“I DON’T BELONG HERE!”

That is the exact mindset and feeling every begotten again son and daughter of the Most High should feel as they begin to enter into true spiritual maturity.  “I don’t belong here!”  No longer will there be any grasping to remain in the flesh, fighting with all one’s strength to continue life among the living.  Finally there will come the realization of what our Lord’s apostles meant when they described converted believers as sojourners, pilgrims, aliens and wayfarers on this earth and spoke of how our citizenship is truly in heaven and not on this earth.
Don’t misconstrue what I say.  I don’t mean they become suicidal or harbor a death wish.  Beginning to live the more abundant life in the here and now, developing a deep and abiding love and concern for all born human, they enjoy life to the fullest.  But they realize that this physical existence is but Phase One of the life that is truly life and life eternal.  They long that this mortal shall put on immortality.  They yearn that this corruptible form shall be clothed with incorruption.  They intensely desire the change from flesh to spirit that awaits every son and daughter of God through Jesus Christ.  For this end they were born, and for this reason they came into the world.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ,” not “I have a desire to die.”  It is Satan that inspires his deceived followers to say, “We have a desire to die.”  None of them say they have a desire to die and be with Christ.  Their selfish desire is die and be given what they believe to be a martyr’s reward.  Blinded by Satan’s lies and instilled with his hatred, they think murdering the innocents around them as they forfeit their own lives will gain their Creator’s approval.  But God warns, “No murderer has eternal life abiding in him,” and that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.”
No, the mature believer doesn’t belong here, but his mindset is also that God’s will be done in his, or her, life.  If it is God’s will they live to a very great age, they glory in the fact that they might serve the cause of Christ their Lord for many more years to come.  And that is my mindset, my earnest desire.  If it is God’s will that I enjoy an eighth or ninth decade of life, so be it.  I shall greet each morning sun, wondering what can I do today to serve our Lord and be a blessing to those with whom I shall pass the hours of this new day.

The Little Flock

In closing his letter to the believers at Rome, Paul addresses himself to “all the churches of the Gentiles,” and mentions “the church that is in THEIR HOUSE (meaning Priscilla and Aquila)” (See Romans 16:3-5 and I Corinthians 16:19).  And, in closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house” (See Colossians 4:15).
If one is ignorant of the history of the early church and reads only the Book of Acts, they will come across such statements as “how many thousands of Jews there are which believe” (See Acts 21:20) and how “the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied IN JERUSALEM greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (See Acts 6:7).  The reader might then be led to believe that the number of members in the church increased exponentially and that the various assemblies of the church of the First Century contained hundreds, even thousands of members.  Not so!  As the word of God spread across the Roman Empire converts to the Christian faith found themselves under severe persecution and also found that their meeting places were limited to private homes or outdoor gatherings when their numbers were such that they could not be accommodated in a single house.
And, if the novice in the Word of God is unaware of the dates when various letters of the New Testament were written, one might think that the early church had a New Testament of sorts to guide and instruct them in the ways of God.  It is generally agreed that the first letter of the New Testament to be written was the Book of James and that it was written about 50 A.D.  The first gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were not penned until the sixties!  It is believed Paul’s first epistle was the Epistle of I Thessalonians and that it was written about 52 or 53 A.D.  Yet the church of God, what some call the “New Testament” church, began and was inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost in the early thirties (some say 31 A.D., some say 33 A.D.)
So what scriptures did the apostles and elders of the early church use to guide and instruct them in the doctrines of God, since they had no New Testament?  Well the only scriptures existing at that time – the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly called the Old Testament, of course!  When the Jews in Rome came together to hear Paul speak (he was then under house arrest in that city), “there came many to him into his lodging to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, BOTH OUT OF THE LAW OF MOSES, AND OUT OF THE PROPHETS (THE OLD TESTAMENT), from morning until evening.” (See Acts 28:23).  This would have been about the year 63 A.D.
The apostles and elders used the Hebrew scriptures not only to persuade the Jews in the truths of God, but they used these same scriptures to teach doctrine and instruct the members of the early church.  Anyone who states they do not get their doctrine from the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, reveals their profound ignorance of even the New Testament.
In the tiny Third Epistle of John, consisting of but 14 verses, John writes: “I wrote unto the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receives us not.  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words, and not content therewith, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church” (verses 9 and 10).
Notice, the true followers of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Christ’s apostles are cast out of the church, the assembly of believers.  You then have two entities, two sets of “Christians.”  One set remains organized and easily identifiable, the other goes underground, as it were, refusing to play follow the leader.  The organized church does grow exponentially, while the much smaller group remains small and is no longer aligned with the visible, organized church then spreading across the Roman Empire.  The apostle Peter foretold of this division to come in his second epistle, writing, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (secretly or stealthily) bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction (on the day of judgment).  AND MANY SHALL FOLLOW THEIR PERNICIOUS WAYS, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
These false teachers, the very authors of false Christianity, deny the Lord in that they introduce doctrines contrary to what Jesus Christ actually taught.  The truth becomes corrupted.  Counterfeit epistles and books of the Bible surface.  The apostle Paul warned the believers in Thessalonica: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, NOR BY LETTER AS FROM US, as that they day of Christ is at hand…” (See 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Jude writes of this same phenomenon in his tiny epistle, saying, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith (the one body of beliefs and doctrines) once delivered unto the saints (via Christ and his apostles), for there are certain men crept in unawares (among the various assemblies of believers), who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men (though posing as righteous men), turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness (lewdness), and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (verses 3 and 4).  They denied God and the Lord Jesus Christ by introducing doctrines and teachings that were contrary to Christ’s teachings and instruction.   To be continued….

An Apostle’s Bible

Have you ever held an apostle’s Bible in your hands?  I have many, many times.  In fact, I have about thirteen of them in my possession at the present time, and read from them daily.  Oh, I don’t mean the originals the apostles actually held in their hands and actually read from.  I mean copies printed in English and bound up with New Testaments and sold as one single book.  That’s right.  I am talking about the Old Testament.  It seems few ever stop to consider that the ONLY scriptures Jesus’ apostles had were the Hebrew scriptures – what we today call the Old Testament.  Years passed after the founding of the church before one of the apostles – those few who wrote lengthy letters to the early church – began writing such letters.  And, thus, the New Testament was written in a piece meal fashion.  One letter written a dozen or so years after the founding of the church in Jerusalem, another written ten or fifteen years later, until finally near the close of the First Century the apostle John wrote the final book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation around 96 A.D.
The New Testament, as such, did not come into being until more than two hundred years after the time of Christ!  Many modern believers, those who call themselves a “New Testament Church” seem to think the early church had the New Testament and used those scriptures to guide them in what they were to practice and believe.  Not so!
Were there such a thing as a time machine that one could step into, twist some dials and set a certain date, as well as a place, to which to return and then go back to let’s say Damascus or Joppa and the year 44 A.D. what a surprising revelation would await them.  And, since we are speaking of doing the impossible and doing something miraculous in the process, let’s say when you stepped out of the time machine you found that you were dressed as everyone else of that era and could speak fluently the language of the day and understand said language.  You then ask someone where the Christians were then meeting in that city.  And let’s keep on musing, and say the first person you asked just happened to be a Christian and said to you, “I am on my way to the house of Zacharias right now.  Since this is the fourth Sabbath of the month, we have agreed we will meet at his house this Sabbath as he has a large enough room to accomodate fifty of us.  Come with me.”  (I hope you are not surprised that such is the place where the early Christians met.  Church buildings would not come into existence for another two hundred years).  Would you be surprised that no one had a New Testament?  In fact, if you were to ask them about the lack of New Testaments, you would find they would gaze at you in consternation and quite puzzled and ask you, “What do you mean by a New Testament?”  They would not know what you were talking about.  In fact, they would not know what you were talking about if you asked if anyone had brought an Old Testament with them.  You see, the early church only had limited access to various scrolls of the Hebrew scriptures – what we today call the Old Testament.  Those scrolls were not called such at that time in history.
I learned a long time ago that most believers do not think very deeply.  They just believe.  That is why they are called believers.  A Roman Catholic believer believes Roman Catholic dogma and doctrine.  A Baptist believer quite naturally believes Baptist teachings.  A Jehovah’s Witness believer quite naturally hears, absorbs and believes Jehovah’s Witness doctrine.  Few ever question their beliefs.  They just believe and keep on believing.  Most are shocked to learn that the earliest Christian believers had no New Testaments.  God’s Word to them were the Hebrew scriptures, what most call the Old Testament.  When we read in Acts 17:11 that the Bereans “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things (Paul and Silas preached) were so,” it is the Hebrew scriptures to which they turned to determine whether these men were in accordance with God’s Word when they spoke.  You might want to give your “old” Testament a second look, believer.  You might have missed something.

The Blind Man Cannot See

Minds already made up, holding preconceived ideas are almost impossible to penetrate with the truth.  It’s like trying to show a physically blind man the color red.  He cannot hear  it.  He cannot feel it.  He cannot smell it.  He cannot taste it.  The one faculty he absolutely needs to appreciate that color is missing.  One lacking God’s illuminating Holy Spirit is much like the blind man.  He lacks the one component he absolutely needs in order to appreciate, to see and accept God’s truth.
We must never forget that we are approximately two thousand years in time removed from the founding day of God’s church.  Between our day and the day of our Lord’s earthly ministry and the working of His apostles lies a great yawning chasm of many centuries, centuries in which thousands and thousands of theologians and preachers lived and died and during their brief life spans disseminated a great deal of error and false concepts.  Succeeding generations merely built on that error until the precious truths of God’s Word were nearly utterly extinguished.
Some time ago there arose a faction in Spain that tried desperately to stamp out the sport of bullfighting in that country due to the abuse and brutality suffered by both the bulls and the bullfighters.  The editor of one of Madrid’s leading daily newspapers lead the cause.  One day the president of the Bullfighter’s Association asked for a meeting with the editor in his office.  After a lengthy give and take discussion that changed the opinion of neither party, the president of the Bullfighter’s Association stood to his feet leaned over the editor’s desk and said rather heatedly, “Sir, we are only talking about a sport here,” to which the editor also rather heatedly replied, “To you, sir, it is only a sport, but when the bull dies the bull dies in earnest!”
To many Christianity is only a religion, a culture, the mere forming of one’s world view.  But when a human being dies, he dies in earnest.  Every preacher needs to know and understand that if he understands nothing else.  Eternity is at stake.  Eternal rewards or losses of the same are at stake.  A preacher’s responsibility is far greater than that of a heart surgeon, or a military sniper, or the pilot of a giant airliner.  Surgeons, snipers and pilots have human lives in their hands and control.  Preachers and all those who presume to teach God’s Word to others have eternity in their hands.  I never, ever, ever forget that.

Obama’s Religion – A Closer Look

I would love to see a televised press conference wherein a reporter asks Obama two questions:  “Have you ever recited aloud the Shahada” (“There is no god but Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet”), and, secondly, “Are you a Christian or a Muslim?”  Of course, since Muslims are not only allowed to kill others and themselves in the furtherance of Islam, they are also permitted to lie and deceive in the furtherance of Islam.  Surprised?  I would like to see the cameraman then focus a close-up on Obama’s face.  I bet you would see beads of sweat break out on his brow as he stumbled through an answer, or, more likely, ignored the question and turned to another reporter and asked, “Next question, please.”  Remember, the “unpardonable sin” in Islam is for a Muslim to abandon Islam for any other religion.  (Forgive me for calling Islam a religion).  In Islam it is blasphemous (and worthy of death) if one defames the false prophet Mohammad or states that Jesus Christ is, or was, the Son of God.  So, I would like to see a third question asked of Obama, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?”

On March 3, 2007, while being interviewed in his office by a New York Times reporter, President Obama stated that he believed the Muslim call to prayer was “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.”

On September 7, 2008, George Stephanopoulos interviewed Obama on ABC’s This Week.  During that interview, Obama stated that “John McCain hasn’t talked about MY MUSLIM FAITH.”  George Stephanopoulos corrects Obama, saying, “Your Christian faith.”  Obama rephrases himself and says, “My Christian faith.”

On August 13, 2010, the New York Times reported that “Obama Strongly Backs Islamic Center Near 9/11 Site,” stating under that headline, “President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan” to make known his views in this matter.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2012, Obama stated that “the future MUST not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”  It doesn’t take an English Major to figure out that the obverse of that statement is “the future MUST belong to those who honor the prophet of Islam,” and, by extension, ISLAM!  And Obama is doing everything he can to make certain that becomes a fact in the United States.  I assure you he cannot get enough Muslim immigrants onto American soil before leaving office in less than 90 days.  And he has groomed Hillary Clinton to do the same.  You can bet her policies will assure that more and more Muslims, tens of thousands of them, will enter the United States and spread across this country from coast to coast.  Folks, believe this, Islam IS the wave of the future for America!

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The Reality Of Your Creator

“I say the truth in Christ.  I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 9:1).  The apostle Paul wrote those words two thousand years ago.  I understand fully why he had to preface his remarks with that declaration for when one is fully submitted to the total LORDship of Jesus Christ, when one has often cried out in such surrender, “Use me, O God.  Enlighten me, my Creator.  Show me your reality and power,” then, and probably only then, the world of the Spirit begins to open up, the shadowy parallel world of the Spirit advances and real, genuine, unarguable contact is achieved between creature and Creator.  That is WHY I so often have said, “There is no joy like the joy of obedience.”  You cannot outgive God.  It is absolutely and totally impossible.  Get real with God and see if He doesn’t get real with you.

And to think what I have achieved in my seventies could have been achieved in my teen years or twenties!!!  I think there will be a lot of weeping at God’s throne when men and women realize what they forfeited by walking in the flesh rather than in the spirit.  “Of all sad words of tongue are pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.'”  I have forgotten the author of that quotation, but they probably were first spoken or written by one who realized that of which I now speak.

God cannot lie.  It is impossible for God to lie.  And through His prophet Jeremiah God states emphatically, “You shall seek me, and find me WHEN YOU SHALL SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and I will be found of you,” says the Lord!  (See Jeremiah 29:13-`14).  Few do this, thus few make real, valid and tangible contact with their Creator.

A Story About Sherlock Holmes

When Life Becomes Unbearable

I have heard it argued that God will not put more on us than we can bear.  That might well be so, but Satan will.  Satan will make a person’s life so miserable that he or she will turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain.  Satan will make life so miserable and depressing that some despondent humans see death as a welcome release and the only reasonable solution to their problems.

“I have fought against it, but I cannot fight any longer.”   That was the note left by a suicide.  Here’s another: “All will and determination to fight has left me….l have reached the end of the trail.  I feel justified in terminating a life which no longer holds any hope.”  I assure you, God understands the suicide’s dilemma and is not angered in the least by their situation or even by their choice to put an end to their own life.

Suicide is NOT the unpardonable sin.  Many think it is, reasoning, “How can one ask forgiveness for committing the act of suicide?  They can’t ask for forgiveness after they die – they’re dead.  And if they were really sincere in asking for forgiveness before taking their own life, then they would stop and not commit suicide!”  Right?  Wrong!  Millions die suddenly, having no warning whatsoever that their life is about to end.  Most of those who so die have committed many sins, sins for which they have not asked forgiveness prior to their death!  Does that mean they die lost?  Unforgiven?  Of course not.  If that were the case, many dedicated Christians would die unforgiven.

One suicide wrote of how he saw life as a dirty trick pulled on mankind by some malevolent god.  Another forty-seven year old suicide wrote of how there wasn’t forty-seven days of his life he would wish to live over again.  One divorced sixty-one year old female wrote that she had lived sixty-one years too long, “The breaks were against me to the last.”

Suicides can be any age.  Sometimes even children commit suicide.  Often many suicides are teenagers.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people aged twelve to nineteen years in the United States.  According to the CDC (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) in 2013 there were 41,149 suicides in the United States!

In Part 2 of this continuing article, we will look at some suicides mentioned in the scriptures, and we will examine more closely how God really views the act of suicide and the person who commits that terrible act.

The Love of God

I was just playing that song, The Love of God, on my keyboard.  I wish I could convey to all whom I ever meet just how great is the love of God for the human race, “for God so loved the human race that He gave His Only Begotten Son” to buy us back from Satan’s enslavement.  He is not willing that ANY human being should perish and lose out on eternal life.  He’s got a plan, and what a marvelous, carefully thought out plan it is.   Abraham understood this plan.  So did Moses – that is why Moses could so easily tell the Israeli armies to spare neither infant nor suckling when destroying the pagan cities that had spread across Canaan.  No human being was to be spared.  Because God had a plan – a plan Moses, the meekest man who had ever lived up to that point, a plan he understood.  He knew that God planned a resurrection for all and would bring them back to life in a far better world, a world where Satan could deceive them no more.  Living in poverty and squalor, a life of misery and pain, disease and premature death, these beloved creatures of the Most High God had their lives taken swiftly and, yes, mercifully.  Because God had a plan.  And Moses understood that plan.  He knew that someday every last one of them will hear the same words Lazarus of old heard, “Come forth!”  And they will arise from the dust and be given a long, long lifespan in God’s utopian kingdom and THEN offered the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and with it eternal life, immortality, life unending.

Moses is credited with writing one Psalm and one Psalm only – the 90th Psalm.  In that Psalm Moses wrote: “You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, ye children of men.'” (verse 3).  Using the Israelite armies, God annihilated  tens of thousands of pagan peoples, but Moses understood God’s plan was to bring them back to life again in a far different world than that which they had known.  Continuing with this Psalm of Moses, we read: “For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (verse 4).  Since, in death, there is no knowledge of passing time, no day and night, seasons and years, these pagan nations instantly die and instantly return to life regardless of how the living observe and reckon time!  Continuing with verses 5 and 6, “Thou carry them away as with a flood; they are as asleep.  In the morning they are like grass which grows up.  In the morning it flourishes, and grows up; in the evening it is cut down, and withers.”  There time on earth is short and soon ended.  But that is not the end of the story.  They will someday come forth in a great resurrection, returning to physical life and given the opportunity to THEN join the great eternal family of God.

If preachers would just read the Hebrew prophets, believing what they read, they would know why scripture affirms God IS love!  And they, too, would see what Moses saw and would glorify God for His great goodness, His fairness, and His awesome plan of the ages.

Preachers Are A Dime A Dozen