath and Feast Days, were all the apostles and early Church wrong to do so?” I have never gotten a reasonable answer. And as far as I know, none of them have ever sought out the answer in Scripture with an open mind.  

Now I know God well enough to know that I am not the only one that He revealed His truth to and believes the same way as I do. And I know that just like Elijah, God has reserved thousands who have not bent their knee to the traditions of man and false teachings. (Even though as yet I have not met any of them personally)

We are definitely living in the last days. How do I know that?  Because in spite of my years of praying for hours at a time for God to send revival to His church and lead us to repentance, God’s people still have not repented of their wickedness. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. And in spite of the availability of God’s word to everyone in America and across most of the world, many Christians still do not tolerate sound doctrine, but with “itching ears” they gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. (See 2 Timothy 2 & 3) 

The Law (Torah) is not merely the written Mosaic Law, but the announcement of God’s will by the mouth of his prophets. And there is a contrast between the lawlessness and ruin of a people uninfluenced by its guidance and the joyful state of those who obey the voice of God—whether conveyed in the Old Testament or by the teachings of the apostles. 

Many today are trying to understand the cause of all the anger, hate and rioting happening now. The answer is in the Bible. “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (Proverbs 29:18 NLT) 

That’s exactly what happened to the Hebrews in the desert (Exodus 32:24-25), and also to the Israelites under the king of Assyria ( 2 Kings 17: 6-17), and is happening now with us. Remember brothers and sisters, the apostle Peter wrote that “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17). And the apostle Paul wrote that if anyone preaches a gospel contrary to the one he preached, they will be accursed! (Galatians 1) So shouldn’t we find out just what the true gospel is that Paul preached? Because the gospel that Paul preached is not what is being preached in most churches today.

It is time that we Christians begin to really study God’s word and obey what God says. But be warned! When you open your eyes, heart and mind to God’s truth in His word, and determine yourself to obey God’s word and His commandments, you will become the target of those who deny God’s truth. But be of good cheer, God will help us to endure until the end; when we hear our Lord say: “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

God’s commandments were not designed to take away our freedom but to make us free.

William Booth, the co-founder of the Salvation Army with his wife Catherine, embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.

Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people on the street. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings.

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women. 

William Booth was a remarkable man, who had a passion to save men’s souls. He was a man born into poverty and who worked in the midst of poverty his whole life. He was given the title “The Prophet of the Poor.” His life could be summed up in his own statement, “Some men’s passion is for gold. Some men’s passion is for art. Some men’s passion is for fame. My passion is for souls.” 

I believe that William Booth would be very disappointed if he could see how the Salvation Army and many church members have changed. The Salvation Army has become more of a social services center, concerned only with meeting people’s physical needs, more than their spiritual needs. And churches today are not much different.

It’s been reported from people who attended the evangelistic meetings of William Booth that many in attendance would begin to shake so at his preaching that they would tear at the hymnals in their laps! Where is that type of preaching today?

When Charles Finney, a revivalist preacher during the Second Great Awakening during the 1830s, preached at his meetings, whole communities would be converted! Taverns and theaters were turned into places of worship! When he would visit factories, people, would fall to their knees weeping in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit, without Finney even speaking a word! Where is that spirit in the churches today? Where is the fire of God’s word?   

The following is a poem written by Howard Clinebell, a former professor of pastoral psychology and counseling at the School of Theology in Claremont, California. It describes perfectly the state of the church today:

The Little Lifesaving Station 

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building wasn’t much more than a small hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves, went out night and day tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station. So much so that it became famous for its rescue efforts. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were purchased and donated to the station and crews were trained to improve the rescue operations of the station.

As the little lifesaving station grew some of the members were unhappy that the building itself was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were rescued from the sea. So the members raised funds for the station and replaced the emergency cots with beds and placed better furniture in an enlarged building.

Soon the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it so exquisitely that it became sort of a club. The lifesaving station’s logo still prevailed on the wall above the fireplace and its name was still used to raise funds,  but  fewer members were now interested in going out to sea on lifesaving missions. They even hired lifeboat crews to do the work that they used to do themselves.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half drowned people. These people were dirty and sick. And some of them were foreigners who couldn’t speak English. The beautiful club was thrown into chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower built outside the club building with an attached closet filled with clean clothes so that the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and dressed properly before coming inside.

At the next club meeting there was a split in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social structure of the club. Some members insisted that the lifesaving operations were the primary reason for them being there and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The latter were finally voted down and were told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could start their own lifesaving station further down the coast. That’s exactly what they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and later another lifesaving station was founded.

History continues to repeat itself and if you visit that seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along its shores.  Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but sadly, most of the people there drown.

We have all witnessed the angry protests and riots in cities throughout our country after people of color were unlawfully detained and even killed by police officers. We have all read accounts of children being abused, neglected and killed by those who were supposed to love and care for them. And we have also seen how social media has blown up with hateful comments from both sides of political issues.

And yet, so many professing Christians continue to live their lives as if this is a type of “new normal”. THIS IS NOT A NEW NORMAL! This is not normal at all! Don’t you see that God has been trying to get our attention for years now? He has been trying to get us to repent. But you refuse to listen! How can people study God’s word for so many years and still not understand it or obey what it says?

Churches today are preaching a convenient gospel. One that teaches that all you have to do is confess your sins, accept Jesus in your heart, and you’ll be saved. But without repentance—a change of heart and lifestyle, there is no true conversion and thus, no real salvation. When someone truly repents they become a totally new creature. Their old life is dead and buried with Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 3:19)

Our salvation cost Jesus his life! So how can we expect it to cost us any less? How can we take it so lightly? This is not the gospel that Jesus or the early Church preached. They preached a gospel of repentance and a gospel that brought real change to people’s lives! But if you preach a gospel of convenience—a gospel that makes people comfortable—you will be loved by the world and make yourself an enemy of God! (James 4:4) One of the primary purposes of the gospel is to make people uncomfortable so that they will repent and turn to God. 

The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, said: “But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus prophesied that “lawlessness will abound” in the end times. (Matthew 24:12) That people will overwhelmingly reject God’s laws, and that this lawlessness, unrestrained by the laws of God, will bring this earth to the point of almost complete destruction.

But the Bible also predicts that there will be a very small group—a remnant, who will not embrace lawlessness. In fact, these people will be defined by the how they live their lives by God’s laws, (Isaiah 10:20-21;1 John 5:2-3) and reject the traditions of man taught in the churches, which will make them stand in stark contrast to the world (and worldly Christians) around them. While people’s love grows cold, God’s faithful will hold to the law that teaches love, care and concern for others. (1 John 5:3) But they won’t be honored and respected for their way of life. Jesus said they will be “…hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9) 

Today there are over 2 billion professing Christians in the world—making up the world’s single largest religious group. And about 60 percent of the world’s nations have a majority Christian population. That means that the remnant—those who live their lives according to God’s word—is a minority among those calling themselves Christians. The people of “all nations” who hate and persecute God’s people will include billions of people who claim Christianity as their religion. 

But why will God’s remnant be so violently hated? What could they possibly do to receive such scorn? Because just like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen and the apostles who were persecuted for boldly proclaiming the need to repent of sin, God’s remnant will preach the truth that those around them won’t want to hear. Particularly the portion of the gospel message that calls on people to repent, change and align their lives with God’s law. Sadly, most people in churches today stubbornly refuse to repent and obey God’s laws. And because of that, true Christians will be hated—by the world and other Christians. 

I understand that not everyone will agree with everything, but I have read more civil language on social media by professing atheists than from professing Christians! I myself have been a target of hateful rhetoric by professing Christians after posting comments about repentance or obeying God. Why would this be offensive to a true Christian? How can you say that you love God and continue to use hateful speech toward your brothers and sisters? (1 John 4:20-21)

   

Right now, we are experiencing a time when God’s people aren’t facing violent persecution in most places. In fact, in much of the world this may be the safest time in all of human history to be a true follower of God. But as the days get closer to the end, that will change radically—maybe in the next few years. As deception and lawlessness increase, hatred against true Christians will surge. The good news is that God will shorten those days “for the elect’s sake.” (Matthew 24:22) Jesus Christ will come to save His people from those who violently hate them. 

Christian! Don’t you realize how the hate of the world has become like a cancer and has infiltrated and affected your walk with God? As Christians, we are to be the light of the world for all to see but, the Bible tells us we must “put aside all such things as these: anger, rage,  malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8) 

The apostle James wrote, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (James 3:9-10) And yet here we are. 

If the unbelievers in this world can’t tell the difference between you and sinners then your religion is worthless!  Are you comfortable living like the world?  (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3) Do you preach a gospel of convenience? A gospel that does not offend? Then I beseech you, repent now! And be true to God and His word! Ask Him to lead you by His spirit into His truth and live your life according to His word. Remember Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21 NLT)

It is time for believers to stop following the traditions of man and dive into what God’s word says.

The apostle Paul said to follow (imitate) him as he follows Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17) This is the only safe example; and if we follow this, we can never go astray. 

And yet most Christians today follow unbiblical preachers, evangelists, authors and such, rather than follow the the apostle Paul or the Lord. In fact most Christians today are able to more readily quote from some book that was written by (spiritually) dead men than they can quote God’s word! And this to the Church’s shame! 

And why doesn’t the Church follow the way of the apostles and Christ? Because of selfishness. We want to live our lives OUR own way. But Jesus told his disciples, “…If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25) 

The Church today has become an abomination to God! Everyone does what is right in their own mind. The house of God has become a den of thieves, a nest of vipers! And its preachers have become blind guides deceiving and being deceived! We have become like the Church in Laodicea—lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—and Jesus is about to vomit you out of his mouth! (Revelation 3: 14-22) 

Notice that verse 20 is speaking to the Church, not to the unsaved, as many Christians would have you believe. Jesus is knocking on the doors of Christians, asking us—pleading with us— to open up to him that he might come in and fellowship with us. But we will not. Because we believe that we are rich and in need of nothing from him. But until we realize that we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, we will never reach our full potential in Christ. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” 

“What we need today more than anything else, more even than victory in the war against aggression, are weapons, manpower and strategy to win the war against selfishness.” —Sam Shoemaker, Pastor, author and original founder of AA

God gave us 613 commandments to obey. And most Christians today refuse to obey even 10, or 5, or two! “So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them, will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 NLT)  

If the Church today does not live godly lives, if they refuse to obey God’s word, if they continue to follow traditions of men rather than the commandments of God, and teach others to do the same, then all is lost! 

Lord God, I confess that I have not been faithful to seek the lost as I should. I have shed no tears for them. But Lord, I pray that today you give me a great burden for the lost and for your people who are called by your name. Help me to travail in prayer for them. Give me tears for them. Let my heart be broken for them. And I pray that you will raise up mighty men and women of God who are willing to follow Paul’s example of following Christ. And I pray that, like Paul, I will not only be known in heaven, but that I will also be known by the devil and his demons as it was documented of Paul in Acts 19: 13-19. I pray Lord God, that you give me the strength and grace to die daily of self so that many will be saved for your glory. Lord send a revival to your Church now! And let it begin with me.

Amen! 

Spare the rod spoil the child?

The term, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not actually in the Bible. This phrase is taken out of context and a misinterpretation of Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV)

A better translation is:Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” (NLT)

In any translation, the intent is disciplining children in order to guide them in the way they should go. To put it simply, it is to instill in our children right from wrong. Much in the same way that shepherds use a staff to guide sheep who begin to splinter away from the flock back to safety, the rod of discipline can be used to keep our children safe from outside influences that will lead them down a dangerous and destructive path. 

The most common misinterpretation of this scripture views this as direction to physically punish children as the best—or only, form of discipline, and is the inspiration for other disciplinary tools like wooden spoons, switches or belts. Children never learn discipline from physical punishment—only fear.

There is a big difference between a rod—a physical object, and the rod, which is used metaphorically. In each scripture that describes disciplining a child, the rod is used, not a rod:

Proverbs 13:24 – “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”

Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 23:13 – “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” 

There are many who were abused by one or both of their parents and they don’t even realize that they were abused. Some even brag about how they were beaten by their parent and how they were better for it. Sadly, they end up doing the same thing to their own children. 

It’s understandable for a parent to to become frustrated with a rebellious child, but when you allow that frustration turn to physical action against a child, your parenting will eventually render your efforts to raise godly, well adjusted children ineffective. 

Here’s why: The idea of punishment implies repaying someone with what he or she deserves. Physical punishment produces a child laden with guilt and determined to get out from under it, and raising kind, loving, well adjusted children are never the result. An effective parent has to learn the difference between punishment and discipline—and also learn the importance of grace.

God’s grace amid discipline

We love the gospel of grace when we come to God and our sins. None of us wants justice in the sense of God giving us what we deserve. But as much as we love God’s mercy when applied to us, we have a really hard time applying it to others—especially when the “other” is someone who can frustrate us as much as our children can. 

This is grace

I like to retell the story of how God used my son to explain grace to both of us. My son, Sean, who was around 9 or 10 at the time, was playing outside with friends when I told him it was time to come inside. After ignoring me for several minutes I again called him to come inside. After refusing to obey me a third time I yelled, “Sean! Get inside! Now!” He finally came inside in a huff, slamming the door and flailing his arms in anger. In doing so, he knocked over my guitar. (My prized possession) We both watched in horror as the neck of my guitar snapped as it hit the floor.

I looked angrily at my son and in a soft, but firm voice I said, “Go to your room, I’m gonna hurt you.” Flying up the stairs to his room, he was already blubbering, thinking I was going to kill him. Later, after I cooled down, I went up to my son’s room to find him hyperventilating from crying so hard. I said, “Sean, do you know what judgement is?” He answered between his breaths, “N-n-no.” I said, “Judgement is getting what you deserve.” At that moment he broke into his sobs again completely convinced that I was going to beat him. After calming him down once more I then asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He shook his head, no. I said this is grace. And I put him on my lap and just held him.

That is exactly what God does with us. Although we all deserve God’s judgement, if we trust in the saving power of Jesus, God has mercy on us, forgives us of our sins, and wraps His arms around us and loves us.

Effective discipline starts with us being healthy ourselves. If you had a rough childhood with questionable punishments, you hold the power to change the environment for your own children. You are in charge of them having a better upbringing than you had and a better future. 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19) 

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

My wife and I had the privilege of sharing Passover with our granddaughter last night. 

Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt after suffering over 400 years of slavery. Passover is regarded by many  Christians as a “Jewish only” celebration. Some even claim that Yeshua (Jesus) and his disciples didn’t observe the Passover—even though it states in Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:8, and John 13:1 that they did! 

So why should Christians observe the biblical feasts? My answer has always been this: We don’t HAVE to observe the feasts—we GET to observe them. But the most important reason for us to observe Passover and all the feasts is that God told us to. We show our love for God by doing what He says. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)  

In Exodus 12:38 we read that there was also a “mixed multitude” that left Egypt with the Hebrews. They were possibly Egyptians who followed them because of the miracles they witnessed, or were from other countries that the Egyptians conquered and forced some of the people into slavery.

We also need to remember that there were many members of  the 12 different tribes of Israel that left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Not just Jews. (or the tribe of Judah) You see, every Jew is an Israelite, but not every Israelite is a Jew. And every one of us are descendants of those who belonged to one of the mixed multitude that God told Moses that, “The same law shall apply to the native ‘Hebrew’ as to the stranger.” (or non-Jew) And in Exodus 12:48-49 we read that “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger (or non-Jew) who sojourns among you.” 

Yeshua said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, (The smallest letter in the Hebrew language) will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 17-20) Many Christians claim that everything was accomplished when Yeshua  was crucified and raised from the dead and that all the Old Testament laws were done away with. The only thing that Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection did away with was the sacrificial and ceremonial laws—since he was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until AFTER Yeshua returns and sets up God’s kingdom and government on earth. 

Yeshua also said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46) Why would we want to miss out on something that Yeshua said points to him? Besides, throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days and Sabbaths are not Jewish Feast Days and Sabbaths. They are GOD’S. And God said that they are a  permanent statute wherever we live for the generations to come. ( See Exodus 12:14-28; Leviticus 16:29) 

I am amazed that so many Christian pastors and Bible teachers can spend years and years studying in Bible colleges and seminaries and STILL refuse to see this in the Scriptures. And worse yet, refuse to teach God’s truth to their followers! Not only have they rejected God’s Feats Days, but they have replaced them with traditional holy days of man such as Good Friday, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Easter and Christmas—which none of Yeshua’s disciples, the apostles, or any of the early Church ever observed.  

Remember Yeshua, in verse 20 of Matthew 5 said, “…So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” All my life I have been considered to be least here on earth. I don’t know about you, but I want to be considered great in kingdom of heaven.

The special foods we eat on Passover not only reminds us of the Exodus, but also helps us to focus on God’s love for us. But what many don’t recognize is that every thing in the Passover Seder, and in fact, all of God’s feasts, points to Messiah.  

Remember the words of the apostle John: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, I know Him, but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:3-6) 

“By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” (1 John 5: 2-3)

Observing God’s Feast Days and Sabbaths and obeying God’s commandments has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with obedience to God out of our love for Him. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that I would love them less if they disobeyed. But BECAUSE they loved me, they obeyed my rules. 

And in the same way, we don’t obey God’s commandments because we think He will love us more or that we can work our way into salvation. But BECAUSE we love Him we obey His commandments.

At the end of our Passover seder we pray this blessing: 

“Blessed are You Lord G-d king of the universe, for the produce of the field, and for the precious, good and spacious land, to eat of its fruit and be satisfied by its goodness. Have mercy, Lord our G-d, on your people, Send us your New Jerusalem, your holy city, in our days, and we will rejoice in it and bless you in holiness and purity. And remember us for good on this day of the Festival of Matzot. 

And we all end by saying: NEXT YEAR IN NEW JERUSALEM! AMEN!

If you have been wondering how and why the church today has become so weak and ineffective, all you have to do is look at what they’ve done over the years.

Churches have repeated the motto: “Every is welcome here.”  This may sound harsh and intolerant, but everyone is NOT welcome into churches! The enemy is very subtle and very seldom plans a direct attack. Like a frog that is slowly boiled in water, he will start so slow so that most will never sense what he’s trying to do until it’s too late.

At first the church welcomed unbelievers into their worship services with open arms. Then in order to make them feel even more welcomed, they allowed them to be part of the congregation by allowing them to join the choir or work in the church nursery. Then they allowed them to teach a Sunday school class. And before you know it, they‘re preaching their unbiblical and humanistic views from the pulpit! 

Haggai dealt with the same problem in his day. This is how he handled it: He asked a priest, “If a man carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and it touches bread, stew, wine, oil, or any other food, does that item become holy?’” “No,” replied the priests. So Haggai asked, “If one who is defiled by contact with a corpse touches any of these, does it become defiled?” “Yes, it becomes defiled,” the priests answered. Then Haggai replied, “So it is with this people and this nation before Me, declares the LORD, and so it is with every work of their hands; whatever they offer there is defiled.” (Haggai 2:12-14)

I’m not suggesting that we post guards at the church doors and check people for their salvation. But I am suggesting that we become more discerning on who we invite to worship with us. 

Many have told me that they invite unsaved friends and loved ones to join them at church so they can hear the gospel. Then they need to repent of their laziness and share the gospel with them theirself as Jesus commanded! There is not one place in Scripture where we are commanded to invite unbelievers into a congregation so that they can hear the word of God.

Go ahead and check. I’ll wait.

If you wash your hair, shower and put on deodorant, and then hug a skunk, will the skunk begin to smell good, or will you become stinky? If you are in good health and visit a contagious friend in the hospital, will your good health make your sick friend well, or will his contagious disease make you sick? It is the same with sin. As the apostle Paul wrote: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33—Taken from Deuteronomy 7:25)

This has been proven true time and time again when our teenagers get “mixed up in the wrong crowd” and get into trouble.

It would do us well to remember Psalm 106: 32-43: “…but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them…So the anger of the LORD burned against His people, and He abhorred His own inheritance. He delivered them into the hand of the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them.”

The attitude of most church goers has gotten so bad that it’s hard to tell the difference between those who CLAIM to be believers in Jesus and those who refuse to even acknowledge that God exists! 

So many Christians talk about how we are living in the last days before Jesus returns, but we need to remind each other that judgment will begin in the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17) So let us pray for God’s people to repent and return to God, seek His face and obey His word. 

To obey is better than sacrifice

I don’t need your money

I want your life

And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon

But you act like I’ll never return

I realize that this may offend some, but I must speak God’s truth rather than continue to promote traditions and myths.

 I am continually amazed at how Christians who claim that God, who loves everyone, believe that this same God will condemn the unrighteous to an eternity of torment in a burning hell.

And why these same Christians become so upset when you show them in Scripture that God will only condemn the unrighteous to the “Second Death”—Never to exist again. Is it any wonder that unbelievers resist and reject anything that these Christians tell them about their “loving God”? 

So if a forever burning hell does not exist, just where did this belief come from?

To understand the source of the idea that people are tortured in an ever-burning hell, we have to go outside the Scriptures. That should send up a red flag for anyone who regards the Bible as his or her only truth and source of belief.

“People are deterred from evil courses when, either through descriptions or through typical representations of objects unseen, they learn of divine punishments, terrors, and threats….There is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths and marvels.” —First-century Greek philosopher, Strabo  

Plato (ca. 428–347 B.C.E.) became a key figure in the development of this idea. His name appears frequently in the writings of Augustine, who noted that the Greek scholar had “perfected philosophy” and that he “is justly preferred to all the other philosophers of the Gentiles.” (City of God 8.4) 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which describes Augustine as a “Christian Neoplatonist,” remarks: “One of the decisive developments in the western philosophical tradition was the eventually widespread merging of the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions. Augustine is one of the main figures through and by whom this merging was accomplished.” 

One of the key tenets of Neoplatonic thought adopted by Augustine was that humans possess natural immortality of the soul. This was a critical step in his developing the idea that unbelievers could be made to endure eternal torment in hell.

What does the Bible teach?

Pagan cultures and philosophies have contributed greatly to modern concepts of hell. But what does the Bible itself say on the subject? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word often translated as “hell” is Sheol, though it actually means “the grave.” The Greek word, “Hades” means the same thing as the Hebrew word, Sheol—The grave.

In the New Testament, we find that the the word most often used for hell by Christians is Gehenna, referring to the Gehenna Valley, or the Valley of Hinnom. Just outside the walls of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day it was where the local population dumped and burned trash.  

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the Gehenna Valley “acquired a bad reputation because sacrifices were offered in it to Moloch in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh. (kings of Judah) The Valley of Hinnom came to be equated with the hell of the last judgment in apocalyptic literature.” In extra-biblical Jewish writings from the second century B.C.  the name Gehinnom thus came to be used for the eschatological fire of hell. In the first century A.D. the term was further extended to cover the place where the ungodly were punished, but this was not so in the teachings of Jesus or the Early Church. 

According to Jeremiah 7, the Israelite inhabitants of the region had erected idols in the temple of God, and in the adjacent valley they had set up altars to these false gods. They had even burned their children on these altars to appease their pagan gods. 

In Jeremiah 19:4–7, the prophet offers this message from God: “‘Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built high places to Baal to burn their sons in fire as burnt offerings to Baal, . . . therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Jehovah, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.” 

This is how Gehenna was known in Jeremiah’s day. In the New Testament, the word Gehenna is generally used in references to the final destruction of evildoers. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Gehenna) (Matthew 10:28) 

In other words, people can kill you, but they can kill only the body. Don’t fear them; fear the One who can put an end to you forever. 

Many Christians today might ask, But what about Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:41? “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’”? And what about Mark 9:47-48? “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” 

In both cases the eternal fire is used in order to prevent them from wreaking any more havoc on the rest of God’s creation. But the “eternal fire” of hell has been misunderstood by the majority of people for many centuries. Note that “everlasting fire” (Matt 25:41) and “eternal fire” (Jude 7) are from the same original words. It is not the fire itself but its effects that are everlasting as in Jude 7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” 

Of course, Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning yet they “are set forth for an example” of the results of a sinful course.

And the “worm does not die” in Mark 9:47-48 is referring to maggots. Maggots do not die. They later turn into flies and make more maggots. And the Lake of Fire will not be quenched, but it will eventually burn itself out—Just as a campfire or a charcoal grill will eventually burn itself out. 

The apostle Peter writes: ”And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;” (2 Pet 2:6) 

The wicked will be burned completely, not burning forever in an eternal fire. “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Mal 4:3) It is the destruction, not the process that is forever.

The Bible is very clear about what happens to the unrighteous after the resurrection:

“When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever!” (Psalms 92:7)

“Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.” (Psalms 104:35)

“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.” (Psalm 37:10)

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) *Perish, not tormented forever in a burning hell. 

“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” (Psalms 37:20)

And Psalm 59:12-13 says, “By the sins of their mouths and the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride, in the curses and lies they utter. Consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, so it may be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob. Selah” 

There are many more Scripture verses that reveal the truth about God’s loving judgments. And the Bible is always clear when you allow it to explain itself.

So what is wrong with believing in and teaching that there is a forever burning hell reserved for the unsaved if some are saved and come to serve God because of it? Because God has not called us to frighten sinners into repentance. And if a person is only following God out of fear, their faith and love for God is not real. They are only using God as a fire escape. And what trauma this will cause them when a loved one dies without Jesus, and they believe that God condemned them to an eternity in a forever burning hell? How then, can you profess to be a follower of Jesus and “love your neighbor as yourself” and yet refuse to speak the truth? 

Many are wondering why the world has become so ugly and hate filled—even by those who claim to be God’s people. The Bible gives us a very direct answer:

“Where there is no prophetic vision or divine guidance, the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who obeys God’s law.” (Proverbs 29:18)

What is this prophetic vision or divine guidance? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) If a people do not hear and obey God’s Word, then we can only expect society to break down—even within local churches. 

We see it within our own government officials and throughout the world. With the next presidential election coming up this year we hear all kinds of promises from the candidates: Immigration reform, equality for women, ending sex trafficking, Medicare for all, free college education, higher minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for it all. 

But do you know what won’t be mentioned in any of the speeches? Human rights for children, how to prevent sexual abuse of children and how to protect children from pedophiles living in their own homes or employed at their schools and daycares.

It was recently reported that at least 56 Nebraska educators were linked to sexual misconduct since 2014! Fifty six! And that’s only the ones who were reported! 

At least 74 students or recent high school graduates were victimized. In some cases, the abuse occurred years before the perpetrators were caught!  

  • In return for pictures of a 14-year-old student’s naked breasts, a Norfolk student teacher bumped the girl’s grade from a 79 to a 95. (He was only sentenced to six months in jail)
  • A Loup City teacher set up a camera in a locker room to spy on high school girls changing their clothes. 
  • An Omaha middle school math teacher groomed and then sexually assaulted a female student in his classroom during lunch.

A national expert said less than 10% of abused students tell somebody about the abuse because of fear, guilt or a misguided desire to protect the educator.

(read more at https://www.omaha.com/news/plus/i-m-really-disgusted-to-see-that-number-nebraska-educators/article_3fd2f36a-d6d2-59ae-baab-74fbb029f90c.html)

While many will be outraged by this, (and rightly so) they may be ringing their hands and asking, “How could this happen?” The truth is the reason there is so much immorality today is because God’s Word is not obeyed. And God’s way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30) But the real danger lies in defiling a holy God by transgressing His boundaries. Our God is a God of justice, and “the ways of man are before the eyes of the Jehovah, and all his ways He observes.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Stories of racism and anti-semitism has been in all of the news outlets lately. I just want to say that I love the people of Israel. But I also love the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia—Just as much as I love the mixed people living in the United States. The problem is not the people, but the political and military leaders of these people. 

It is time that the God fearing people in the world today put away their hate, repent, turn back to God and pray for our enemies. Remember: 

“You are far across the ocean in a war that’s your own—And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home—Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace—Is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” — Great American Novel by Larry Norman

 

 

Hanukkah and Christmas are similar in the fact that they both promote false narratives and traditions of men.

The Hanukkah story essentially describes a culture war—Us against them, rather than us against the Greeks and Syrians.The Hellenists were the Jews who had assimilated into the Greek culture, adopted some of the Greek ways of life and incorporated them into the Jewish culture. The group led by the Maccabees resisted any outside influences and not only purged the Greeks, but even their own countrymen. Similar to those in the United States today where much of the population is involved in some sort of culture war and promoting false narratives.

Although the New Testament records that Jesus was at the temple during the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-23) I don’t believe he was there lighting  a nine branched menorah and playing Dreidel. 

The real story of Hanukkah begins with a revolt, for reasons that would resonate to this day—gross inequality, immoral ideology and religious coercion. The truth is, is that Hanukkah originally had nothing to do with a miraculous oil supply or playing Dreidel, any more than the birth of Jesus originally had anything to do with decorating trees and houses, Mistletoe, caroling or exchanging gifts. 

I see nothing wrong with family traditions as long as they don’t take away from God’s truth of  the Bible. 

Since the Bible teaches that we are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 3:16) perhaps we should consider rededicating ourselves to God, just as the Jews rededicated God’s temple. 

For more information see:

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/the-astonishing-real-story-of-hanukkah-1.5296084

https://www.livescience.com/61073-hanukkah-history-traditions.html