Sunday, December 29, 2013

Following Jesus: A Mission Statement for Service

Organizations dedicated to serving God faithfully should never fear to spell out exactly how it will do so, and on what basis it does so.

In 2014, as the Jesus Followers organization moves out of the conceptual stage and into the “real world” as well as in the “virtual” world of the Internet, it’s fitting to spell out clearly from where it obtains its values and beliefs.

In the coming weeks, sermon/messages will focus on 13 Statements outlining the Jesus Follower organization’s faith, and a Mission Statement by which we will be guided.

This week, let’s take up the group’s Mission Statement: “Following Jesus, we love God and Serve Others, Working Righteousness,” which is at the same time simple and radical.

We are called, first and foremost, to follow Jesus. This isn't a mere word game, a passive commitment we can easily forget, or a look back upon as a past event. No, following Jesus an ongoing, substantial recognition that Jesus is a man whom God adopted and anointed as His son and prophet at his baptism, and sent into the world. Jesus says, “Come, follow me,” and expects us to not look back.

To Love God seems simple, and yet it is an all-encompassing command Jesus gives to those who say they will follow his teachings. Apart from acknowledging the absolute Oneness of God, Jesus makes it clear we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This doesn't mean that we simply “love God” the way we love a favorite food. This is a deep love that demands from us all that we have, and all we can give. 

When we learn that God our Creator has given us much, and learn from Jesus that we will be judged by God according to our deeds, we must take God’s Will for our lives seriously, and follow the example Jesus sets for us.

That we are called by Jesus to Serve Others as ourselves is a remarkably clear teaching. We are to become the servant of others, turn the other cheek, and serving in humility. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it.”

Finally, we are clearly called by Jesus to perform Works of Righteousness, not in a spirit of pride, but in a spirit of the pure service to which we are called by God’s servant, Jesus. As followers of Jesus we are, he says, to let our light “shine before others, so that they may see your good Works and give glory to your Father, Who is in Heaven.”

So, let us go forward together in this New Year with joy in our hearts for the work we must do as servants of God as called by Jesus, His servant, and our Teacher. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Remembering Jesus' teachings at Christmas

We have grown up to love this time of year. The carols, the presents, and the pageantry of the arrival of the "Christ child," the one who will one day die, allowing us an easy path into heaven.

We check in for his miraculous birth: his mother impregnated by God, the story of wise men following wandering stars, an evil king who kills entire towns to destroy him. And then we ignore him until we are ready for him in the spring - when he is slaughtered on the cross.

In fact, many Christians believe this is the only act for which he was born.

But lost in all the anticipation of this "easy" salvation is the fact that this man was not only a baby, and not only one who was killed, but in between, he was teacher. He was a teacher, and the chosen prophet of God, who actually said things, and told us that those things, those words, will never pass away.

And yet, his teachings are often ignored or even openly disparaged by modern Christians, as if they were irrelevant and meant for another time.

Christians love the baby Jesus, love the dying Jesus, but ignore the teacher and Prophet Jesus. Why?

The teachings are difficult, and we seek the easy way - the WIDE GATE, as Jesus called it.

Jesus calls us to take the Narrow Gate, and says few will choose it. He was right.

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, and defeat them with kindness. Today, we're told to hate our enemies and make cultural or literal war on them.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek if we're struck on the cheek. We are told today to be "prayer warriors" and fight back.

Jesus tells us to go into a closet and pray in secret, and not be ostentatious when we pray amongst others. But we like those long prayers that are performed in pulpits and stages for show before 10,000-member congregations.

Jesus says riches on this earth are meaningless, and we should instead act righteously to store up treasures in Heaven. Christians today pray to God to make them rich, and deny that we must be righteous at all.

Jesus tells us we will be persecuted and cursed for performing righteousness, for believing in the Gospel, and for serving God Christians today expect to receive "favor" from God - including riches and perfect health - simply because they utter Jesus' name when they pray to God.

And Jesus tells us we must perform Good Works in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, and that mere words will not gain us Heavenly rewards. Christians today blatantly deny this, and teach the opposite - that a "Sinner's Prayer" magically forces God to give us eternal life.

When the teachings of Jesus are the center of our faith, we begin to live the life that God knows we can achieve. His words and commands are challenges - challenges for us to live up to our God-given potential.

Through the life and teachings and death of Jesus, we see through a glass CLEARLY towards what God intends for our lives.

This Jesus, God's Anointed Prophet, challenges us to rise up higher and higher in our Righteousness, performing Good Works and acts that please God, all the while relying on God for forgiveness when we fail to live up to God's high standards, and relying on God's Grace to strengthen us and help us become spiritually complete.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God is not Tony Soprano

If a man walked up to you and said, "I know a guy, a professional 'fixer,' who can get you a better job, make sure you get more money, attract a perfect mate, and even manipulate other people to make things, you know, go BETTER for you," you'd probably think he, like TV's Tony Soprano, was inviting you to join a criminal enterprise.

But shockingly, people - many, many people - believe this about GOD, the Creator of the universe! Many, in fact, believe He is in the same "business" as Tony Soprano - the business of manipulating the world to "fix" things for those He randomly selects to be in his "family." 

Many like this view of God because it means we need not DO anything to make the world better. It means we can put the burden of "Good Works" onto God and selfishly complain when God doesn't work all things out for our personal, selfish benefit. And it (allegedly) makes God seem more "God-like" to make Him a sky-dwelling puppet-master, manipulating every detail of every human life.

This may be a very ancient view (shared with ancient Paganism) but it's a completely FALSE, childish, and warped view of God, our world, and of the faith God wishes for us and believing that God our Father is manipulating people we dislike or who aren't on our "team" to lose their jobs, to have car accidents, to be injured, or to get diseases - and to believe that WE are somehow protected from these daily occurrences because God is our "fixer in the Heavens" - is to appeal to paganism and magic, but not to Jesus and his God.

This Jesus, the one God selected to tell us about God and what God requires of us, tells us that we are to conform our lives to God's Will and to seek always His perfect purity, holiness and goodness by faithful obedience. By doing this, we will be equipped to handle whatever happens to us during our daily journey. 

Jesus never tells us we will never be persecuted, hated or despised for doing this. In fact, Jesus says: be READY for it. This is what we sign up for as Jesus Followers, not golden streets, great wealth and perfect health.

In reality, Jesus calls us to a healthy, adult relationship with our Father, and wishes us to treat all people as our brothers and sisters, loving them, and Him, with all that we have. Jesus calls us to take action OURSELVES to build up God's Kingdom, through righteous acts and purified motives.

But doesn't God "move mountains?" Doesn't He work miracles, and grant us Grace to achieve what He asks of us?

Surely, God does indeed "move mountains" - by granting us ever growing faith by which we can COMPLETELY change our lives into something resembling the one His chosen Spokesman, Jesus, modeled for us during his life, and even in his death.

God does indeed change lives in miraculous ways - when our eyes are finally open and we see the wonderful spiritual principles His servant Jesus laid out for us, which will help us achieve the kind of perfection God calls us to achieve.

And God never leaves us alone, sending us His Grace when we ask for strength through prayer. And we know that we have Jesus' example and words always with us as a guidepost, showing us how we are to live according to God's Will.

When we leave aside the ignorant and pagan beliefs we have inherited from the childhood of the human race; when we put aside our belief that God is somehow a sky-dwelling Genie who will grant our wishes and erase the Laws of Nature to make us rich or healthy; and when we instead seek  a simple, profound and straight-forward faith consisting of obedience to God through the example of His Anointed one, Jesus, we enter into a healthy, joyous and adult relationship with our Father.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What is Church FOR, Exactly?

If you were entertained by church today, you were failed by your church.

Go to the movie theater to be entertained, not church. God is the Audience, not us.

And even then, God doesn't expect a spectacle, empty phrases, long-winded sermonizing and false, ecstatic praise: He calls us to total repentance, total obedience, total love and total service to Himself and our fellow human beings. All other messages are irrelevant and worthless words that are dust in the ears of God.

As Jesus said, quoting Isaiah: some honor God with their lips, "but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Let us go to church, then, to learn how to more perfectly love and serve God and love and serve other people, and to serve both together with others, just as God's servant Jesus taught us with his words, his life and his death. Unlike mere entertainment, which is blown away on the wind, our relationship with God is something that lasts for all eternity.

Church is the classroom where we learn how to achieve eternal life. And it's not by being entertained or assuring ourselves that we can win it by our mere empty words and ecstatic utterances.

God, our Creator, equips us from our birth to work both alone and together to serve Him through serving others. We must be up and doing the work God requires us to do, and it is joyful work, which stores for us treasure in Heaven eternally.

Church must be where we build each other up and assist in bringing in God's Kingdom here on earth, as Jesus told his disciples to do.

God wants His places of worship to be places of reverence and prayer, not of entertainment. Church, therefore, must be where we humbly and in unison praise God, and where we learn to privately, and in our daily lives, ask from God the wisdom, strength and courage to meet the challenges and trials we face.

In short, the Church is US, the people of God, the gathering of those who recognize the teachings of Jesus as imperative upon their actions, and their actions as eternally important.

Going to Church means meeting together to commune with God and with those people who share the teachings, life, death and message of Jesus, God's servant and spokesman, and who wish to encourage and support each other as we go out into the world to be its light and salt.

If we live as Jesus lived, walk as he called us to walk, we are in communion with Jesus, with God and with each other.

This is a vision of "Church" that we yearn for and one which the Jesus Followers are building.

This is a church that is called to take up the Challenge of the Gospel Jesus set for all who would follow him: to put on his yoke as a mantle and walk as he walked, do as he did - To love God with 100 percent of our being and to selflessly serve others, to love both our neighbors and our enemies, and to keep God's moral commandments in Spirit and Intention as well in their Letter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Forgiving Others, So God Can Forgive Us

The teachings of Jesus make it crystal clear that if we expect to be forgiven by God, we must first freely offer forgiveness to others, and to do so continually.
Forgiveness is given by God freely when we ask for it, but we must in turn give forgiveness freely to others, not out of mere “gratitude” or as an optional, grudging act (and when we feel like it) but willingly, and with a contrite heart. This is a condition of our forgiveness by God.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, says Jesus (Luke 12:48) and this surely applies to forgiveness. In the Proverbs, whoever offers water to others is given water (Prov. 11:25.)
When the Scribes told Jesus that only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7) Jesus corrected them, and by example, taught that all men should forgive others’ sins and trespasses.
In the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the King (God) calls out the wicked servant, saying, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matt. 18:32-33.)
When Peter asks how many times we must forgive others, Jesus replies, “Seventy times seven” times. In other words, continually and without end.
We know that we must, on our journey of Faith, always seek God's forgiveness for our faults and failures as we strive towards this perfect expression of Righteousness God's Anointed Son, Jesus, has modeled for us. Not only, then, must we seek God’s forgiveness, we are required as a condition of receiving that forgiveness the granting of others forgiveness when they offend us.
Forgiveness, therefore, is the core of our faith in God, and its foundation. It’s an active responsibility of all who serve God through Jesus to conform our lives to a spirit of forgiveness.
When we forgive others, it allows us to grow in communion not only with them, but with God, the Father and Creator of us all.
All of this usually comes as a great shock to those who believe they need “do” nothing to achieve communion with God eternally, but they have been greatly misled. To repent of our sins and seek God’s forgiveness is to promise to forgive others and love them just as we ourselves would wish to be loved.
If Jesus can, in his dying breath, forgive those who murdered him (Luke 23:34) we can forgive those who offend us with their gossip and other petty offenses. Our God, revealed to us by Jesus, is a God of high expectations, and believes that we are able to meet and exceed them (John 14:12.) Let us forgive others in the same spirit of forgiveness offered to us by our Eternal Father.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Serving Others in Righteousness

To take on the name of Jesus and follow him means far more than spouting a mere handful of words and comfortably considering oneself "saved" for all eternity. Jesus calls us to take up his yoke, to serve others, to pursue Righteousness through righteous acts, and to store up treasure in Heaven rather than on earth.

In short, to follow Jesus is to take up a challenge - to take up a call to serve.

Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34.) He calls on us to follow his example, and to "do just as I have done to you (John 13:15) saying clearly that he "came not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45.)

We are to love God with 100% of our heart, mind, soul and strength  and ALSO to love our neighbor just as we are accustomed to loving ourselves (Mark 12:30-31.)

And just who is our neighbor? Jesus was asked this and gave a clear answer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a man was robbed and left for dead on the side of the road, and many walked right by him. But one man stopped and brought him to a local inn and paid for his shelter and his needs. That man, he said, was the one who was a good "neighbor" to this stranger. And we are told by Jesus, "You go, and do the same" (Luke 10:37.)

This is a call to do good - a call to serve Others, just as Jesus served others. We are able to serve just as Jesus served, we are commanded to do so, and Jesus confirms this with his words (John 14:23-24) which will never pass away (Matt. 24:35.) And as John wrote, "the one who does what is right is righteous, just as [Jesus] is righteous" (1 John 3:7.)

We are to be the hands and words and comforting arms of God's Kingdom here on Earth. We are called by Jesus to be a People of God, to serve Others in the name of God's Anointed servant, Jesus. And we are called to forgive others, if we expect to be forgiven by God (Mark 6:14-15.)

To follow Jesus and pursue his perfect example means we must serve Others with our Works, both alone and also as a community of Faith. For whenever two or three gather in his name, the spirit of Jesus is amongst us (Matt. 18:30.) 

Jesus preached that we are to repent of our sins and live our lives completely dedicated to serving others, all the while relying fully on God's forgiveness and mercy. Only our repentance and Righteous acts can save us, not mere words or faith without repentance and Good Works, upon which we shall be judged, and only the Righteous shall be with God eternally (Matt. 25:46.)

By living according to the will of God, as shown in the life, teachings and death of God's chosen spokesman, Jesus, we grow into the likeness of God, seeking after God's perfection and growing more spiritually mature and perfect each day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

God's Not in the Disaster - He's in the Recovery

Did God cause the horrific typhoon in the Philippines? Does God send school shootings to "test us" or tornadoes to "call people home" or as punishment for our sins? No. This is a modern (or rather, childish and Ancient) misconception, and a misreading of Scripture and the teachings of Jesus, God's anointed spokesman.

God "shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." (Deut. 10:17) and we know that God is not in the storms, the winds, or the earthquakes (1 Kings 19:11-13.) Jesus tells us that God makes the sun, "rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:45.) Our God, therefore, is not a mere angry "storm deity."

Prayer cannot bribe God to turn away a hurricane, typhoon or tornado, and God isn't the agent of death who sends these things to "punish" us. God, says the author of the Book of Job, "shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hands." And there is no "shifting or shadow" in God, writes James, the brother of Jesus (James 1:7.)

And Jesus demolishes the idea that God is partial and uses Nature to punish us, as if we somehow bring Nature's wrath upon us by our behavior. He was asked by the disciples, "'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:2-3)

In the Book of Luke, Jesus uses two examples of disasters - a tower falling in Siloam and Pilate "mingling blood" with the Jews' sacrifices - to dispel the myth that our sins cause disasters (Luke 13:1-5.)

And these words of Jesus tell us all we need to know about the cause of Natural disasters, birth defects, and all of the things with which we struggle in our lives.

God is not in the disaster, but He is in the recovery.

In English, the word "weather" can be both a noun and a verb. The weather is an active, impersonal Natural force that acts upon us. But we are also said to be able to "weather" a storm or a tragedy.

Again, James writes that we should consider it "all joy" when turmoil comes upon us, because this adversity teaches us to become steadfast, and that leads us to become more perfect and complete (James 1:2-4.) Through the storms - whether they are Natural or the kind we encounter in our daily lives - we must rely upon God for wisdom and strength.

Jesus makes it clear that we are to be the agents of God on earth - bringing in the Kingdom of Heaven with our Works: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter, comforting the prisoner, and responding to those who are in distress.

The face of God is the expression of love and comfort the rescue worker gives to those in need following a Natural disaster, and in the food, clothing and shelter we provide, not in the wind, rain and tumult of the storm.

Let us give thanks that we know a God Who is not The Storm, but is the Comforter after the storm!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Natural and Ongoing Graces of God! #JesusFollowers

To stand in a swimming pool and help a child swim for the first time is entirely reasonable and natural. 

To attach floats to their arms and legs, to stand with them, to hold them up, and to even move their arms for them the first times they get into the water is expected. 

But to expect to be doing this forever - to stand next to them and even move their arms when the child has entered the pool dozens of times and can swim on their own - is silly, and would be acknowledged as bad parenting by everyone.

And yet, many expect God to be just such a bad parent. "Stand behind me and move my arms or I cannot do any of the Good Works you require of me," the child - or adult - says, in effect, to their God. "Give me the ability, the GRACE, to do Good Works, or I cannot do them."

This teaching is deeply ingrained in Christendom. Once, in a sermon, Augustine of Hippo said just this, impudently praying to our Creator, "God, grant what you command, then you can command whatever you want."

Later, Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, said of God's commandments and our (in)ability to obey them, "Although the commandments teach things that are good, the things taught are not done as they are taught, for the commandments show us what we ought to do but do not give us the power to do it. They are intended to teach man to know himself, that through them he may recognize his inability to do good and may despair of his own ability."

This is an affront to God, and misunderstands not only the commands of God but also the very Nature as human beings. Just as God has granted us a certain amount of wisdom and knowledge and physical abilities from our birth - a "starter kit" of sorts - God has given us the ability to recognize what is right, and tells us that we must do what is Righteous and Good. In fact, we will be judged by it, says God's spokesman, Christ Jesus.

Grace is thought of far too narrowly by many churchmen, and it's come from centuries of misuse and misunderstanding of the term, and in bold defiance of the words of Jesus himself, who said his words will never pass away, and that his teaching that we must do Good Works and pursue Righteousness must be followed by those who claim to be his disciples.

Ongoing Grace is the strength God gives us to bolster our already innate, God-given strengths - our Natural Grace - with which we are born. From a young age, we understand the concept of shame, which usefully educates us that we have done wrong. When we learn about Jesus' teachings and lifelong example, we more fully come to understand that there is right and wrong, good and evil, and we are directed more completely towards the good, repenting of any acts that lead us to that which is evil and separates us from God, our Father.

Like any parent, God never forsakes us, and clearly, a parent will dive into a pool to save us from drowning, even after we've learned the rudimentary skills of swimming. But a good parent knows when a child can be accountable for their own actions, just as they know that is no longer necessary to stand behind a child who has long ago learned to swim. Like a coach who can speak from the poolside and give tips on who to better swim, when we ask God in prayer, God grants us the strength, wisdom and courage to become better and accomplish all that He asks of us - and all that He KNOWS we are capable of doing.

This Jesus, God's Anointed Prophet, challenges us to rise up higher and higher in our Righteousness, performing Good Works and acts that please God, all the while relying on God for forgiveness when we fail to live up to God's high standards, and relying on God's Grace to strengthen us and help us become complete. 

"You shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect," says Jesus. He says this not because he is teasing us or mocking our weakness, because he knows God believes we are fully capable of becoming morally strong enough to become exactly what God wishes us to become, and stands ready to help us achieve Godliness!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Coming to Terms with "The Law"

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. …Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:17, 19, 20.

A story was told recently (sadly, a true one) of a woman who attends a huge "mega-church" each Sunday morning. She started attending a while back, and is involved in some of their groups and programs and even puts $100 in the offering plate each week. However, each Monday, she returns to her weekday routine of selfishness, heavy drinking, and dating a married man.

Then, each Sunday, she returns to the mega-church and hears that she was already "forgiven" for her continuing vile behavior when she was baptized a while back. Further, she's told that she's GUARANTEED eternal life with God, even if she continues to sin!

Clearly, something is wrong with this message, and it's not just in her interpretation. She has in fact taken away a very different Gospel than the one Jesus taught.

So what's going on here?

The "Law" of which Jesus spoke was of course the Moral Law of the Hebrew Bible, summarized by the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jesus never abolished God's moral Laws.

In this passage, Jesus tells us that if ANYONE relaxes these Laws, or teaches that they should be relaxed, then they will be called "least" in God's heavenly kingdom. (Even if it's her minister who tells her that "Good Works" are not necessary for salvation.)

Jesus goes on to say that our Righteous behavior must be greater than that of the Pharisees. Here, he directly links our behavior with our future entry into Heaven. Salvation is not automatic. We cannot force God to give us eternal life by attending church services or by saying a simple prayer.

Jesus clearly calls on us to repent (feel sorry for) our behavior, and to stop sinning (Matt. 4:17.) We are challenged by Jesus to become perfectly mature in our actions (Matt. 5:48) and it is by our active obedience that we will be judged worthy of entry into eternal life (Mark 19:17.)

Those who follow Jesus must walk through the "Narrow Gate" of Righteousness (Matt. 7:13-14) and we cannot rely on any others' actions or righteousness - we will be accountable for our own actions (Matt. 16:27; Mark 10:38.)

We must do what Jesus commands, and count ourselves as his friends only if we obey him (John 15:14) his words will not disappear (Matt. 24:35) and our lives will be built on a solid foundation if we obey his teachings (Luke 6:47.)
Jesus challenges us to act in accordance with God's Ideal Law for our lives, and tells us that when we fall short, God forgives us if we are trusting in God and seeking to live according to His Will.

This woman's church probably doesn't teach these important teachings of Jesus, but it should! We should be careful to follow God's Laws, as Jesus revealed them through his life, ministry and death.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Scary, un-Reformed “Reformation” Sunday

Want to know what's REALLY scary this Halloween? It is also Reformation Day in so-called "Reformed" Churches across the world (celebrated today in the US and elsewhere.)

Why scary? Why "so-called?" Because the Reformation of the 16th Century failed to go far enough to pull Christianity out of Ancient and Dark Age pagan thinking about God, and millions still believe in SCARY-wrong doctrines. And these doctrines negatively affect how hundreds of millions respond to the Gospel – a Gospel they really have never heard, because of the failure of these “reformers.”

Sadly, almost 100% of Christians are unaware they are even infected with these theological diseases.

Like the scary belief by "Reformer" Martin Luther that one can "sin boldly!" because we are secure in a one-time-only salvation event without the requirement of obedience to secure that Salvation  - a scary-unbiblical lesson, one that modern evangelicals learned so well, they think Jesus taught it. Close, but they're only 1550 years off, and the author is Luther, not Jesus!

The Reformers also failed to go back far enough and cure "Saint" Augustine's SCARY-wicked, and horrifyingly false belief that God's commands can only be obeyed IF He gives us the ability to do so in advance ("Give [me] what you command, then [you can] command whatever you want.") Scary-unbiblical, that is, because if we have a duty to obey, and will be judged according to our ACTS, we must be free to act by a just God, Whom otherwise would be at fault for us NOT obeying.

And, good news! The Scriptures say that human beings are FREE and morally able to obey God, which contradicts another of Augustine’s Vampire-like doctrines (which cannot be killed, and was later re-VAMPED and given new strength by the demon-like, murdering Theocrat John Calvin) in which he states that man CANNOT do any Good, because flesh is evil, while spirit is always good. Leaving aside the fact that flesh can be used for good OR evil, and that we can have very damaged spirits - the Augustine-created Original Sin doctrine pretends we are Zombies (from birth!) who are unable to do good, and ALWAYS are compelled to do evil, despite our Master Jesus’ commands and clear trust in us that we CAN to do good - and should do so, continually.

We cannot really blame Augustine, since he was carrying over his beliefs from Manichaeism, a group that taught that there were two Gods, one good and one evil, and flesh (and sex) was totally evil. Then again, maybe that’s actually CAUSE to blame him, and mightily, for bringing paganism into Pure Christianity.

And millions of “Protestants” today, thanks to the so-called Reformer Calvin, now believe in SCARY Calvinist doctrines like the theories that God has damned some souls to a scary eternal hell - BEFORE THEY WERE EVEN BORN, and that they cannot do anything to prevent such a fate, which is pre-determined, unattached to their actions! This makes a mockery of Jesus' call for ALL to Repent, Believe and obey his words and serve God with Works of Righteousness. (Dare I mention the other scary belief by ANOTHER person who often contradicted the Savior, by claiming such Good Works are "filthy rags" in the eyes of God, misusing King David’s beautiful poetry of the Psalms? No, not now, but that Antichrist's misperception needs urgent Reformation, one day, too.)

And we shall leave for another time the numerous other doctrines, created by wicked and misled men, such as the abomination of Tri-Theism of the Catholic Trinity the “Reformers” refused to dump, the human sacrifice and commercial transaction atonement of Jesus on the Cross, the “instant salvation demand” of Easy-Believism, and the horribly scary, Anti-Christ of the Prosperity Gospel.

So let us hope those who attend Reformation Sunday services this weekend in their not-yet-dePaganized “churches” do so knowing that their Reformation is incomplete. To say the least, Christendom needs to repent quickly of these spooky, innovative, man-made doctrines.

The clear message of Jesus, warped and de-formed by a millennium and a half by outrageous man-made Councils and Papal mi-rule, was left grossly un-reformed and even more deformed by these horribly flawed “Reformers,” who ought not to be celebrated.

So, let the Reformation begin anew and finally be completed, back to the PURE, clear and plain teachings of Christ Jesus, the man whom God anointed as His spokesman and prophet: That we must repent of our sinful shortcomings, turn back to God, serving God and our fellow human beings fully and completely, seeking God’s help to live as Jesus lived, yearning to achieve the goals he set for us, that we might live fully and act righteously in this life, building up God’s Kingdom on this earth and building up treasure in Heaven so we might reside with God there forever. Amen.

Scripture and other Citations:
“Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?  Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.” (Letter 99, Paragraph 13, from Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften)

"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, SO THAT YOU CAN DO IT.” Deut. 30:11-14 (my emphasis)

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deut. 30:19

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve GOD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve GOD.” Joshua 24:15

“GOD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” Gen. 4:6-7

“And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.” Deut. 11:32

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Prov. 1:10

“Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways” Prov. 3:31

“No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.” Prov. 12:3+

“God in the beginning created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments; and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. Set before you are fire and water; to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death, whichever they choose will be given them.” Sirach 15:15-17 (also in the 1611 KJV. Luther dropped this book from the Bible, for obvious reasons.)

“But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God.” John 3:21

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” John 14:24

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13 (Luther sought to drop this book from the NT, for obvious reasons, but was stopped by others from doing so.)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jesus Challenged Religious Leaders: And Calls Us to Do the Same

The religious figures of Jesus’ day had it all figured out. They knew the religious system and the religious buzzwords inside and out. They could spout bits of Scripture to prove everything he said was wrong. They called him a “heretic” and worse: one who speaks evil against God.

Jesus’ preaching challenged the doctrines of religious leaders, plainly telling them they were wrong, and that they needed to rethink their beliefs and practices.

It was no longer just enough to SEEM to be doing God’s will, one must actually DO it, he said.

It was not enough to SEEM to be pious, praying publicly with long prayers and fancy words. One must actually BE pious, and do much of it in private.

Intentions mattered as much as outward appearances, said Jesus. And the motives of the heart, which give birth to actions, are important to control (and CAN be controlled) and turned towards Righteousness, so that our actions will also be Righteous.

But it is never easy to challenge religious ideas - especially long-cherished ones. It can hurt feelings and brings great anger.

Yet, Jesus was often blunt, and he knew that he would be met with great anger and even death. And so he was. And in three days, God took Jesus back.

But soon after his death and return to God, others came – as Jesus had predicted – with a different Message, one that was easier, less Godly, and less powerful and challenging to authority.

They called on people to believe special things about his death, but to not worry too much about his teachings and life.

They told people that Jesus wasn’t REALLY calling for us to perform Righteous Works, because we are not capable of them.

God, they claimed, at his own good pleasure, doles out the strength we need in order to do the Good Works, then rewards us for doing what He did through us.

And they elevated Jesus to equality with God, so that he could be admired, and worshiped, but not imitated.

Thus, they put Jesus out of reach, out of touch, and out of our minds as a perfect example to follow, and the Dark Ages and “reformation” which followed did nothing to bring the original Jesus back.

Today, the story that was once powerful and universal is powerful in numbers and wealth, but is almost universally arrogant and prideful.

Shockingly, Christendom today promotes the worship of money, power, and greed, and allows people a “Wide Gate” of easily-obtainable eternal salvation at the drop of a check, after spouting an unbiblical, simple prayer.

Christendom – particularly PROTESTANT Christendom – teaches that we may, without repentance or Good Works, and with only a few magic words, steal from God the salvation promised through His messenger, even though Jesus told us that this was available to us ONLY if we repented and worked Righteousness.

A movement that started off with such promise, but gained earthly power and dominance at the cost of its soul, is in need of a fuller, more complete Reformation.

What originally was a call to greatness through perfect Love and a call to serve God and other people through complete self-sacrifice stands in desperate need of renewal.

What is easy to purchase with a quick prayer and a promise of wealth must be rejected and confronted as false and contrary to Jesus’ express teachings.

What is incomprehensible and man-made must be stripped off like a layer of suffocating paint, so the original Truths of Jesus may shine through and breathe again.

What became large and lethargic must become again humble and holy, less demeaning and more dynamic in its evaluation of what we, as God’s creatures are both called to do and capable of doing for others and our Creator, God.

Today, as we embark once again on the Way Jesus preached, we must also dare to boldly question today's religious leaders' long-held, man-made beliefs as well as some even less attractive alternatives which call us to look inward and serve only ourselves, rejecting both God and Jesus without doing the hard work of discerning God’s will for our lives and learning Jesus’ true message.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, today’s religious leaders are not going to be very happy about being challenged, either. But we owe it to God and the one whom God sent to us – the man, Jesus, our Master – to become merely Jesus Followers and servants of God once again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Story Worth Re-Telling - from the Beginning

There is a story we live by that has been told so many times it has grown stale.

Worse than that, it’s been told so many times, it has grown. A lot. Monumentally. Like a game of telephone, in which each hearer enlarges the tale.

But it is not only growing bigger in size or in strength, it’s growing in heft, and in hubris.

It is a story that starts off with great power and resonates with all who hear it. There is, or was, something powerful about it, something universal. It was a call to greatness, and a call to love. It was a call to serve and a call to lose one’s self in that service.

But over time, it has become both easier to buy into, and harder to believe; it became larger, but also more lethargic; less dynamic, and more demeaning.

But it is a story worth going back and telling, from the beginning. Before the game of telephone and other games took over the story.

It really is time to retell the story.

And here’s the start of it: God lives.

God doesn't live “up there” on a mountaintop. Or in the clouds, or beyond the clouds, where there is only space, and the universe. God lives above and beyond the universe, and also right here, within our hearts. God lives in another, spiritual dimension, which our science cannot measure or quantify, but each human can visit instantly and know for certain that it, and the God Who created it, and all of us, resides.

And this God is Just, and Pure, and Perfect. This God is Loving and Kind and the Creator of the Universe.

This God is Eternal, and Spirit and All-Knowing.

And this God is Within us, Among us and, perhaps most importantly, is FOR us.

And this God, the God whom the ancient Israelites served, and loved and worshiped, is our God. This God of Moses and the Prophets and us – this God is a God worthy of Worship and Praise, and has made this known in His Creation and to His people.

And in the early days of the Roman Empire, lived a man in the Roman province of Judea.

You may not have ever really met this man, this man of flesh, blood and bones; sweat, tears and hunger. He had a father and a mother, and brothers and sisters. He was well known to his neighbors. And was inquisitive and wise from a young age.

This man, Joshua, was early on interested in learning, and God took notice of this man, and when he had reached adulthood, this man, whom the world knows now as Jesus, stepped into the waters of the Jordan River.

And as he was baptized, his God, and our God, the God Who created the universe, said, “You are my well-loved Son, in whom I am well pleased. This day, I have given birth to you.” And the spirit of God rested on him, and he stood, and began his ministry, speaking words that would change the world.

Jesus began his ministry preaching a Good and Beneficial message to the poor, and to the spiritual blind and to the sick, and to those in need of repentance from their evil deeds.

He said we must stop sinning and serving the Self, and turn instead to God, and begin seeking (and doing) Righteousness, serving God and obeying God’s commands.

Jesus said we were to be as loving as God. Not the mild love we give our favorite candy, and not a sexual, erotic kind of love. It is not even the kind of love who show to those who love us back.

We are, said Jesus, to love God purely, with every fiber of our being, all of our souls and minds and every bit of our strength.

Jesus said we are to love also our neighbors, and do so just EXACTLY as we love ourselves.

And “neighbor” is to include everyone with whom we come in contact: our next door neighbors, our co-workers, our friends. And also those we see in trouble on the side of the road, those who are hungry, sick, in prison, in need of shelter and clothing, those who don’t know they are in trouble yet.

And not only that, this Jesus said we are to love even our ENEMIES: Those who oppress us, those who hurt us, those who force us to do things we don’t like to do, like carrying their burden twice as far, and giving up not only our jackets but our shirts.

And Jesus said we were to become as merciful as God is merciful. We were to forgive others if we were to expect any forgiveness from God. But that forgiveness from God would indeed come to us, and forgive us when we fell short of these amazing goals.

And because of God’s mercy, Jesus challenged us to become morally Perfect, just as God is morally Perfect. And we must not serve money, wealth, power or other distractions in the place of God as we seek this Perfection.

And here’s the kicker – Jesus was challenging us not to tease us, not to tell us we can’t do it, not to mock us, but because HE KNEW WE COULD DO IT.

Why? Because he did it. He achieved Righteousness in his own life, was thus favored by God, and was sent out into the world to preach Righteousness, challenging others to make him an example of how we are to live our lives in a Godly way.

Some called him crazy. Even his own family doubted his sanity at times. The religious leaders of his day? They REALLY doubted him, questioned him, and hated him.

Accused by them of seeking to be God’s equal in all things, he scoffed, saying no one is “Good” like that, except God.

And yet, this life of Jesus was like a clear glass by which we can “see” God CLEARLY, not dimly, and by him, we how God wishes us to live.

He went willingly to death at the hands of those religious leaders. And when asked why, the answer was not mysterious, but it fit his ministry’s message: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We are his friends, he said, if we do what he commanded us to do. Pure, simple, Love.

Jesus challenged us to become as good as God. Not that we could become the Creator of the World, or all-seeing, or present at all places in the universe at once. But so that we become MORALLY as Good as God, and in doing so, both please God and also have rich, fulfilling lives on earth, and, if is God’s will, to live in God’s presence forever after we are done living.

Let us pick up that challenge.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Voluntary Slavery

Do we make ourselves into VOLUNTARY slaves to the things we desire?

Slavery is seemingly something for which we would ever volunteer. But while involuntary slavery in our world is largely a thing of the past, we continue to make ourselves willing slaves to objects and things through our actions. And when we become slaves to Things, this separates us from God, the Creator of all Things and from the one God sent to become our benevolent Master and Teacher, Jesus.

In our daily lives, we often casually make objects our master - be they our thirst for wealth, sexual gratification, money, even food, and we make ourselves willing slaves to them and for the acquisition of them, and our Actions turn us from the path our true Master Jesus taught us we should be following.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34) And he left us with many teachings that lead us to reject slavery and become free.

Jesus taught that we must not become slaves to our lust, and even if we THINK of another person with lust in our hearts, it's as bad as the act of adultery. (Matt. 5:29) Lust goes beyond mere attraction, which, when restrained and tempered, is a natural step in the process of falling in love. But Jesus wisely spoke to the beginning and source of our desire - our hearts - so that we might temper and train our desires and put them into their proper place, so that they do not make us their slave.

We make ourselves slaves to our possessions - our THINGS, be they clothing or cars or even our homes - when we put them before God. When we FIRST seek things that rust and can be eaten by moths, we put them above the things of God, which cannot rust or fade. (Matt. 6:19-20)

We become slaves to money and the acquisition of wealth when we allow money to become our slave master above all other things. Jesus taught that one cannot serve both God and money. (Matt. 6:24) While we are allowed to work, and to receive payment for our labor (and as Jesus instructs, to pay our taxes on the money we have earned (Luke 20:25) allowing the quest for wealth to become our God makes it our master, and Jesus taught repeatedly and clearly that wealth blinds men and makes it very hard for them to be with God in the life to come. (Matt. 19:23)

Are we even slaves to our food? While we must eat to live and survive, when we eat beyond what we need for energy, we make food into an object to crave and acquire. Jesus taught that what goes into us doesn't matter as much as what comes out of our mouths, but if our hearts are set on acquiring and devouring food, we make it an ungodly object, rather than a source of nutrients. (Mark 7:19-20)

Jesus calls us to repent and stop making objects our master, to change our behavior, to amend our hearts. While sin may seem like a tiger crouching at the door to leap onto us, we have a choice, and we possess the ability to master it, and must do so, rather than becoming its victim. (Gen. 4:7)

Rejecting slavery to sinful desires leads us to freedom, indeed, and to a throwing off of the shackles of slavery we build for ourselves by our own sinful actions. This we can do only because we know Jesus has first achieved it. Without his fully human example, we may be led to believe that we have no power within us to act, and no responsibility to ourselves repent and change our behavior.

The teachings and perfect life example of Jesus, our Master, is the Good and Beneficial message to the world we must proclaim with our mouths but also with our deeds.

This wonderful message is this: Repent, stop sinning and do not become a voluntary slave to mere Things, but instead, act righteously according to our Master Jesus, and do not turn back, relying on his example and the ongoing encouragement of God's Grace. THEN, we become fit to be called citizens in the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A paganized, Dark Age message doesn't get better online

Putting the same, flawed message that's failed to introduce the world to Jesus onto the Internet with a slick video or website doesn't change the flawed nature of the message.

Even if Christendom's message is now presented with nice graphics, features blaring rock music, has cool pastors in blue jeans giving "hip" pop-culture infused sermons, at its core, it is still a version of paganized Catholic dogma straight out of the Dark Ages.

Instead, the world thirsts and hungers for the same, fresh message Jesus preached when he spoke of "MY God and YOUR God" being the Source of forgiveness, renewal, and spiritual transformation: the same God who anointed and sent a man, Jesus, to show us we could live up to God's high ideals! Please share this message with those whom you feel need a REAL change in their lives.

The Jesus Followers is launching a movement dedicated to following Jesus, who was Anointed by God. Join us!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jesus Gives a TED Talk

(If you don't know what a "TED Talk" is, they invite "mavericks, icons and geniuses" to give short talks and then share them with the world. - link here. We think this guest would have qualified.)

John Baptiste: Ladies and Gentlemen, it's our pleasure to introduce a man who's a personal friend of mine. Some call him a philosopher, a religious leader and a world-renowned motivational speaker, Joshua de Nazareth. Come on out here, Joshua!

Joshua de Nazareth: "Thank you, John. You're the very best. Thank you all. First I want to recognize my mom and dad in the audience. Where are you? There they are: Joseph and Mary de Nazareth. (applause) I owe it all to you. Thank you. And I see my brothers and sisters are here, too.

I want to start off with a funny story. When I was just a kid, my parents took me to the City to perform a religious ritual, and halfway back home, they realized their little guy wasn't with them! (laughter) So, haha, so they turned the van around, and when they go back, they asked around and people said "Oh, yeah, he's off studying with the Scholars." So they went and found me talking theology with the religious scholars and I said 'Hey, I'm here in my Father's House. Where did you think I'd be." (laughter, applause)

But that kind of foreshadowed my future ministry and mission with my mentor, Yahweh, who became a second Father to me, and that mission was to spread a Good and Beneficial message first all around my homeland and then around the world, because I think this message is universal, and has universal appeal. (applause)

Years later, John Baptiste here had a Riverside ministry in which he called people to stop doing evil and dedicate themselves to doing Good, and I went down to the river and was washed spiritually in the water and at that very instant, I was Adopted by Yahweh (who's in Heaven) and from then on, I was guided in everything by Him. I was completely dependent on His spiritual presence for every success my subsequent ministry had.

So, I'm often asked to give a shorthand list – seven points – of my personal philosophy. I'm wary of doing such a short presentation of it (because it’s so often misunderstood) but I've got a pretty receptive audience here, so I’ll just climb up on here on this mountainous podium and give it a shot.

1. The key thing is: While many people talked about Yahweh's Righteous Kingdom coming, I proclaimed its arrival at the start of my ministry. It's a great Kingdom, and it's based on spiritual things, not earthly things.

2. If you think the goal of this Kingdom is all about wealth, you're seeking the wrong end-goal. Wealth rots, molds and rusts. The Spiritual wealth we place in the Kingdom lasts forever and can't be taken away.

3. If you think you're going to be first, and invite only the "special people" to the head table, think again. The Kingdom puts the first last and those who are last, it puts first. And if no dignitaries show up, we'll go out and find poor people in rags and sit them down in the best seats. Because that's just what the Kingdom is like. (laughter, applause)

4. The Kingdom is not about taking, it's about giving, and giving freely to others. You are everyone's servant, you're not here to be served. Give even your worst enemies your absolute forgiveness, your time, your effort, your good works and even the shirt off your back. If someone needs help, give it. If they make you walk a mile, do more. If they make you give them your jacket, shed your sweater and shirt too and give it, because they are in need!

5. So, as you can see, it's not about you, it's about others. You'll find yourself when you LOSE yourself in serving others. There was a guy who was broken down on the side of the road and clearly in trouble, but no one would help him. The wealthy drove by in their SUVs, the well-known ministers drive on by, even his own neighbors drove by, all rubber-necking but not helping. Then someone everyone hated pulled over and helped him. Now THAT was a Good Neighbor. We should all be just that good, and not think about who we're helping.

6. Hypocrisy and sanctimonious behavior isn't to be tolerated. Pointing out the mistakes of others is pointless if your mistakes are worse! If you're shouting, stop telling the one who's talking she needs to whisper! If you have mud in your eye, don't try to help others with a few specks of sand in theirs see better! Do Good Deeds, but don't act like you need to be seen doing good just to show off. The Father - who owns the Kingdom - doesn't reward people for doing that.

7. There can't be any violence in the Kingdom. It's not about taking up arms in my name or the name of my Mentor. It's not about overthrowing any governments - hey, your nation's founder may be on the money, give what's due to your nation, but give what's due to the Spiritual Kingdom in your actions and thoughts. Because you signed up for the Kingdom, others are going to resent you, spit on your and even try to kill you. You can't return hate for hate, though. Send only love their way.

What I want to leave you with is this: If I can do it, you can do it, too. I'm a human being of flesh and blood, just like you. Sure, I had Yahweh's Fatherly support and He really worked through me to do all this, but you have access to His spirit, too, and can tap into it any time to strengthen your resolve and help you do the right things. If you mess up, and you will, you need to immediately ask forgiveness (and if you don't give it to others, you won't get forgiven by the Father.) The bottom line? You need to treat others EXACTLY like you want to be treated. And love the Father in Heaven so completely that loving others, including our enemies, comes naturally.

What did my ministry mean, and what does it continue to mean? I started it off by saying that the Father's spirit was upon me, and that he commissioned me to use this ministry to bring Good News to the poor and others in need, and that He sent me out to pardon imprisoned minds and to set those who were oppressed free, and to help those blinded to see again. I preached His Kingdom and nothing else, and while some people didn't get it, or misunderstood what I was saying – and no, I wasn't then and am not now going to form an army and take over the government, or the WORLD! – the message was this: everyone should enter the Kingdom! Now! Don't wait! The poor are going to be taken care of, the brokenhearted will be comforted! The hungry and thirsty will be filled - along with those hungering and thirsting for justice! This is a Kingdom worth LOVING for, and I want everyone to join with me in seeking it.

Thank you. (applause, some boos, some confused.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jesus: Redefined by Committee

Eastern Orthodox Icon, Council of Nicaea
On September 17, Americans celebrated Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution by a convention of delegates in Philadelphia in 1787. It was the result of a grand compromise in which States received two representatives each in a Senate, and representation in a House based on population.

In the year 325, another group of delegates had met in the city of Nicaea, in what is now northwestern Turkey. But they met not to decide on the form of a nation, but on the very nature of God, and the relationship between God and Christ Jesus.

Two main camps had arisen by the 300s (Fourth Century.) One was a group that believed that Jesus had existed forever – as long as God had existed – and that he was, in fact, God’s “son” but also God’s equal. This group, led by Athanasius, was powerful in Italy and other western provinces of the Roman Empire.

The other group, led by a bishop named Arius, believed Jesus was a semi-divine, Angel-like Being who was less than God Himself, but greater than a “mere” man. It’s said that most Christians at this time were actually Arians.

The final vote wasn't even close, because the council was "packed" with allies of Athanasius. Of the about 300 delegates there, only two refused to sign the new creed that was developed – a creed still believed and recited by Roman Catholics, and unquestioningly believed by nearly all “Protestant” Christians. Those two delegates, along with Arius and all who believed in his view, were “anathema” or “condemned.” They lost their positions in the church and even their lives.

By the time the year 325 arrived, very little of the original conception of Jesus as a human man remained, due to two centuries of Greek and Roman ex-pagans carrying over their beliefs into Christianity.

The simplicity of the Gospels, and even in the book of Acts and in the writings of Paul of Tarsus, state clearly and without confusion that: Jesus was fully human being, fully subordinate to God, but called and “Begotten” and Adopted by God at his baptism as his Son, where he was Anointed (christos) to preach "Good News" (a Good and Beneficial Message – "Godspell/Gospel” in Old English idiom.)

Thus, Jesus was fully, 100% human, like us, and this human being’s morally excellent life leads us to believe that we, too, may achieve what he achieved – union with God the spiritual sense – and of course, Jesus himself commands this very thing, and says we may be forgiven by an all-merciful God when we fall short of this amazingly high goal.

Compare this simple belief, which was held by and preached by the earliest of Jesus’ followers, with the definition decided at Nicea, that Jesus was, “born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Thus Jesus became the Christ-Being who always lived in Heaven with God forever, who was "consubstantial" (of the exact same “substance” or Being – in other words, in all ways EQUAL to God – 100% God but also 100% man) and become a man when he magically entered into Mary’s womb, when he was already the Savior of the world from his first breath.

But by this definition, Jesus is no longer a man, chosen by God, but some kind of alien being, whom we must pretend was fully human, but, being all-knowing and all-seeing like God, cannot possibly be human like us. We are told that Jesus is a Son, but a Son equal in age with his Father, and sharing a mind with Him. Does this make any sense?

Sixty years later, another group of men came together to determine that the Holy Spirit was part of God, but also a separate BEING from Him. This made three Beings in this Godhead, each equal, each separate. Confused yet? Most are. And we are told by Catholics and "Catholic" Protestants who believe this, that it's simply a "mystery" we must accept. What's a mystery is why we continue to accept this false and ridiculous nonsense at all.

The proof is all over the New Testament that this doctrine of the Trinity was utterly unknown to both Jesus and the Apostles who knew him, who, while believing in the divinity of his mission and in the divinity of his doctrines, did not and COULD not (as Jews) believe a human being was equal to God. Jesus always says he is completely subordinate to and dependent on, God (though Trinitarians may speculate that he "chose" to pretend to be subordinate, this is wild speculation.)

Jesus is in no way diminished by seeing him as fully and completely human. We are commanded to be like him, obey him, and serve God in his name. We cannot do this is Jesus is a half-God/half-man Being. And if Jesus pretended to be fully human, while commanding us to obey him in all things (knowing this was impossible – and this is the teaching of some Christians today) then we must reject him as a liar and a fraud. Luckily for us, we need not do this, because Jesus was very clear about his mission and Nature.

Below are listed just a VERY FEW examples of what is ACTUALLY in the New Testament. Please know that scholars and most ministers have known that Jesus is subordinate for over 200 years, but pastors have not shared this knowledge with their congregations, or have explained them away.

Read these verses. Pray about them. And perhaps, for the first time, knowing what you know about this doctrine’s origins, you’ll see that Jesus was not God, but the one sent to us by God.

1. Jesus said he was utterly dependent upon God. After being accused of being God by some of the Jewish religious leaders, he does not confirm what they said, but instead says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” and “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 5:19;30)
2. Jesus says, "Why do you call me ‘good’? There’s only one that is good, God” (Matt. 19:17) Here is a clear, plain denial of his equality with God.
3. Jesus says, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” (John 7:16)
4. Jesus, praying, says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, AND Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
5. Jesus said, “I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28) God is not equal to the Son, says the Son.
6. Jesus was baptized and “anointed by God.” Jesus cannot be the same one being anointed and doing the anointing.
7. Jesus "increased in wisdom, and in favor with God and man," (Luke 2:52) God does not “increase in wisdom,” He is already perfectly wise.
8. “I am ascending to my Father, and your Father, to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17) Jesus has a God. Jesus himself is not God, by his own admission.
9. Jesus says (John 10:30) “I and the Father are one” which is used by Trinitarians to show that Jesus is equal to God. But Jesus later (John 17:20-21), while in prayer to his God (again, he did not pray to himself) Jesus says, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their message; that THEY MAY BE AS ONE, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they ALSO MAY BE IN US, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Unless we, too, are equal to God in Nature, this simply speaks of Spiritual unity with God, which surely Jesus had, perfectly.
10. Jesus never prayed to the Holy Spirit (God’s Spirit) nor did he pray to himself, or tell others to pray to anyone other than God, his and our Father. He never said that the spirit of God was a separate being to whom we should pray.
11. Jesus often prayed to God, in a way that showed he was NOT praying to himself. (Mark 1:35; Matt. 14:23;14:39; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 23:34; John 17:1; Hebrews 5:7)
12. Jesus seeks to honor only God, not himself, “If I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my Father that honors me” (John 8:54; also John 8:49-50)
13. About the End of the Jewish Age, Jesus says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt. 24:36) God is all-knowing, and we are told He knows the date. If the Son is ignorant of the date, he is not equal to God.
14. 1 Timothy 3:5 records that there’s “one mediator between God and men, the MAN, Christ Jesus.” Can someone be the mediator between two parties if he’s one of the parties?
15. 1 John 4:14 notes that “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” Can the sent be the same as the sender?
16. Paul declares that “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God.” Christ is our Lord, God is Christ Jesus’ Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:3) Jesus is our Master, but God is Jesus’ Master.
17. Paul repeatedly praises “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1:17) and it appears in 1 Peter 1:3 as well. Jesus has a God.
18. "It is written in the Law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one who bears witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me.” (John 8:17) This is TWO beings, not one, bearing witness. Otherwise Jesus here is speaking nonsense.
19. Acts calls Jesus a MAN, and apart from God: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, A MAN attested to you BY GOD.” (Acts 2:22)
20. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is shown saying “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Jesus overcame, just as we are to overcome – as human beings.
21. Jesus said, from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) It’s incomprehensible to assume this was said by the Almighty, All-Seeing Creator of the Universe.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Realized Return, Part 2: Let Us Wait Not One More Day

Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, saying, “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Matt. 24:21.) The writer Josephus, who wrote the definitive account of the Jewish rebellion against Rome, said that "the calamities of all nations from the beginning of the world were exceeded by those which befell his countrymen on this occasion." (Wars of the Jews, 1:1)

But is all this also signaling the Second Coming, of which he speaks? If we believe his words, it must. All scripture referring to the “End Times” refer to the mass persecution of Christians under Nero and the Jewish Revolt against Rome (AD 64-70) which culminated in the destruction of the Temple.

If Jesus was predicting his return in the 21st Century, or later, then he clearly was a liar and a false prophet, since he promised to return within the lives of the his hearers’ generation – a generation to Jews always meaning 40 years.

Jesus said about these events, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt. 24:36) But he did know that “THIS GENERATION will NOT PASS AWAY until all these things take place.” (Matt. 24:34) And, “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt. 16.28)

Now, was Jesus joking with and teasing those standing there in front of him? Or did he mean to imply that some people standing there with him around the year AD 33 would still be waiting for his return in the year AD 2020? Clearly not. But no less than the popular Christian writer C.S. Lewis said Jesus was “wrong” about his “this generation” prediction, saying of Jesus, “He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else,” and called it the “most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

But Jesus was not wrong. In fact, Jerusalem (though not “the world,” which Jesus never said would be destroyed) was devastated a mere 37 years after his crucifixion, and destroyed in the same horrific manner as he predicted, when he predicted it would happen.

“For as the lightning comes out of the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt. 24:27) Roman armies actually entered Jerusalem from the East in AD 70, and judgment indeed came upon it. And the Age of the Second Temple ended.

(And those who appeal to the Book of Revelation in an attempt to show a future return of Jesus are out of luck. The book, believed by many scholars to have been written BEFORE the Jewish Wars began, clearly alludes to the Roman emperor Nero (d. 64 the “666” is a numerological allusion to his name) and repeatedly said of the book’s prophesies, “The time is NEAR.” The angel dictating to the author of the book said, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” Contrast these instructions with those of Daniel 12:4. In Daniel the time was far off, and it was to be sealed. But in Revelations, it’s said to be near.)

Many, many more examples can be offered to prove the point of Jesus’ accurate prediction of the end of an Age in AD 70, and again, this was clearly known to pastors and wise Bible students just a century ago. So, what does this all mean for those still waiting for Jesus’ prophesies to be fulfilled?

Many continue to wait for a terrifying military Messiah to come and kill all of God’s enemies and instantly set up a Kingdom by force of arms. As we’ve discussed before, that is not the Messiah Jesus said he was, and people have been upset about this ever since he first entered Jerusalem. It’s simply not the way Jesus himself said that God’s Spiritual Kingdom would be inaugurated on the Earth.

A Jesus who arrived once, during his ministry, and predicted God’s judgment of Israel – in a manner no less powerful than was predicted by Jeremiah and the other prophets of old had done – is an inconvenient Jesus for many in Modern Christendom, who have created elaborate fantasies about the “End Times,” a modern “Beast” (who has a different name in each passing generation) and a Jesus who will come and slaughter everyone who doesn’t believe in him. But that’s simply a fantasy that we must abandon.

Jesus has come! He is the True Prophet of God, and has left us a Good and Beneficial Message (the Gospel) by which we may be saved and live our lives in accordance with God’s will. And he has left us a perfect template in his holy, human life and death that we may know it can be accomplished by all humanity. Thanks be to God, that we need not wait ONE MORE DAY to do Good Works in His holy name and bring in God’s Kingdom!