The Reproach

This blog is all about sharing…sharing knowledge of the scriptures gained through personal experiences, observations and opinions, or as the Lord reveals insight about living in this last hour. This is a long message, contemplated on for a few days, simple, but I hope the reader will glean from it as the Lord desires.

Safe in America

First of all, as Americans we live in a very secure nation. Nevertheless, when our foundation is shaken we are easily disturbed by fear of the unknown. For many, at this point is when they turn to God. Still, through the socialization process, we gain a sense of assurance, that for the most part we are safe in our communities and safe from foreign invaders. However, having this assurance does not prevent some of us from experiencing fear and panic when law enforcement helicopters start hovering over our streets searching for a gunman that just shot down an 18 year-old man. Regardless, we remain secure in the knowledge that we live in a society where our defenses are impenetrable.

I live in San Antonio, so I am only about two and a half hours from the Mexican border. Regardless of living so close to Mexico the fear of an enemy invasion via Mexico, or enemy fire from the across the border never seems to cross anyone’s mind. Apparently, we don’t need fences to feel secure. It’s ingrained into our DNA. We tend to have this arrogance that no one would dare invade the USA, even after Sept. 11. Nevertheless, I am confident that most people would agree that we are living in dangerous times either globally, locally, or both, believer, and unbeliever alike. This need for security, to feel secure, no one can deny, but it comes at a high price. As the saying goes, “Freedom has never been free.” 

We have basic Rights in America

Second, living in this country affords us certain constitutional rights, basic rights. We are secure in our freedom to worship and our freedom of speech. It allows me and others so inclined, to share spiritual knowledge. This is not the case in many countries around the world where people are killed and tortured for their sharing their beliefs. Recall, that before the internet, before blogging, mainstream media had 100% control of the news we ingested. Whatever the mainstream media printed, or aired we took it as gospel truth. Also recall, when blogging first began, journalists and other such professional writers were highly critical of just anyone writing. Information technology revolutionized our means of communication, but it did more to help liberate the newspaper reader, and the six o’clock news viewer. Mainstream media still controls much of the news, people still sit and watch the news, a few people still read the newspaper, but today we have choices. As Americans there are certain issues we fight for and defend…one is our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion.

Perceptions, Stereotypes & Paranoia in America

Third, we live in a world where perceptions, stereotypes and paranoia can greatly influence our attitudes and behaviors towards others. Forty years ago there was an observable distinction, at least according to my mom, between the morally upright and the not so morally upright. I was raised to believe that a woman of questionable moral character dressed a certain way and her mannerisms were crude at best. Five cent women, she called them. These women were identified solely by their manner of dress. Certainly that was the message that Hollywood brought into our lives. I can recall how old television shows stereotyped the girl next door and the girl from the other side of the tracks, for example Carla (no morals) and Diane (nothing but morals) from Cheers, two very distinct women. The saloon girls on old westerns (The Big Valley) were made to stand out by their lusty, tawdry dress, but were quickly overshadowed with women like Audra, elegant and proper, in appearance and dress. The movie Pretty in Pink staring Molly Ringwald finally gave us a real look at the girl from the other side of the tracks. She want not at all what we expected. Yes, she had a few family and economic issues, but she had moral values even if her dress was still looked down upon.  At least that was my perception. Truly, television and movies are filled with the stereotypes that once ruled human interactions and some that still do.

My mom said very little about men, but she did say that a man who will not work is lazy. Do not get involved with drunkards, they are no good. And a man who cheats on his wife will cheat on you too. Also, that a well-dressed man was guapo (handsome). For the most part, many people still hold to these stereotypes.

Nevertheless, using stereotypes to discern the character of a person has left us a bit paranoid. There are so many stereotypes that we rely on to protect ourselves in times of adversity, or in unfamiliar territory.  In spite of our assurance of safety we live in a nation shrouded in fear of anything we don’t understand, and of somethings we understand fully.  It got me to thinking as to whether we as believers can truly grasp and accept the notion of strangers as “entertaining angels.” We drill our children on “stranger danger.” We carry a variety of self-defense items on our person, be they weapons, sprays, or alarms and such. We love our pets, but some of those pets are also for protection. Not to say that any of these safety measures are not necessary, but the idea of “safety first” takes priority in most cases. It’s interesting to find that in many personal crimes, most are committed by somebody we know.

Today, fashion has left little to the imagination, and dress is more about fashion trends, taste and expression. While we cannot use dress as a reliable factor (stereotype) for determining one’s level of morality, it does not stop people from judging each other based on dress. Let’s face it though, when it comes to morality the idea of what you wear still carries more weight than not, still dress can be deceiving. As Americans we have a strong desire to express ourselves without being judged, not only in fashion, but in all things.

Morality in America

Forth, if we’ve learned anything in the last forty years it’s that no one wants to be force-fed morality. If you think about it… much of today’s social issues center on the issue of morality and a value system, or lack thereof. As parents, we committed to protecting our children from the evils of an immoral society, but this did not prevent grown children from embracing it; if not by participation by tolerance. Albeit, the idea of an immoral society can have a different meaning for everyone, especially across cultures. In this country, however, we do expect everyone to abide by a set of standard behaviors. In marriage, for instance, adultery has always been looked upon as immoral. Purity, honesty, integrity are morals that were often associated with good decent people. Today, personal happiness takes priority. Whatever makes you happy is today’s mantra. And it may, or may not include living by any moral standard.

At the forefront these days is the idea of one’s religious rights infringing on someone else’s right to pursue happiness, yet another freedom. We go on the defense when someone challenges our individual beliefs. We forget that as citizens of this country we have a right to believe or not believe in God, or gods, as may be the case. Everyone believes they are correct in their belief, or non-belief. Christians are seen a nutty haters, and dangerous for believing in an unseen God. And non-believers are seen as lost sheep that need salvation, yet a threat to our right to worship and our right to live by conviction. The scriptures give us plenty of insight into who these non-believers are and how we should interact with them. The rest is covered in Mat. 24.

These days, however, even people who call themselves Christians are facing off. The scriptures tell us to test every spirit (1 John 4: 1-3), but there are Christians that take up an offense for their favorite evangelist, prophet, etc.. These Christians transform into defenders of men, rather than soldiers in Christ ready to contend for the faith. Everyone wants to hear about, or experience the love of God, but no one wants to share in the suffering of Christ. No one wants to pick up his/her cross and follow Him. No one wants to suffer persecution. Everyone desires answered prayer. Everyone wants to be God’s right hand man. Everyone wants the blessings of the loving God, without having to do the will of the Father. Our desire is always for the good things of God (Job 2:10).

Who’s the Enemy?

Fifth, in the physical sense, the foreigner, the stranger is not our only foe. We can be our own worst enemy. Unless one happens to be born again, and read the scriptures “one” may not be familiar with Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV).

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

It is often said that blood is thicker than water. Of course it refers to family ties and that they should, or do matter most. I am of the opinion, that these days it truly depends on the family and the emotional bonds that develop over time, or a very rigid cultural more. If the bond develops in a positive way then family will come first. If there is not bond then the family ties carry little to no weight. When marriage comes along it breaks the bonds between parent and child and builds new bonds between husband and wife, and the parental bond carries less weight.

However, the blood that binds family is not the same blood that binds the children of God, which binds the body of Christ. The blood that binds the children of God is the blood of Jesus. The blood that binds God’s chosen may not necessarily run through our family members, or through the people sitting next to us on Sunday morning, thus we remain in conflict, within the church walls, and within family.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NKJV)  

We are living in the days of the apostate church. We are told in  2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3 “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition;”

We pray and hope that our children, our families, will believe and trust the Lord who is faithful to save our household.

Acts 16:30-31 (NKJV) “And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And we rest on that promise. Let’s face it though… Jesus came to save, but He brought along his sword.

Jesus came to Separate.

Sixth, Jesus came to earth to save mankind from eternal damnation. Jesus came to save, but as I’ve mentioned He also came to divide.

Matthew 10:34 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

Jesus came to separate. I have heard this preached as a literal act of hate, but like so many, I believe it has to do with having no one (in your heart/mind) before God. And if we’re honest, as humans we have a tendency to put people on pedestals. Sometimes we don’t even realize it. We idolize the rock star, the movie star, the teen heart-throb, etc., but we also tend to put our partners and children on pedestals.

“For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:35-38 (NKJV)

He did say the whole household would be saved. However, He also said that He who does the will of my father, is my brother, sister and mother.

Matthew 12:46-50 (NKJV) “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

I wondered why Jesus did not mention father. Then I remember what he said in John.

John 8:44-45 (NKJV) “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.”

Luke 19:10 (NKJV) “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Well, we all start out lost. When we are found, we thank Him and praise Him for saving us.

The question I have is… who is the body of Christ? Also, when our religious freedoms are being threatened on every side and the enemy is banging on the door, trying to break it down to drag out the inhabitants to defile them, as in the days of Sodom of Gomorrah…what should be our response?

We’ve read that before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah God’s angels came down to save Lot and his family. The angels were prepared to wait it out in the square, but Lot spotted them out as men of God. After pleading with them that it was not safe to stay in the square Lot took them into his home. The entire township came to Lot’s house to see and have their way with the two men, which they did not know were God’s angels. Lot offers up his two virgin daughters, but the crowd is not appeased. They demand the two men. The crowd gets angry and the two men pull Lot inside. The angels warn Lot that he and his family have to leave the city, because God will destroy it, but He is saving Lot and his family. In the early hours, the angels hurry Lot along, but he piddles around, so the angels grab the mother, the two daughters and Lot and drag them out of the city. The angels tell Lot to go hide in the mountains, but Lot requests to go to the next city where he can at least start over in some comfort. They agree. Lot’s wife, however, finds it hard to leave. The one thing they told the family not to do was, “don’t look back” or they would be turned to salt. Well, Lot’s wife, her heart being harden, was not ready to forsake all she was leaving behind, so she was destroyed,

The enemy bangs on the door of every man’s heart to steal it, kill it and destroy it. He wants what he can’t have, yet some of us willingly hand over our heart. God is pulling His people out, one way, or another… even if He has to drag them out. He is going to gather His people from all the corners of the world. His children, the children that are bound by the blood of Jesus will come together as the bride of Christ…perfect and prepared for His return. 

Who are the children of God?

The bible does talk specifically about children. The scriptures tell us that the children of Eli sinned greatly. Eli was well aware. He had heard all the stories of his children’s behavior. He warned them, but his warnings fell on deaf ears. God destroyed his children.

Samuel, however, found favor with God. His mother had been barren for many years, and she prayed that the Lord would bless her and He did. God used Samuel mightily.

Job was found faithful, yet the Lord allowed him to be tested. Although, God spared Lot’s life, He did not spare the life of his children. Job, like any parent would be, was distraught. His testing lasted for a while, but God blessed him afterwards.

The most well-known child after Jesus, is the prodigal son. His father was not even dead, and his son had the audacity to ask for his inheritance. The son takes his inheritance and loses it all living a life of debauchery. The more loyal son remained. Adversity, however, had humbled the prodigal son. After he lost his inheritance He submitted himself to return home and ask for his father’s forgiveness. You can imagine his surprise to see his father waiting for him with open arms. Of course, this angered the loyal son. He remained faithful, yet their father accepted the rebellious son back into the fold.

So who are the children of God? (not a duplicate)

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

Fake Fruit

Like fake fruit made of paper mache, glass, wood, ceramic and plastic, or any other medium all fake fruit looks almost real. Some people have picked it, biting into it believing it to be real only to be disappointed and hurt by their mistake. The people who use fake fruit for decoration never tell their visitors that it is fake fruit. Most people just assume their visitors will recognize it as fake fruit. We should be able to tell the difference between real fruit and fake fruit.

Yes, Christians can create and produce fake fruit and pass it off as real. More often, they are the ones that create hurt and pain for others caught in sin.

Romans 2 (NKJV)

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”

We’ve created these perceptions that being content in all things, is about having the material blessings to keep us content. Being content in want is a quite different story. Our entire identity is wrapped up in status, accomplishment, accumulation of wealth, anything short of it is failure. We have been trained to conform and we expect it from all unequivocally.

We have a mess of Christians spewing their positive thinking propaganda and many of them are filled with fake fruit. They will defend their preachers, pastors, evangelists and apostles, but not the Word of God. They will prepare for a tongue lashing, bible thumping war, without the love of God, without the grace and mercy of the living God, without the leading of the Holy Spirit. They will confront anyone who disagrees with their beliefs, believer and non-believer alike. They will attack anyone that dares speak against their spiritual leaders. And their spiritual leaders cower back. It was Jesus that spoke against making God’s temple a den of thieves, not His followers.

They walk among the dead believing they are alive as in the movie The Others. Many of us mistake the dead for the living. And we live in fear of the living because we don’t recognize them. We don’t speak the same language. We don’t want to see the truth, that we are the dead ones. So, we walk among the dead believing ourselves to be alive, when we are really dead.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

What I gained from this message

God is serious. Some people may require elaborate language to grasp the gospel, but the message of the cross is simple.

Prepare the heart. Pray for the children and grandchildren. Take nothing for granted. Their eternal life depends on it. Read the scriptures in more than one translation. You may notice a difference in interpretation. Read the scriptures to learn about God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Rely on no man to teach you. Just like we read food labels at the grocery store, so we should test the spirits before we ingest their dogma. As I said, we have to be able to recognize fake fruit, so we should also learn to recognize false teaching. As believers, we can be deceived if we cannot discern truth. Like the fake fruit, watch out for the smooth talker. They may be attractive, appealing and sound spiritual, but they are hollow inside. Again, test the spirits. Walking with Christ is a willingness to sacrifice and surrender to the glory of God, not man.

The enemy is ever before us leading by confusion, chaos and fear. The more ties we have to the world, the more difficult the enemy is to identify. If God is tugging at your spirit man, do not ignore Him. God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7). James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

This lesson is simple, but I am reminded of a young man who was killed behind my house. He, his parents and his friends apparently knew the Lord. On the wall beside the place where his spirit exited, his friends wrote all sorts of messages, some were scriptures. These two caught my eye. ” Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” and Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” …things to consider for those that remain behind.

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