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Am I in?

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Revelation 22:14,15 “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”

     Thank God for Jesus!

     At first glance, since I don’t consider myself a ‘dog’ or sorcerer or sexually immoral, certainly not a murderer or idolater and I don’t love or practice lies  – ‘I’m in!!!!!’  Then I remember Matthew 5.  Jesus said; “. . . whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)  Jesus said; “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:21,22)

     What about sorcery? Divination?  The Prophet Samuel nailed King Saul for going his own way and not listening to God; “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22,23)  It’s all in the attitude!  Am I rebellious towards God? Do I have an unchecked attitude of insubordination? No one tells me what to do!??  How about you?
   

Jesus tells us; “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) And the Pharisees and scribes never or rarely broke any religious rules. King Saul had good looks (1 Samuel 9:2) and started out strong in the Lord (1 Samuel 10,11) but his self righteous pride brought him down.  What he thought was the ‘little stuff’ were huge flaws in God’s eyes.  Saul  had a ‘post-modern’ mindset, centuries ahead of his time. He followed God in principle most of the time but was flexible in the  practicalities; “. . . I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.” (1 Samuel 15:24)

     The Bible tells me that far better, braver and moral men than me have started out strong and failed because of their own pride, rebelliousness and idolatry.  ‘Being in’ isn’t a matter of my strength or righteousness but His; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (Romans 5:8,9)  Thank God for Jesus because I’d be toast without Him!

     Don’t look to the worldly church for your salvation – it’s a bigger prostitute than any painted harlot prancing up and down a big city street; “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. . . . and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: . . . . And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: . . . “(Revelation 17:2-6)

     Matthew Henry rightly warns us about this kind of religion; “We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion.”  Satan and his beast is the pimp of the worldly church and she’ll seduce you and destroy you if you don’t know and love God’s Word!  Fake religion is Satan’s weapon of mass damnation!

   
Jesus is coming and He’s coming in force; “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” (Revelation 19:11-14)

     Repentance is the only way to get right with God; “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, . . . ” (Acts 3:19)

     Come Lord Jesus!

The key to survival

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Revelation 13:11-14 “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”

     At the end, deception will still be the devil’s greatest weapon. The devil always lies and so do his servants.  How will people survive the deception?  There will be signs and wonders that will ‘wow’ people and fool them into believing that the beast is worthy of worship.  Jesus Himself warns us; “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24)

   The end of history is complicated.  There is the devil who hates God and us; “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” (Rev. 12:12)  There is the beast who ‘miraculously’ survives a mortal wound and serves the devil; “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. . . . and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. ” (Rev. 13:1,2,3) And there is another beast that looks like a lamb but isn’t; “. . . I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.” (Rev. 13:11)

     The world stage is set – the devil is behind all of it controlling a great political organization, the beast.  The beast serves the devil and a false church serves the beast, it’s political master and spiritual master, the devil.    Matthew Henry describes the situation in this way; “Those who understand the first beast to denote a worldly power, take the second to be also a persecuting and assumed power, which acts under the disguise of religion, and of charity to the souls of men. It is a spiritual dominion, professing to be derived from Christ, and exercised at first in a gentle manner, but soon spake like the dragon. Its speech betrayed it; for it gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees . . . “

     How does a faithful Christian stand against and survive a hostile deceptive world political system, served by a worldly church that looks true but isn’t.   If that isn’t tough enough to deal with, this whole rotten setup will be backed up by miracles and powerful signs!  How can anyone survive  the tyranny of the world backed up by supernatural power?  ‘Spiritual’ people will be drawn into the vortex of deception because they won’t be able to deny the power of it.  Just being ‘spiritual’ isn’t enough to save anyone.  The devil is spiritual, the beast and the worldly church will be endowed with a measure of this spiritual and satanic power.

     The Bible warns us about the trap the devil has set for the whole world including the ‘spiritual’ and tells us the key to survival;  “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,  and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,  that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)  You won’t be fooled by the evil spiritual power of lying signs and wonders if you know, love and believe the truth – God’s Word.

     What is the telling mark of the devil and his servants – they blaspheme.  The devil, the beast and the fake church that serves them will encourage idolatry and going against God’s Word.  If you love the Truth, then you will know and follow the  first and most important commandment that God gave us.  Standing on the Truth, you won’t be taken in by signs and wonders.  Jesus tells us straight up; “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4)

     The war has already been won.  Jesus saved us,  Jesus saves and our mission is to proclaim His Word to the world!  The Bible tells us the key to survival.  The Bible tells us how to overcome the devil and the beast; “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Rev. 12:11)

     Come Lord Jesus!

A ‘non-human person’ is an oxymoron

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Wikipedia defines oxymoron as; “. . . a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Oxymora appear in a variety of contexts, including inadvertent errors (such as “ground pilot”) and literary oxymorons crafted to reveal a paradox.”

It is tragic when laws are made that don’t  make sense – such as  laws based on oxymorons.  Richard Laugh’s article, “Court Rules Orangutan Held In Argentina Zoo Is ‘Non-Human Person’ And Can Be Freed”  in the Huffington Post, is an example of a this disturbing trend.  Simply put, the Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘person’ to mean; “A human being regarded as an individual.”  A non-human is not a person.

Richard Laugh tells us; “An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.”  Such determinations are based more on ignorance and legal ‘wrangling’ than science or reason;

The Buenos Aires zoo has 10 working days to seek an appeal.

A spokesman for the zoo declined to comment to Reuters. The zoo’s head of biology, Adrian Sestelo, told La Nacion that orangutans were by nature calm, solitary animals which come together only to mate and care for their young.

“When you don’t know the biology of a species, to unjustifiably claim it suffers abuse, is stressed or depressed, is to make one of man’s most common mistakes, which is to humanize animal behavior,” Sestelo told the daily.

People say a bad law does more harm than good.  What effect does a ‘silly law’  have?   A Law  that ignores facts and reason promotes disrespect for the legal system in general.  In a world where human rights are precarious and often violated, concern for the rights of ‘non-human persons’ are at best a frivolous distraction and at worst a cruel diversion from real issues.  Indeed the Human Rights Watch cites ongoing problems in Argentina;

In 2013, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner secured passage of legislation that severely undermined judicial independence, although the Supreme Court subsequently struck down some of its key aspects. A vibrant but increasingly polarized debate exists in Argentina between the government and its critics. However, the Fernández administration has sanctioned individuals for publishing unofficial inflation statistics challenging official ones, and has failed to adopt rules regarding the distribution of public advertising funds. There is no national law regulating access to information. Other ongoing human rights concerns include police abuse, poor prison conditions, torture, and failure to protect indigenous rights.

Evil thrives and grows in the dark of confusion and indifference. Distraction and deflection serves the spread of darkness over the world.   What better way to get people  to forget about the millions of humans being starved, raped, slaughtered and mutilated on a daily basis than to tie up their courts and media with concerns about the rights of ‘non-human persons’.

Indifference, stupidity and selfishness go hand in hand with affluence.  Business Insider reports;

Rich people care more about animal welfare than human rights, and about a dozen other important causes, according to a new report from consultancy Capgemini.

The firm interviewed more than 4,500 high-net-worth individuals from 23 different markets during Q1 of this year to get their take on a number of subjects, including what social issues they care about most.

Besides human rights, the respondents also said they cared more about animal welfare than climate change, poverty alleviation, income inequality and race and gender issues.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/capgemini-wealth-report-2014-6#ixzz3MdhipBoi

Only well fed, out of touch people have the luxury of being champions of  ‘non-human rights’.  Most of the rest of the human beings in this world are just trying to survive until tomorrow.

God help us all!

What are You waiting for?

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Habakkuk 1:13 “Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?”

     Why does God hold back and let bad people do bad things to good people.  This is a perplexing question that has no ‘easy’ answer.  Good people and innocent children are being gunned down, blown up and killed in terrible ways daily.  Television, radio and the news is full of calamity, tragedy and violence?

     Why doesn’t God do something about it? He did! “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16,17)  In Habakkuk’s time, this was still to come by about 600 years.  This was the long term plan – the plan since the beginning.  But what what about the immediate.  Habakkuk was crying out for the here and now!
   

 Habakkuk would have to wait but not without God’s assurance – not without God’s presence.  God replies to Habakkuk; “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, It will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:3.4)  And faith is looking to and believing in His promises contrary to what you may see with your eyes; “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

     Earlier God had said  that He was going to deal with the wickedness of Habakkuk’s world by giving it over to itself  (Habakkuk 1:5-10).    The Forerunner Commentary describes the vision in this way; “He tells the prophet that He is sending the ferocious, bloody, terrifying Chaldeans to conquer Judah! The prophet must have been stunned! This was not the answer he expected in the least. What kind of deliverance is humiliating defeat at the hand of these utterly godless people who struck terror into the entire Middle East?”  Wickedness has an insatiable appetite – its violence knows no friend and has no compassion.

     Pride in self and self-assurance always leads to defeat.  God only gave Judah what every nation earns for itself when idolatry, greed and corruption takes over because of pride and arrogance.  What about the faithful?  What about the innocent and those with no money or power to defend  themselves?  They endure by faith in  His promises.  We endure by our faith in His promises.

     Habakkuk asks, like we all ask  in the face of terrible events and injustice – why doesn’t God speak out? He did!  God told His prophets about Jesus and through His prophets the rest of the world.  He told Isaiah, 800 years before the coming of Jesus; “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)  Long. before Jesus was born on earth, God was very clear about the coming of His son to save us.

     The Old Testament is full of prophesies of the coming of Jesus.  Mary Fairchild lists forty-four prophecies of Jesus that have been fulfilled.   She writes: “Some Bible scholars suggest there are more than 300 prophetic Scriptures completed in the life of Jesus.” (44 Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ)

     Today, God is still telling us about His plan of rescue and salvation; “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; . . . ” (Hebrews 1:1,2)  God’s Word tells us that faith provides deliverance; “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:32-35)

     What’s God waiting for?  The Bible tells us; “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Hebrew 11:35-40)

     I was in jail a few days ago visiting a young friend.  He got himself in trouble and now he is waiting for his sentence from the court. He’s scared and in despair.  He knows he was in the wrong and accepts the consequences but that doesn’t mean that he’s not afraid and terribly anxious.  He has no hope to get through what will likely be a long, long prison term.  All he’s got is the Gospel hope.

     Is God waiting for him?  Yes!  The apostle Peter tells us; “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

   

Once I would have looked with no pity on my young friend in jail.  My hard and bitter heart would have said; ‘Lock him up and throw away the key!’  God waited and in His time brought my hard cold dead heart to life.  It was a miracle.  Thank you Jesus that you waited for me!

    God waits for my friend, for me, for you and for all that would come to Him.  And while God waits we hang on and spread His Word.   By faith we endure!

     Come Lord Jesus!
   

What about our Christmas tree?

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There are so many pagan influences in our culture that it can be hard to assess how damaging their influence is in our Christian life.  Grace Communion International’s website points out; “Paganism is a highly controversial subject. Can we use pagan customs in the church of God? We already do. Simply because something has a pagan origin does not mean that it is sinful to use it, even for a religious use.” Their article on paganism lists wedding rings and the ceremony, putting flowers on graves, embalming, symbols on money and the names of the days of the week as examples.

Some pagan activities are ‘no brainers’.  Mediums, psychics, divination (Acts 16:16-19,19:17-19) and witchcraft (Gal. 5:20,21)  have clear Biblical injunctions against them.   To accept any part of these practices in our Christian life will destroy our spirit and witness.  But other practices are not so clearly spoken about or against.    What about our Christmas tree?

Wikipedia says that the ‘Christmas’ tree originiated in Germany; “The custom of the Christmas tree developed in early modern Germany (where it is today called Weihnachtsbaum or Christbaum or ‘Tannenbaum’) with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly 15th century, in which ‘devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.’] Christmas trees were hung in St. George’s Church, Sélestat since 1521. It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century.  The Christmas tree has also been known as the ‘Yule-tree’, especially in discussions of its folkloristic origins.”

Others point out that the Church and ‘Christmas’ trees have a troubled past;

The evergreen tree was an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year, and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe cut evergreen trees and planted them in boxes inside their houses in wintertime. Many early Christians were hostile to such practices. The second-century theologian Tertullian condemned those Christians who celebrated the winter festivals, or decorated their houses with laurel boughs in honor of the emperor . . . .

But by the early Middle Ages, the legend had grown that when Christ was born in the dead of winter, every tree throughout the world miraculously shook off its ice and snow and produced new shoots of green. At the same time, Christian missionaries preaching to Germanic and Slavic peoples were taking a more lenient approach to cultural practices—such as evergreen trees. These missionaries believed that the Incarnation proclaimed Christ’s lordship over those natural symbols that had previously been used for the worship of pagan gods. Not only individual human beings, but cultures, symbols, and traditions could be converted.

(Christian History.net, The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving., Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait, posted 12/11/2008)

Some argue that everything about Christmas, including the Christmas tree is pagan and should be tossed out of our homes;

Clearly, the pagan customs of Christmas had nothing remotely to do with the Messiah, or the Word of YEHOVAH God, the Scriptures. Clearly, they had nothing to offer to the Church of YEHOVAH God, as they were the very antithesis of true Christianity! Yet, somehow, this ancient pagan festival wormed its way into the established “Christian” Church and became its most prominent holiday of the year! What a monstrous mystery!

(The Shocking Pagan Origin of CHRISTMAS!, http://www.hope-of-israel.org/cmas1.htm)

How does a sincere person of faith ‘navigate’ through the season with all these opposing views of Christmas and Christmas trees?  How do we relate to others and engage the culture we live in?  What do we say to our neighbors about Christmas and the Christmas tree?  Why not check with Jesus?   The Bible gives guidance on this question even if it doesn’t mention Christmas trees or Christmas.  Jesus lived in a world that was run by a global political power that was unchallenged in its military strength.  Jesus lived in a world that was pagan, diverse and full of tension.  Jesus lived in our world!  How did He relate to others? How did Jesus relate to religious people full of their own self-righteousness?

He met them where they lived and spoke to their situations without judgement or compromise  and with compassion.  Jesus knew everyone has a past and struggles with the grime of their upbringing, their life situation and culture.  His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is a beautiful illustration of this (John 4:4-30);

This was an extraordinary woman not so much because she was a Samaritan, a race of people that the Jews utterly despised as having no claim on their God, but because she was an outcast and looked down upon by her own people. This is evidenced by the fact that she came alone to draw water from the community well when during biblical times drawing water and chatting at the well was the social highpoint of a woman’s day. However, this woman was ostracized and marked as immoral, an unmarried woman living openly with the fifth in a series of men.

In spite of the similarities in the two meetings between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, there are differences in the way Jesus unveiled grace to them. While Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner in order to understand grace, the Samaritan woman, who knew she was a sinner, needed to see herself as a person of worth and value. And this provides us with one of the most powerful lessons in all of Scripture.

This story teaches us that God finds us worthy of His love in spite of our bankrupt lives. God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. As a result of Jesus’ conversation, only a person like the Samaritan woman, an outcast from her own people, could understand what this means. To be wanted, to be cared for when no one, not even herself, could see anything of value in her—this is grace indeed.

Read more:http://www.gotquestions.org/woman-at-the-well.html#ixzz3M4MvqMLl

The woman at the well had bigger problems in her life than a Christmas tree in her living room yet Jesus offered her a drink of ‘living water’.  Nicodemus didn’t think he had any problems and Jesus patiently explained to him (and us) how salvation works (John 3:1-21).

There is so much in our lives that draws us away from Jesus.  Yes, Christmas trees and the gluttony of Christmas can do that.  Yet, no matter what the season or situation, the really important question is:  Are you searching for Jesus or do you have your back firmly turned away from Him?  You may be able to toss out the Christmas tree from your living room but only Jesus can toss out the spirit of selfishness from your heart.  Some may feel that they have cleansed themselves of all pagan unrighteousness but that is a delusion.  No one can cleanse themselves of all paganism.  Since the fall of mankind, paganism is part of who and what we are without Jesus Christ.  If we think otherwise, then like Nicodemus we need to be taught about what it really means to be ‘born again’.

The apostle Paul speaking to the pagan Athenians at Mars Hill didn’t tell them to get rid of all their idolatrous gods.  No, Paul told them that God won’t overlook ignorance anymore and  calls all men to repent (Acts 17:30)   Following Jesus’ example he spoke into their life situation using their paganism as a leadin to the Gospel; “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:22,23)

I have no doubt that there is much that I worship in ignorance.  I need Revelation;  I need it daily.  Tossing out the Christmas tree and thinking that I’m the better for it won’t make me righteous in God’s eyes.    Jesus is the only cure for my lack of sight, my idolatry and my brokenness; “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Turning my back on the Christmas tree and the idolatry of Christmas won’t do me any good if I’ve not turned towards Jesus.  We have an inbred proclivity to find false gods to worship even while we pretend to  purify our own lives on our own strength by casting out some of our idols.  The last idol and greatest stronghold in my life (maybe yours) can be seen in the bathroom mirror – and it isn’t the Christmas tree!  Jesus tells us; “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:24,25)

If you have a  Christmas tree, what do you see when you look at it?  Do you see Jesus, even ever so faintly?   Or do only ‘visions of sugar plumbs’ dance in your head?  Are you grateful for Jesus or just the presents under the tree?

If you’ve gotten rid of your Christmas tree, what do you see in its absence?  Condemnation for others who still have such ‘pagan’ idols in their homes?  Or do you see Jesus and His pure love for your  neighbor standing by his Christmas tree?

What does God see in you?

The Rise of ‘Modern’ Paganism

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Paganism is on the rise in Canada .  If you dabble in astrology, read your daily horoscope, accept ‘white’ witchcraft, and really get into the spirit of Halloween then you’re part of the growing trend.  Even If you do attend church for your weekly ‘feel good’ dose of God – one of the many gods you may worship – you have already given yourself over to paganism.

Our countryside and cities are not necessarily Christian anymore.  To think so is to hide from reality and maybe even who you really are.  John H. Redekop Ph.D. points out:

Some observers see the Christian church in Canada disappearing rapidly and Canadian society now morphing into a post-Christian society. Some observers point to the Anglican Church of Canada as an example. Between 1961 and 2001, the Anglican Church lost 53% of its membership, declining from 1.36 million to 642,000. Writer Michael Valpy has humorously conjectured that if the Anglican Church continues to lose 13,000 members each year, then by 2061, there will be 1 Anglican left in Canada. The decline is greatest in British Columbia, especially on Vancouver Island. In 1955 about 40% of the Island population was Anglican. Today 1.2% is Anglican.

(John H. Redekop Ph.D., Trinity Western University, Is Canada Becoming a Post-Christian Country? 11/20/2013

Here in Ontario, not far from the little rural church where I worship God,  is a pagan druid fellowship that openly invites people to come and worship their gods in nature.  It is called Thornhaven Grove.  What is their purpose?

Our intent is two-fold:

a) To provide a haven for pagan folk: This is space for pagans to worship their Gods in nature, on land that is consecrated for this sacred purpose, without the fear, worry or interruption that can accompany outdoor ritual/retreats in public spaces such as parks.

b) To build sacred space: Sacred space is built not just with land, stone or trees, but with the spiritual investment of people. We have been using the land for the last few years for private rituals and retreats, and have begun creating specific shrines and circles. However, we believe that the more people use our land for their own worship, and the more people develop a relationship with the spirits of the land, the more powerful and sacred the land becomes.

(http://www.thornhavenadf.com/aboutthornhaven.htm)

Thornhaven even has a Facebook page!  Anyone who would claim that Canada is still a Christian nation has their head rooted as deeply in the sand as the proverbial ostrich.

How does this happen?  Debra MacLeod’s article, Why Modern Paganism is Good for Today’s Families offers the following explanation;

There are many people like me. People who love ritual and long for spiritual expression, but who can’t get on board with Abrahamic religious dogma or scripture. There are many people like my husband, too. People who were indoctrinated into religious belief as a child, but who have rejected that belief as an adult. And these are the folks who are increasingly turning to modern paganism.

(Debra Macleod, Couples Mediator & Relationship Author-Expert, Why Modern Paganism is Good For Today’s Families. Posted: 12/12/2014, Huffington Post, Canada)

 Yes, we in the church can take a share in the blame because of our self-righteous, judgmental and complacent ways.  The Bible tells us that this kind of fake religion is completely offensive to Jesus; “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked . . . ” (Revelation 3:15-17)

Compromising churches emptied of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ provide lots of recruits for paganism as one ex-wiccan explains;

How I got involved in paganism is all too common, I’m afraid.

I was raised in a churched home. By that, I mean that we went to church but didn’t live any differently than my friends who did not go to church.  I was very active in the church growing up and as a teen. We attended the First Christian Church (independant), and I was active in youth group, Sunday School, choir. I was there everytime the doors were open. But I didn’t have any strong background at home.

I had always been fascinated by magic. I started off innocently enough reading my horoscope (my mom did this, and didn’t see anything wrong with it).  My favorite movies and TV shows as a kid were all about witches and magic, now I was living out my fantasy. Just like millions of people can drink a beer and never get addicted to alcohol, millions of people can watch a show like Bewitched and never think anything of it, but some people have a weakness in this area that leaves them vulnerable. I was one of those people. I had many experiences as a child that I know opened that door for me, and made me vulnerable. The pagans I met said I had a gift of the sight that ran in my family. I know now that Satan used my gifts that God had given me. All of the little openings into the occult in my childhood (the movies, TV shows, games I played, etc) opened a door, that Satan used to get me to serve him rather than God. One movie that really stuck out in my mind as starting the whole mess was a movie I watched that starred Melissa Sue Anderson as a bad witch, and another child actress as a good witch. I didn’t know it at the time but it was all about Wicca, and that movie affected me greatly, and I believed opened the door to my fascination with witchcraft.

When I went off to college, I got interested in birth charts, and learned how to do astrological charts for others. I also got really messed up on drugs while in college, and got more and more interested in Eastern mysticism.

In And Out Of Wicca – A  Former Wiccan SpeaksBy A Former Wiccan

Who will rescue the many lost souls caught up in empty paganism?  Is the lukewarm church capable of such a rescue mission?  What was the former wiccan’s experience:

When God spoke to me that day in my car in August 1997, it was the first time in my life I ever heard Him speak to me. It was the first time I really KNEW that Christianity is NOTHING without a personal relationship with God. At that moment I began to seek Him rather than seeking traditions, doctrines, etc. I just sought HIM, and He revealed Himself to me in a way that I just KNEW I was His, purchased for a price. . . .  When I returned to Christ, I vowed that I would not return to the dead religion of my youth. I wanted more. I wanted more than ritual and tradition. More than a weekly pep talk at the church. I had a Jesus-sized hole in my heart that needed to be filled 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

It saddens me to think about all the people I knew in the pagan community  who like me were raised in the church, but left seeking more–seeking a deity they could have a relationship with. The church has failed miserably. We have become Pharisees raising traditions of men to the level of revelation of God. We have put God in a box, and through this so many people who are deeply seeking a relationship with God are lost, because they think it is something that cannot be obtained, but that a relationship with false goddesses are possible. Satan uses the church’s failings to his benefit. Paganism offers gods and goddesses that live within you and communicate directly with you (or so the lie goes).

As disciples of Jesus how should we respond to the paganism around us and within our fellowships.  Hold to the faith and share the Gospel! The Apostle Paul tells us: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’” (Romans 1:16,17)  That’s our job, our mission – don’t judge, condemn or revile – stick with God’s Word – speak it, live it and love it daily!  The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit’s work in the world is to bring true spiritual reality to mankind; “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me;  of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;  of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8-11)

Trouble will find you!

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In this world, we Christians don’t have to look for trouble; it will find us.  There is always someone with a point to prove or a ‘right’ to defend even though it means steam rolling other points of view and the right of others to live their deeply held beliefs.

Lorna Dueck’s article in the Globe and Mail is a good example of this.  She writes;

Canada’s next chapter on going godless is gearing up for a nasty fight. It’s a David versus Goliath match over a proposed law school. For now, “David” is Trinity Western University, a Christian school funded solely by donations and unsubsidized tuition fees of its 4,000 students. . . .

Enter Goliath: Law societies in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the civil rights lawyer, Clayton Ruby are in court battles to shut the school down as discriminatory. The five-page belief and behavioral covenant at TWU aspires to have students limit sexual activity to the Biblical definition of marriage; “between a man and a woman.” Mr. Ruby approached B.C.’s gay community and found a plaintiff, Mr. Trevor Loke. “Mr. Loke had never heard of TWU, but when he heard there was a law school that was off limits to him in any meaningful way, that was an anathema, it was hateful,” Mr. Ruby told a Context TV debate.

LORNA DUECK, Trinity Western affair a trial of Canadian civility and tolerance, Special to The Globe and Mai, Published Thursday, Dec. 11 2014

It is interesting that no one came to Mr. Ruby looking for him to help them defend their rights because they were rebuffed by Trinity Western University.  It appears that Mr. Ruby had to go looking for someone to ‘pick a fight’ with TWU.  And he found such a person in Mr. Loke  who up until then had never heard of TWU or presumably wanted to study there.

In Mr. Loke’s petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, his claim states; “The Petitioner Trevor James Loke is gay and Christian.  He wants to attend law school in British Columbia and become a member of the legal profession.”  But until Mr Ruby approached Trevor Loke and put TWU in his sights, TWU and its policy was never an impediment to Mr. Loke’s ambitions – Indeed there are other law schools that he could apply to.  Mr. Loke and Mr. Ruby decided to make TWU their problem.

Further into Mr. Loke’s petition, under the heading ‘PART II FACTUAL BASIS’ another statement is made; “The Petitioner, Trevor Loke, is 25.  He resides in Vancouver. He is openly gay and openly Christian.”

I was very interested in how Mr. Loke might express himself as  ‘openly Christian’.  I checked out his Facebook page.  He doesn’t identify himself as a Christian.  Nor is there any evidence in his timeline that he is ‘openly Christian’.  Indeed his Season’s greetings in 2012 is hardly what I would consider ‘openly Christloke-holiday greetingstian’.

Elsewhere he describes himself as;

I’m indisputably the world’s pickiest vegetarian. My ridiculously buff body (probably all the veggies…) makes me a perfect fit as goaltender with The Cutting Edges Hockey Club, Vancouver’s gay hockey team. I’m a regular 23-year-old who happens to be a  Park Board Commissioner and founder ofWeeve.

Who is your role model?
Hillary (you know which one). In my personal life, my Grandpa was a huge role model of mine and even though he’s been gone for 14 years, I always remember how he taught me the lessons of humility, kindness and grace when I was a wee lad.

8 QUESTIONS AND 2 IMPERATIVES FOR TREVOR LOKE, http://nixey.ca/blog/8-questions-and-2-imperatives-for-trevor-loke/

No mention of his belief or commitment to Christianity is found in this public and open forum.

Indeed in an inverview with David P. Ball, Mr Loke confides;

“God, I don’t really like to talk about it very much!” Trevor Loke admits when asked about his Christian faith. “It’s so weird that it’s now coming up, as it’s such a very personal thing for me.”

Now, because of a lawsuit he launched yesterday against the province, Vancouver’s youngest-ever Park Board commissioner finds both his religion and sexuality in the spotlight. Loke is taking on the Ministry of Advanced Education’s recent approval of a new law school at the evangelical, privately-operated Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.

At issue for Loke and his pro bono attorneys — civil liberties lawyer Clayton Ruby and the Vancouver-based Janes Freedman Kyle Law Corp. — is a clause in the Christian university’s five-page “community covenant,”which all students and faculty agree to follow.

(‘I’m Not Welcome at School Because of Who I Am’, Meet the young Christian suing BC for approving a law school he says discriminates against gay people. By David P. Ball, 16 Apr 2014, TheTyee.ca)

It is very difficult to reconcile Mr. Loke’s statement of being ‘openly Christian’ to the Supreme Court of British Columbia with his statements about himself in the other  forums cited above.  Perhaps Mr. Loke could clear up the confusion.  What does being ‘openly Christian’ mean to Trevor Loke?

All this brings to mind the very pointed question; ‘If Christianity were a crime would there be enough evidence to convict you.’  In my personal opinion, Trevor Loke would be safe from any sort of prosecution on those grounds.

One thing all can agree on – Mr Loke, Mr Ruby and TWU – is that being ‘openly Christian’ can bring trouble to your door step.

Trinity Western University and all of ‘us Christians’ can hang on to the hope and blessing of Jesus;

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:10-12)

As Mr. Loke might know, to those that are ‘openly Christian’,  Jesus gives the assurance; “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

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