Journey to Heaven – part 2

With a little help from the book City of God by St. Augustine, translated by Marcus Dods:

For, though Himself eternal, and without beginning, yet He caused time to have a beginning; and man, whom He had not previously made He made in time, not from a new and sudden resolution, but by His unchangeable and eternal design – St. Augustine

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us before the foundation of the world… Eph. 1:3, 4. NKJV

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt. 25:34 AMP

 The reason we’re here is because God chose us, loves us, and we are a part of his eternal plan. We are also the epitome of His design for living beings – the closest to being like Him:

 God then made man in His own image. For He created for him a soul endowed with reason and intelligence, so that he might excel all the creatures of earth, air, and sea, which were not so gifted – St. Augustine.

 It is God’s desire to eternally commune with His children – those, as we saw last time, that align their will with His.

 We are born for a journey to heaven. And as soon as we become aware of our Creator and His salvation plan, we must receive this free gift by accepting His Son as our Savior – followed by doing our best to live as Jesus did.

God planned out who we would be and what kind of life He wanted us to have before we were conceived in the womb. That kind of life is our journey to heaven, the quality of which will be dependent upon our free-will choices. We are born, grow to our physical potential, and then begin a dying process.

However, that process is not one to be feared or to be a source of sadness. It is a progression towards our eternal home – filled with promises of love, joy and peace everlasting. Dying and death are two different things.

When the faithful children of God reach the end of their mortal clock on this earth, they pass through death:

…since you have been set free from sin and have become the [willing] slaves of God, you have your present benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose, and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. Rm. 6:22 AMP

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Jn. 8:51 NKJV

 We are blessed.  The death suffered by those who reject God is the polar opposite:

…the human soul is truly affirmed to be immortal…because in a sense, it does not cease to live…while the body is called mortal because it can be forsaken of all life, and cannot by itself live at all. The death, then, of the soul takes place when God forsakes it, as the death of the body when the soul forsakes it….And this death of the whole man is followed by…the second death…For in that penal and everlasting punishment…the soul is justly said to die, because it does not live in connection with God – St. Augustine

The children of God’s version of death is a glorious transition:

Thus, by the unutterable mercy of God, even the very punishment of wickedness has become the armor of virtue, and the penalty of the sinner becomes the reward of the righteous. For then death was incurred by sinning, now righteousness is fulfilled by dying.

Not that death, which was before an evil, has become something good, but only that God has granted to faith this grace, that death, which is the admitted opposite to life, should become the instrument by which life is reached – St. Augustine

…the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Eccl. 7:1 NASB

Precious in  the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Ps. 116:15 NKJV

Again, let’s look at the contrast:

…death is good to the good, and evil to the evil. For the disembodied spirits of the just are at rest; but those of the wicked suffer punishment till their bodies rise again – those of the just to life everlasting, and of the others to death eternal, which is called the second death…of all the evils the worst, since it consists not in the separation of soul and body, but in the uniting of both in death eternal…always in death; and thus never living, never dead, but endlessly dying – St. Augustine

Strong case for being on the side of God, yes? We all have to go through death because of Adam’s original sin, but thanks be to the saving grace of God that as His obedient children, we get to leave that death behind.

Before Adam’s transgression, we weren’t meant to die in any fashion. That was forced upon us by Adam’s disobedience:

…we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” St. Augustine

Again however, that condition is only transitory for those who accept God through Christ:

…the souls of the just and holy dead live in peaceful rest…and further, that the saints will in the resurrection inhabit those very bodies in which they have here toiled, but in such a sort that neither corruption of unwieldiness be suffered to attach to their flesh…Thus the souls of the departed saints are not affected by the death which dismisses them from their bodies, because their flesh rests in hope – St. Augustine

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… Rm. 6:5 NASB

It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is rated in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Cor. 15:42 – 44. NASB

We gain a ‘spiritual’ body because it is one that is finally in total subjection to our spirit. It will be totally self-sufficient and immortal. We will be able to dine on heavenly delicacies, but it won’t be necessary to eat if we don’t want to. No disease, no sorrow, no death – only joy…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Journey to Heaven

Still investigating God’s wisdom revealed to St. Augustine in his book, City of God…

How can we help God help us make that journey? Sounds funny doesn’t it? Yet, as much as God wants to help us, He is bound by His own words. If we transgress them, He must allow us to face the consequences until we confess and repent.

Let’s start with the foundation of what we are. St. Augustine described it like this:

For nonentity is the contrary of that which is. And thus there is no being contrary to God, the supreme Being, and Author of all beings whatsoever.

God saw that everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. Gn. 1:31 AMP

What does that mean? It means Satan and the angels who followed him were created perfectly, and Adam and Eve were created perfectly. None of these beings had any innate evil within them. Yet they all did evil (sinful) things.

Augustine again: In Scripture they are called God’s enemies who oppose His rule, not by nature…but by their will…

You oppose God by yielding to your free will, in order to languish in the ways of the world that are contrary to God. You make yourself an enemy:

“The hand of God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all who forsake Him.” Ezra 8:22 NASB

Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? James 4:4 NLT

We know that our God is not an angry God as a rule. He is love itself. We encounter His ire when we transgress against Him because He doesn’t want to be separated from us. He knows that when we are, we are killing ourselves.

St. Augustine illustrates this self-destruction thusly:

…the vice which makes those who are called His enemies resist Him, is an evil not to God, but to themselves. And to them it is an evil, solely because it corrupts their good nature…hurt them by depriving them of integrity, beauty, welfare, virtue…

…when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil – not because that is evil to which it turns, but the turning itself is wicked.

…the defection of the will is evil, because it is contrary to the order of nature…and that makes light of the voice of conscience…nothing else that defection from God…

So, we must work on our faith in God. Why? Because if we believed that God’s ways were the better ways, we would not violate them in the first place. We have to cleave to God, place our faith in that our hearts would be far more satisfied by His treasures, than by the temporal and destructive pleasures of our senses and the hungers of our ego.

Worse, these indulgences ultimately cause suffering; and if they continue without repentance, death will ensue – of a permanent variety.

When you are chasing after the world, you are in essence going after other ‘gods.’ You’re transgressing God’s first Commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Ex. 20:3 NKJV

Instead, cling to the guarantees of our Savior, and abandon independence for a godly dependence upon Jesus, so that you may be bearers of His grace. It is within that grace that your healing will begin, and your Christ-produced heavenly wholeness will be reborn.

Be thankful for God’s grace and He will shore you up to resist temptation, so as to keep your slips off of His path to a minimum:

…in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 AMP

For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness [to be dedicated, and set apart by behavior that pleases Him, whether in public or private]. So whoever rejects and disregards this is not [merely] rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you [to dwell in you and empower you to overcome temptation]. 1 Thess. 4:7, 8. AMP

Then, your heavenly journey will resume…

Goodnight and God bless.

Relating to God

Recently, we have been examining the Holy Spirit-inspired scriptural interpretations of St. Augustine from his book The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, (see previous posts: ‘Defenders of the Faith,’ and ‘In Further Defense of the Faith’) – a work for strengthening the faith of the Christians in Rome during the demise of that empire.

Let’s continue on by perusing his analysis of our intimate relationship with our Creator – beginning with this declaration:

…for we are all His temple, each of us severally (separately) and all of us together, because He condescends to inherit each individually and the whole harmonious body, being no greater in all than in each, since He is neither expanded or divided. Our heart when it rises to Him is His altar; the priest who intercedes for us is His only begotten…

Do you not know and understand that you [the church] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells [permanently] in you [collectively and individually]? 1 Cor. 3:16 AMP

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]? 1 Cor. 6:19 AMP

Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Rm. 8:34 AMP

We are walking, talking temples of God – recipients of the Father’s grace, maintained through the intercession of His Son. For that, we are grateful, and we should act in ways that keep that gratitude in remembrance. Augustine puts it this way:

…to Him we devote and surrender ourselves and His gifts in us; to Him, by solemn feasts and on appointed days, we consecrate the memory of His benefits, lest through the lapse of time ungrateful oblivion should steal upon us; to Him we offer on the altar of our heart the sacrifice of humility and praise, kindled by the fire of burning love.

It is that we may see Him, so far as He can be seen; it is that we may cleave to Him, that we are cleansed from all stain of sins and evil passions, and are consecrated in His name. For He is the fountain of our happiness, He is the end of all our desires.

God does not need our devotion, worship or capitulation. He asks of us all these things for our benefit – to position ourselves for love. Augustine says:

For no man would say he did a benefit to a fountain by drinking, or to the light by seeing.

He does require sacrifice – that of a contrite heart, again, to place oneself in humility before Him, in order to receive His grace:

My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. Ps. 51:17 AMP

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you except to be just, and to love [and diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? Mic. 6:8 AMP

All of our sacrifices, regardless of their nature, must always have an increased union with God as the focus of those activities. In essence, our ultimate sacrifice is to die to the world, as we draw closer to Jehovah God in relationship:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh [and died for us], arm yourselves [like warriors] with the same purpose [being willing to suffer for doing what is right and pleasing God], because whoever has suffered in the flesh [being like-minded with Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [having stopped pleasing the world], so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living for human appetites and desires, but [lives] for the will and purpose of God. 1 Pt. 4:1, 2. AMP

Thus, in our relationship with the Godhead, we are bolstered in our attempts to overcome the world, and the god of it, the process whereby, is succinctly expressed by Augustine:

…men of God cast out the hostile power of the air which opposes godliness; it is by exorcising it, not by propitiating it; and they overcome all the temptations of the adversary by praying, not to him, but to their own God against him. For the devil cannot conquer or subdue any but those who are in league with sin…he is conquered in the name of Him who assumed humanity…Christ Jesus…

Indeed, it is our faith that cements our relationship with God – faith that is filtered into us by Jesus Himself:

…God’s Son, assuming humanity without destroying His divinity, established and founded this faith, that there might be a way for man to man’s God through a God-man.

…let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity]… Heb. 12:1, 2. AMP

It is a wondrous thing, a blessing,  this relationship that God makes available to and for us. We alone were made in His image. Augustine states:

…nearer to Him in nature than any other of HIs works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance.

Above all, what is at the heart of all this relating to God, is His unending, immeasurable love – whereby He brings us into His bosom for all eternity…

Goodnight and God bless.

Today Is Savior Day

Have you heard about the Savior of all humankind – those who lived in the past, the present and in the future? God has been telling us about His coming since the time of the Garden of Eden, at which point, we learn that He will be victorious over the devil himself – for our sakes. (Gn. 3:15)

Approximately 3500 years ago, God sends two messages, whereby we learn that this Savior will come to this earth, born of a Jewish mother, and He shall speak for God. (Job 19:25; Dt. 18:18.)

 It was revealed to King David about 3000 years ago that the Savior would be his descendant, and that God would establish His (God directly refers to Him as ‘Son’) kingdom over the entire earth forever. (2 Sam. 7:13, 14; Ps. 2:6.) David also received a vision of His future crucifixion. (Ps. 22:16 – 18.)

 In the time of the prophet Isaiah (740 – 710 B.C.), God spoke to him, which brought the nature of this ‘Savior’ into greater clarity:

 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Is. 7:14 NKJV

 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Is. 9:2 NKJV

 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from that time forward, even forever. Is. 9:6, 7. NKJV

 Now we’re getting someplace. This Son of God comes to the earth through a virgin birth (so that He is not stained by Adam’s original sin); and He is given to humankind to shine the light of God upon them and free the people from the plague of death. His name is ‘Immanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us’ – alluding to an extremely cohesive relationship to God (see His descriptive ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Everlasting Father’) – again with the eternal kingdom, now seen filled with peace and justice.

Wait! There’s more. God gave Isaiah a passel full of Holy Spirit-inspired insight:

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight  of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins and faithfulness the belt of His waist. Is. 11:2 – 5. NKJV

 “…You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Is. 49:6 NKJV

 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed…and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter… Is. 53:5 – 7. NKJV

God rests His Spirit and power within His Son, who rules His Father’s kingdom with equal authority – lifting up the righteous, but laying the wrath of God’s conviction upon the unrepentant wicked. We also see that the Son of God brings His Father’s salvation to the entire earth.

Part of this process includes the crucifixion of our Savior, who took on the sins of the world through Hid death and resurrection so that its inhabitants may live…

 Jumping forward 700 years, we find the virgin Mary visited by the angel Gabriel:

 Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Lk. 1:30 – 33. NKJV

 “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” Lk. 1:35 ESV

Jesus, the Son of God; but you knew that, didn’t you? Another angel confirmed this to Mary’s fiancé:  

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Mt. 1:20, 21. ESV

When Mary gives birth, angels appear to shepherds nearby and proclaim:

 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Lk. 2:29 – 32. ESV

Immediately after Jesus’ birth, the devil began to move against Him. (Rv. 12:3 – 5.) King Herod sent soldiers to kill every male child in Bethlehem, hoping to slay Jesus in the process. However, God directly intervened by sending an angel to Joseph, telling him to get his family out of Israel until the danger passed.

And so, Jesus survived; and as He grew, every single prophecy concerning Him was fulfilled. As a result, Jesus is on the throne of His kingdom, and salvation is now available to everyone who wants it. The world has changed, and it will never be the same – thank God. And, He’s coming back…

Merry Christmas! Today is Savior Day.

 

 

Goodnight and God bless. 

What Are Your New Year’s Spiritual Resolutions – part 3

In the first 2 parts of this 3-part series, we examined how we could implement ‘spiritual resolutions,’ i.e. steps that we can take to start each day in a deeper relationship with God; and Christ and in so doing, being more effective at our part in advancing the kingdom of God. We covered the first 5 steps in detail:

 1. Positioning ourselves for both receiving and sharing God’s blessings.

 2. Minimizing sin in our lives and helping others do the same.

 3. Giving of ourselves by sharing our innate gifts from God.

 4. Showing God our attitude of gratitude.

 5. Starting our day free from the judgment of ourselves and others.

 Let’s finish our preparation with the final 3 steps:

 Every aspect of our lives is lived out in the context of relationships – with God, Jesus, ourselves and everyone around us.

 Our first parents (Adam and Eve), began in relationship with God and in a marital relationship with each other. Now let’s look how God would have us relate on a godly level to other people – leading us to our sixth spiritual resolution: Nurturing relationships, beginning with how we should relate to our parents:

 “Honor (respect, obey, care for) your father and mother, so that you days may be prolonged in the land the LORD your God gives you.” Ex. 20:12 AMP

 This is so important to God that He made it one of the Ten Commandments. Whoever they are, you can be thankful that God used them to bring you aboard His plan. Even if they themselves weren’t the best of parents, you can be a better child, doing your best to love and care for them as best as you can, and thank God for who He meant them to be.

 What about the parents’ relationship toward their children? First, let’s put it in proper perspective:

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Ps. 127:3 NASB

 Being mindful of that, we do our best to nurture them and bring them into the kingdom fold:

 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4 AMP

 The highest form of human-to-human relationship is marital. What does God say about that? He says that they are equal, yet interdependent:

 …there is neither male nor female; of you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus… Gal. 3:28 AMP

 …in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman… 1 Cor. 11:11 ESV

 And this relationship is supposed to stand the test of time:

 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mk. 10:7 – 9. ESV

 Finally, their love and respect for each other should be limitless:

Wives, be subject to your husbands [out of respect for their position as protector, and their accountability to God], as is proper and fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives [with an affectionate, sympathetic, selfless love that always seeks the best for them]… Col. 3:18, 19. AMP

 All other relationships should be sought after in the context of friendship. Jesus told us to love our enemies. (Mt. 5:43 – 48.) If we are doing that, we would have no enemies, only friends.

 Friends are important. No one is totally self-sufficient, self-nurturing. God wants us to have friends so that He has an additional avenue with which to love us through. Friends encourage, exhort and love one another, and hold each other accountable for their godliness – without judgment. (Eccl. 4:9 – 12; Pr. 17:7; 27:9 & 17; James 4:11, 12.)

 If we want friends in our lives however, we must become one who attracts friendship:

 A man who has friends must himself be friendly… Pr. 18:24 NKJV

 All in all then, in this sixth spiritual resolution, we would want to consider at the beginning of each day, how we can nurture our parent-to-child, child-to-parent, spousal and friend relationships to grow that garden of love God has given us to tend, and to be ministered by, in return. How can we love them more so that they get it, to cheer them on and help facilitate the attainment of their goals, and enrich their experience on this earth? Be assured that God will highly enrich your life for doing so…

 Our seventh spiritual resolution is to get to know Christ better – who He is, by what the prophets said about Him, what He said about Himself and in examining His actions, relayed to us through the apostles.

 Out of that, we can own that Jesus existed with Jehovah God, part of God, at least as far back as to the creation of the universe – of which, was created by God through His Son. And we know that if we listen to, and watch Christ, we are looking at the essence of God in the form of man, who came to the earth so that we could touch and love them both in the flesh:

 He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], He is the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and originator] of all creation. Col. 1:15 AMP

 The Spirit of Christ rode the Holy Spirit to the virgin womb of Mary, to become the only God-man, who was then untainted by the original sin of Adam. And as He grew to His full human stature, He brought forth miracles and spoke His Father’s gospel message of salvation to save humankind from themselves – freeing them from their sins by His sacrifice upon the cross. Simultaneously, Jesus is keeping your world in place until God transforms it for your eternity:

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down on at the right hand of the Majesty on high… Heb. 1:3 ESV

 Jesus came for the redemption of the entire world, not just for the Jews:

 “And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (for I shall be glorified in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, ‘Is it too small a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ “ Is. 49;5, 6. NKJV

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jn. 3:16 NKJV

Most importantly, Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God for all of eternity;

 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Jn. 14:7 NLT

 The gospel sets us free:

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Jn. 8:51 NKJV

 How? Because He’s coming back for us!

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

 We know that at the end of time, Christ will be victorious over Satan and evil will be abolished for all time.

 Armed with all of this knowledge in faith, which we resolve to remind ourselves of by dipping in the word on a daily basis, staying in prayer, and scheduling time with other believers, we can live a life of joy, peace and strength, in love as an ambassador of Christ…

Our eighth and final spiritual resolution is to make it a point to contact one person a day with the gospel message, which the first seven resolutions prepare us to do. All of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, receive the same marching orders:

 “All authority [all power of absolute rule] in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, [help the people learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually – regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:18 – 20. AMP

 If we are to love God and love one another, (Jn. 13:34; 15:12 & 17.), which is the foundation of our spiritual walk, then aren’t we duty-bound to share the opportunity for salvation with others – to keep our potential brothers and sisters in Christ from eternally perishing? Indeed, we are to tell it with boldness:

 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. Ps. 145:11 – 13. ESV

 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” Mt. 10:27 NASB

 This is not an option; it is our commission:

 …He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us… 2 Cor. 5:19 – 20. NASB

 “…I have made you a watchman…Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Bur if you warn the wicked one to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezek. 33:7 – 9. ESV

 Not to worry if you’re willing to do so, because God equips you for it:

 ‘…do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you that [very] hour; for it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’ Mt. 10:19, 20. AMP

Your mission is a blessed and holy one, a matter of life or death to the hearer – a message we have the God-given privilege to bring, that opens the way for the heavenly journey of their spirit.

Make it an evolving conversation, like you’re trying to learn more about a new friend. Ask them what’s going on in their lives. Offer wisdom and compassion. Ask them about their purpose in life, where they think we come from, and where do we go when we die. This allows you to meet them where they’re at, in their perceived world. It generates understanding:

 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ…When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Cor. 9:19 – 21, NLT

Then, tell them the Good News and what that has meant in your life, and offer to lead them to Christ. What they do with that is up to them…

 Well, if you’ve read the this and the previous 2 posts, I am confident in the Lord that if you make these 8 steps a part of the start of every day, (and I suspect you could do them in 15 minutes or less), your walk with God will be superlative. Furthermore, I think your New Year’s ‘spiritual resolutions’ will nurture you the rest of your life…

 

 Goodnight and God bless 

What Are Your New Year’s Spiritual Resolutions – part 2

Last time, we explored the importance of making ‘spiritual resolutions’ – incremental steps for deepening our relationship with our Father and Son and keeping it viable. The first step we discussed was how to position ourselves to receive and share God’s blessings. Let’s continue…

The success of our first step is profoundly dependent upon our second, which is to steadily increase our awareness of our sin. Remember that sin is an act that ultimately results in our missing God’s mark for our lives – i.e. to love Him with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mt. 22:37 – 40.)

Our glory manifests itself when we reach for the highest good. In so doing, we become a reflection of the glory of God, bringing Him the glory. Yet, none of us are immune to the commission of sin.

Sin is the opposite of love, and it separates us from God – the antithesis of what our spiritual resolutions are set up to accomplish. (Is. 59:2) Moreover, we know that the ultimate result of unrepentant sin is death. (James 1:15).

So, how do we traverse a better daily walk?

1) Study the word daily, so that you know God’s rules to better be able to act in alignment with them.

2) Look first to what those words say when someone gives you advice, and always let God’s words take precedent.

3) Look to God for approval and fulfillment, not to the world.

4) At the end of each day, review your behavior. Did you act sinfully – willfully or unconsciously? Get on your knees and confess and repent. Then, ask God for the strength to resist that sin in the future.

5) Help others see their sin and aid them in understanding the consequences of them.

6) Other than trying to help those others, don’t consort with willful, unrepentant sinners.

Praise Jesus!

The third step is to wake up in the morning and think about how you can give of your time, talent and treasure, to advance the kingdom that day. When we give, we bestow upon others the gift of ourselves – each of us being a conglomeration of the endowments that we have inside, given by God.

We might take the time to mentor someone in the word; help another climb out of the urgency of poverty, so that they can come to a place where they are able to hear about the promise of Christ; and lastly, set aside your tithe daily, letting it accumulate for Sunday, so that it doesn’t seem to have such an impact all at once.(And we all know that if we pay the bills first, we’ll ignore the tithe.)

Giving is not always easy. Often, that immediate sacrifice looks like an act that will rob us of our livelihood. It takes a leap of faith in that God will take care of our needs as well. Thankfully, we have His promise that He will:

“Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now on this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you [so great] a blessing until there is no room to receive it.” Mal. 3:10 AMP

The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. Pr. 11:25 NASB

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 NKJV

The greatest gift that we can give, is the gift of our heart – a loving sacrifice of faith. Whatever that gift, it will bless others, which blesses God, and He in turn blesses us back. A beautiful cycle…

The fourth step of your spiritual resolutions to make each day a God-filled day, is to release all your gratitude towards God. Thank Him for your very life, His love, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, abundance, protection and for His Son, so that you keep receiving all of these treasures eternally.  Let your joy be unbridled towards God. It will color the remainder of your day:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Ps. 16:11 ESV

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation… Is. 61:10 NKJV

The fifth step, and like putting sin in its place, this one too, is so important, that God will hold back His blessings if you don’t clear this one up. To do that, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Do I bear anyone any ill will (anger, hatred, judgment or other malicious thoughts) at this moment?’

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Col. 3:12, 13. ESV

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you your transgressions.” Mt. 6:15 NASB

Strong words. You see, if we didn’t judge, then we wouldn’t blame, and subsequently there’d be nothing to have to forgive. Yet we all do. We must continually remind ourselves that other people are not inherently bad. They’re doing the best they know how, with the tools that they have, to try to survive. Often, they project their suffering onto the nearest target.

What they need is compassion and understanding, not judgment. If you don’t forgive these ‘projections,’ and you build stories about them which contain your judgement, then you hold yourself in bondage.

Forgiveness begins in the mirror. Most of the judgments we hold against others are the same criticisms that we flog ourselves with, for committing similar behaviors. Without forgiveness we create barriers between ourselves and God.

Forgiveness is the highest act of giving – giving love to everyone, regardless of whether we think it is deserved. And who doesn’t deserve love?

Give yourself and everyone around you a fresh start every morning. What a weight you will remove; and God will be free to move in your life…

We’ll wrap this up next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

What Are Your New Year’s Spiritual Resolutions?

I’m not talking about goals to write down where you set yourself up for failure. We all do that year in and year out. What I mean by spiritual resolutions, is to prayerfully formulate an incremental set of steps for deepening your relationship with God and Jesus. The formulating is not that difficult because God has already given us the steps. We only have to mine His word to find them.

 Our relationship with the Godhead is never in stasis. Either we’re drawing nearer, or we are drifting back into the world. We all have an innate desire to be as close as possible to our Creator, having intimacy with the Source of all love. To have that happen, we must nurture that relationship; and in so doing, we will nurture ourselves and those around us. God is good. Let’s go after Him…

 Let’s begin by focusing on our target, (God), to clarify what kind of relationship it is that we are seeking to deepen. Consider that it is God who creates us through Christ, and then covers with His grace:

 “Behold, I am with you and will keep [careful watch over you and guard] you wherever you may go…” Gn. 28:15 AMP

 He makes a promise to fill your life with abundance:

  “For I will look upon you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you, and confirm My covenant with you.” Lv. 26:9 NKJV

 God heals you and delivers you from any bondage put upon you, or that you may have placed upon yourself:

 “For I am the LORD who heals you.” Ex. 15:26 NKJV

 I am the LORD your God…and I broke the bars of your yoke…and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk upright [with heads held high as free men]. Lv. 26:13 AMP

God does all these things and more, all out of His immeasurable love for you:

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.” Ex. 15:13 ESV

“…for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” 1 Sam. 14:6 ESV

“Does God not see my ways and count all my steps?” Job 31:4 AMP

We can take all of this to the bank, because God never reneges on His word:

‘…I will never break My convenient with you.’ Judges 2:1 NKJV

But we are human. We make mistakes and do so repeatedly. We fall off of our God-path. Still, our God loves us so much, that He makes a clear way to get back together with Him:

…for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him. 2 Chr. 30:9 NKJV

You are a unique and essential part of God’s plan – both in this life and the life beyond:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Ps. 91:11 ESV

…God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. Ps. 49:15 NKJV

You can’t find a better deal in the universe. This is the God, the only God that has you covered on all sides with love, peace, joy and protection – forever. He is the one to have the resolve for, to be in relationship with. But it’s up to us to keep that relationship vibrant. Let’s let God show us how…

One of the perks of having a right relationship with God is to be the recipient of His blessings. ‘Blessing’ has been defined to mean ‘a special favor generated by God,’ ‘something promoting or contributing to happiness, well-being, or prosperity,’ or ‘to favor with talent.’ We are blessed with a holy talent and trust, becoming a channel for God to bless through as well as to. So, because His blessings are so life-enhancing, (spiritually and physically), it behooves us to make a spiritual resolution to keep ourselves in the best position to receive those rewards. How does God say to do that?

But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. Heb. 11:6 AMP

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God…and the curse if you do not…” Dt. 11:26 – 28. NKJV

No faith, no blessings. If we have faith, it means we believe that God is real and true; and if that is so, we must be obedient to His word. Thus, we resolve to carve out more time to deepen our understanding of Jehovah’s word, so that our obedience increases with each day.

God even shows us many opportunities that exist for receiving His blessings: 1) When we confess and repent we are blessed with forgiveness (Ps. 32:1); 2) When we help others (Ps. 41:1); 3) Help others gain justice (Ps. 106.3); 4) Sharing our blessings (Nm. 24:9; Acts 20:35); 5) Extend mercy and peace to others (Mt. 5:5, 7 & 9); and 6) When we take a stand for Jesus (Mt. 5:10 – 12 & 11:6).

And so, we resolve to remain attuned to when these opportunities arise, so that we may act on them. Our part in keeping those blessings coming, is to express our gratitude to our Father (Ps. 34:1 & 103:2), stay in faith, and allow our blessings to bless those around us. So, our primary resolution includes more time on our knees.

To be continued…

Goodnight and God bless.

In Further Defense of the Faith

This is a follow-up to my post written two weeks ago, entitled Defenders of the Faith, which was our first look at one of the greatest defenders of the faith, St. Augustine, from his book The City of God. It was written at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire – both to strengthen the faith of the Christians within Rome and the immediate vicinity, and to help them find answers to why they suffered the experience of oppression by that same imperium.

Augustine often writes in a series of questions that had concerned those of faith, as well as expositions against the Romans’ behaviors towards the believers. Many of these topics are just as germane today as they were then.

One question, for example, was the fate of the souls of Christian women that were raped by either the Romans or the barbarian conquerors. Obviously, the answer to this would be timeless – applying to anyone forced to commit an immoral act. Augustine answered it thusly:

…the virtue which makes the life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will; and that while the will remains firm and unshaken, nothing that another person does with the body, or upon the body, is any fault of the person who suffers it, so long as he cannot escape it without sin.

…the sanctity of the body is preserved, because the will to use it holily, remains…

“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or were the upright ever cut off?” Job 4:7 NKJV

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us. Rm. 8:35 – 37. NKJV

We are innocent of anything we are forced to do against our will. Our soul remains pure in this trauma, separate from the flesh. Furthermore, there is no one who can stand up to He who lives in us, and He brings no charges against us.

In addition, according to Augustine, there were Christians that were so afraid of being violated in any manner by the pagans, that they would take their own lives so that they would remain ‘pure’ in the eyes of God. BIG MISTAKE. Augustine elucidates:

…he who kills himself is a homicide, and so much the guiltier of his own death, as he was more innocent of that offense for which he doomed himself to die.

He gives the example of Judas, who after hanging himself, had removed any chance for repentance, and thus was doomed to eternal death. Augustine then reminds his audience that there is nowhere in the entire Bible where they are given a license to kill themselves. Indeed, it is a violation of the 6th of the Ten Commandments, that one of against committing murder, as he explains:

The commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill man;” therefore, neither another or yourself, for he who kills himself still kills nothing else but man…those who die by their own hand have no better life after death.

You cannot sin to avoid sinning…

Augustine continues to a new question by writing about pagans who ask the Christians why their God doesn’t rescue them from oppression.

Sometimes life is hard. Many times we can’t explain it. That’s usually because we can’t see God’s big picture. But we can take comfort in knowing that He will deliver His faithful children out of their trials within the framework of His right timing:

And we know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rm. 8:28 NLT

Augustine also explains to believers how to answer the scoffers when their life conditions are less than stellar:

The whole family of God, most high and most true, has therefore a consolation of its own – a consolation which cannot deceive, and which has in it a surer hope that the tottering and falling affairs of earth can afford. They will not refuse the discipline of this temporal life, in which they are schooled for life eternal; nor will they lament their experience of it, for the good things of earth they use as pilgrims who ate not detained by them, and its ills either prove or improve them.

You know that people who sin, love to have others sin with them – primarily for self-justification. That’s exactly what’s at the root of the Roman unbelievers’ line of questioning, trying to get the Christians to turn their backs on their faith, and join in with their licentious behavior. Augustine calls them out on it:

…why in your calamities do you complain of Christianity, unless because you desire to enjoy your luxurious license unrestrained, and to lead an abandoned and profligate life without the interruption of any uneasiness or disaster…your purpose rather is run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousand fold more disastrous than our fiercest of enemies.

And yet, Augustine finishes by saying that God is still waiting for them to come to Him:

And that you are yet alive is due to God, who spares you that you may be admonished to repent and reform your lives.

Isn’t that God’s plea to everyone?

Augustine then reminds the Romans that Rome was beginning to crumble long before Christ was incarnated. Afterwards, he picks on their many ‘gods’ that never held their worshippers to higher moral values, never extolled virtue, and likened them to Greek philosophers, of whom he said:

…the teachings of the philosophers are not the commandments of gods, but the discoveries of men…

The result?

Here, then, is this Roman republic, “which has changed little by little from the faith and virtuous city it was, and has become utterly wicked and dissolute.” (He is quoting an author who wrote about Rome long before Christ’s coming.)

Then, Augustine contrasts the sorry state of Rome with the kingdom of God:

…true justice has no existence save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ…the city of which Holy Scripture says, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.” (Ps. 87:3)

In addition, he pulls no punches with respect to who the ‘gods’ are that the Romans worship:

as Scripture informs us, and as the facts themselves sufficiently indicate, the demons are found to look after their own ends only, that they may be regarded and worshiped as gods, and that men may be induced to offer to them a worship which associated them with their crimes, and involves them in one common wickedness and judgment of God.

And yet, Augustine doesn’t forget His Christian duty to evangelize, even to lost souls such as these:

Choose now what you will pursue, that your praise may not be in yourself, but in the true God, in whom there is no error…Do not listen to those degenerate sons of yours who slander Christ and Christians…Lay hold now on the celestial country, which is easily won, and in which you will reign truly and forever…No longer then, follow after false and deceitful gods…Gods they are not, but malignant spirits…Awake more fully: the majesty of God cannot be propitiated by that which defiles the dignity of man…Incomparably more glorious than Rome is that heavenly city in which for victory you have truth; for dignity, holiness; for peace, felicity; for life, eternity.

Wow. What can we take from this? First, there is evil in the world, and it uses people (who are willing), to do us harm. If that harm is forced upon us, and it transgresses the word of God, our integrity is not broken in His eyes. The forceful perpetrator however, has a really heavy price to pay:

“But whoever causes on of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he drowned in the depths of the sea.” Mt. 18:6 NKJV

God is our judge. We do our best to live by His word. We have the blood of Jesus that cleanses us. If we fall into the muck because of our own devices, we can confess and repent. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away. We don’t ever have to live in shame.

We know that life has its knocks. But if we have faith, God is making all the right decisions for us. As long as we’re walking on God’s path, He is bringing us to an eternal perfection, the potential of which, we can share with anyone else who has yet to understand the promise of the kingdom.

We can make our faith and faith-based behavior inspirational to those who have yet to grab a hold of the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, and we must be willing to share His promise of salvation, even to the most worldly-seasoned people – remembering that we all once walked that road…

Goodnight and God bless.

We Have So Much to Be Thankful For

In every aspect of our lives, we can find a plethora of things to be thankful for. First, we can look around at the world we live in – the land, the sea, the heavens and all the wonders that occupy them. God fashioned all of this universe for you, custom tailor-made so that you could thrive in it, and then He gave it to you and made you a steward over it:

 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Gn. 2:15 NKJV

 Furthermore, He blesses us for that endeavor:

 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” Gn. 1:28 NKJV

 God loves us through His blessings, whereby we become favored with talent and abundance, which helps us to prosper both spiritually and physically:

 It is the LORD that makes rich, and He add no sorrow to it. Pr. 10:22 NASB

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… Eph. 1:3 ESV

 Everything looks peachy right? But our humanity gets in the way.

 God made us in His Spiritual image; but in the flesh, we are weak. Many times, we transgress the word of God, which imparts death to the impenitent. God knows that we are weak, and is acutely aware of the consequences of sin, which is a separation from Him. He loves us so much that He can’t bear to be apart from us. And so, He gave us a written manual (Bible,) and gave up His only begotten Son, so that He could grant us clemency. We can be forever thankful for that path which opens the doors of eternity:

 “…if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin…” 2 Chr. 7:14 NKJV

 …he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Pr. 28:13 ESV

 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” Is. 43:25 NKJV

 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free… Gal. 5:1 NKJV

 And, God chose you for this ultimate salvation before you were born:

 …God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth… 2 Thess. 2:13 NKJV

 Moreover, God sent His Son to be with you in every moment; and He keeps watch as well:

 “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:20 ESV

 “For the eyes of the LORD are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), and His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer)…” 1 Pt. 3:12 AMP

 However, as we can all attest, life has its valleys as well. Can we be thankful during our trials and tribulations? Is God even present in the hard times? Job had similar doubts:

 “Why do You hide Your face [as if offended] and consider me Your enemy?” Job 13:24 AMP

 And yet, God never acts like that with regards to the suffering of His children. He had us on His loving radar before we were born and remains with us still:

 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well…And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Ps. 139:13, 14 & 16. NKJV

 From my mother’s womb You have been my God. Ps. 22:10 NKJV

 How precious are you to God in this life? 

 “…the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Mt. 10:30 NKJV

 And you’ll be precious still, when you make your transition to eternity:

 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. Ps. 116:15 NKJV

 God understands us because we were made in His image, and He knows what we go through because He submitted His Son to the same trials and tribulations. Thus, God can relate to our various lots in life: 

 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. Is. 63:9 NASB

 The LORD said, “I have in fact seen the affliction (suffering, desolation) of My people…for I know their pain and suffering.” Ex. 3:7 AMP

 For it was fitting for God [that is, an act worthy of His divine nature] that He, for whose sake are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the author and founder of their salvation perfect through suffering [bringing to maturity the human experience necessary for Him to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest]. Heb. 2:10 AMP

 God empathizes with your sufferings, even though He knows that human suffering is not from Him; but is brought about by:

 1) the sufferer him or herself:

 A prudent man sees evil and hides himself and avoids it, but the naive [who are easily misled] continue on and are punished [by suffering the consequences of sin]. Pr. 27:12 AMP 

 2) serendipity: 

 …the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. Eccl. 9:11 CSB

 Or finally, 3) satanic influence: 

 So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth… Rv. 12:9 CSB

 Regardless of how your suffering came to be, God stands ready to help: 

 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Is. 41:10 NASB

 God will guide you out of your circumstances. He makes manifest your hope for victory, even if it seems like the time it takes for that to occur is elongated, (yet it is perfect within the timing of God’s plans):

 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Ps. 32:8 NLT

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing the pain and comforting their sorrows]. Ps. 147:3 AMP

 “Write the vision…so that the one who reads it will run. For the vision is yet for the appointed future time. It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it, because it will certainly come; it will not delay.” Hab. 2:2, 3. AMP

 Remember, that God’s ultimate aim is for all His children to be rid of suffering forever: 

 “…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish or crying, or pain…” Rv. 21:4 AMP

God delivers us from all our afflictions in life all. We can be thankful in every moment for that. 

 We can also show our gratitude to God for meeting our every need: 

 And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19 AMP

 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Mt. 21:22 NASB

 In fact, we can give thanks to our Creator just for the joy of being here: 

 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24 NASB

 Think of how much He loves you: 

 “The LORD your God is in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17 NKJV

 …thus says the LORD:…I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.” Jer. 32:42. 

 How about a little gratitude for His faithfulness: 

 “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” Dt. 7:9 ESV

 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Is. 40:8 NKJV

 We can also be thankful that God moves any mountains in our path: 

 “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26 NASB

 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more that all we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us… Eph. 3:20 AMP

 We can depend upon God as well because He comes to our defense: 

 “…for I will contend with the one who contends with you…” Is. 49:25 NASB

 “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity…” 1 Kin. 1:29 ESV

 And can be grateful for the peace that ensues:

 …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6, 7. ESV

 Even if life seems static and monotonous, we can be grateful that God is transforming us inwardly every day to become more like His Son:

 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV

 Why the transformation? It’s because God is preparing you a place in heaven through His Son: 

 “In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.” Jn. 14:2 NKJV

 The only thing that stands in our way is the devil, but God’s got that handled: 

 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Col. 1:13, 14. NKJV

 Remember that all of these wonderful things that God provides can only be received if we have faith. And God sees to it that if we seek Him, He will render it to us: 

 God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Rm. 12:3 NASB

 How long can God’s gift of faith strengthen our hope?

 Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations… Ps. 119:89, 90. NASB

 And how do we seal our guarantee? 

 …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Rm. 10:9 NKJV

 We can be so thankful that everything God provides us with is a result of the grace He so lovingly delivers: 

 …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Rm. 3:23 – 25. ESV

 Happy Thanksgiving! 

 

Goodnight and God bless. 

Defenders of the Faith

Who are defenders of the faith? They are those who do their best to spread the gospel of salvation to the unsaved masses, those who take a loving stand against all that is ungodly – with the hope that the perpetrators of ungodliness may be saved, and finally, those who study, teach and / or preach the word of God in its pure form, to drive any potential heresy away, so that the first two aforementioned groups are properly armed with the Truth for their godly endeavors.

 We have recently completed a 7-part study of a 13th century monk, Thomas Aquinas, who was a great example of a defender of the faith. Now, let’s look at Aquinas’s theological inspiration (besides the Holy Spirit), which was a 5th century monk of at least equal renown and Holy Spirit-inspiration, St. Augustine of Hippo, from his book: The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.

 He was the author of 113 books and 218 letters. His longest work is The City of God, meant to fortify Christianity in the Roman Empire, which took 15 years to write, begun in 413 A.D. This was just after the city of Rome (referred to as the ‘Eternal City’) was plundered by the Visigoths. 

 Simultaneously, Rome was also crumbling under the weight of overspending on multitudinous military campaigns to increase the size of its empire. Many of the wealthier citizens migrated to more rural settings to escape the extreme taxation that the spending depended upon, which also reduced Rome’s coffers.  

 As the empire expansion was no longer able to sustain itself, the heretofore forcefully inducted slave labor from their various conquests were no longer available, resulting in a labor shortage that reduced Rome’s exports, also driving down the economy. 

 In addition, the eastern and western divisions of the Roman Empire became embattled as to how the empire should be run, and they divided. 

 As with any government, the Roman Empire was excessively corrupt and ineffective. 

 Because soldiers died in so many battles, the military hired barbarian mercenaries to bolster their army, which diluted the capability of the highly-trained Roman soldiers – making victories hard to come by. 

 Also, at this time, Christianity began to spread in the empire, (thanks to the help of the Roman emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion in Rome in 337 A.D.), which stood in stark contrast to the Roman ways of thinking and acting. Subsequently, Christians became the ‘crux of Rome’s problems,’ or at least that is where the blame was laid. The Romans blamed their declining lot on the Christians for serving their God rather than the ‘Roman gods.’

 It is in this atmosphere that Augustine begins defending the faith…

 …we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule. 

 Thus, the Roman Empire (the ‘earthy city’) had come full circle, to acutely resemble the fallen state of man on the earth during the days of Noah:

 The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved – spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. Gn. 6:11 AMP

 God puts in place every government that has ruled this world. Augustine suggests to the Romans that it would be far better for them to consider that instead of blaming external elements (opposing armies, vengeance of their gods, etc.), they would be far better served to see the hand of God in their situation as a benevolent force to get them to turn their lives around: 

 They ought rather, had they any right perceptions, to attribute the severities and hardships inflicted by their enemies, to that divine Providence which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement…these ungrateful men who blasphemously impute to Christ the calamities which they deservedly suffer in consequence of their own wicked ways, while that which for Christ’s sake spared them in spite of their wickedness…

 God is always working on all people to bring them to the right path:

 So that godless men would not rule nor be snares for the people. “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have endured my chastisement; I will not offend anymore; teach me what I do not see [in regard to how I have sinned]; if I have done wrong (injustice, unrighteousness), I will not do it again?’ Job. 34:30 – 32. AMP

 We see God’s compassion throughout history, giving chance after chance: 

Nevertheless, my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make a full end of them… Ezek. 20:17 ESV

 Yet they are spared for only a time – a time in which to change from their ways:

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Rom. 1:18 – 20. NKJV

 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death… Rom. 1:28 & 32.

 God has given everyone an inherent knowing of Him, in both themselves and in the creations around them. Furthermore, by this time, Rome has had the gospel preached to them for at least 100 years.

 So, there is an infinite penalty for unrepentant ungodliness. Yet, Augustine then tries to show the Romans the fairness in the equity that God practices for the righteous and unrighteous alike:

 …nevertheless does the patience of God still invite the wicked to repentance, even as the scourge of God educates the good to patience. And so too, does the mercy of God embrace the good that it may cherish them, as the severity of God arrests the wicked to punish them. To the divine Providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; and for the evil wicked things, by which the good shall not be tormented.

 But as for the good things in this life, and its ills, God has willed that it be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both adversity (misfortune) and good (prosperity, happiness) proceed? Lam. 3:38 AMP

 Augustine is saying that life has its trials and tribulations and it is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is subject to them. It is how we let them mold us that is important. Do we embrace God and His ways, or do we turn our back on Him and follow our flesh? We can see that the ultimate outcome has vey stark differences; and for the rebellious, there is a literal hell to pay.

 Moreover, those who deny God and His ways, create a profound difference within themselves, that without repentance, invites the wrath of God. Augustine puts it like this:

 …though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing…And thus it is in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise.

 To contrast the citizens of the earthy city to those of the city of God, Augustine spoke of how the Romans were distraught and depressed over their lack of worldly items when the Visigoths sacked the city of Rome; whereas those of the Christian faith who had lost their worldly goods as well could take solace in the truth that ‘the will of the Lord is their great possession…they have discovered by the pain of losing these things how much they were sinning in loving them.’  

 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21 NKJV

 Augustine then begins to answer what appears to be many questions put to him from Roman inquisitors. The first is whether or not one’s ‘length’ of life has any significance. His response fosters food for thought:

 …the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest…death is not to be judged an evil which is the end of a good life; for death becomes evil only by the retribution which follows it…into what place death will usher them.

 Again, this is a great case for getting right with God before that day comes.

 And so, we begin a journey with one of the greatest defenders of the faith…

 

Goodnight and God bless.