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Whose Side are You On?

GODINTEREST - Christian blog covering faith, culture and life

There’s a battle going on and you’re in the midst of it, whether you know it or not.  It’s a world war.  I call it LOE (Life On Earth), and lo and behold, you are in it every waking hour.  You restless sleepers may even be experiencing it in your sleep!  There are only two sides in this war, and if you’re not on one side, then you’re on the other.  Do you need some help choosing sides if you haven’t done so already?  Do you want further information as you reconsider whose side you want to be on?

Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn based upon David’s call to commitment given to his army in I Chronicles 12, and his army’s response to him.  Verse 13 says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David, and…

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Rejoicing in Affliction

Romans 5:1-5

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Rejoicing in the midst of suffering seems so unnatural to us; how can we rejoice when we are afflicted with illness, with calamity or with persecution? Yet, as counter-intuitive as it seems, we can rejoice in our sufferings. Paul wrote a lot about suffering, particularly suffering for the Gospel of Christ. Jesus Himself told us that we would suffer in this world and face many trials. When faced with suffering of any kind we must remember that we live in a fallen, corrupted world, and that suffering through various trials is a part of life. It is our response to it that we have some measure of control over, and our response will be determined by the amount of our faith and our closeness to the Lord. Once when presented with a blind man (who Jesus healed), the religious authorities asked Him who sinned, the man or his parents, that resulted in the man’s blindness. Jesus answer was very revealing: neither’s sins caused the blindness. Illness can be used by God as a means of chastising us or training us in faithfulness, but it is also a natural result of living in weak, mortal, sinful bodies in the present age. Illness is NOT a sign of a lack of faith as some teach; if a believer suffers through illness due to a lack of faith, what does that say about Paul and his thorn in the flesh? I have seen the faith of some destroyed because people erroneously teach that a believer should never be sick. Our bodies age and are attacked by illness due to our own mortality. As we age we develop aches and pains, and frequently our aches become chronic pain that in some cases can really interfere with our activities. We get cancer, we get diabetes, we get any number of diseases and medical afflictions. But even though we get hit with such things, we can still have an attitude of joy and even thankfulness. Not at the fact that we are sick, but in the knowledge that in Christ we have Salvation and eternal life. The sufferings of this present life are as nothing compared to an eternity of joy and peace and health with Jesus; our lives may seem long, but compared to eternity they go by like the blink of an eye. So when you wake up in the morning stiff and sore and having a hard time moving, be at peace and joyful in the Lord. Give thanks because you woke up and draw breath and are able to feel that pain. Give thanks to God for His mercy and love in giving us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Just don’t fall for the lie that you are sick or in pain because you lack faith.

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

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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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Thoughts on the Alignment of September 23rd, 2017…

Revelation 12:1

“A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”

There has been so much written lately about the planetary alignment occuring on this coming September 23rd; search that date in Youtube and you will pull up a long list of videos talking about that subject. Some state that this alignment is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Revelation 12:1. Some call it one of the great signs and wonders in the heavens prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24. Some even use this to claim it as proof that the “Rapture” is going to occur on that date or shortly thereafter. And some also state that this alignment is no big deal. What is the truth of the matter? Let’s look at a couple of points to keep in mind when you prayerfully consider this subject.
The first thing to consider is the context of this one verse in the prophecies of the twelfth chapter of Revelation. John continues in verses 2-6 to describe the woman giving birth to a male son, “who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” and who will be snatched up to God and His heavenly throne; this is clearly meant to represent the Savior, Jesus Christ. In verses 3-4, the apostle describes another sign appearing in heaven, that of the “red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads”; this image refers to Satan and the political and economic alliance that will provide the power base for the Antichrist. The entire first 6 verses of Revelation 12 are a metaphorical description of the advent of the Messiah and the power structure of the Beast. Nowhere does it state that this sign is the announcement of the end. In fact, the remainder of the chapter describes the war in the heavens between the followers of Satan and the armies of God led by Michael the archangel, and the chapter ends with the dragon going off in a rage and waging war against the elect of God in Jesus. Trying to interpret the Bible from one verse taken out of context is a bad idea and nearly always leads to a faulty interpretation and then spiritual deception. Read everything in the Scriptures, especially the prophecies, in the light of the context of the passage where they appear.
My second point addresses those who claim that this alignment announces the imminence of the “Rapture” despite the fact that Jesus clearly said on more than one occasion that no man would know the date or time of His coming. Read Matthew 24 again and pay close attention to verses 30 and 31 to learn when Jesus will gather His elect “from one end of the heavens to the other.” This alignment does not indicate the day of Christ’s return, and if you say that it does you are falling into the same trap of predicting His return that many have fallen into in the past; even Augustine predicted that Jesus would return in or around the year 1000 AD. Some relate this to the beginning of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets, and if that is how they want to see it they are entitled to that opinion, but as yet I have been shown nothing Biblical to pronounce that this is the sign that Christ is almost here. Be careful in your interpretations.
And third, this alignment has been touted by some as a great sign in the heavens. How does this qualify as such? Remember that in the middle of this alignment will be the sun, which means that this alignment would only be above us during the day. No one will be able to see it due to the light of the sun. Only astronomers with highly specialized equipment will be able to actually view this alignment; people who have software on their computers such as Stellarium will be able to see a representation of the alignment but not the alignment itself. There are other astronomical factors that come into play but the bottom line is that if it weren’t for astronomers and people with astronomical programs and a lot of time on their hands no one would know that this alignment was even taking place. I think that to be a true sign and wonder in the heavens such as Jesus spoke of it would need to be visible to a lot of people in the way that the recent eclipse was visible to millions without relying on technology to let us know that it had happened.
So be very careful, my brothers and sisters, before you read too much into an “event”. We will be seeing many signs and wonders as Jesus prophesied; we already have been. But there are still a number of conditions “on the ground” that need to be met before the return of our Lord in power and glory, such as the reign of the Beast, the implementation of the Mark of the Beast for financial transactions, and Satan’s war against the saints. Until these signs are met we must continue patiently enduring, watching and waiting and being alert and informed. Don’t go off in a panic and sell everything and put on white robes because you think the Lord is about to return. That glorious day is very close, closer than we may think, but it is not not here yet.

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

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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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