Category Archives: Faith in the 21st Century

Are we Under the Law of Moses?

Galatians 3:1-5

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believed what you heard?”

There has been much said over the centuries concerning the issue of observing the Law of God as given to Moses in the wilderness some 3500 years ago or more, and there is much being continually said on that subject today; it seems to be one of those subjects that Christians will be arguing about until the Lord returns, which will thankfully be soon. Now I’m not a theologian, but I am fully capable of reading and understanding the Bible and the Lord reveals through His Word what the truth is. So let me throw another log on the spiritual fire and give a Scriptural view of the relationship of Christians to the Law.

The Bible is clear: as Christians we are no longer under the judgement of the Law, for Jesus fulfilled the Law on the cross. Period. Does this mean that we promote lawlessness and rampant sin as some charge? Of course not, that is a ludicrous claim and Paul dealt with the same attacks in the middle of the first century. As Christians we uphold the Law, meaning that we view it as it should be viewed: as a tutor to lead us to repentance and faith in Christ. No one has ever been saved by obedience to the Law, or to the Commandments if you prefer to call them that. No one. The only person in the entire history of humanity that was sinless and in perfect obedience to the Law is Jesus Christ, and He achieved that only because He is God in human flesh. For everyone else the Law stands as proof that we are sinners in need of Christ, no more, no less. If a law could be given by which we could be saved, then Christ would not have had to die on the cross.

The reason we are unable to meet the requirements of the Law is simple: humans are flawed with sinful natures and we mess up. To keep the Law, to obey the Commandments enough to win justification before God, you would have to keep every law perfectly for all of your life. That is an impossibility for mere mortals. If you break even one commandment, even slightly, you have broken the entire Law. When Jesus walked among us the first time, He expounded on the Law and showed how difficult it was to keep it. If you hate anyone you have violated the commandment not to murder; if you look at someone lustfully and wish you could sleep with them you have committed adultery. Who could possibly maintain such a rigorous level of perfection? Only Jesus Christ, and that is what made His death on the cross for our sins effective.

If we are in Jesus Christ we walk in a new way, by the Spirit, and the condemnation of the Law no longer hangs over us. Will we make mistakes? Of course we will, we are mere humans with sinful natures. But as John wrote in 1st John 1:9, if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us. Grace is not a license to sin, it just means that when we do sin we can be forgiven through faith in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Even if we sin a dozen times, if we fight it and turn to our Lord and seek forgiveness, He will forgive us. Yes, we should honor the Law and even preach it as a way to lead people to repentance and faith, but we no longer have to live under the Law. Do not let those who teach legalism lead you astray or bewitch you with their teachings: no one could ever follow perfectly any code of behavior, including the Law of Moses. For with the slightest mistake you have put sin between you and a holy and perfect God, and without God’s grace given freely through Jesus Christ that one sin will doom you to an eternity of suffering.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Our Shepherd

I hope you are blessed and receive encouragement in the faith from this teaching regarding the role of Good Shepherd that our Lord fills…

“Our Shepherd

Psalm 23 describes God as a caring shepherd. Yet the job of ‘shepherd’ is relatively unknown to the average person today. What exactly does a shepherd do? Why is God depicted as such? A cursory study of shepherds and sheep seems necessary to unpack the riches of the imagery in Psalm 23 as well as the psalm’s relevance to the New Testament’s depiction of Christ as the ‘good shepherd’. (John 10:1-18)

One of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd is guarding his flock. Thieves, wild animals and the wandering inclinations of the sheep themselves mean that a shepherd must actively work to keep his sheep safe from harm. (1st Samuel 17:34-35) Every night, a shepherd counts his sheep to ensure none have strayed or been stolen. (Jeremiah 33:13) If any of the sheep are missing, he goes out to look for them, discontent to lose any of those under his care. (Ezekiel 34:11) Not only does the shepherd tend to their wounds when they have been attacked, but he also ‘binds up the injured and strengthens the weak’ even when their injuries or weaknesses are of their own doing. (Ezekiel 34:16)

A shepherd also meets his flock’s basic needs for food and water by traveling far and wide to locate viable sources. What may appear to be a simple provision is, in actuality, a strenuous undertaking. Leading masses of sheep to food and water often involves trekking across difficult terrain and enduring harsh climates. (Genesis 31:40) Shepherding requires fortitude, endurance and skill.

God is depicted in Scripture as the kind of shepherd who does more than provide food, shelter and safety.; He even goes so far as to bless His flock. The entire thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel describes God as a good shepherd who will ‘send down showers in season…showers of blessing’. (Ezekiel 34:26) Truly the ‘cup overflows’ for those who are shepherded by God Himself.

Likewise, Jesus refers to Himself as the ‘good shepherd’ who ‘lays down His life for the sheep’. (John 10:11) He is the Messianic shepherd hoped for by God’s people, foreshadowed by the psalmist David and foretold by the prophets. Jesus is the Good Shepherd worth listening to and worth following (John 10:3-5), the Good Shepherd who knows the name of every sheep and who died to give them ‘life to the full’. (John 10:10-11)

Jesus, thank you for laying down your life for me. I lay my life down at your feet. I want to follow You every moment of every day. Amen.”

From the Jesus Bible Reading Plan, Day 284, on the Bible App available free from Youversion.

May our Lord bless and protect you all in these end times, in the Name of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Savior.

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Storm Warning

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen Harvey hit Texas with massive flooding, an 8.1 earthquake in southern Mexico and now hurricane Irma is getting ready to rip Florida a new one. But in just the last two days I’ve heard everyone from a pampered movie star to people interviewed on the street to news anchors refer to this as the wrath of “Mother Nature”. To me that touches on one of the root causes of the problems we’re getting hit with, and that is a complete denial of God. These events are occuring because God is trying to get our attention and turn us away from our sins. (They are not, as some misguided people have claimed, happening because we elected Donald Trump as President.) Now I know all the meteorological explanations for storms like Harvey and Irma, but you have to remember that science can only describe the mechanics of how God does things. He is still sovereign and in control of events in the marvelous universe He created. He is using these storms to shake us out of our complacency, to get us to stop relying on ourselves and our technological cleverness and military might and start relying on Him. He is trying to get us to turn away from our humanism and our arrogance and our false belief systems and turn back to Him. He wants us to repent of all the wickedness that has become so prevalent and turn to Him through faith in His Messiah, the risen Jesus Christ. Time is running out, my friends. Events are happening exactly as prophesied and will continue to do so with increasing frequency. Don’t be one of the untold billions who will stubbornly refuse to heed His warnings. Jesus loves you, He died for you, and He stands before you with open arms wanting you to turn to Him and find eternal life. Don’t harden your hearts to Him.

May God comfort all those who have suffered in these disasters, and may He protect His children in Florida who stand in the path of this storm.

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Josephus

 

Josephus was a Jewish historian of the 1st Century. He was born in Jerusalem in 37 AD and lived until about the year 100 AD. He was born into a well to do family; his father was a priest and his mother was descended from the royal Hasmonean Dynasty that ruled Judea until the Romans moved in in the middle of the first century before Christ. Josephus was highly educated and while in his 20s was part of a diplomatic mission to the Emperor Nero to secure the release of some Jewish priests being held by the Romans.

When the Jews launched their ill-fated rebellion against Roman occupation in the mid-60s AD, the ruling Sanhedrin in Jerusalem appointed Josephus military governor of Galilee, where he led a spirited and innovative campaign against both Jewish rivals and the invading Roman army of future emperor Vespasian until he surrendered himself after a six week city at the Galilean city of Jotapata in 67 AD. He then served as interpreter for Vespasian until word arrived that the emperor had died and Vespasian was elevated to the throne by his army. Josephus then served as interpreter to Vespasian’s son Titus during his campaign in Judea proper that culminated in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Josephus then went to Rome and was made a citizen, and began writing his histories.

Josephus’ primary writings that survive include:
The Jewish War, published around 75 AD and detailing the history of Judea leading up to the failed rebellion against the Romans and the sack of Jerusalem;
The Antiquities of the Jews, published around 94 AD and covering Jewish history from the Creation to the middle of the first century;
Against Apion, published late in Josephus’ life and which served as a defense of the history and antiquity of the Jewish people;
and My Life, which is his autobiography, of course.

Josephus was most likely a member of the party of the Pharisees, and it is through his writings that we possess most of our knowledge about the three major sects in Judea at the time, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the monkish Essenes who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls. Josephus also provides us a great deal of historical information regarding Israel from the building of the second temple until 70 AD, including the long years ruled by the Macedonian heirs of Alexander the Great, the successful rebellion led by the Maccabees and the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty, and the ascension of the Idumean Herod the Great to the throne and the tumultuous rule of his dynasty. In his “Antiquities”, Josephus gives us non-Biblical references to John the Baptist, James the Just (brother of Jesus), and Jesus Himself, although in fairness I must point out that most modern scholars believe those references were added by later, Christian writers. (These, however, are the same scholars who dispute nearly everything about the Bible in an attempt to discredit it.) It is widely believed that Josephus became an Ebionite Christian late in his life, although Josephus himself does not state so in his writings. I’ve read translator William Whiston’s notes on that possibility and he builds a strong case based on what Josephus and others wrote in the early Christian period.

Josephus was an important writer for the Christian faith (even though he did not plan it that way and in fact wrote largely for the Romans) simply because he preserved for us a wealth of information concerning the history of the Jewish people that our Savior came out of that we otherwise would not have. He includes much information that was not included in our Old Testament but which corroborates it. He gives us most of our available information about the years between the building of the second temple in Jerusalem and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, an event which he saw as Divine punishment for many sins, especially the murder of James the Just. Whiston was convinced that Josephus drew from the library of sacred writings gathered in Jerusalem by Nehemiah at the time of the return from Babylon. Without Josephus we would know next to nothing of the Pharisees and the Sadducees other than what the Gospels state. His works provide a treasure trove of background information regarding the Judea and Jerusalem and Galilee that Jesus knew and loved. His writings may not qualify as light reading for anyone, but if you have an interest in the history of ancient Israel up to and through the time of Christ and the apostles, Josephus is well worth spending time with.

“And now, ‘O most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy intestine hatred! For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God, nor couldst thou longer continue in being, after thou hadst been a sepulchre for the bodies of thine own people, and hadst made the holy house itself a burying place in this civil war of thine!'” Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter 1 Section 3.

Grace and peace to you all from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Solar Eclipse Mania

Here in Oregon at least eclipse mania is running rampant regarding the total solar eclipse coming on Monday, August 21st. People are planning eclipse parties and organized “experiences” to celebrate the eclipse. Hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more visitors, are expected to flood into Oregon during the days just before and after the eclipse. The authorities are trying to avoid creating panic among residents, but at the same time they are warning that there will be immense traffic jams, shortages of necessities, and possible failure of such services as cell phones, the Internet, and possibly even electricity due to being overwhelmed by the huge influx of visitors. No one knows exactly what to expect, but all the projections for Lincoln County here on the coast (where I live) are that we will get hundreds of thousands of people coming here to watch the eclipse at “ground zero”, where it will first reach the coast of the US. But there is a bigger picture here that most people are missing. This eclipse will qualify as one of the “signs in the sun, moon and stars” prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:25. There is a long history of solar eclipses coming shortly before disasters of one kind or another, far too many to list in this post, but just taking a cursory look at a list of total solar eclipses visible in at least parts of North America since 1901, several interesting dates stand out. The last total eclipse visible in the main United States was on June 8, 1918. “But World War 1 ended a few months later, how was that disastrous?” True, but in 1918 the terrible Spanish flu pandemic began, and before it petered out in 1920 it had killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide. Another interesting date is the eclipse on July 9th, 1945; one month later the atomic bombs forced Japan to surrender after the detruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I could go on but you get the idea. This eclipse will be no different, it will be serve as a warning from God that some disaster is about to fall, and since this one will be visible from coast to coast in America it is aimed at us. We have to realize that in spite of all the noble words being pronounced by political and religious leaders about peace and safety possible in our day, our world is headed to judgement for our own wickedness. It is coming and will be unavoidable. Our only response should be to repent and turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then patiently wait for His return in power and glory to claim the earth as His own. It’s coming sooner rather than later. I plan on watching this eclipse, of course, but I do so in the knowledge that it is a wonder arranged by God for His purpose. Something to remember while we are swarming to witness this unique event.

May our LORD God have mercy on us in Jesus’ name.

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Matthew 24:4-8

“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.'”

Wars and rumors of wars. Kingdom rising against kingdom. We are seeing that come to pass, and today thanks to the ambitions of a dictator in North Korea we stand at the brink of yet another war, but one of a far more destructive and dangerous kind. We are closer to nuclear war today than at any time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. But how should we as believers in Jesus react to this threat? Fear is the natural reaction, certainly. A terrible sadness at the thought of millions losing their lives of course. But what did Jesus say when He was prophesying the events leading up to His return in power and glory? In Luke 21:28 the Savior tells us “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” That is what our response should be…hopeful anticipation. Not hoping for the devastation that will come upon the earth before the end. Not looking forward for the rise of the Beast and the introduction of his mark, and certainly not delighting in the terrible persecutions of believers to come when Satan’s war against the saints kicks into high gear. We already know from Scripture that things are about to get very, very bad here on earth, and if we believers ever needed patient endurance it is now. Yet, at the same time we are to look up and rejoice, for these things all mean that Jesus Christ is about to return in an impossible to miss way and establish His rule over the nations here on earth. It means that our redemption is just around the corner. Jesus’ return and our being raised imperishable (or transformed, not all of us will die before His return) is the great hope Christians have been longing for ever since the day when Christ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. So do not despair when Kim Jong Un threatens a nuclear attack upon America; a nuclear war will happen at some point. Do not let a godless madman rob you of your joy in the Lord. Be strong and stay true to Jesus, for His return is coming, and much sooner than most people think. These few years of death and destruction will be as nothing compared to an eternity with our Lord, and soon they will be forgotten. He has promised to return and not abandon us, and if God promises it then you can count on it happening. Pray hard and share His Word with as many as possible, for our redemption draws near.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Merry Christmas 2015

Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged back in…

It’s been a whole year and a half since my last post and a lot has happened, both to me personally and in the world at large. For those of my readers who have been following me this whole time, I apologize for the long hiatus in my writing and I thank you for your patience. For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time, please bear with me for a minute while I catch up…

In the world at large so much has been happening since I last wrote that I hardly know where to begin. Since my last post we’ve seen the rise of ISIS to global prominence as the world’s leading terror organization and have seen their influence extend well beyond the Middle East. ISIS-inspired terror attacks have been perpetrated by radicalized Muslims throughout the world, including America, and civilization as we know it in the West has been shaken to its very foundations. We’ve seen the Syrian civil war (as esteemed megalomaniac Axl Rose once sang, “what’s so civil about war anyway” – he may have borrowed that line from elsewhere) continue and now the U.S. and Russia have both been dragged into it on opposing sides, rather reminiscent of the proxy wars of the Cold War period. China has been aggressively claiming the entire South China Sea and its islands, which are also claimed by nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and the Red Chinese have been busily turning isolated reefs into small islands capable of supporting military operations. The Earth has inched ever closer to the spectre of World War III with the three major powers – America, Russia and China – all working against each other while the world looks on with held breath. Our world is rapidly sinking into chaos and madness and no one, especially Barack Hussein Obama, seems to know what to do about it or even acts like they care. If ever we were in the Last Days of this age it is now.

Personally, the last year and a half have seen me go through a lot of personal turmoil, which is primarily why this blog has been so silent. Many things have happened around me which has left me out of balance and scrambling for some sort of stability. I received yet another “no” from Social Security concerning my disability case, when sent me into a tailspin. I endured romantic disaster which left me despondent and deeply depressed; at one point my psychiatrist was even considering electroshock therapy as a way of pulling me out of it. And then things finally started turning around in June of this year when my eldest daughter got in touch with me, followed in short order by my eldest son, and the depression began to lift. I finally admitted to myself that I had an excellent romance with a sweet Christian lady who I had loved for over a year and began focusing my attentions on her. And most importantly, I finally got back on track spiritually by slowly becoming an active and committed follower of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Life isn’t perfect – when is it ever – but it’s a lot better than it was in June of 2014 when I last wrote a post for this blog.

So I will once again become active in my writing after a long break. I will try to be diligent about writing on a regular basis but I make no promises until I get back in the habit of writing. I will alter the focus of this blog from politics and the esoteric to a more spiritual approach, which still leaves room for a lot of weirdness since reality is so very different from what most of us believe, even Christians. So please just bear with me while I get my writer’s feet back under me and get my happy butt back to work.

In the meantime let’s not forget the reason for the Christmas season, which is that roughly 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem the Savior of all humanity was born, Jesus Christ. The exact date is unimportant as are the traditions that have grown over the last 20 centuries and even the origins of the date of December 25th as the day when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. What really matters is that the Son of God was born into this world to pay the price for all our sins and to be the sacrifice through which we might obtain Salvation. I will not make apologies if this belief offends anyone for God is greatly offended by our sins. Thankfully He is a merciful and loving God who cared enough to submit His only Son to the horrors of crucifixion and death.

So love each other this blessed Christmas season and try not to focus on the material aspect of the holiday. Instead focus on all those who love you, your friends, your family, and your loving Father in heaven.

Peace and blessings be with you all.

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