Tag Archives: Jesus

Inland Regional Center Massacre

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ~Jesus

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah.” ~Muhammad

See the difference? ~ as David Wood would ask.

December 3, 2015:
“At my office in Regional Center right now in SoCal. Not Inland Regional Center, but another local RC. The mass shooting yesterday at Inland RC was absolutely devastating. My heart goes out to all my colleagues there. This happens in California, the state with the strictest gun control and background checks; the state where it’s so hard to get guns. I’ve always said, gun control is just addressing and masking the symptom of the disease; not curing it. This world is where it is because of the cruelty of men to men. Thankful to the police officers who are patrolling our RC today.

It is a tragedy but I urge you all to not give in to fear and intimidation. Don’t be afraid of the ones who can only harm the body but cannot touch the soul.”

On December 1, 2015, I shared a quote from Francis Schaeffer:
“Man’s own choices have led men where they are. In their own way, all men are like the 1960 hippie who said, ‘Well, I don’t care what happens to the next generation. I will take LSD even if it does split the chromosomes. I care only for the moment.’ In age after age, men who had the truth have deliberately thrown it away. The world is what it is, not as a result of the cruelty of God to man, but of the cruelty of man to man.” (Death in the City)

The words of rabbi John Parsons are good to remember today:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was surrounded by the evil of Nazi Germany, regarded stupidity as more dangerous than outright evil, since stupidity is a type of irrationality, a *chosen ignorance of what is real and true. Against such willed ignorance we are often defenseless, since any reasoning that appeals to transcendental moral truth finds no “traction,” carries no weight, and has no effect. The devil, then, seeks first of all to stupefy people, that is, to flatter and persuade them that there is no need for them to engage in serious thinking or to humbly question their assumptions… As William James observed: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” The antidote to unthinkingly accepting the biases and inculcated prejudices of the world is to awaken to the reality of God: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and correction” (Prov. 1:7).”

Folks, America has turned back from the true path. Would you remember Jesus today and turn back on the right track?

Shannon Johnson

Photo obtained from Danusha Goshka’s blog Save Send Delete

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What is freedom?

True freedom is not about being free to do what you like or feel, which is nothing more than living a primal animalistic life. Freedom is about being free to distinguish between good and evil, and then choosing to do that only which is good.

But since we live in relativistic times with relative morality where one man’s “good” is another man’s evil, can we know for certain what truly good is? I believe so. But we can only understand what good is by knowing who is absolutely good.

When a certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.”

God is good, and God is love. Therefore, love is good. God is good, and God is forgiving. Therefore, forgiveness is good. God is good, and God is patient. Therefore, patience is good.

The same one who said, Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone,” also said:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away. I am the good shepherd…. I lay down my life… No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again.”

The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah (the Christ), tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe… But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand… The Father and I are one.”

The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death. Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”

Jesus replied, “… do you say… ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (As recorded in the gospel of John)


A hopeless case of a goddess

She is, as the New Ager would say, a true goddess. She is a professional dancer, an artist and a spiritual teacher. Her mission: to awaken people to their infinite Self and the sacred divine feminine in every woman.

“I flat lined,” she said, “and returned to Source. This is where everything was revealed. I saw the truth about reality.” The universe with its infinite expressions has given birth to this world which is one of many possible realities. When she returned to Source, she experienced how infinite our essence is. We are extensions of the Divine and have the potential within us to be Creators of reality.

“Because religion has brainwashed us,” she continued, “we have forgotten this truth.” But we are stepping into a New Age where everything’s being redefined. It’s time we awaken the divine within. There’s no right or wrong, no heaven or hell. There simply Is. Everything serves a Higher purpose for the Highest good. Remember, she has experienced the afterlife: “I wish you could see what I did, and wake up and know the truth about yourSELF. You’ll see that I AM THAT I AM is you.” … the only thing keeping you from it is your belief system.

~   ~   ~

“As I learned to let go of my ambitions and embrace brokenness, my personal pain began to bond me with others who were in pain,” Craig Keener writes. My interaction with this young woman reminded me of Keener’s words. I remembered my old self when I was so broken on the inside yet looking so whole on the outside because my ambitious, self-empowered, spiritual “Me” was giving me a first-class face lift so to speak. I saw my old self in this woman – not just that I myself have had “near death” experience – not once but two times and a third which was very close (and they actually only pointed me to Jesus as Lord and Savior) BUT I saw my old broken self in her because I used to be after the same: spiritual and professional success (aka self-empowerment), and it was for the same purposes as hers – to play my own personal savior, prove myself as a woman, find value and meaning, feel empowered.

I looked at this girl, whom the world considers a beauty divine and a great talent, and I saw nothing but brokenness. This was the most challenging part because whenever I meet a person who has fallen so deep into the rabbit hole (to use the new age terminology), things seem so hopeless… it feels as if this person will never see the light because they are so blinded and fooled by the darkness. This woman is so convinced by what she has experienced in her “near death” experience that nothing will change her mind. And the darkness will slowly waste her life… because truly there is nothing more than it can do but to delude and waste a person’s life, and drain the life out of the soul so when she is on her death bed what might’ve been a truly great life lived for others, will be a soul eaten away in the pursuit of the Self.

And yet, the brokenness and hopelessness I felt were a really good thing. Brokenness is something I’ve pondered on. The word “broken” evokes hopeless images of broken bones, broken hearts, broken things. But interestingly, in God’s dictionary brokenness is not only good, it’s essential. He uses people whose hearts, volition, intellect, and pride have been broken. And it has been said that those who stumble over the cornerstone will be broken while it’ll grind to powder anyone it falls on. Those who stumble upon it and fall down accepting and submitting all they are, as their destiny in Him and His will, will be broken by Him of arrogance, hard-heartedness, and self-centeredness. They’ll fall and will be picked up. They’ll break and will be made whole in their brokenness. But for those who don’t accept, the cornerstone will ultimately “fall on them,” an experience that can only be described as crushing. Ultimately, the choice is ours, “broken into wholeness” or “crushed into powder.”

This woman stands for what she believes to be true in her heart. Though I may not agree with her methods and reasoning, I do know that she’s doing what she’s doing because she wants to help other women and herself find wholeness, acceptance and love. She isn’t driven by a desire to put others down but to uplift them. It’s just the “how to get there” and the master one serves that make all the difference, right?

This personally hopeless experience reminded me that often people need more our prayers than our opinions. I may be powerless but the good news is that I don’t depend on my personal power or even on the prayer itself but on the one who hears my prayers – the All-powerful. And so I pray. I pray that God by His power and His Holy Spirit uses this woman’s brokenness and allows her to stumble over the cornerstone. I pray for all the other hopeless cases… even Dawkins that God gives him dreams and visions which he wouldn’t be able to escape, and falls face down submitting to Jesus. I pray that God uses such people… just as he used the most hopeless of all cases, the murderer Saul to turn him into one of the greatest saints, our beloved Paul.


My creed

I grew up in Bulgaria during communism and its collapse. Immigrated to the US at 22 and found it to be truly the land of opportunity. I completed my bachelor’s in health science, master’s in physical therapy, became peace and security ambassador, wrote a book, have my practice today… – in short, I became an emancipated woman who loved humanity. But all the success and empowerment wasn’t enough, and never fulfilled me because to begin with, my heart was broken and my soul was weary. There was nothing of this world that could help me. By God’s mercy, He gave me visions. It’s by no man that I learned about Jesus but by God Himself… That’s why for me there’s no other way or truth but Jesus. He was the saving remedy to make my heart whole and give my soul rest.

So I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. The God, who bestowed us the highest worth by creating us in His image and giving us life by His breath. The God, who created this world, which in the beginning was all good but was broken and evil entered it…even into the very heart of man.

I believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God… Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made. Who, for us and for our salvation, descended into this world, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and became human, was crucified for us under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended back into heaven. He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead so to restore all that was broken… to make us whole again – a whole new world that shall have no end, where God’s residence is among humans… where every tear will be wiped away, death won’t exist anymore—or mourning, or pain, for these will cease to exist. I look towards this new world…always remembering that Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good but dead people alive… of which I’m one voice testifying “I was dead but now I live.”


Do all paths lead to God? – Jesus’ answer.

highway_exit_signs

Not all paths lead to God. Truly, most paths in life lead to emptiness. Grasping for the “sweet” thing in life – possessions, experience, power, sex, pleasure, status, we find nothing inside of it all. Meaning in life is not found through knowledge, pleasure, power, money, work, style or popularity. The path that leads to God is the one that makes us turn away from all these deceptive empty riches that ultimately kill us inside-out. It is the path that makes us turn back to Him in humility, obedience and repentance. It is the narrow path that frees us from the scramble for success, approval and money, and the death sentence of power and pleasure. It is the narrow road that takes us back to face one another in love and forgiveness, drawing our hearts closer to each other and to the heart of God.

As Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious and easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it!” “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved… I am the way…” (Matthew 7:13-14, John 10:9, 14:6)

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When the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near one time, Jesus’ brothers wanted him to go and proclaim his power. So they advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his own brothers believed in him.)

But Jesus replied, “My time has not yet arrived, but you are ready at any opportunity! The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying about it that its deeds are evil. You go up to the feast by yourselves.”

As a matter of fact, time after time he said “do not tell anyone” after he had healed someone or done a mighty miracle. It is us, who are so caught up in the business of making a name for ourselves, claiming and proclaiming our personal power and work, showing ourselves to the world, that if Jesus’ brothers told us those words, we’d eagerly say “yes!” Just look at Facebook’s personal profiles to know my words are true – you’d even know how awesome your neighbor looks in her nakedness and how health and environmentally friendly someone is by what they have to show they’ve had for breakfast. Why would we want to keep such things secret?! We have to show to the whole world how pretty, good and enlightened we are after all, right? By showing ourselves off we can lead others into greatness, right? Or so thinks the ego…

But Jesus wasn’t in the business of making reputation for himself, or making bad people good. He is into the business of making dead people alive.

After his death, resurrection and ascension, his brothers finally understood. James, Jesus’s brother even understood as he wrote in his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel dispersed in the Diaspora of “ faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.  So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls. But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does. If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby filthy clothing also comes in, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit on the floor.” If so have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into court? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to? But if you really fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law.  So speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 1:19 – 2: 13)

Rabbi John Parsons notes, “The worst kind of bondage is when you are so oppressed by yourself -so enslaved by your inner urges – that you are no longer able to think outside of your desire or to choose otherwise. It might be greed, the desire for pleasure, fear, or the “need” to be right (i.e., pride), but whatever controls you is ultimately your taskmaster. Self-deception entices us to deny the consequences of our passions or to excuse them by pretending we are victims. Because of this, we become further enslaved to our own sense of self-importance, and we are ensnared within the prison house of the all-demanding ego. We can only be delivered from the inner tyranny of ourselves by God’s power: “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). This is the truth of God’s power of deliverance given in Yeshua (Jesus) our Lord (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18). The truth sets you free not merely in some intellectual sense (i.e., made free from error), but in a volitional sense, in the core of your being, when your will is no longer enslaved to the power and inner darkness of sin….”

“Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

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onewayjesus


The message: an exegesis on 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom. Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience, and instruction. For there will be time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths. You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry.”

Second Timothy is an epistle that was written still within the generation of Jesus by Apostle Paul. This was his second letter to Timothy, and he wrote it while in prison in Rome. Timothy was a student of Paul and a pastor of the church in Ephesus. Its purpose was to give Timothy final instruction and encouragement. Final because it was Paul’s last words as he was arrested and executed under Emperor Nero. Paul wrote this letter as a way of passing the torch to the next generation of Christian leaders. As Paul’s last letter, this epistle reveals the heart of the Apostle and his priorities – sound truthful doctrine, steadfast faith, lasting love, and endurance. Timothy was one of the first second-generation disciples of Jesus. He became a follower of Jesus not because he saw a loud evangelist preach a powerful sermon but because his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois taught him the Holy Scriptures since he was a little child. (1)

The Roman world had magnificence and beauty beyond what one can imagine but it was also a place of terror, pain and decadence that is beyond our wildest imagination. Jesus was born into the Roman world, in Roman occupied lands of Asia that today we know as the land of Israel and Palestine. He was born during the reign of Augustus, the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. During his reign and for the next couple of centuries, the Roman empire established an era of peace and prosperity. But as R. Webber writes “…woven in the fabric of that era, Roman culture was rotting” in its very heart. Because of its decadence, Roman society was falling apart from the inside. Paul captures this crumbling reality of the great Roman world in the opening of his letter to the Roman Christians. Outwardly we see the beauty of this strange, magnificent, and of one of the greatest civilizations of human history, but Paul knew exactly what was going on inwardly in the hearts and minds of that society. (2) Because they chose not to glorify God, He “… gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!…  For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions….And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.” ( Romans 1:24-25, 28-31)

Paul saw the reality of Rome first hand. And indeed, life for many was harsh, especially under the successors of Augustus – Tiberius, Nero, Trajan, Hadrian Diocletian, and Marcus Aurelius. These tyrants ruled with an iron claw. They were cruel and treated inhumanely all who dared to oppose them, especially the Christians who were persecuted to death during their reigns. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180) for example, a war broke out in Germany and Persia and moved the Roman era away from its period of peace. Many Roman soldiers caught a deadly plague, and when they returned home, an epidemic spread throughout the Roman Empire, taking as many as 2,000 lives a day. Political leaders decided the plague came as punishment from the Roman gods who were offended by the existence of the Christians and their eastern religion Christianity. The government turned against the Christians and “…attempted to get rid the empire of them in order to recover the favor of the Romans gods.” (2)

The Roman world was a world of moral relativism. It was characterized by many different philosophical beliefs – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, those who were Sophists, and Cynics, Stoics, and Epicureans and so on. There were small Jewish neighborhoods around. Sophists shaped the Greek culture, which was conquered by Rome. According to them, truth cannot be discovered and so they argued, that truth does not exist, or if it did, it is impossible to know it. They believed that because there is no knowledge, people must take things into their own hands and try to live a good life, much like secular humanism today. The school that emerged from Socrates and his student Plato questioned the Sophists’ rejection of universal truth. For Socrates and Plato, there was no such thing as co-existence but rather contradiction when it came to their theology and the Sophists’. Socrates was convinced that one must discover what is right and act on the basis of that truth. He taught that if humans are the measure of all things, they could agree on a principle that is wrong, which would lead to ultimate catastrophe. The question was how could one discriminate right from wrong? Socrates’ student Plato tackled this question and so became the dominant philosopher in the Roman world. Plato taught the existence of universal ideals. He argued for a world outside the visible world we live in. The visible world, he taught, was “but a shadow of the invisible,” which was the real world. He reasoned that through philosophical reflection we can learn truth and know right from wrong. According to him, reason, or the logos, brings us to truth. (2)

And it is into that world and its narrative that Paul sent Timothy out to “preach the message” of God’s eternal incarnate Logos that is Jesus. In Jesus the Christ, “God’s essence, his own wisdom and reason, became incarnate. Jesus is the display of truth, a living embodiment of the right way to live. Truth is not abstract, it is real, concrete, right there before your very eyes in this very world. Christians proclaimed moral absolutes in a morally decadent world. So the way the Christian narrative confronted Plato’s modern day thought was that according to Christianity, it is in Jesus’ life that we see what humanity was created to be. For God in Christ, who became one of us for our salvation, also became one of us to model what true humanity looks like. Jesus himself is the ethic and reason of the Christian. We are to follow him and to do what he did.” (2) Timothy was to be ready whether it is convenient or not, to reprove, to rebuke, to exhort with complete patience, and instruction. Because Paul knew the Roman world (after all he was a Roman citizen), he knew what the times were and will be – that “ people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.” Timothy however was to “be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work,” fulfill his ministry.

It is difficult to accept correction, or as I call it constructive criticism. It is difficult to have the light shine on us revealing the places in ourselves that need cleaning up. It is especially difficult if one thinks high of himself. That is why for many people lies are soothing and truth hurts. But no matter how much the truth hurts, we must be willing to listen to it and to allow it to mold and shape us thus freeing ourselves into the Spirit of God “we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord,” will be “transformed into the same image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

We must always remember about the false teachings. Many spiritual speakers, teachers, gurus, and writers talk about spirituality, enlightenment, evolution, the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. But in reality, often they do not want any of it. What they want is power and fame. Such people don’t care about “sound teaching” or the council of the Living God. Instead, they are “turned into fables.” You can see it everywhere – from modern day churches and spiritual centers to college campuses and popular media. People who claim to have divine revelations and enlightenment; and who tell you, narrow-minded bigots to throw away your prejudiced Bible. (No, I am not politically correct. I am Eastern European). Such people have few things in common. They do not tolerate the truth, or shall I be politically correct once and say the Truth of Jesus, even though their spiritual talks are all about tolerance, non-judgment and acceptance. They have no interest and respect for absolute truth or any standard for justice that differs from their own. They reject truth for sensationalism and popularism. They want truth only as long as it fits their situation and makes sense for them. What they feel, what works for them, what makes them claim their power, what seems fascinating – that is the truth they are interested in and no one dare to tell them otherwise (even though we live in a free speech society). They gather different viewpoints – ones that suit their personal desires, thinking and goals, from different religions (i.e. spiritual traditions). Although they profess objectivity, their only defense for their beliefs is not objective evidence but simply their personal opinion, anecdotal opinion from so called spiritual self-proclaimed teachers that is not based on the evidence but on what feels right in their heart. (3) Let’s not forget though that as Jesus has said “out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19)

Today is as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Many were, are and will claim to know God. But how do we know that their words are coming from God? For the follower of Christ, truly this is easy. Apostle John put it plainly that by this we know when one comes from God and knows God: it is the one who keeps his commandments. “The one who says, “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his Word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him [God]. The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:4-6) Looking at the lifestyle of a professed personal “life coaches” will quickly tell us what they value and who they walk like. The way we live says much about what and whom we believe.

Here in 2 Timothy and throughout his letters to the young generation of pastors and teachers, Paul continually emphasizes the significance of sound teaching. When a teaching is sound it combines correct knowledge and understanding with consistent practice. It is biblical, is fruitful, promotes spiritual health, and always keeps Jesus central. It is grounded in the truth of Scripture. Then and only then, people won’t be swayed by the powerful speaking skills and supposed miracles and oracles of false teachers, or tragic circumstances, stress or emotions. Those responsible for preaching and teaching must challenge people to understand what sound teaching is. (3) We must learn the Scriptures, live and breathe the Scriptures, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Daily. (Matthew 16:24) A preacher or a teacher especially must remember that his character is a most important element in his ministry, especially in the sense that “who ‘we are’ is more important than what we do.” Since the responsibility is to proclaim precisely the whole council of God, the cardinal virtue of preaching is courage to speak the message without fear or intimidation, and its cardinal vice is cowardice, thus failing to say what God has entrusted because of fear of others or risk of suffering (4).

In the face of opposition and persecution, Paul charged Timothy to carry out his ministry without fear or shame, and to boldly utilize the gifts of preaching and teaching that the Holy Spirit has anointed him with. We, who live in this age of political correctness, superficial niceties and who have become to resemble more an image of a soft invertebrate than the image of the Living God Almighty, the Lord Who Commands Armies, YHWH who speaks the Word that creates significance out of nothingness, should heed Paul’s advice as well. We must never ever forget than no matter how uncomfortable, shy or weak we feel, our ministry is never to come from a self-empowered “I am place” but Spirit-empowered “God is” place. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. So then, if you are going to boast about anything, boast most gladly about your weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in you and so God’s strength may be perfected in you (2 Corinthians 12:9). We must also get over the fear of people and that we might offend someone with what we say. We must speak the truth in love and take our eyes off people, and put them upon God. And as A. W. Tozer wrote in the Pursuit of God, “When we lift our eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of The Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is ‘Thou God seest me.’ When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.” (5)

It seems like that back then as today, it all comes to the fact that being a Christian is offensive to people. It comes down to the fact that the name and person of Jesus cause such a great offense on many. Isn’t it interesting? It is not the name of Buddha or Krishna or Muhammad but it is the name of Jesus, the only perfect one who has ever walked the earth, that offends people. Why is this? It is the same reason for which Rome persecuted Christians. Back than Christianity made claims that threatened the political empire. Today Christianity makes claims that threaten the spiritual, cultural and supposed “right of choice” empires. Historian Stephen Benko writes, “The Romans tolerated a remarkable degree of religious liberty, and they therefore found the Christians’ exclusive claims to truth disconcerting.” (6) Gerald Sittser writes in Water from a Deep Well, “… Christians viewed their faith as ultimately and exclusively true, which threatened the popular pluralism of the day… they were certain that God chose to come to earth as Jesus Christ to bring salvation to the world because all other attempts to reach God had failed. The Christian was convinced that he was in possession of the truth because Jesus Christ embodied the ultimate revelation about God [Benko]. In the end, the Christian belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord caused the greatest offense. Critics indicated that they were willing to accept Jesus as a way to God, just as they accepted most other ways to God, but only under the condition that Christians would abandon the belief that Jesus was The way to God. The Christian confession that Jesus is Lord simply flew in the face of Rome’s pluralism and tolerance. It also infuriated the intellectual elite, who understood Christianity well enough to recognize that it  would not fit comfortably, if at all, into Roman culture… the Christian exclusivity – the idea that Jesus is the only way to God- offends the pluralistic assumptions of the day just as it did two thousand years ago. Now, as then, the idea that there is one religious truth runs contrary to the spirit of the age. It is assumed that religious belief could be and often is valuable… but there is no way of knowing which religion is actually true. Christians challenge this cultural assumption when they claim that Jesus is Savior and Lord. Christians have been causing such offense for two thousand years.” (7)

The people of today are more influenced by Greek and Roman philosophy than they realize. To the Greeks (and platonists), this world was nicely divided into matter and Spirit. The first was evil or an illusion. The physical body was viewed more or less like a constraining space suit to be used in this life but the Spirit… the Spirit was good and real. This is in fact in total opposition to the beliefs of Jesus. As Kenneth Bailey writes in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, “The prophets of the Old Testament and the authors of the New Testament emphasized that the spirit can be either good or evil while material things can be a blessing or a curse. Nowhere is this truth clearer than in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” The biblical understanding of matter begins with the story of creation. God created matter and it was good not evil. Yes, matter provided the stimulus for disobedience… Matter, however (in this case, the forbidden fruit) was not at fault; the willfulness of Adam and Eve, who chose to disobey God’s command as it related to matter, was. Following that disobedience all of life began to fall apart. But the most important event affirming matter as good rather than evil was the coming of Jesus the Messiah (the Christ) in flesh who was born in a good old fashioned body as each one of us, and was born the good old fashioned natural way – the same way I gave birth to my child, and who was a baby and grew into adulthood.(8)

That is why Jesus and his disciples spoke so often about spiritual discernment. Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)”  In Colossians we read, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ,” (Colossians 2:8). Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church, “…for such men are false apostles…disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,” (2Corinthians 11:13-15). Jesus spoke to the religious leaders in piercing boldness, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44).  Let us be bold like Him.

I will conclude with the first words of these verses of 2 Timothy 4:1-5, God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead,… his appearing and his kingdom.” There is not much I want to say in conclusion about those words but more to cause people to remember Jesus’ own words: God “…the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son… He has granted the Son authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27) “I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the Father who sent me is truthful, and the things I have heard from him I speak to the world….When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he…” (John 8:26, 28) “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.” (John 9:39) “Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44) So, “be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth. But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

“The high priest questioned him, “Are you the Messiah (the Christ), the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)

We all will face God one day. Face to face. Truly, there aren’t that many roads to take. There is the road to Jesus and the road away from Jesus. There aren’t that many ways to be either; you are either with Jesus, or without. So we better stop spiritualizing this truth, and start being sober minded realizing that the time that has passed in your life is sufficient to make a choice, and that the time has come to make that choice, because tomorrow “here and now” may not come. And we all “…will face a reckoning before Jesus Christ who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. Now it was for this very purpose that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, so that though they were judged in the flesh by human standards they may live spiritually by God’s standards.”  (1 Peter 4:5 -8)

Jesus wasn’t in the business of making reputation for himself, or making bad people good. He is into the business of making dead people alive. Do you want to live?

not ashamed

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death—the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Look! He is returning with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him,
and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him.
This will certainly come to pass! Amen.
(Revelation 1:7)

Sources:

  1. KJV life application study bible, commentator’s notes on 2 Timothy4:1-5
  2. Who gets to Narrate the World. Webber, R.
  3. KJV life application study bible, New Testament commentator’s notes
  4.  The Equipping Ministry. Module 15. TUMI – LA.
  5. The Pursuit of God. A.W. Tozer
  6. Stephen Benko, historian, author
  7. Water From a Deep Well, Sittser, G.
  8. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Bailey, K

What happened to Jesus’ disciples?

Matthew was martyred by being slain with a sword in Ethiopia.

Mark was killed by being brutally dragged through the streets of Alexandria (Egypt).

Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.

John was put in a cauldron of boiling oil but escaped death in a miraculous manner. He was later exiled at the prison island of Patmos in Greece. This is where he wrote Revelations. He was later released, lived the rest of his years in modern day Turkey and died at an old age. He was the only apostle to die peacefully.

Peter was crucified in Rome in an inverted position (head downward).

James, son of Zebedee (John’s brother) was beheaded at Jerusalem.

James (the Less) was thrown from the temple’s pinnacle (over a hundred feet down) and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.

Bartholomew was flayed alive.

Andrew was bound to a cross where he preached to his persecutors until he died.

Thomas was killed with a spear in India as he was proclaiming the gospel.

Jude was shot to death with arrows.

Matthias, who was chosen by the Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, was first stoned and then beheaded.

Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.

Paul, after numerous tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by Emperor Nero.

Stephen was murdered at the feet of Saul, who authorized Stephen’s execution and who is the above mentioned apostle Paul. He was a most zealous Pharisees studied under Gamaliel and the most zealous persecutor of Christians… that is until his conversion when Jesus appeared to him and convicted him with one question, “Why are you persecuting me, Saul?”

This is the cost of discipleship for Jesus’ first and immediate disciples. Each of them sealed their calling to Christ Jesus and His Kingdom with their blood in exile, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Still so many keep bragging on that those names were doing nothing more than spreading lies. I wonder if today these bragging accusers would be willing to stand up for a “lie” the way the apostles did, or whether they’d be willing to die the apostles’ death in order to push forward a “lie.” No, you can only die and die in such a way when you know the Truth, have the divine conviction of the Truth, have seen the Truth and so you cannot count your own life as dear to yourself but must be ever willing to lay your very own life down for the Truth, which is Jesus.

As someone so beautifully has said it, “History reveals that not one of these men, who knew Jesus personally, ever denied their testimony about Him despite the threat and reality of imminent death. This proves to any fair-minded observer that these men possessed an absolute unshakable personal knowledge about the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Each of the apostles were called upon to pay the ultimate price to prove their faith in Jesus, affirming with their life’s blood that Jesus was the true Messiah, the Son of God, and the only hope of salvation for a sinful humanity.”

They did not account their lives of any value nor as precious to themselves, if only they may finish their course and the ministry that they have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God the Lord to the world.

It has been written, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:12-15)

I am reminded of His words, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

And the blood of all those people who died because they believe in the truth about Jesus is also on our hands when we question and disbelieve the authenticity of their Call and the one who Called them according to His purpose. To suggest that they and their accounts in Scripture were the conventional creation of a church councils and not authentic does more than make a mess of history; it dishonors the graves of martyrs, who staked their lives on the conviction that Jesus is God and that Scripture is the word of God.

And this is also the simple truth about how the New Testament books became canonical. The canon was one of the most natural things to happen. The books of the New Testament became canonical because no one could stop them from becoming so. No one could stop Jesus, not even death itself.

jesus-christ-ressurected-310

“The central message of the cross of Messiah is that God regards you as personally worth dying for, and indeed, that your life is worth the exchange of His own… You are treasured; you are loved. This is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3-5). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is there, in the secret place of the heart, that the sound of the “knock” is either heard or disregarded (Rev 3:20). May the Lord give us the willingness to heed what is of first importance, and to open the door of our hearts to receive His love.” – Rabbi John Parsonsnot ashamed