Scripture

Encroachment

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an evil heart of unbelief that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day by day—as long as it is called “Today”—so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:12-13

God wants us to live a life free of spiritual encumbrances – burdens and impediments to our shared salvation. The world is increasingly encroaching on the body of Messiah; and has already breached many congregations even to occupy the seat of power among them. Unless we tend to our spiritual life, we will become like an abandoned garden. The path before us will be obscured by untended vines and bushes that encroach on it. The same is true for our spiritual life. We become encumbered by issues of life that, if left unchecked, can obscure our spiritual journey. 

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Test of Faith

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“So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from the trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgement while continuing to punish them” (2 Peter 2:9).

If you are like me, you may at times feel a sense of anguish thinking about all the evils in the world. You may also wonder why there is seemingly little to no penalty for their wrong-doings and that judgement is far off; all while innocent people continue to lose their lives and livelihood. I sometimes take comfort in reading the Psalms and being reminded this is nothing new. Though, that sense of comfort doesn’t last; both because of my desire for a perfect world and the next tragedy to hit the news.

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A Holy Nation

“Righteousness makes a nation great, but sin degrades any people”

proverbs 15:34

America has a problem – sin!

We like to talk about how we are the greatest nation on earth; the greatest nation that ever existed and how we are a Christian nation. We boast about our military might, wealth, and democratic values. We boast about how “good” we are and how much we love. Are we? Do we? Or is this nation so bathed in sin and demonic activities that we are merely a shadow of what we should be? Have the walls that cover our secret sins beginning to crumble around us?

“​For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light

Luke 8:17

There are many issues at the heart of what is happening in this nation. James warned that “if you harbor in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, don’t boast and attack the truth with lies! This wisdom is not the kind that comes down from above; on the contrary, it is worldly, unspiritual, demonic. For where there are jealousy and selfish ambition, there will be disharmony and every foul practice” (James 4:14-16).

A​s soon as we mention sin and demonic activity the world goes into a frenzy. Yet, those are the primary source of the ills we see in this country and around the world. All forms of bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition go back to the prideful desires that caused Lucifer’s fall from heaven. They were at play in the Garden of Eden, the slaying of Abel, the Tower of Babel, and is in every unrighteous act of man to this day. 

I​t is possible that I am preaching to the choir here, but I have seen much of this tolerated, empowered, and practiced in the church today. Congregational leaders are participating in events and supporting politicians, groups, and institutional leaders who embody these traits. Congregants spew the same poisonous rhetoric to each other, and form groups based on their political ideology. 

Believers should not take part in or encourage these behaviors. Our gathering should be according to Paul’s encouragement in Hebrews 10:25-31. We should not partner with those who are intent on acting in a manner contrary to scripture. Nor should we follow Congregational leaders who are corrupting the Word of God for their own selfish ends. The church is complicit with the sins of the nation. Without immediate change, we will not last. God will judge this nation, and we cannot save ourselves!

Revelation Of The Unrepentant

The rest of mankind, those who were not killed by these plagues, even then did not turn from what they had made with their own hands — they did not stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they turn from their murdering, their involvement with the occult and with drugs, their sexual immorality or their stealing.

Revelation 9:20-21

I​ have always wondered how that after all the judgments described in Revelation people still refused to repent. Are we that hard of heart that we don’t want to bow down to God and instead choose destruction? Have you also pondered this and came up with your own reason about why that is? I admit, I never came to a conclusion about why people would still not repent. I guess I was too focused on trying to understand the Book of Revelation to even get that far. 

During the week of August 16, 2021, I had a dream two nights in a row where I saw flooding, panic, and confusion. Later that week, there were some flash floods across Massachusetts and a friend who lives there describes scenes that brought my dreams to memory. I thought maybe my dreams were playing out and kept the matter in mind. That same week, flash floods in Tennessee killed abut 22 people and caused major damage. Though, with hurricane Ida bearing down on Louisiana, this did not get much coverage. I began to think even more on my dream and whether it had broader implications. Then came the disastrous impact of Ida from the Gulf all the way up to New York and New England. My dream was no longer just a dream — to me, it was prophetic, and I had no idea what to do with it.

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What is Truth?

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” After he said this, he went out again to the Judean leaders. He said to them, “I find no case against Him”

John 18:38

By all accounts, Pontius Pilate was not a righteous man, but he was at least interested in the truth and in declaring that he found no case against Yeshua (Jesus), he spoke the truth. Looking at world events today one may instead ask, “does the truth even matter?” We have re-branded lies in such a way that it’s now a popular strategy to gain attention, notoriety, and wealth. It may appear that facts no longer decide whether information is true or false, but if we like the information presented. Such an environment makes it more likely that the Antichrist will succeed in deceiving the nations.

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Race For Identity

The world appears to be suffering from identity crisis and this – identity crisis – is having a dramatic effect on each of us. We are created to be social beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). For this reason we have formed social clubs, sports leagues, communities, and political systems that we most identify with. Yet, even among these social clicks we often have a desire to stand out. It is not good enough to identify with the larger community, we tend to try to express our uniqueness among them as well.

The more we seek to stand out, the more we begin to show that we are no different from others who are trying to do the same. In this we prove our focus on self, and that we have more in common with others than we think. The answer to this is humility! Followers of Yeshua (Jesus) must never shy away from having things in common. We should all have the same goal of growing to be more like Messiah Yeshua. We should continually work to have a common faith (Titus 1:4), which has an identity formed in Messiah Yeshua.

Our common faith in Yeshua grants us the right to receive the title “children of God” (John 1:12), “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9) and “God’s people” (1 Peter 2:10).

We often make resolutions at the beginning of the new year which are often based on what we may have failed at accomplishing the year before; some of these resolutions are at times a repeat of what we declared the year(s) prior. Making a New Year’s resolution in not wrong. Though, I wonder how often it has its foundation securely in Messiah? Yeshua said, “Because I live, you also will live! “In that day, you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:19b-20).

Our identity – as believers in Yeshua – should be base on our common faith in God. We make resolutions partly because we want to change something about ourselves that is inherently part of our identity. I may be that we are trying to more closely fit a societal norm, it may be that we are trying to be more health conscious, or we may be responding to a health concern. No matter the reason, our race for identity should not outpace our common faith. If we call upon the name of Yeshua we should bot be afraid to run as one in Him. “For those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of [Yeshua]” (Romans: 8:29). Those who are of the world may be trying to look more like and stand out among those of the world, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory—just as from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Unrighteous Zealots

“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words”. (Proverbs 23:9)

In my devotional reading this morning, Dr. Adam Dooley of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama commented that “Believers should neither feel obligated to nor responsible for those who hate the truth.” Dr. Dooley went on to state that “Regarding business, Christians should protect the weak with fairness and precedent, knowing that God defends based upon the truth rather than one’s status or power”.

I have to admit that, while I agree with the above, I have become skeptical of the human thought expressed on paper. This is true especially of Christians with whom I am either not familiar or whose words I am not able to reconcile with their actions. It bothers me that, as a Christian, I am becoming so skeptical of other believers but the larger issues is that we have come to this place; what then does the world think of us.

The Western church, at least in part, seems to be complicit in defending those who hate the truth and who seem to care little for the weak. Is this because, as research suggests, of the eroding biblical literacy and belief in the inherency of scripture? I believe this is part of the reason but the totality of this trend may be more sinister than we think.

The oldest sin is that which aims at self-gratification (pride). We in the West are drunk on the desire to satisfying our every desire. Technology is driven by our insatiable appetite for comfort and convenience and businesses thrive on our appetite for quick, “have it your way” service. I believe this sin is prevalent in the church today but is often masked behind “zeal”.

Some have suggested that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was a zealot who thought that by doing so, Jesus would revolt and return the kingdom to Israel. If this is true, Judas’ actions were motivated by a desire for self-gratification. Similarly, the religious leaders who plotted and called for the crucifixion of Jesus did so because He was a threat to their wealth and comfortable way of life. I’m sure you get the picture!

Today, the western church is busy fighting battles over the few issues we are zealous about; forgetting to defend the weak and uphold truth. Have we become self-centered zealots who willingly side with the violent to satisfy what we feel are the most important issues?

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed)” (2 Timothy 3:16) and is equally important and authoritative. Who are we to choose one issue over another, or ignore one sin for the sake of another? Should we not be zealous for every word of scripture? It is the very opposite of this that has created such decay in the moral and theological state of western society. When the church fails to lead the nation fails to thrive and sin becomes a cancer that takes hold of it.

Did not the Lord warn that when we fill the land with sin it will cast us out? I implore the church to repent of our pride and desire for self-gratification. We cannot impress God with our zeal and attempt to do so is only at our own peril. What then does the Lord require of us. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We have become too much afraid of the anger of fools and instead of reproving them, we flatter them with their own lies. How often do we hear Christian leaders say “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) but fail to “Love one another fervently with a pure heart” as we “Obey the truth through the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:22)?

We cannot lead if we fail to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not in us if we obligate ourselves to those who hate the truth and to those who strike the weak, simply because of their status or power.