Can We Communicate with the Dead?

ouijaIt is a desire resident within all of us, to know what happens after we die. For any who slip from this existence into what we call death, there has got to be that moment in which we hope we are right about what we believe.

Even for atheists, there must that moment of not being sure, hoping that their existences will end after that final breath. For others, there is that hope that they will not be reincarnated into something incapable of human interaction, something small and insignificant. For the “spiritual,” the hope is that they will pass into Tir Na Nog, Nirvana, Heaven, or a version of a “cool” Hell.

Some people are less concerned with what’s going to happen with their own deaths, wanting to, instead, know what is happening with someone that they knew who has already died. Is the dearly departed finally happy? Healed? Is that person finally capable of forgiving? Is he or she stranded in a state of limbo until something is finally resolved in this world?

So many questions to be answered, and many people seek them out in ways that they might never have considered, let alone pursued, before, all because they have got to have some reassurances. Which leads me to this …

Today on Facebook, I came across the following meme:

After reading several of the emphatic responses in the affirmative, I felt a need to reply as well. Here is my explanation of why I had to state, “Absolutely not”:

Absolutely not.

Having been involved in the occult and now a researcher and writer about the occult, I can tell you emphatically that your loved ones cannot visit you or speak with you after death.

First, what we know about God, demons, death, and the afterlife is from information recorded over thousands of years and preserved through a compilation of books/letters that we can read and research today called the Bible. There are also writings, both old and recent, that can provide some additional details about the afterlife, but they do not, in any way, contradict what the Bible has to say on the subject.

Here is the deal (please be patient, as this may take a minute or two to explain): We humans had a beginning date to our existence. This beginning came as a result of a loving God wanting to have a creation that He loved that would love Him back. But prior to humans being created, God created those that exist with Him in the heavenly realm. They were (are) called angels. These beings are not (and have never been) little babies with wings or pretty females with perfect figures and flowing hair with wings. The Bible details angels to be fierce and fearsome creatures. Every time that a human being in Scripture had an encounter with one of these beings, he or she was terrified, and each time the angel had to tell that human to not be afraid, that he meant no harm.

Prior to God’s work of creation on Earth, there was an angel named Lucifer who was the greatest and most powerful of the angelic beings. His splendor and strength was unequaled. He was one of the race of angels called Archangels. This being (to make a long explanation short) became extremely prideful. He fostered rebellion, believing that God was not fair in his distribution of power and authority. Lucifer wanted to replace God with his own self-styled regime and convinced a full third of the angelic beings to follow his lead.

God did not tolerate this rebellion and cast Lucifer and his angelic followers out of Heaven. Lucifer was renamed Satan (Adversary) and his followers were renamed demons. (I’ll refer to this renamed cadre as the Enemy.)

OK, that said …

Because of God’s love for His creation (we humans), the Enemy has been doing all it can to deceive, kill, steal, and destroy, with a focus to keep us AWAY from a true relationship with God, the way that God wants that relationship.

The Enemy’s hate for you and me cannot be quantified, because we cannot contemplate true, absolute evil. But suffice it to say, there are no bounds when it comes to what the Enemy wants to do to destroy us. We see it all the time, every day, the killing, the hate, the perversions, the false religions, the sickness, the gossip, the jealousy, etc. etc. etc. The combination of the Enemy’s plan and our own greed (desire to please ourselves, irrespective of what it costs others and what it does to impact a relationship with our Creator) has disrupted, quite effectively, what God wanted for us: peace, love, purpose, and pure relationships (with Him and each other).

Part of the Enemy’s deception to keep us away from God is to lead us to believe that Heaven is real and Hell is not. Also, to believe that our loved ones who have “gone before” can relate to us comforting explanations about the afterlife. Things like, “It’s beautiful here. Peaceful. Don’t worry about me. I’m well. I’m waiting for you” without any need for knowing who Jesus is. These “loved ones” are contacted through mediums using various methodologies to communicate back and forth, like tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards, channellers, etc.

If we can be made to believe that we’re having some sort of contact with our loved ones in the “great beyond,” then we will begin to believe their testimonies of what life is like in that next life.

BUT … It’s all deception. It’s a massive network of lies, a grand illusion to keep people from seeking out the truth of God (because we inherently, now, want to find our own satisfactory way of discovering “truth” and “reality”).

Demons impersonate those we love (or just knew) who have died. Let’s face it, our lives are being watched by these beings in the spirit realm. They know who we are, they know who our friends and relatives are. They know who our enemies (lower-case “e”) are. Using this information, they provide a counterfeit reality to try to persuade us that the Bible isn’t important, that we can create our own version(s) of who God is, and that we ultimately don’t need a relationship with Jesus in order to make it into Heaven.

It’s a game. It’s a game that the Enemy has created, with rules that they made up. Heck, they don’t even have to follow their own rules! They don’t NEED Ouija boards, for example, to communicate. But Ouija boards are mysterious and exciting. There is something about them that almost begs us to hope and believe that answers can be had through them. Same with tarot cards and channellers. But it’s all deception. It is the Enemy telling you what you will believe (both bad and good things about our lives and the lives of the departed).

The deceptions of the Enemy seem so very real, because they seem to surpass explanation. After all, if the being controlling the Ouija board or speaking through the channeller can give us details about our lives or those who have passed, that no one else knows, then that being must surely be “in the know” and most likely be someone that we actually knew. But it’s all a fabrication. It’s all a lie. And it’s ALL done to keep the one seeking answers from the TRUE Answer, who is Christ Jesus.

To those who say: “My medium believes in Jesus.” Or “I believe in Jesus, too,” I’ll say this …

The same Scripture that tells us who Jesus is and what He did to win us back to Himself through the Cross and Resurrection, makes it clear that the forces behind mediums, soothsayers, stargazers (horoscopes/Zodiac), etc. are evil; they are not to be sought or trusted.

Anyone can claim to be aligned with Jesus, but Jesus, Himself, said that on the day of final judgment of all who have lived, there will be many who will say, “But Lord, we did many signs in your name. We even cast out demons!” But the Lord will say, “Depart from me, you workers of evil, I never knew you.”

… And it will break God’s heart, because each individual who has ever lived was intentioned by God to exist so that he/she would have forever relationships with Him. His love, though, would not force anyone to have a relationship with Him. We must want Him as much as He wants us. It’s a shame that so many people will never seek Him with all of their hearts.

 

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Broken Sex, Broken Us

Broken SexEarlier today, I read an “article” called The Next Time Someone Uses the Bible to Say that Homosexuality is a Sin, Show Them This. It is a sarcastic jab at the Old Testament’s restrictions and permissions. The big problem is that it is completely without any context. It’s easy to make the Bible seem ridiculous if Scripture verses are used without frames of reference.

Sometimes I find myself just having to respond. It takes time to write up a decent response, because part of me wants to respond with the same level of sarcasm. Other times I just want to lash out and say, “You’re stupid and here’s why!” But, if I do that, I just show that I’m the stupid one.

Never are we, as Christians, called to lash out with a rant that is a put down. Even if we get angry that our beliefs are attacked or misrepresented, we’ve got to remember that “such were some of you,” as Paul said of the Christians he was teaching. Obviously, he was right.

Because I know that I come from the same brokenness—the same life of sin—as everyone else, I had to respond to this article with representative grace.

I nearly started off my response using the word “Liberal” to begin hacking away with my spiritual machete. But I knew in my spirit—thank You, Holy Spirit—that all I would be doing is pushing someone away who has a liberal view of living life. I needed to be a representative, not of “conservatism” or “the religious right,” but of God and His Word, not a jerk.

I know that the article is supposed to be sarcastic humor, but I also know that, ultimately, it’s a slam against the Bible and those who believe in it. Are we supposed to slam back?

No. I just wanted to have a say so that my beliefs could be heard. Just a carefully-worded response. Here it is:

Regarding the text in Leviticus (and the other Old Testament books referred to) it’s all about context. One must know more than the words of a verse of Scripture; one must know WHY things were written. Nothing in the post gives any reference to the whys.

But, even if things had been explained in detail, there is a REASON why there is now a NEW Testament. Not because God changed His mind on anything that was sin, but because HE DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

He put into play a RESCUE for every one of us.

First thing’s first, though…
Virtually EVERYONE is broken sexually in some fashion, whether it’s lust, adultery, premarital sex, transgenderism, pornography, homosexuality, rape, dominance, etc. None of these are God’s design for sex. Sex was designed for two things…
1. Making babies (obviously)
2. The development of a special, on-going loving bond between husband and wife combined with pleasure, intimacy, and intensity

IMPORTANT:
We have ALL violated God’s standards of what is right, EVEN IF IT HAS NOTHING to do wish sex.

This is WHY Jesus came to Earth: to be our Savior. And if we needed a savior, then that means we all need to be saved. but what does that mean, exactly … Saved?

The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Imagine the Creator of the Universe loving us so much that He would come in the form of a man and go through a hellacious death process, spilling His blood, taking the guilt of every sin we will ever commit onto Himself. All because of an intense love for you and for me.

His death … if we accept Him as Savior and Lord … saves us from punishment after we die. Hell is everyone’s default destination, NOT BECAUSE we are gay or adulterers or drunks or haters, etc., but because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has a sin problem. We are ALL guilty of wanting our own way instead of God’s.

Christianity has NOTHING to do with hate. It has nothing to do with being “better than everyone else.” It has nothing to do with that demonically-led Westboro Baptist Church. It has nothing to do with judgmentalism. NO! It has EVERYTHING to do with God loving EVERY ONE OF US so much that He paid the price for our sins though Jesus.

And all it takes for ANYONE to be “saved”—to be rescued from a horrible after-death destination—is to let Jesus know that we want His gift of grace (forgiveness that we can’t do anything to earn on our own).

My life was radically changed by Jesus Christ. He accepted me as a broken, suicidal, witchcraft-practicing mess and gave me a new life filled with purpose and hope, peace and freedom. I am NOT perfect. I still do stupid stuff, but it’s all about the RELATIONSHIP with God and nothing about how “good” I can be to impress Him.

I hope that my words don’t come of as condemning, especially since I’m fully aware that I’m no better than you or anyone else. I just needed to respond. Thank you for that opportunity.

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“Wait … You knew about this?”

Friends ForeverThe teenager was watching. She didn’t have to. It wasn’t a requirement. At first, it was merely curiosity, but then she was unable to turn away, like watching a devastating train wreck as it took place. It was painful to experience other people’s pain, but she couldn’t quit watching individual after individual approach the end of the line … for one final conversation.

She had been standing within the gathered, sorrow-filled crowd of spectators, listening for what must have been hours, possibly days. Years, even. Person after person moved forward, listening to decision after decision, resulting in horror-filled expression after horror-filled expression. The line of the accused stretched back much further than could be seen, each individual awaiting his and her turn to hear about his and her failure to make one simple, important decision.

Then she saw her; her best friend. She was in the line, tears running down her face, fidgeting in place, anticipating her next couple of steps forward to stand and wait some more.

Making her way—pressing to the edge of the gallery of spectators—the teen called out to her friend, hoping to gain her attention. “Lauren!”

There were many in the line who responded to the call of the name. Many Laurens would eventually reach the head of the line. Many Sandys and Brittanys and Carols. Many Brents and Brandons and Marks. Many Sashas and Mishas and Sujas. Many Ahmeds and Ivans and Ye-juns. Every single ethnicity and culture. Every single religion and occupation was represented.

Another call out. “Lauren Capshaw!” This time her friend’s eyes found her own.

“Ashlee?”

And just that quickly, Ashlee ran out of things to say. She stood with a muted stare, tears forming in her own eyes.

“Ashlee?” the non-specific question came again.

“I… I…” Words wouldn’t come. How could she communicate with such sorrow the tragedy she was witnessing?

“Ashlee,” came the name again. “Why… Why are you there?”

“It’s different…” Ashlee couldn’t continue.

“What? Why? Why aren’t you in line?”

“It’s different … for …” She stopped dead, again.

“It’s different how, Ashlee? Tell me!”

There was a combination of frustration and terror in Lauren’s voice.

Fear and self-loathing gripped Ashlee’s heart and mind. This whole thing might have been avoided if… If only…

“TELL ME!”

“I’m … different.”

“You? You’re one?”

Ashlee’s head dropped. Her eyes closed. The first convulsion of sorrow forced its way through her chest.

“You’re a Christian?! YOU?!”

Without lifting her eyes, Ashlee slowly nodded.

“Wait … You knew about this? You knew this was coming?”

Ashlee lifted her head and looked at her friend. The line advanced a few more steps. Lauren now had to slightly turn back to keep eye contact.

“I was…” Ashlee broke down, unable to finish her sentence.

Anger flared within Lauren. “You were what?! Uncaring? Unloving? A fake friend?!”

“I was … scared.”

Lauren’s mouth dropped open. She just stared.

“I thought you’d laugh at my faith. I thought I’d lose your friendship.”

“And this… ? This is better? How? How is this better?!”

Ashlee couldn’t respond. There was no good answer.

“Tell me, Ashlee! Tell me how this is better!”

“I… It’s… It’s not better. It’s not! This is horrible!”

“No, Ashlee! No! This isn’t horrible; this is HELL! Do you understand? I heard someone call this the Great White Throne Judgment! Judgment Day! I didn’t know Jesus! I died without him! How could you… ? How could you not tell me? I loved you! We were friends! Even if I had been your worst enemy… How could you?!”

With barely a whisper she answered, “I was scared.”

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‘Fear and Dread’ to Control One’s Wife?

(Man threatening woman – Shutterstock)

What’s written below is a response to both an article and some comments that I saw posted on Facebook today. In order to understand why I felt compelled to write this response, please read what this short article says is acceptable “Christian” behavior from men in order to get what they want from their wives:

Christian Marriage Adviser: Use ‘Fear and Dread’ to Control Your Wife — As God Intended

Understand that this is a secular site posting a secular article about two “Christian” men who advise controlling women through fear and intimidation. As for the two “men” quoted in the article, where did they get their ideas on how to subjugate women so that men can have all the sex that they want? Not from any of the writings of the Bible.

The tiny snippet about wives being in submission… *sigh* … is always taken out of context (or deliberately PUT out of context) in order to either make the Bible look harsh and unworthy of being read, let alone being followed, or to push an ungodly agenda, as is the case with these two “marriage advisors.” Everything in the Bible needs to be read IN CONTEXT.

In today’s “progressive” world of “do whatever you want that feels good, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else,” is a belief system that DOES hurt other people, including those who practice it. An example is today’s LGBT movement that is encouraging young people to seek out their own sexual identities without guidance about the harms that can come from it. Did you know that 41% of all Transgenders have attempted suicide? That’s what one gets from seeking one’s own identity—one’s own pleasure—without listening to what God has to say about how we were designed and created.
(Reference https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/gender-confused-suicide-rate-ten-times-national-average)

While LGBT is not the subject of the article, the message is still the same; that men should seek out what brings them the most pleasure without proper guidance from God. I say “proper,” because these “men” are telling other males that God said that using fear is a good way to get sex from their wives. Again, it’s about reading things in context, not the twisting of what the Bible actually says.

Here is the full passage in Ephesians chapter 5:

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Verse 21 sets the framework for everything that follows. It’s an instruction to both men and women: “… submit TO ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.”

There are, then, two references on how this works; one to wives, one to husbands.

In the 1960s there was a HUGE cultural shift that began because of two movements, both of them counter-biblical: the “Free Love” and the Feminist or “Women’s Rights” movements. Both phrases sound wonderful, don’t they? On the surface, both sound quite satisfying.

The “Free Love” movement didn’t want any boundaries on what could be done sexually, or with whom they could be done. Multiple partners, orgies (including swingers parties), etc. They did not want anyone telling them that they needed to be married or that they needed to have their “love” constrained to only one person. The whole “do whatever you want that feels good, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” thing was hurting people all over the place. Women getting pregnant, men and women getting diseased, broken relationships, women feeling used because men didn’t want to make commitments to them.

Women, at their core, are about wanting to be cherished, to be protected, to be found beautiful. Their hearts are desirous of pouring out love to those who treat their hearts properly. I don’t care how the minority of women with loud voices want to contradict these facts. Women were created to become united with their men. And men were designed to need that union.

Men dropped the ball (without realizing it) following World War II. There was a horrible time of readjustment to American family life. Men’s hearts came back from the war hardened (if the men came back at all), and a lack of emotional stability was brought back with them into the families.

The sons of these men were not properly mentored—trained through example—on how to properly show love and be proper spiritual leaders for the women in their lives. These sons are the ones who ushered in the “Free Love” movement.

Two back-to-back world wars, followed in rapid succession with the Korean and Viet Nam wars, tore men out of their proper roles while also damaging their hearts. The end result was that of men inadvertently damaging the hearts of women. No wonder women felt that they needed to pick up the ball and run with it. No wonder women demanded “Women’s Rights.” Their hearts were being neglected and downplayed. But, as with all non-biblical approaches to fixing the problems, it was just the start of other problems.

Women began pushing men away. Of course, this is a generalization, because it wasn’t the majority of women. But they were a loud minority, and even the majority of women who didn’t like the message of the women’s rights crowd were affected.

Women’s hearts got harder. Men became weaker, and even timid (especially when it came to approaching women). Men had to approach women differently. Men began to believe that they had to approach carefully, less confidently. The leadership role of men began to diminish. Women wanted a 50/50 role in all things, including in relationships. The threat of “leaving” became the all-the-time option in relationships. The divorce rate began to skyrocket. Why? Lots of reasons: abandonment of God, abandonment of marital tradition (traditional relationship roles), the idea of “what I bring into the marriage is still mine, not yours,” and on and on and on it went.

Marriage was (is) no longer 100% dedication of one person to the other. It has become selfish and self-protective. Everything became, “If he (she) steps out of line of what makes me happy, I’m outta here.”

Another mischaracterized phrase from the Bible (I’ll get back to the passage that I posted above in a minute) is the one that says that women are supposed to be a man’s “helpmate” from the Hebrew ezer kenegdo (Genesis 2:18).

Author John Eldredge states:

“Eve is given to Adam as his ezer kenegdo—or as many translations have it, his ‘help meet’ or ‘helper.’ Doesn’t sound like much, does it? It makes me think of Hamburger Helper. But Robert Alter says this is ‘a notoriously difficult word to translate.’ It means something far more powerful than just ‘helper’; it means ‘lifesaver.’ The phrase is only used elsewhere of God, when you need Him to come through for you desperately. ‘There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you’ (Deut. 33:26). Eve is a life giver; she is Adam’s ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will take both of them to sustain life. And they will both need to fight together.”
(Ref. http://www.ransomedheart.com/daily-reading/ezer-kenegdo)

Partners in this life. Partners and lovers. Partners who love one another sacrificially; love God individually and corporately. THIS is what was given to us by God.

Let’s get back to the original passage I posted.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife AS Christ is the head of the church. [Jesus] is the Savior of His body, the church. 24 As the church submits [humbles itself with a heart of giving] to Christ, so you wives should submit [do the same for] your husbands in everything.

What is offensive in those words? The word submit has been made out to be an attack word. But, biblically, it is something that is nearly automatic in the heart and mind of a woman IF—IF—a man follows through with his responsibilities to her (as we’ll see below). The order in which these are written MIGHT cause someone to think that a woman needs to submit first. But that’s not true! Both the man and the woman submit at the same time. AND a woman is also inclined to lean her hear toward her husband (boyfriend, fiancé) if he is living up to his responsibilities toward hear and toward God.

25 For husbands, this means LOVE YOUR WIVES, JUST AS—[in the SAME WAY]—Christ loved the church. HE GAVE UP HIS LIFE FOR HER 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 IN THE SAME WAY, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For A MAN WHO LOVES HIS WIFE actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and CARES for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, EACH MAN MUST LOVE HIS WIFE AS HE LOVES HIMSELF, and the wife must respect her husband.

Men are REQUIRED by God to LOVE their wives. This isn’t the same kind of love as “I love chocolate” or “I love sex.” This demand of God is for a man to love sacrificially; giving of himself to the point of laying his life and his heart on the line for his wife’s benefit. There is no benefit for a woman to be living in fear of abandonment. There is no benefit for a woman to be toyed with so that a man can have all the “rough” make-up sex that he wants.

What these men teach in the article is abhorrent to God! It stinks like rotting flesh, because it abandons EVERYTHING that God wants for His creation. In fact, Scripture also says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If God isn’t going to give us a spirit of fear, do you suppose that God wants husbands to put into their wives a spirit of fear? No!

God isn’t a “God of love.” God IS love! He desires that we have relationships with Him, not just so that we can be saved from Hell, but so that He can heal our hearts—our brokenness—and infuse within each of us love; love that is willing to sacrifice for the wellbeing of the other. Nothing about this life is supposed to be about “what I can get.” It’s about caring for one another’s hearts and souls. It’s about REAL love.

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How Free is Freedom in Christ?

freedomTwenty years ago, I remember sitting in my church in Virginia listening to a story that Marilyn Hickey related about an experience she had with another passenger on an airliner. It went something like this:

I was seated next to a man who became disturbed as I took my Bible out to read. He said, “Oh brother. You’re one of those.”

“One of what?” I asked.

“One of those ‘Thou shalt not’ Bible thumpers,” he replied. “You people are all about restricting people’s freedoms.”

“Freedoms to do what?” I wanted to know.

“You know, you Christians can’t drink alcohol and condemn anyone who does.”

“That’s not true. I drink all the alcohol that I want. No restrictions.”

“What? You’re allowed to drink booze?”

“Of course,” I said.

“Okay, then you’re not allowed to have extra-marital sex.”

I laughed. “Actually, I have all the sex outside of my marriage that I want.”

This floored the man. He didn’t know how to respond, so I told him, “I am allowed, in the freedoms that God gave me, to do whatever I want. I just choose not to do them, because I love the Lord so much, and I want to honor Him with my life.”

It seems that Marilyn Hickey took the Bible literally where it says, “All things are permissible, but all things are not beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

How literally should we take this verse? Is there context for it? Are there other verses to compare it with?

Let’s look at how free our freedom in Christ really is.

Legalism teaches that all of the commandments of the Old Testament are applicable to the New Testament Church; except for those that can be safely dismissed as a result of Jesus’ or the Apostles’ direct teachings. An example of this would be not eating certain types of foods, per Levitical law. However, the New Testament has Jesus saying, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Act 10:9-16) Outside of a direct reversal, legalists proclaim all law still in effect. Some even create new laws that were never even in the Old Testament, because they are not addressed in the New Testament. An example of this is not allowing musical instrumentation in churches, because nowhere in Scripture does it say that the early Church used them. By its very absence, some legalists say they are clinging to the original ways of worship in the early Church.

Let’s take a look at what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5.

17″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. 18I tell you the truth, until Heaven and Earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

There are some great things in this passage. First, it’s obvious that He came to fulfill the Law. And in order for Jesus to fulfill the Law He had to both live the Law and preach the Law without one slip-up. Those were His requirements—His constraints—pertaining to the Law being completely fulfilled. Therefore, as we read about Jesus dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” (“the least stroke of a pen”) He is living the Old Covenant not the New Covenant. He preached a better covenant was on its way as a result of Him and that when those of His day saw Him, they were witnessing the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (the shadow of things to come) and the transition—through His death and resurrection—to the New Covenant (the kingdom of God). And because of that transition, we are not subject to fulfilling the Law that Jesus was required to uphold before He died.

What it truly means to be a Christian is written within the letters of the apostles, starting with Romans through the book of Jude. These are the instructions on how to become a Christian and how to live the Christian life, given to us by the First Century Church leaders by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be passed down to the Church throughout the ensuing ages.

What Jesus did prior to the cross and up through His death culminated in a finished work. The Law is fulfilled. The real question is, what does it mean when Scripture states that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets?

It means that He did, in our stead, what we could not and cannot do for ourselves. He took care of it once, for all time. He also said, that He didn’t come to abolish the Law, that the Law would stand until it was accomplished in Him.

Now, notice something important. In verse 19 of Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says there is a consequence for breaking the law and teaching others to do the same even after the Law has been fulfilled. What is that consequence? Being “called the least in the kingdom of Heaven.” Those who love the Lord with all of their hearts, even if they disobey the Law, and teach others to do the same (though why a lover of Christ would ever do this is beyond me) will have a lesser place in the kingdom, not a place in Hell. In this passage, Jesus separates the Law from righteousness, stating that “Unless your righteousness [made possible through His coming sacrifice] surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law [the legalists, relying on something other than only Christ to save them], you will certainly not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Legalism isn’t just restricted to “legalist” churches, by the way. It’s difficult for churches to not have something to enforce. There are rules: Ten Commandments, rules of conduct, rules of ceremony, etc. Enforcing these is policy. The first question is, What is the Lord’s focus when it comes to obedience and the Law?

In the Old Testament we are told that “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Actions, born out of your love for God, will accomplish what trying to perform something “holy” in order to gain God’s favor cannot—Relationship. The second and third questions are, What do we have to do in order to have God’s favor? and How does God’s favor figure into our freedom in Christ?

Let’s take the three questions one at a time.

1.       What is the Lord’s focus when it comes to obedience?

Is God looking for someone that is subservient to His every will and whim? Is He a taskmaster bent on having people do things for Him? I think that if we look at the Bible as a whole, we see a grand epic of God’s progress toward redeeming Man back to Himself so that we can enjoy the relationship with Him that was lost at the Fall of Adam and Eve. God’s intention is to restore, not to place rules. In fact, when we read of what Heaven will be like, there is no mention of another Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There will be a Tree of Life, but nothing that can lead to man choosing against God again. It appears that “All things [will be] permissible” in Heaven, as there will be no measurement of sin again. Interesting to think about, isn’t it?

2.       What do we have to do in order to have God’s favor? 

In the Old Testament it appears that in order to gain God’s favor, one must have made sacrifices and been obedient to the Law. However, if you look at the Old Testament’s friends of God, you’ll see that it had nothing to do with the Law, even back then. It had to do with relationship and with the heart. The Law gave people a 24/7 focus on not being able to be perfect enough in God’s sight. We see that now when we look at the Ten Commandments—the futility. Sacrifices in the Old Testament didn’t make people’s hearts right with God, it only covered people’s sins. It was impossible to wash away their sins with this system. Instead, it was people with hearts that desired to be made right, who were making sacrifices for forgiveness. Do you think that people who brought sacrifices to the altar with hate in their hearts got any benefit from them? No way. Even in the New Testament, before Jesus’ completion and fulfillment of the Law, Jesus said that “if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” So, to have God’s favor is to have a right heart toward Him and toward one another. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “The whole of the Law is wrapped up in these two commands…” Love God and love your neighbor—words of perpetual, life-filled action, not dead law.

To have God’s favor means to be forgiven of everything, because according to Jesus, if you’re guilty of breaking one law, you’re guilty of breaking them all. That part of gaining God’s favor has already been settled. The work on the Cross was perfect, and performed perfectly for every person who ever lived and ever would live. There is not one person who has not been forgiven by God. All have been forgiven, but many people will never accept that forgiveness and, as a result, will remain outside of God’s completed work. So, you can see that it’s not a matter of what we can do to gain God’s favor. God’s favor is not the issue. We’ve got it. God is “especially fond” of each and every person He has ever created. It’s a matter of accepting His favor.

3.       How does God’s favor figure into our freedom in Christ?

Here’s another radical thought. God’s favor is not earned, so neither is it lost. God’s favor simply is.

There is freedom in Christ because of God’s unearnable, irrevocable favor, which comes from His perfect, no-strings-attached love. If God’s love is perfect, and if Christ fulfilled the entirety of the Law, how much Law do we have to live up to in order to have God’s love and favor? None.

When the apostle Paul said, “All things are permissible,” he meant it. Here is a man who was taught his entire life to be obedient to the Law of Moses. He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” and to him all things were not permissible. Then Jesus interrupted his life and told him “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” That’s an analogy that means “You are trying so hard to hurt My Gospel, but you’re injuring yourself by your blind pursuit of the Law.” If anyone knew the fallacy of trying to maintain the Mosaic and Levitical Law, it was the apostle Paul.

Let’s look at another Scripture verse that legalists use to keep people “in God’s good graces.”

“If you love Me,” says God, “you will obey Me” (John 14:15). Seems plain enough, doesn’t it? In fact, this verse seems to conclusively prove the legalists correct. In order to prove your love for God, you had better obey Him. But, let’s see how accurate that interpretation is when matched up with other Scripture.

“If you love Me, you will obey Me” is actually a Cause & Effect phrase, not a directive as I will demonstrate below.

Jesus was actually saying something entirely different in this wonderful verse. I do not believe He was saying, “Obey Me. This is how I will know that you love Me.” No, He knows our love by our hearts, not by our actions. God’s heart is not about obedience, rather it is about relationship.

“If you love Me” is a causal statement, while “you will obey Me” is the effect generated by that cause.

So, here’s how I believe this verse is supposed to be interpreted: “Love Me, and as a result you will obey Me.” “If you love Me [the end result will be that] you will desire to do My will.” Doesn’t that just seem more right in your spirit? In fact this seems to be confirmed in the same chapter in verses 23 and 24:

23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

If anyone loves me …

  • He will obey my teaching.
  • We will come to him and make Our home with him.

He who does not love me …

  • Will not obey my teaching.

It’s our love (a response to His love) that causes us to obey; it’s not the obeying that is the precursor to a loving relationship with our Creator God.

Does obedience reflect our love? Absolutely! It shows that we are empowered by His love. His love empowers us to want to love Him with our actions, not just our words.

Does all of this mean that we are absolutely free to do whatever we want without losing God’s favor and His love? Here’s the scary answer for all of us. Yes, that’s exactly what that means. We are free to do whatever we want. We are no longer bound by the Law. All of the requirements of the Law are accomplished through our love for God and our love for others. All of them. And how do we know this? Romans 13:8 says, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”

By accepting the work of Christ on the cross into our hearts; by accepting the Holy Spirit to indwell us, we have gained freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

The final question is, What do we do with this freedom?

I think the best answer to this question is a statement I make to myself whenever I see what appears to be an obvious move in a good game of Solitaire:  “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.”

Let’s face it; Jesus made it clear that there are still consequences to our actions. Even the laws of physics dictate that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything we do affects something. It affects something positively, neutrally, or negatively. So we should be asking ourselves a primary question when we have a dilemma: “How will this affect my communication / relationship with the Lord or with someone else?”

If I use my freedom to drink, will it cause a “weaker” brother to stumble if he sees me?

If I use my freedom to have sex outside of marriage, will it cause my partner to stumble in relation to the Lord? And if my partner is unsaved, did I pass up an opportunity to be a witness for the sake of a good sensation?

If I use my freedom to cheat on tests, will it affect my future ability to apply what I should have studied and learned?

If I use my freedom to gossip, will word get back to the person I talked about, or will the person with whom I spent time gossiping do the same behind my back?

If I use my freedom to lust with pornography, am I creating an unhealthy view of the opposite sex and how to treat them in person (let alone the wasted time in a vain pursuit)?

When I do something that goes against what I feel the Lord would have me do, I end up feeling guilty afterward. This causes me to turn my face from Him. I drop communication in favor of nursing my shame. This does not make for a healthy relationship. The trade-off for reckless abandon is not worth it.

When Paul says, “All things are permissible, but all things are not beneficial,” we come to understand two things:

  1. I’m allowed to do whatever I want and still have the kingdom of God as my inheritance (if I’m a Born-Again believer).
  2. Just because I’m free to do whatever I want doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy the end results of my actions. “Whatever you plant, you shall likewise harvest.”

As Christians we live apart from the Law. But does that mean that the Law has no purpose and that it is not good? No! It doesn’t mean that at all! In fact, Paul said, “The Law is good for the purpose that it has” and that purpose is to show people that they cannot be perfect and that every individual is a sinner.

Praise the Lord, though, because these five aspects of God’s grace are certain:

  1. We cannot dismantle Christ’s perfect work!
  2. We cannot undo His forgiveness!
  3. We cannot undo His love!
  4. When we fall we are still counted righteous!
  5. We cannot outsin His faithfulness to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!

With His work on the Cross, Jesus took every sin we would ever commit upon Himself, so that we can know and experience such amazing grace! Such amazing freedom in Him!

“He who the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36).

“So stand firm in the liberty—[the grace]—that Christ used to make us free, and do not let yourself be entangled again with bondage to the Law” (Galatians 5:1).

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The Gospel — Why Don’t Even Those Who ARE Prepared for It Want to Listen?

Apathy-I-dont-careThe Jesus-loving, God-honoring Christian mind reads the Bible and thinks, “Truth is obvious. How can others not see it?”

The non-Christian mind looks at the Bible (usually without reading its content) and says, “It’s a fairy tale. It’s archaic. It’s rules and judgmentalism from another time that doesn’t have a place here.”

Should there be a compromise between the two? Definitely not! Truth should NEVER be compromised. HOWEVER, rational conversation should still take place.

There are millions of people in the U.S. that WILL accept Jesus as Savior and Lord IF we Christians will lovingly explain the Gospel to those who don’t see what all the fuss is about.

The “fuss,” of course, is that we want everyone to come to Heaven with us! We don’t want people to die without a relationship with Jesus and end up in everlasting pain, separated both from God and those who love them.

But what does it take to win someone to Jesus in an age in which those who are willing to listen don’t even understand who Jesus is?

It takes Genesis.

My friends, we have to go ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginning. All of us need to understand “Original Sin.” If this doesn’t get fully explained, the need for Jesus is lost on minds that can’t grasp our urgency for them.

In my first novel, Deliver Us from Darkness, one of my main characters hears the full Gospel explained for the very first time. This is the explanation that is put before him:

“I’m going to extend to you an invitation in a moment. An invitation to ask Jesus Christ to come into your lives. But first, I want all of you to know what the Bible has to say about all of this. And to do that, we’ve got to start at the beginning.

“You see, the earth as we know it wasn’t always broken. When God first created it, it was utterly perfect. A perfect Adam & Eve had a perfect relationship with God. They all shared a perfect love. There was also no death, no sickness, and no sin.

“God had told Adam that if he ate the fruit of a certain tree that he would die. Later, Satan tempted Eve and told her that God was holding back on them and that if they would eat that fruit they wouldn’t die, but that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. She fell for it and got her husband to fall for it, too.

“That first sin caused the whole of God’s perfect creation to shift. Death was introduced, both spiritual and physical. Chaos erupted in, and through, the first family. Every succeeding generation has perpetuated that chaos. Every murder, every misuse of sex, every false religion, every war, and every disease … all of it … is a result of that original sin.

“Remember, I said that spiritual death was also introduced. You see, Hell was not created for man. It was created for the devil and his angels. However, God cannot allow sin to do to Heaven what it first did to Earth, so no man or woman, boy or girl, will ever be allowed to bring it in.

“After that original sin was committed, God took the life of a spotless animal, shedding its blood in order to cover the guilt of Adam and Eve. Scripture makes it clear; ‘without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.’ By doing that, God was showing Adam and Eve that he still cared about them; that they still mattered. He also showed that there was a high price to pay for sin: The blood of an innocent.

“For thousands of years, God accepted the blood of animals to cover the sins of people, but the sacrifices were only good for one year. Each year, the people were again reminded of the high cost that had to be paid for what they had done. God, though, had a plan that would result in one final sacrifice; one last shedding of blood. This last sacrifice wouldn’t just cover sin for one year; it would wash it away forever.

“Listen to Romans, chapter three, verse twenty-three: ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Romans, chapter six, verse twenty-three says that ‘the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

“See? All of us—every single one of us—has fallen short. There is not one single person in this room, or on this earth, that deserves anything other than eternal punishment. No amount of doing good can save you. It is only through Christ, and the shedding of his perfect blood, that we can have salvation—the forgiveness of our sins that will allow us into God’s kingdom instead of Hell.

“Some of you have been beat over the head with religious dos and don’ts. You feel like God is up there on his throne with a big hammer just waiting for the next time you do something wrong so he can make an example of you. But, that’s not how it is!

“Listen to what Jesus, himself, said: ‘God loved the world so much, that he sent his one, and only, Son, so that whoever would believe in him would not know eternal punishment, but, instead, would know eternal life!’ He went on to say, ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world, through him, might be saved.’”

________________

Freedom. The restoration of the broken heart. Those, and more, are the end result of a decision for Christ. We know that! But in order to help others know that, we have to get back to the basics; the basics that include the very beginning.

Learn how to effectively explain the Gospel in terms and language that people will understand. I suggest using a version of the Bible that is written in modern English (unless, of course, you are witnessing to someone whose primary language can best be served by a Bible in their language).

Though the days are darker, and the avenues to reach people are more difficult, we still need to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. Remember, this Earth is not our real home, which brings up another point.

For many people, the idea of Heaven is not attractive. Not at all. And based on the descriptions that I’ve heard Christians give, I cannot blame them at all!

Let’s be honest with ourselves, who actually wants to…

  • live forever in clouds?
  • spend eternity singing?
  • be forced to play and listen to harps?
  • live forever without a body?
  • be sexless?
  • not recognize other people?
  • give up the green grasses and blue skies of Earth?
  • live an existence without animals?

In the words of author John Eldredge, “It sounds like Hell to me.” And I agree with him!

Along with our need to get back to the roots of why everyone needs salvation, we need to also become literate about what Heaven is and what it will be like. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just make a few points, and I’ll leave the rest up to your need and curiosity to research.

  • There are two heavens. One is what we might want to call the “intermediate heaven.” It is where we, who are Christians, go when we leave our physical bodies behind. According to Scripture, there will be a sense of physical existence. There will be tables to sit at and food to eat during the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” We will recognize other believers. According to the book of the Revelation, we will be able to identify those who were martyred for the cause of Christ. And, certainly, there is a lot more about the “intermediate heaven” to discover.
  • The eternal Heaven, is NOT in the air or clouds someplace. According to the book of Revelation, after a 1,000-year reign of Christ on Earth, God will restore Earth to perfection again. Why? Because we are going to get the Kingdom back! The Kingdom that Adam and Eve lost! Imagine living on a perfect Earth, not ever having to worry about death! What adventures will we have together?
  • We will be reunited with our physical bodies after a resurrection of the dead takes place (the Rapture, whether it’s a Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, or Pre-Wrath event). Imagine getting your body back without any defects! Without any pain! Without any scars! Everyone will be beautiful and perfect to one another, yet completely recognizable.
  • Everyone will still have purposes and jobs to fulfill, but we will be doing what we were made for, and we’ll be a part of what makes our hearts come fully alive! Imagine having a purpose without tedium! Purpose and pleasure together!
  • Imagine an Earth with all of its resources fully available again. In our past, we were able to make it to the moon. Think about where we’ll be able to go (if we desire to) that is so far beyond the moon that we can’t even comprehend the distance or the experience!

My friends, are you excited about Heaven? Are your “thoughts on things above,” as Scripture directs?

Do both yourself and the Kingdom a big favor: Equip yourselves with information on both of these subjects: the full Gospel and Heaven. Not only will you be better capable of explaining salvation, but you’ll also come away from your studies so much more heartened!

In the words of the Apostle Paul, who also spoke about what to expect after exiting this present life, “Encourage each other with these words.”

Now, go out and make a difference, Church!

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What is the Proper Response to Nationalized Gay Marriage in America?

GayAmerica_backgroundToday has been an interesting day in America. For me, I’ve had a lot of emotion rise to the fore, and I’ve had to look deep in order to sort them out and to determine whether any of them are worthy of expressing. One thing’s for sure, regardless of how I feel personally, a great divide is about to make itself known.

After the Supreme Court’s announcement today, that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, there is very likely going to be an uproar.

Gays are going to begin—even more loudly—to proclaim hatred for those who are against the ruling. And there are going to be Christians—those not following the command of Christ to love—who are going to speak hatred toward homosexuals.

Hate toward another human being is WRONG, regardless of the direction it flies. Hate, according to Jesus, is the same as the sin of murder.

Sin. There’s the word that is quickly becoming more offensive than the “F-bomb.” But sin is not a word that can be changed. It is a fixed definition. It is a black spot on a soul. It is what God calls an act of disobedience to His standards of righteousness. The word sin was not created by human beings, therefore, it cannot be changed or eliminated either. It just is.

Another thing about the word sin… It is not something that can be used as an accusal against someone else, without the accuser also having to admit that he, himself, is accused by God of falling short of His righteousness. We are all offenders. However, there is no excuse for anyone to accept sinfulness as permitted behavior. After all, we were not created to be sinners; we were created to be the delight of God.

That said, Homosexuality, though now fully legal in just about all of its forms, is still sin. And this sin is about to encroach more fully on the lives of those who are against it, and will even rear its ugly head at many who have been ardent supporters of the cause. I believe that radical homosexuals are going to become more “in your face,” and there will be taunting. Taunting toward both opponents and those who are gay, yet not “loud and proud.” Many people who have counted today as a victory are going to become embarrassed by the sexual and hateful displays soon to come.

For Traditionalists, Conservatives, and Christians, speaking out against homosexual marriage (and homosexuality in general) is about to become dangerous. In America, it’s going to be considered hate speech for Christians to verbalize a biblical stance on the issue. Mark my words.

It breaks my heart that America has sanctioned another damaging cultural life choice. There is now no means for reversal. America has made yet another fundamental, detrimental course change. “We the people” are definitely going the way of Rome, repeating the mistakes of the past.

CHRISTIANS, we are called to love gay people, even though we are not called to tolerate sin. So there has to be a shift in many people’s mindsets about the stances they are going to take. We, in God’s Kingdom, must continue to love. We must continue to share the Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to convict people of their life choices. REMEMBER THIS: Before a person becomes a Christian, he or she, like all of us before we came to know Christ, are merely sinners needing to know Jesus.

This is not really about homosexual marriage. This is about people knowing Jesus as their Savior and Lord. This is about letting all people know that ALL of us have the same default destination without Christ: Hell. Homosexuals are not going to Hell because they are same-sex attracted, they, like all of us, are headed to Hell because we are born into sin and are unable to keep from sinning. The ONLY cure for the spiritual death caused by our sin is Jesus. Jesus the lover of people, NOT Jesus hater of people because of their sins.

We must keep in perspective what it means to be a Christian. ALL of us still sin. ALL of us still battle desires that are contrary to God’s will. If not for Jesus, we’d be marching side-by-side with gays, abortionists, murders, adulterers, thieves, et al, heading to the same horrible final destination. Therefore, LOVE people. Have compassion. Share the love of Christ, not your disdain for people’s lifestyles.

While I’m not saying that we should not engage in debate about today’s decision by SCOTUS, we do need to remember that, ultimately, everything that we do should portray Jesus in the right light and draw people to Him.

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