Sunday, September 18, 2022

Keeping Our Promises To God

God, however, has every right to expect us to follow the one whom He sent, Jesus, whose life is the example by which we are saved, if we strive to follow it.

Our promises TO God, therefore, are far more relevant to our faith than what God has promised to us, and we must avoid impiously holding GOD to His word, while we fail to live up to our own.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Teachings of Jesus Call Us To ACTION! #JesusFollowers

 Only those who gain knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and follow him in humility can truly become whole, perfect and complete in Godliness.


Jesus was the perfect example through which we can know and see how God wishes us to act, live, to relate to others and to die.
It is in this context that we can begin to understand the otherwise "difficult" saying of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6.) The rarely-quoted next verse reads: "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him."

Seeing and learning without acting upon what we've seen and learned is pointless, and useless, leading to dead faith (James 2:20; 26.) We cannot hide our Light, or keep our Good Works to our selves, but instead, Jesus calls us to spread goodness and light to others (Matt. 5:16.) It is only by action that we spread God's Kingdom upon the face of the earth.

Jesus challenges us to be better than we are, not remain exactly as we were before we met him. The act of following him is meant to transform us; we are to be BORN AGAIN in service and obedience to God, with the example of God's chosen exemplar always before our eyes (John 3:3.)

Jesus didn't ever claim to be God. But he did claim to be Godly, and he was in fact perfectly in tune with God's will. He says of his Father, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29.)

From his example, we need not look through a "dark glass" seeking vainly for what God wills for our lives. Jesus lays it out clearly, and says we CAN achieve it, and must attempt to do so. And we need not do it alone. God's servant Jesus teaches that we can rely on God's forgiveness when we falter on this journey, and must as a consequence forgive others who may offend us - in Godly imitation of both God and God's servant, Jesus (Matt. 6:14-15.)
The Good and Beneficial Message proclaimed by Jesus wasn't to simply have mere belief in his existence, but was a call to ACTIVELY serve God, to follow Jesus, and to love others just as we love ourselves (Mark 12:29-31.) His Gospel calls us to serve and act, not sit and contemplate, nor to simply admire Jesus nor even to worship him.

To be Good and Beneficial, the message of Jesus must spread goodness to others, and be beneficial to others. To turn a deaf ear to God's instruction through Jesus is detestable to God (John 9:31; Prov. 28:9.)

When we realize the wonderful gifts God has given all people from birth - but we have not used to benefit others until we knew Jesus - we should feel a great sorrow of realization, followed immediately by great joy that we now know the goal for which we were born, and the Good Works for which God has equipped us!

Jesus is a "Door" and a "Gate" by which we may walk through and glimpse the potential life for which God has equipped us - and has promised to continue to equip us. Let us have the courage to walk through this narrow passageway and enter into spiritually complete and morally useful lives together!

Sunday, September 4, 2022

#Jesus Calls Us To Use Our God-Given Gifts #JesusFollowers

  

With his teachings, #Jesus spoke about the great, powerful gifts given to human beings by God, and how we are to use them ACTIVELY to do Good for others.

Jesus, in his parables and sayings, explains that to us much has been given. Much, also, is required of us in return. By this way, we become the mature and perfect Beings that God wishes us to become.

His Parable of the Talents shows this most clearly. We are given gifts by God and are called to use them. Putting them in the ground, or keeping them unused, isn't profitable to the Kingdom of God, nor does it grow our spirits.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we have both the ability and duty to act to serve and love others, even strangers.

Jesus says that we, as young children, are pure in spirit, able to love the way God wishes us to love as adults (Matt 19:14)

Jesus called us to bring forth good treasure from our hearts and turn it into Good Works in the world (Matt. 12:35.) God is the Author of our first measure of Goodness in our hearts. He calls on us to nurture and replenish it daily.

Jesus says that we may seek the spiritual completion (perfection) of God (Matt. 5:48), that we may forgive as God forgives, and that we may be as merciful as our Father in Heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36)

Knowing all this, we can't call Jesus our lord ("master") and ignore what he commands us to do. He has made it clear that God has equipped us to do Good Works, and calls us to go serve others to the best of our natural, God-given abilities.

Giving of ourselves is not a zero-sum game. Serving others, as Jesus calls us to do, doesn't empty us, it fills us, with joy.

Helping others brings us closer to God and to emulating the example God gave us, Jesus, whom He anointed and chose at his Baptism for that purpose. 

We are likewise chosen and sent out to act, daily building up God's spiritual Kingdom.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30.) That’s complete and total love that is demonstrated in our active Good Works, not just lip service or weak emotionalism that fades by Sunday afternoon when the churches are empty again.

Jesus and our Heavenly Father, God, have become for many mere SYMBOLS - psychological crutches on which we throw all our work and give THEM our moral tasks. Millions drive to churches to chant and praise Jesus' name and "finished work", all the while, averting their eyes as they pass the homeless, the sick, the discouraged, the grieving widow, the hungry, and the ill-clothed living among them. And we wonder why most people under 30 view traditional Christians as hypocrites!

"Do less" or "do nothing" are easy to sell to today's pew-dwellers, especially Americans. Jesus, by contrast, said we are capable of doing Great things, and called us to go do them. Jesus Followers who hear his words and obey them will seek to actively serve others, using their God-given gifts.

It is clear from the teachings of Jesus that we were created for a purpose: to do more - to do ALL WE CAN - to serve and love one another. This is the reason why we were saved by Jesus from the ignorance of our true Nature, in order to be the beings that God created us to be.

To deny that Jesus taught a Gospel of Good Works and active service is to deny his Gospel entirely. Doing good on behalf of others stands at the very core of the Gospel Jesus preached.

Our Nature isn't that of creatures so damaged that we cannot turn our face to God and repent of past misdeeds or weaknesses. 

Our Nature is one of Beings who were created with Free Will, able to know and understand our true mission, outlined clearly in the words and demonstrated perfectly in the life of one of us: Jesus. He says this is the way of God. Why would we second guess him?

Sunday, August 28, 2022

We're Responsible To God For Our Own Actions! #JesusFollowers

There is no truth more clearly taught in in the scriptures than this: that God will render to every man according to his deeds. 

The scriptures contain scores of passages which teach us that God will bring every work into judgement, whether it be good or whether it be evil.

Being accountable to God for our actions, those who set His laws at defiance are justly deserving of a punishment, and can be sure of their reward.

In relation to the native characters of human beings, we all came into the world pure; that is, free from any innate depravity, and are born into the world without a moral character; we neither possess any positive virtue, nor actual vice; but we inherit a nature which is capable of both.

We cannot believe a God of infinite mercy would bring His own offspring into being under a load of hereditary guilt. 

We also cannot admit that infants in all ages are "liable to the pains of hell forever," in consequence of the sin of our first parents – a sin committed without their knowledge or agency, and thousands of years before they had a being.

The scriptures teach us that infants are free from moral defilement. Our Savior took up little children in his arms and blessed them, and pronounced them heirs of his kingdom. 

But if they had been totally depraved, filled with all that is evil, would he have taken them up in his arms and blessed them?

Had they been embryos of hell, as they are frequently represented, Jesus would not have pronounced them heirs of his kingdom. Again, our Master says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3)

With these, and several other passages before us, we are constrained to believe that we are born into the world pure. The doctrine of imputation appears to be cruelly unjust. 

Everyone is accountable for himself, and for himself alone. The scriptures assure us that, "the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son, nor the son the iniquity of the father." (Ezek. 18:20)

Such passages entirely destroy the doctrine of imputation. All who arrive at years of understanding are depraved in some degree, but their depravity is of their own making.

How is it possible to transfer the guilt of Adam's sin to me? I cannot be criminal, unless I have a consciousness of committing the act, and I cannot have this consciousness of committing the act, unless I have in fact committed it; and if I have in fact committed the sin, it ceases to be Adam's, and becomes my own.

The doctrine of total depravity appears to impeach both the wisdom and goodness of the Deity. If we are the subjects of this total corruption, the revelation which God has given us would be useless.  

If God requires all to love him, was it wise of Him to give us a nature which would forever prevent our compliance?

The scriptures assure that God will punish sin. But does it not infringe upon His goodness to say He will punish us for our sins which the nature He gave us compels us to perform? 

There is no truth more sacred than this: that we are accountable for our actions, just as far as we have an ability to perform our duty, and no farther. Whenever you limit our ability to do good, there our accountability ceases.

We must contend for moral virtue. I object to the contemptuous manner in which some speak of morality. Some denounce moral excellence as "dry morality," and insinuate that it is akin to infidelity.

If moral goodness is the fruit of infidelity, then give us infidelity in preference to that Christianity which teaches us to slight virtuous actions. 

We may perform good actions from bad motives. In such a case, there is no moral worth in such an act. But if we perform good actions from benevolent motives, they are in the exercise of practical Christianity. 

Whoever does to others as they desire them to do to him, obeys the requirement of the religion of Jesus.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father," (James 1:27) consists in gratitude to God, good will to others, and watchfulness over our own conduct. 

If we do not exercise charity one to another; if we do not deal justly with our fellow creatures, our religion is of a spurious kind. As Christians, it is our duty to correct our own faults, rather than point out those of others.

We should so favor excellence of character, so that all preaching ought to be directed to this one object, namely, to make people better. Religion in theory should not be valued as much as in practice. 

Further, religion has no value unless it effects the conduct and renders people virtuous and good. Not that theoretical religion doesn’t have worth, but its value lies entirely in its influence upon the mind and the heart.

That system of doctrines which does not exert an influence over the person is useless. Every scheme, therefore, which is made up of cold speculations which cannot warm the affections, or of inexplicable mysteries which no mortal can comprehend, is not worth professing.

(Adapted from a Sermon by Rev. Charles Hudson, 1795-1881)

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Loving God With Jesus' Simple Faith #JesusFollowers

God calls us, through Jesus, to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This the core of the selfless and life-giving Gospel given to us by the one whom God chose and sent out to us, Jesus.

We become whole and complete beings when we serve God and others in His name, and seeking to do this completes our spirits.

Jesus says we are to come to him like a child:

"But Jesus said, 'Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" (Matt. 19:14)

Children easily believe, and their love is pure and natural. Children have a faith in God as the Creator and Father of us all.

Childlike obedience, childlike love, childlike trust in God, all lead to a spirituality that leads us into God's presence, and helps us show God to others.

When our spirits are in union with God, we achieve the Spiritual Abundance and wholeness of life that God means us to have.

And Jesus showed us, by the example of his life, teachings and death, that we may become spiritually complete and become all God wishes us to be. This is the amazing and glorious gift that God has shown us through Jesus.

The Gospel that Jesus preached is simple and pure and easily believable:

Love God. Love others. Live Righteously. Serve others. Do Good Works. In this way, we bring in - and actively live in - God's Kingdom.

That is it. Full Stop.


But because we humans like to over-think and over complicate things, we have added much man-made doctrine to this simple Gospel.

Human beings throughout the centuries have polluted this pure message with complicated and confusing doctrines that negate every part of the Gospel as Jesus preached it.

Did Jesus preach (as later men taught) that all men were born evil, and are unable to obey God, without God giving us extra and special powers to do so? Or did he preach that we have the ability to obey God, and will be judged according to our deeds, and that our acts MUST be righteous?

Did Jesus preach (as later men said) that he was equal to God, and therefore we need only worship his Personhood in order to be saved, vicariously? Or did he preach his utter dependence upon God, his Father (and ours) and that only obedience in righteousness leads to our salvation?

Did Jesus preach (as men do) that we must wait for him to come back to earth with an avenging army before the Kingdom of God comes? Or did he preach that we must seek to bring in the Kingdom IMMEDIATELY with our acts of love, compassion and service to others?

Did Jesus preach (as men do) that we can pray to God to attain material wealth, increase our power over others, and have all our physical desires granted? Or did he call us to seek spiritual treasures from Heaven, and to serve God and others even in our material poverty, putting Others above our Selves?

Human beings are born capable, thanks to God's gifts, of doing great and amazing things. 

We send rockets to space, explore the deepest seas, and create works of fiction that amaze and entertain us. But we also create excuses by citing man-made doctrines that falsely assure us that we need NOT do Good Works or actively assist our fellow human beings who are in need.

During his ministry, Jesus condemned the doctrines of men, which were being put above the love of God. Men created mythologies and doctrines that put empty ritual and dogma ahead of God's love and our requirement to serve and love others.

Should we be surprised that doctrines of men still dominate the powerful dominant religion of today, Christendom? These strange doctrines we are taught as "Faith" today are encrusted with complicated Medieval theologies that defy definition, cleverly devised to keep us from the simple Gospel of Jesus, as he taught it. They are literally another man's "gospel" rather than the pure and simple one Jesus left us.

Jesus was given God's message and conveyed it simply and clearly to us, just as God commissioned him at his baptism to do.

Let's return to the simplicity and childlike faith that Jesus left us, putting aside the childishness and foolishness that men want to require us to believe in its place.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Would #Jesus Have Something To Say About Social Media? #JesusFollowers

It's obvious that Jesus lived long before the advent of social media, or even computers, but is there anything we can learn from him regarding how to deal with these wonders of our own era? 

If Jesus is our teacher, guide, and Master, we can find many useful lessons for our lives today in his teaching and example.

Social media can be, and is, a great benefit. We stay connected with family members, friends and co-workers, often years after they're no longer living near to us; we keep up with current events in our communities, our nation, and around the world, and we meet and interact with people from around the world whom we would never have met without social media.

But social media also has a well-known destructive side. 

We can become addicted to staring at laptop and smartphone screens. We can become disconnected with the people who are ACTUALLY around us. And we can misuse this great gift in many new and harmful ways.

It's often easy to say hurtful things, safely hidden behind a screen, that we'd never say in person. 

And perhaps one of the most damaging aspects of social media use is that it can portray others' lives as perfect, which leads us to feel bad about how our own lives measure up.

Jesus spoke of the hypocrites of his day among the Pharisees, saying: "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." (Matt. 23:27)

Jesus therefore calls us to not bear false witness, or put on a false facade to others while on social media.

And what of the content we consume on social? It's been said of computer programming, "Garbage in, Garbage out." Many years before this saying, Jesus spoke of what we put into our hearts.

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)

We are called by our Master to absorb good treasures, treasure that lasts an eternity, and ones that bear good fruit in the here and now.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)

Our God-anointed Exemplar goes on to explain that what we SEE can put goodness or evil into our hearts:

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:22-23)

Jesus also calls us to serve and love our neighbors. This requires that we remain connected to the living, breathing people around us - friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, and even strangers that we encounter. 

We can remain connected and reach out to them through social media, surely, but we ought not substitute a Direct Message or text for a comforting word and a helping hand.

Jesus calls us to perform righteous acts, in humility (Matt 6:1) feeding, clothing, comforting, visiting and actively engaging others - in person. (Matt. 25:35-36)

Jesus assures us that his teachings will last forever, and said if we truly love him, we will follow him, and do what he commands us to do.

Let's take his eternal teachings 20 centuries ago to heart when we use the wonderful gifts of our 21st century lives for the creation of the Kingdom Jesus says lives within us, and must come to pass on this earth through our acts in his name!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

A Faith in Jesus That Challenges Us to Be Better! #JesusFollowers

 A few years ago, a young man named Jefferson Bethke posted a video on YouTube and later followed it up with a book, “Jesus [is greater than] Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough.” He was wrong on all counts.

The urge to simply have faith and then do nothing is very alluring and seductive. It's the very WIDE GATE and easy path of which Jesus warns us. The urge to make excuses for our inability to serve God as Jesus calls us to do is very strong, and it’s a very old message indeed. But it’s a call to half-serve God, and it’s a repudiation of the message God called and anointed Jesus to preach to all humanity.

If you are not actively seeking to walk as Jesus walked, you are not a follower of Jesus. You may be an admirer of Jesus, or a flatterer of Jesus, but not a follower. Jesus calls us to a life of holy struggle and humble service, not a life of shallow words and false phrases. He challenges us to be better than we are, not remain as we were before we met him.

"Come just as you are" to Jesus. But expect to change and be changed by his words, life and example. He was meant to be followed, not just admired - he urged us to obey God, not to simply shower him with flattery.

The words, life, teachings and death of our Master, Jesus, challenge us to do, to act, to follow, to serve, to be better, to do more, to try harder, to be humble, yet be Righteous, to serve God not money, to lose ourselves and gain eternity.

Jesus' call for us to count the costs, then pick up a cross, go the extra mile, expand our 'talents' to serve others, and being the Good Samaritan cannot have meant for us to seek a life of leisure and ease. It's a call to action. If we say we love Jesus, but don't hear what he says, we've built our lives on shifting sands, not the Rock of his Words.

The Gospel that Jesus explicitly taught isn't a call to merely have belief in him, but it's a call to serve God, to follow Jesus' teachings, to love others just as we love ourselves. His Gospel calls us to serve and act, not sit and contemplate, nor to simply admire Jesus or even to worship him.

And since there is deep confusion among Christians today (sown by folks like Mr. Bethke) let there be no mistake: We are equipped from birth by God to begin the works Jesus calls us to accomplish. We have the ability to recognize Truth, the ability to know right from wrong, to do Good, and to serve others, as Jesus calls us to do. 

When we repent of our sins, and commit to stop sinning and serve God, then our Heavenly Father will equip us further with wisdom, with hope, with courage and with the strength to endure anything.

If we fail to grasp the simple, clear and profound message of Jesus, we will have fallen prey to the error of "easy believism"  - the wide road that leads to a failed and worthless faith, rather than a fulfilling one that actively fills the world with love, hope and light.

Anyone calling us to a faith of easy belief, of a faith without Works, of emotion without action, of a hope of Heavenly rewards without our hands engaged in helping others, is calling us to "another Gospel" that is false, and "another Christ" who is an imitation of the original Jesus.

The clear, challenging religion of Jesus that he first preached is far superior and far more profound and Godly than all the superstitions, mythologies, complexities and unimaginable nonsense men have attached to it ever since. It's time to return to Following Jesus and serving Jesus' God in spirit and in truth.

A faith that fails to challenge us to bold, radical service isn't worth having. A free gift is worthless if it's never open and used as it was designed. Jesus offers us such a faith, such a gift, if we would only open it and act upon it.

Let us, then, act.