Goodbye and God Bless

Friends, this will be my last post on WordPress (as Messiah Gate). The five year-old experiment has not produced enough fruit to make it worth my time and effort.

This blog did not begin on WP, and will not continue here. The decision was made after much prayer and contemplation. I’ve been writing since I was ten-years-old; and my hometown paper published my submissions in its Voice of the People column.

The purpose of life is to figure out what your talent is, and use it for the glory of God. If what you’re doing is not working then you have to make an adjustment. We will all stand before God — both the just and unjust. Those who are covered by the blood of Jesus will not stand in condemnation, but will be judged according to their works.

I am not saying that we are saved by works, but our reward in heaven will be determined by the fruit of our lives.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

There will be a lot of Christians, standing before the Lord, who smell like they’ve been to a fire sale — very smoky, indeed — yet their souls will be spared the wrath of God because of their faith in Jesus Christ. I think the Protestant church has been too dismissive with regards to the importance of good works, but that shall not be debated here.

Jesus Christ is the foundation, and this blog is just one of many works that are laid upon the stone of salvation. Those of you who post Christ-centered articles will have to determine, in your own heart, if your blog glorifies God, or appeals to your own self-identity.

The first blog I ever published was titled after my own name. My mother corrected me with aged wisdom — “It’s not about you,” she would say; and so I dropped my name from the title. How can I phrase this? I have found that the most successful Christian blogs have been more id-centered than Christ-centered. Do you know what I mean?

I don’t want to make the mistake of King David, and conduct a census of my blog. WordPress does that at the end of the year; and the stats are underwhelming. Fewer than 800 people visited this blog, and not even ten felt compelled to like a post, or leave a comment.

The numbers have been declining since 2013. This tree is not producing fruit. What is most discouraging are the hours of study and prayer that go into managing this blog, and then I see a random blog that has only a title — no posts, no content — and the blank About page has received ten likes.

There are blogs I follow that receive more visits per post than I have received in the past five years on WP. Again, we have to be careful to not judge ourselves vainly. For example, why do we write? Is it to glorify God, or puff up ourselves? In the end, the story is not about you and me, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If I were to consistently water a barren tree … am I making the best use of the time that God has given me? You have to make that decision for yourself, but as for me the answer is …

… no.

Think of all the time, each day, that you devote to pursuing your own interests — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, music, television, blogging, whatever it might be … and measure that to the time that you spend with God. How does it stack-up? Are those hours, spent daily in self-pursuit, building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? For me, the answer would be no. I mean, do I really have to spend two hours watching Casablanca for the umpteenth time?

Please understand, we all need to relax and refocus; but realize in the stillness that God has given us this time to draw closer to Him — not binge on a TCM marathon of Bogart pictures. If you are a Christian who has never read through the Bible then maybe that is a task you might complete in the New Year.

As for me, I will continue to write for we cannot hide from the purpose to which He has called us. Think of Jonah, or the man who buried his talents.

The Lord has graciously blessed my work elsewhere, and so I will continue to labor in those fields that yield a good harvest. WordPress only gleaned off this fruit as did Facebook and Twitter which are now deleted.

Let me just say that the other blog is very humble in appearance. I was drawn to WP because the blogs looked so flashy and professional. They had eye-appeal, and I was attracted to the presentation. It’s all vanity. Though the other blog looks like my brother’s hand-me-downs it was blessed by God who anoints that which is lowly, and rejects that which is haughty.

May the Lord forgive me.

I was going to post an article on Franklin Graham’s appearance at the inauguration so let me say a few things about that. It came to my attention via AOL that a “contentious” pastor had been invited to Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. Frankly speaking, it was sort of confounding to learn that the divisive pastor was the son of Billy Graham. Pardon me? Oh, yes, due to his anti-gay agenda the younger Graham is supposedly unfit to attend the gala ceremony. (Because of AOL’s tenor I will cancel my account.)

Folks, we live in a day and age where Christianity has become the greatest evil in society. Islam, which has given birth to a worldwide Jihad, is to be respected and revered. After all, they worship the same God as do the Jews and Christians, but in whose name do they terrorize and murder innocent people?

Franklin Graham has murdered no one. His only crime is defending the sanctity of life, and of marriage. Christians are not anti-people. We do stand by God’s judgement of sexual immorality whether homosexual or heterosexual, but this is not an indictment of any person, or class of people, but of a behavior deemed by a righteous God to be immoral.

This is what Satan does — he turns the truth into a lie, and deceives the many who will follow the wide road to destruction for men love the darkness rather than the light; and they certainly don’t want to listen to Franklin Graham teach the Word of God.

To answer Caralyn, Is Christianity Dead?, we can take comfort in the words of Jesus. Millennials are fleeing the church in droves which is not a good sign if you are looking for a worldwide conversion before the return of Messiah; but Jesus said that only the few will find life so it should be comforting to know that we need not carry the burden of discipling the whole world. When it comes right down to it we have to be vigilant to work out our own salvation to make sure we can stand before God with a clear conscience.

My closing prayer is that the body of Christ will endure in faith and in good deeds — that the Holy Spirit will do mighty works until that great and glorious day when Messiah returns. I want to thank the few people who have supported this blog — God knows who you are — and may His blessings be poured out upon my Internet church family.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

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Judge Ye Not

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Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).

One of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the Bible is where Jesus commands us to not judge.

It is a convenient response to Christian expression that is otherwise deemed unfavorable by the one leveling the charge. To say that one is being judgmental is, in fact, casting judgment.

If I don’t like what someone says I am making a judgment on their expression. Now, their expression may be sound, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not even an expression, but a behavior. Let’s say my neighbor gets drunk every night, and I tell him he should stop drinking. I’m passing judgment on my neighbor, and that would be a sin according to those who say we should not judge. It would be a sin if I staggered over with a bottle of whiskey in hand, and told my neighbor to put down his can of beer. That’s the context in which Jesus is speaking. Reading further down in the passage Jesus says to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). In other words, sober up, put down that bottle of whiskey, then go to your neighbor and discuss his drinking problem.

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To so cavalierly accuse Christians of being judgmental is really wearing thin. We live in a world where Christian expression is muzzled. We are not allowed to take a moral stand, have an opinion or quote the Bible without fear of being charged with hate speech. It’s preposterous, but if you level the charge often enough it becomes the truth; and Christians find themselves marginalized in a society that is predominantly anti-Christian. The lie becomes the truth — we are judgmental bigots.

Let’s examine more closely the Matthean passage. In the very next verse (Matthew 7:6) Jesus says:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Is Jesus telling us to judge? Clearly, there are unbelievers — characterized as dogs and swine — that we are to avoid. Dust off your feet, save your breath, exercise discernment (judgment) and do not share the Good News with such people.

Jesus said that? Seems kind of harsh in light of His earlier commandment to not judge. It’s only a problem if we don’t compare scripture with scripture, and in context. Obviously, we are to judge with righteous judgment which John Gill described as a sense and judgment of things, according to the truth and evidence of them. [1]

Paul, a chosen instrument of Christ, wrote:

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:15).

What is Paul saying? That the Christian man or woman who is endowed with the Holy Spirit shall judge (or discern) all things, but shall be judged by no one who judges by feelings like one who is blind.

The assembly at Corinth was a complete mess. Paul wrote three, maybe four letters of correction to the disordered church. The congregation was rife with shameful behavior — idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, thievery, drunkenness and all manner of defilement including the man who was caught sleeping with his father’s wife. Not even the pagans, wrote Paul, tolerated such behavior.

How did the church descend into such chaos? No one wanted to judge another’s behavior. They subscribed to a live-and-let-live attitude. It was a truly bacchanal society. Do your own thing — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Paul laid down the law (1 Corinthians 6:2-3):

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Pastor John MacArthur:

It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity.

If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false: righteousness — in short, between God’s way and all other ways. [2]

Judgment can be defined as condemnation, or discernment. No one has the right to condemn. That is the Divine prerogative of Almighty God. But to say that Christians don’t have the right, or responsibility to exercise discernment is to strip us of our Divine calling to be light and salt. Light exposes, salt burns; And this is the judgment, saith our Lord, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19).

Judgmental? Tell it to the Lord, but as for me I will continue to expose the darkness.

Notes:

1. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

2. John MacArthur, Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote, April 19, 2016.

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Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

Give Christmas Back to the Pagans

I am an ancient soul who doesn’t celebrate my birthday. Don’t misunderstand, I give thanks to the LORD always for the precious gift of life, and so I celebrate Him everyday. I am consciously aware when my birthday comes around, and I do give thanks to G-d for giving me another day … another year; but not with cake or presents. The simple joy of living is to be appreciated every day … giving thanks to the Creator always.

Sadly, I think people spend more time checking their text messages than giving thanks to the LORD.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote an article, Jews and Birthdays, wherein he discusses why he doesn’t celebrate his birthday. In ancient Judaism, birthdays were not celebrated. It was a pagan tradition in which the Gentiles would offer gifts to their idols on the birthday of whatever false deity they worshipped.

Candlelit cakes would be offered to an idol as fire and smoke from the candles lifted the people’s wishes for safety and protection to the outer domain of the gods. This tradition was carried over to the celebration of an individual’s birthday who would blow out the candles and offer birthday wishes for their own personal safety.

In the Hebrew Bible there is only one mention of a birthday, and that was when Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker.

Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, wrote in his polemic, Against Apion:

Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess ( Book II, Chapter 26).

[Brief digression]

I confess … I am a prohibitionist. This past week two people in my community were killed by drunk drivers. The offenders, as is so often the case, walked away unharmed. One of them had five prior DUI convictions. If I could make the world dry with the snap of a finger but, alas, the Bible does not prohibit drinking.

Scripture does, however, speak rather clearly on the evils of alcohol; and that drunkards will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

And Bathsheba warned her son, Solomon (Lemuel), that kings should not drink wine, or crave strong drink.

In the B’rit Chadasha, Shaul admonished the Ephesians to not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.

Christian, why do you drink? Or, in this day and age I might ask, why do you smoke dope?

Well, it’s legal and natural. G-d wouldn’t have made it if we weren’t supposed to use it.

So, Eve took a bite of the apple because she saw it was good to eat … I see. That tipsy feeling is not the Spirit of God, but intoxication.

I remember turning 21, and how it was a rite of passage to celebrate by getting drunk. How stupid is that? My peers had been drinking, dropping acid and getting stoned since Junior High so it was sort of anticlimactic, but now they could drink legally. I didn’t do anything on my 21st birthday. Hoorah.

By the way, Jesus turned water into unfermented wine so let’s not go there as I have discussed that on another post.

The Bible is very keen on sobriety. Parties afford tempting opportunities for excess and while ancient Jews did not celebrate birthdays they did celebrate a person’s life upon death.

[End digression]

Now, let’s understand ancient Jewish tradition with regards to the birth and death of the Messiah. The disciples of Jesus did not celebrate his birth. Indeed, the secular version of Christ’s birthday has sold many holiday cards, but it is a fabrication.

There were not three wise men. Most likely it was a caravan of hundreds which is why Herod was so distraught when they arrived in Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews. King Herod feared an insurrection which is why he ordered the death of all Jewish babies (boys) under the age of two.

The wise men, who most likely were Jewish descendants of the Babylonian exile, found Mary and her child not in a manger, but a house. Orthodox teaching is that the wise men were Gentiles from the East. Why do I say they were Jewish? Recall the Babylonian exile about five centuries before Christ (BC). Ezekiel and Daniel were among the thousands deported. Remember that Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and was made Prime Minister of the province (and chief over all the wise men).

Most of the Jews who were exiled remained in Babylon where they received prophetic revelation from Daniel particularly with reference to the 70 weeks, or 490 years to the coming of the Mashiac.

The wise men, Jewish disciples of the prophet Daniel, embarked on a momentous journey based on the revelation of G-d of the impending birth of Messiah whose star charted a course to the Holy Land.

In Judaism, as Rabbi Blech notes, people have more than one birthday — the day they are born, and the day they become righteous. The second birth is more significant — profoundly so.

What did Jesus tell Nicodemus?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Is this all starting to make sense?

Jewish disciples of Christ did not celebrate his birthday for the reasons so noted. It wasn’t until the 4th century when Emperor Constantine celebrated the first Christmas on December 25, 336 AD. Shortly, thereafter, Pope Julius I made it an official church holy day.

I mentioned earlier that ancient Jews did celebrate a person’s life at death. How did Jesus ask us to remember him?

In his letter to the assembly at Corinth, Shaul wrote of the Lord’s Supper:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Video of our community holiday parade is posted on the YouTube channel, and the organizers have pretty much succeeded in taking Christ out of Christmas. Only two local churches participated — the Lutheran, and Episcopalian (whose pastor grabbed the microphone and sang Joy to the World which, by the way, is not a song about Christ’s birth, but his Second Coming).

Oh, how the traditions of men defile everything that is holy and true. It doesn’t help that Christians (who don’t know the Hebrew roots of their faith) have taken the Jew out of Jesus.

I don’t get caught up in the perennial debate — taking Christ out of Christmas — when the Yule season was a pagan celebration long before Messiah was born. If anything, Christmas adopted the bacchanal celebration of the winter festival; and it has, for centuries, brought reproach and contempt to that which a Christian should be remembering, and that is the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiach.

All else is vanity, my brothers.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate