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Soul Food, Anyone?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” resonates with those of us who understand the value of caring for what we value from home and car maintenance to finances. Care of the ‘soul’ should get no less attention and upkeep; spiritual formation points us in the right direction and can help us remain healthy in body, soul, and mind.

Because I understand the soul represents what the spirit doesn’t (e.g. body, mind, intent, etc.,) spiritual formation (soul-care) makes perfect sense to me as the ounce of prevention needed to be faithful, obedient, and healthy. The lack of attention to relative formation elements introduces the risk of stress, anxiety, poor physical and mental/emotional health, and limited or non-existent faith – all of which can become roadblocks to spiritual effectiveness!

Here are a few standard disciplines related to spiritual formation and the reduction of the risks I just mentioned:

  • Bible Study & Prayer. The Bible makes clear that our faith (belief/confidence) is formed largely through exposure to the Scriptures (e.g. Romans 10:17; 2Timothy 3:16-17). The learning provides boundaries and guidance, builds our ability to follow, and reduces the chances of deception (cf. Colossians 2:7-8). Most Christians (more than 98%, statistically) don’t read the Bible regularly. And, although prayer is our communication with God through the Spirit, we don’t do that regularly or effectively either. Setting aside at least one period each day (ideally at the same time) for prayer and Bible study will allow us to ‘renew our minds’, avoid deceptions (g., equip to train others, and petition or thank our God.
  • Physical Exercise. Physical exercise reduces stress and illness. And, the better we feel, the more efficient we’ll likely be in our walk as Jesus’ followers. A regiment of at least 30 minutes or so several times a week in some cardio and physical exercise would be an excellent start.
  • Mental Exercise. The brain needs stimulus too. Engaging in educational pursuits, intelligent conversations or debates, reading, etc. will help keep you mentally healthy and productive in your work, play, and witness.
  • Financial Stewardship. Financial problems provide much stress and distraction from important and healthy pursuits. Stress over financial trouble strains relationships and physical health alike. God calls us to be good financial stewards as shown by the Bible throughout the Old and New Testaments (e.g. Psalms 37:21; Proverbs 22:7 & 26; Matthew 25:27; Luke 20:20-25; Romans 13:8). Following biblical advice will aid greatly in keeping us healthy and financially stable.
  • Relationship Maintenance. Finally, we’re social creatures and must maintain our relationships to reduce stress and loneliness. Relationships are also critical to our ability to evangelize and disciple others. Therefore, we should make time to maintain our connections to family and friends.

In conclusion, my challenge to all followers of our Christ is that we continually engage in spiritual formation – ‘soul care’ – to ensure we’re active participants in our covenant with God.

Blessings,

rb

Come Back!!

The Creator Called: He wants His stuff back! Return. Partner. Live!

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ —1Thessalonians 5:9.

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation —Hebrews 5:9.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. —1John 2:17.

Communion – Food for Thought

The sacrament/ordinance of Communion invites different thoughts and even an air of mystery depending on your religious background. Regardless, we typically understand it to be either a Spirit-enabled grace or remembrance related to Jesus’ sacrifice; whether grace or memory will, again, depend on religious affiliation. However, the sacrifice is but one of two major points of consideration. Remembering only the sacrifice, we seemingly gloss over the other – the covenant Jesus’ sacrifice enabled. That marriage-like covenant will be the focus of my blog.

God and our Christ have always communicated with us in terms and contexts humans understand and to which we can relate. For instance, Jesus used fishing terminology when teaching fishermen and farming concepts when instructing farmers. Likewise, God used or established human practices to guide performance and dress rehearsals for things to hope for in the future.

An excellent example of God’s use of an existing practice to guide contemporary behavior was the covenant He formed with Abraham with its cutting, shedding of blood, and the promise of servitude. It constituted the basis for the renewed covenant through Moses and the dress rehearsals of the Passover feast (e.g. 1Corinthians 5:7) and a marriage-like relationship with Israel. Both rehearsals would eventually be fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice and resulting marriage-like covenant. But what do covenant, sacrifice, and marriage have to do with Communion?

Jesus and Paul made clear that the Church is the Bride of Christ (see the fulfillment steps below) just as Israel was the Bride of God (e.g. Exodus 19:5-6; Isaiah 54:5-8). And why not? Marriage is a covenant, and there’s no other human relationship meant to be as close. Therefore, the Jewish marriage served as a good ‘dress rehearsal’ for the relationship of God with the world through the Christ.

Understanding the process Jesus and His disciples were familiar with will help in the interpretation of Jesus, Paul, and John’s comments related to the bride, a cup of the covenant, separation and preparation of a home, the return of Christ, and the wedding supper. Here are major steps of the Jewish betrothal/marriage process we fulfill with Jesus until His return:

Ancient Jewish Betrothal & Our Fulfillment

  1. Father of the groom selects a potential bride: 2Corinthians 11:2
  2. Covenant sealed by bride and groom drinking from the cup of covenant: Matthew 26:27-29
  3. Separation (John Chapter 14; Matthew 9:14-15) & building of a home: John 14:2-3
  4. Father determined the day/hour of the marriage gathering: Mark 13:26-32

Ancient Jewish Wedding & Our Fulfillment

  1. Wedding announcement by shouts and trumpet: Matthew 24:30-31; 1Thessalonians 4:16-17
  2. Wedding feast and the drinking of the last cup: Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:7-9
  3. The wife goes to her new home: Revelation 21:1-2 & 9-10

 

In closing, my challenge is that we as His Bride not only remember Jesus’ sacrifice during the sharing of wine and bread but also the marriage-like covenant His shed blood and broken body made possible.

 

Blessings,

Rb

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-20167 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Dunkin’ Do-Nots

I found the Sacrament (or Ordinance) of Baptism fascinating, and it reminds me of so many questions and internal friction spawned by this simple and yet critical Christian function! Dip or dunk? Necessary for salvation? Public or private? Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Baptism was prescribed from the beginning and had a presence in ancient Israel and pagan rituals, but what purpose does it serve for contemporary Christianity? Humanmade doctrine varies, and you’ll find it an act that imparts grace on the newly-born and old alike for the sacramental-minded. And there, a sprinkle is likely to be just as effective as a complete dunking as long as an individual ordained in the particular sect or denomination performs the rite. On the other hand, you’d be more likely to find baptism an ordinance of immersion and more of a symbolic act of burial and resurrection than an impartation of Godly grace if you’re of a Protestant persuasion. Which is correct, and does the function impact the salvation of those being doused or dunked?

What the Bible makes clear: Baptism in our New Testament context is meant to represent the forgiveness of sin and symbolize rebirth in Christ. It provided accountability, at least in the beginning, through the public profession of faith – often in the face of possible martyrdom. But that the ritual is necessary for salvation is unlikely; that idea may be part of a misunderstanding of salvation and a focus on praxis as opposed to the heart.

First of all, and contrary to our contemporary desire, the Bible teaches us that salvation – a rescuing by definition – will be a stay from God’s future wrath (e.g. 1Peter 1:3-5). Second, Jesus had a lot to say about our heart (intent) and the idea of choosing and following. And, Paul seems to corroborate the concept of persevering in our covenant with God. Finally, the Bible and this week’s lectures confirm that our confession of choice is synonymous with a ‘dying to self,’ and dying is indeed necessary before burial and resurrection baptism symbolizes. So, while it may not be directly related to salvation itself, baptism is meant to be a visible sign (not unlike circumcision in God’s covenant with Israel) that someone has ‘counted the cost’ and chosen to covenant with God. In other words, the ‘washing’ implies an educated commitment.

A common practice in the early church (still done in some Christian circles today) was to spend perhaps many months training a new ‘believer’ before baptism to ensure they understood what they were about to do. Contrast the practice with our Western tendency to get someone to say a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and seek baptism with little or no knowledge of the God with whom they’re supposed to covenant!

So, dunk, dip, or sprinkle as long as the recipient ends up as more than just wet!

Blessings,

Rb

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-20167publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Adopt a Bible!

Disappointingly, our plea for Bibles for Africa recently yielded no results despite the knowledge that most Africans have no Bible (including most Christian teachers and leaders!).

How can the people learn about God or become disciples effectively with no guide?

How can we who are wealthy by comparison and have an abundance of Bibles and Christian literature be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to ‘tell’ and ‘make disciples’ without doing our part to rectify this incredible disparity?

So, I thought I’d take a different approach by asking everyone to ‘adopt a Bible’. A donation of only $10 will buy one Swahili Bible. Obviously, Africa needs more than one Bible but if everyone buys at least one, we win in our obedience and Africa wins by being able to learn and teach their Faith.

Will you adopt a Bible for Africa by donating here? http://findingrevelation.com/FindingDiscipleship/Africa%20Bibles.htm

Blessings!

Ron Braley, findingdiscipleship.org & ronbraley.com

 

New Beginnings

We think about a New Year in human terms and for new human beginnings. But, there is an ultimate and true start that brings new beginnings for Jesus’ followers – and will bring an end to all else (Revelation 22:11-13).

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. —Revelation 22:11-13.
Examples of human New Year celebrations:
• American/European: January 1st
• Chinese (Also known as the Spring Festival): 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar
• Jewish: Religious – Pesach (Passover): The 1st Jewish month; Agricultural – Rosh Hashanah: 7th month on the Jewish calendar

Human New Year resolutions: We usually make them to bring hope of a new human beginning (perhaps that the next year will be better than the last). We also make them as ‘do overs’ – we want to change what we don’t like.

But, let’s look at a new human and spiritual beginning in Jesus. Why would we care? To move toward God and life, and away from judgment and spiritual wrath. Here’s how:
• Believe and Repent (our focus) (Mark 1:15)
• Be baptized as an outward, physical manifestation of new faith (Mark 16:16)
• Grow in faith, live right, and tell others the good news (i.e. Matthew 19-20)

Interestingly, both human and spiritual new beginnings require repentance.
• Defined: A change in heart that results in a change in behavior
• Enables forgiveness, and salvation (Luke 24:47 and Acts 11:15-18)
• It’s what God desires of everyone (2Peter 3:9-10) and often disciplines us for (Revelation 3:19)
• A beginning that leads to good habits and better health (relationship, emotional, physical, and spiritual)
• We don’t practice sin once we repent (Galatians 5:20-23, John 8:3-12, and 1John 3:2-10
• Not repenting will lead to judgment and wrath (Romans 2:5-10)

Repent, experience a new beginning, and don’t look back! The results will be spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally rewarding.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from http://www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

God – the Nature of the Creator

In our emotion-based Christian culture, we often picture our God as a kindly old man who emotionally loves us no matter who we are and what we’ve done. We’re told to imagine ourselves crawling into His lap and cuddling as we talk to Him. This is a dangerous and misleading picture!

Our God wants to be reconciled with the mankind He created and who walked away from Him 6,000 years ago. But make no mistake: we are to fear our God as we answer the call to a two-way relationship born of obedience out of faith, “I will be yours if you will be mine!

Let’s look at that ‘fear’ after glancing at some of the characteristics or nature of your God who is a jealous, just, merciful provider and protector of those who are His.

God is jealous: He wants to be our only God

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.—Nahum 1:2-3.

 

God is just: He will keep His promises despite any ‘feelings

The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. —Deuteronomy 32:4.

 

God is merciful: The promises He keeps as a just God bring life

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. —Luke 6:36.

The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. —Psalm 145:8.

God is protector and provider and forgiver of the righteous

“But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’” —Jeremiah 7:23.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1John 1:9.

God is judge of all

Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. —Acts 17:29-31.

Another destructive misconception in today’s Christian culture is that God is ‘not of fear’. However, that claim comes from a lack of understanding and by taking a biblical text out of context. It’s true that we have no need to fear a man when we have the Spirit; however, we are to fear God and with good reason.

  • Fear of God and Christ (i.e. Luke 7:16, Acts 13:16, Romans 13:7, 2Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:12, 1Peter 1:17). This healthy fear is represented by the Greek word phobos (Strong’s G5401); it indicates alarm, fright, or terror.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. —2Corinthians 7:1.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling —Philippians 2:12.

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth —1Peter 1:17.

  • This next ‘fear’, phobeō (Strong’s G5399), comes from the one we just covered, and it basically means to ‘be in awe of’ or revere. Examples of its use can be found in Luke 12:4-5, Romans 11:20-21, Acts 5:10-11, and 1Peter 2:17.

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!—Luke 12:4-5.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. —1Peter 2:17.

Your just God is willing to protect, provide, and forgive when we respond to His call through faith and action. Believe. Repent. Love through charity and obedience. Fear in a healthy fear the nature of your God Jehovah and live!

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2016 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

God – the Christ

No one’s perfect and everyone will sin – miss the ‘mark’. Because of this and God’s desire to dwell with us, Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. All we have to do is believe that, act appropriately out of our faith, and repent of sinful behavior for God to save you from His future wrath.

You’ll find several references in the Bible to Jesus: Messiah, the Christ, His Christ, our Christ, and Jesus. Why so many names and titles? It’s important first to understand that His name isn’t Jesus Christ.  It isn’t as though someone named Jesus was born to Mr. and Mrs. Christ.

The name of Jesus is just a loose translation of the Greek word Iēsous for Jehoshua, Jesus’ proper Hebrew name. The word Christ is a title, not a proper name, which comes from the Greek word Christos – anointed one, or Messiah.  So, Jesus Christ is a loose translation of Yehoshua the Messiah. Interestingly, the Bible also refers to Jesus as God’s Christ (His Christ):

And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” —Luke 23:35.

I think the reference to Jehoshua as God’s Christ is appropriately used to label the Son of God sent as the Christos – Messiah – to save mankind through His sacrifice and resurrection. God asked Him to do this; Jesus was obedient to live and die among men so God could raise Him on the third day to fulfill a promise and serve as a sign for all who would believe and follow.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”; just as He says also in another passage, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.” In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation —Hebrews 5:5-9.

Yehoshua’s reward for His obedience? A seat at the right hand of God the Father of Spirits, a right earned by redeeming and reconciling mankind to the one true God, which is certainly His one overarching will.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. —Acts 5:30-31.

Son of God. Redeemer. Savior. These are all good ways to refer to the one who has offered everlasting life. Believe and follow!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and rescue from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

God – the Heavenly Hierarchy

The word ‘God’ is used in two basic ways in the Bible.

On one hand, it’s the corporate name given to the Father, Son, and Spirit who have worked together in the creation, care, and judgment of mankind. This is Hebrew el-o-heem – our God in plurality from the beginning (i.e. Genesis 1:1-2 & John 1:1-14).

Different beings labeled as ‘God’:
Father: the father of spirits (Hebrews 12:9), the father who gives us the Spirit (Luke 11:13), and the father who forgives (Matthew 6:14-15). The name of our Heavenly Father of Spirits: Jehovah. We, beginning with the Jews, are instructed to call Him by this name.

Son: came to earth and took human form (spirit in body like us) to become the sacrifice for all. He has earned the right to rescue us from judgment. He sits in the kingdom of heaven at the right side of God the father (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Spirit: described as the ‘breath of god’, He is currently on earth to guide and instruct those who follow the Christ (John 16:13).

But, they’re corporately the same just like company employees or a husband and wife may be of one mind. Jesus pointed this out when claiming that He and His father were one and the same (John 14:11).

On the other hand, God has been used as a title for our heavenly father, who is also labeled as the father of spirits. This makes sense considering His creation of the spirit in mankind.

Unfortunately, manmade doctrine has distorted our understanding of God – His character and name, and hierarchy alike. Jehovah, our creator, will one day judge all spirits for how they used the body while on earth whether for evil or good works. We’d better figure out who He is and what He wants . . . and in a hurry!

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from http://www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!