Tag Archives: Christ

Weeds in Church?

Satan, as the father of lies (John 8:44), has been deceiving the world since Adam and Eve occupied the Garden of Eden roughly 6,000 years ago. Those who learn from him to deceive others become children of the evil one as does anyone who becomes deceived and therefore follows attractive but unscriptural doctrine.

Deceivers take the form of spiritual weeds – tares – that come up alongside true believers in Jesus and often squeeze the life out of the body of Christ. They also come as false messiahs or false prophets. Many of these have been on earth since the time of Christ, but a special false Christ and false prophet will exist during the time of the end just before our Lord’s return and subsequent wrath of God (see my 2011 book titled “Finding the End of the World” for a comprehensive study of this important topic!).

How can we tell the tares apart from true followers? It seems that tares are made evident at the “fruit-bearing stage” when, at the same time, “the wheat sprouted and bore grain” (Matthew 13:26). This is verified by Jesus’ emphasis upon the good works that a true follower will produce in his/her life: “By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). Thus, tares, as false wheat, look like wheat (even sound like wheat) but the fruit of their character will identify their true spiritual nature and parentage.

Test what you hear or see in the Church against God’s standards to avoid deception. Continual study of the Scriptures, fellowship, and discipleship will help you learn those standards and strengthen your faith. Don’t let church weeds choke the spiritual life out of you!

Christian Nation? Really??

Amazingly, I still hear people refer to our country as a “Christian nation”.

To be known as a “Christian nation”, most of our citizens must be followers of Jesus. Note my use of the word follower. This implies action from faith, not just belief itself. Those who only believe join the ranks of the demons God created hell for (James 2:19 and Matthew 25:41).

So, are we a nation of followers of Jesus? No! Statistics show the majority of people in America believe in some higher power or a God. That makes us a nation of believers . . . in something. But, are we followers?

Jesus said that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands to treat our heavenly father appropriately and fellow man charitably, and tell others of the good news of Salvation and disciple them (Matthew 22:36-40, 25:31-46, and 28:19-20). This is action out of faith and outward-bound as opposed to the trend of inward-bound prosperity gospels, blessings for hire, emotion mistaken for the Spirit, and entertainment mistaken for worship prevalent in our western Christian culture. Following implies we look away from ourselves and act as God would act, condone what He condones, and hate what He hates. Is this the case in America?

Our nation promotes abortion, homosexuality, and excessive entitlements – all of which contradict God’s ways.  Leadership reflects the morality of those that those who elected them. So, let’s consider what they condone. Exit polls taken after the 2012 election (http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/results/race/president) showed this of voters supporting the winning party:

–          They are 62% of those who never attend religious services.

–          They are 67% of those who support legal abortion. There should be no doubt as to how God feels about murder – especially when don out of convenience.

–          They are 73% of those who support legalizing same-sex marriage, and 76% of that group admit to being homosexual. This behavior is in direct opposition to God’s intent and one of the specific behaviors He actually says He ‘hates’ through the use of the word abomination (Leviticus 18:22). It’s also one practice that will earn a one-way ticket to God’s judgment and hell (1Corinthians 6:9-10 and Revelation 21:8). Please note that there are other behaviors we can practice (i.e. murder, theft, other sexual immoralities, etc.) that will also earn God’s wrath.

We’re also painfully aware of the increase in taxes and national debt to support an alarming amount of entitlements. Although we could also discuss the moral and legal aspects of taking money from some people to hand to others, Scripture tells us that those who can but choose to not work shouldn’t eat (2Thessalonians 3:10).

So, because I doubt a nation could be identified by its minority, it’s safe to say we’re absolutely NOT a Christian nation. For the moral minority that actually follows our Christ: your rest is coming – persevere! Peace and blessings to you!  rb

Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

I’ve often heard said, “Words are cheap!”  Well, I’d go one step farther and say that words are absolutely worthless unless supported by actions related to those words.  Don’t believe me? Check what the apostle James had to say about this:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? —James 2:14-20.

Jesus taught us that true love is actionable – agape love. This is how we prove our ‘love’ for our Christ and it’s how God loves us:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” . . . Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” — John 14:15 & 23.

This is also how we’re supposed to care for and treat others of our faith despite how we feel (e.g. Matthew 22:35-40). In fact, we’ll be judged by our obedience:

  • The obedient: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ —Matthew 25:34-36.
  • The disobedient: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ —Matthew 25:34-36.

Are you a believer or a follower? Destined for hell or heaven? Glutton or servant? Leave the ranks of believers, which include demons according to Scripture, and become a follower and live!

The Wrath of Con . . .

Ask the average Christian in America about the ‘Great Tribulation’ and, if anything, they’ll probably tell you it’s “seven years of really bad stuff from the Antichrist and God after Christians have been raptured!

But, study what the prophets, the apostles, and our Christ said about this ‘time like never seen before or will ever be seen again’ (e.g. Joel 2:2, Matthew 24:21, etc.) and you’ll find a truer and much more sobering version of this terrible time to come. Here are some key facts about the coming Great Tribulation:

  • It will be no longer than 3.5 years and will occupy the last half of the last seven years of the overall timeframe Daniel spoke of for Israel to come to repentance and reconciliation with God (Daniel 9:24-27).
  • This will be the time of the Antichrist’s wrath against God’s people – Israel and those who hold to the testimony of our Christ (Daniel 7:19-25, Matthew 24:15-21, Revelation Chapters 11, 12:9-17, and 13, etc.). The Antichrist and his cohort will con God’s people if possible through lies and deceit (e.g. Revelation 13:12-14). How will this happen? Because of shallow or non-existent faith made possible through ignorance fueled by a lack of exposure to the Scripture, discipleship, etc. necessary for building faith.
  • The time of the Antichrist’s con and wrath will be cut short by the Christ’s appearing. His presence will earmark two important events identified as ‘harvests’ in Scripture: the gathering of Jesus’ followers (e.g. Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 14:12-16) and the beginning of God’s wrath against what and who remain on the earth afterward (e.g. Revelation 6:12-17 and 14:17-20).

So, the wrath of the one who will con will come in the form of the Great Tribulation. After nearly 3.5 years, the faithful will find relief as they’re taken to heaven for the ‘marriage supper’. God’s incredible wrath against the earth and her inhabitants will end the Antichrist’s wrath and great con.

Would you be able to resist being conned by those who say you don’t have to worry about any of this or by the Antichrist and his cohort in the last days? If not, waste no time in learning the truth that leads to salvation!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of this very important topic, 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!

How to Study the Bible . . . or NOT!

True faith – confidence – is based on our exposure to, and understanding of, God’s words and testimonies contained in the Bible. How we interpret it is vital to ensuring we “get it right.” Getting it wrong could have devastating consequences. Those who mislead others will be judged accordingly. Ignorance could lead to experiencing God’s wrath, disappointment, deception, a falling away from the Christian faith, etc.

Rule number one of Bible interpretation: do everything possible to determine the writer’s original intent. Rule number two of Bible interpretation: see rule number one. Figuring out what the text writer meant to say to the intended audience should be your primary focus.

The next goal of Scripture interpretation should be to find out how the message applies today (there’s only one meaning of the text, but possibly multiple applications). A good understanding of grammatical principles and attention to format and message context will help ensure your success.

Here are some tips for effective biblical study:

  • Be prepared to study through guidance by God’s Spirit (having a teachable spirit and a good attitude, etc.)
  • Take Scripture literally whenever possible and look for the simplest meaning first
  • Consider the author and audience
  • Consider historical/cultural background first
  • Compare translations for consensus
  • Consider apocalyptic symbols and look for explanation in Scripture (nearly all are explained somewhere in the Bible!)
  • Use study tools (like e-Sword) and aids whenever possible (i.e. concordance or dictionaries)

Work to understand what God, His son, the prophets, or the apostles intended to say to their audience – not what you’d like their words to mean to you. Remember: only one meaning, many potential applications.

Whore of Babylon

Nearly two chapters in the book of Revelation have been devoted to figurative Babylon, which will represent two things during Daniel’s 70th week: the “mother of whores” and the location of the Antichrist’s rule during his three-and-a-half-year reign – the Great Tribulation.

Old Testament prophets and Jesus had a lot to say about the “whore,” God’s original and unfaithful bride. They also gave us insight into Babylon as a city – headquarters of the Antichrist. You’ll learn that the harlot has been, and will be, Israel and the city Jerusalem.

  • God’s bride engaged in adulterous acts (e.g. idol worship, human sacrifice, sorcery, etc.) while under Babylonian rule. Many ancient prophecies were directly related to this.
  • The adulterous acts earned Israel the title of harlot.
  • Ancient prophecies regarding Israel’s harlotry were concerned with the near-term (problems and consequences of that day) and far-term (the adultery and consequences that will occur during the reign of the Antichrist).

Here are some key points to keep in mind as you explore this last-days entity and location:

  1. Contrary to theology presented in multimedia built on out-of-context scripture (like the Left Behind series), the end-times stage has always been (and will be!)  the Middle East and those nations surrounding Israel – not Europe or the US. This is well-supported by Old and New Testament prophecy and apocalyptic literature.
  2. Israel was (and will be) the unfaithful bride of God and the only nation to be labeled as a harlot by Him.
  3. The term Babylon is used in Revelation to represent Israel and the adulteries she has, and will, commit.
  4. Israel has been responsible for the deaths of the prophets and others throughout history. Her final act of adultery (the covenant with the Antichrist/beast kingdom) will cause the death of many saints, including those who believe in Christ and walk in His ways.
  5. God instructed His priests’ garments to be made of purple, scarlet, gold, and jewels. This is the adornment of the harlot.
  6. God will allow the Antichrist and his kingdom to make Israel “desolate and naked” during the three-and-a-half-year Great Tribulation period.

For more information and biblical references, please read my very comprehensive and unbiased study “Finding the End of the World” (available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and www.ronbraley.com).

Do you know that we, as Jesus’ followers, are to also be a faithful bride? In fact, we promise this whenever we drink from the communion cup of the new covenant with a pure heart.

Two Witnesses – Better Than One . . .

The savior of mankind, Jesus, foretold of two last-days witnesses who will proclaim the everlasting Gospel of reconciliation between God and man one last time before God’s incredible wrath against creation is poured out.

The two witnesses are identified as the two olive trees and two candlesticks that stand before God. You’ll find references to the two olive trees that stand before God in Revelation 11:4 and Zechariah 4:11-14:

Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?” And I answered the second time and said to him, “What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?” So he answered me, saying, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” —Zechariah 4:11-14.

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. —Revelation 11:4.

We can only guess at who these two end-times witnesses will be. Some believe they’ll be Enoch and Elijah because they were taken to heaven by God without suffering physical death. Others believe they’ll be Moses and Elijah because they were the ones who appeared on the mountain with Jesus and Peter (cf. Matthew 17:1-3) and because the miracles of the witnesses mirror those performed by Moses and Elijah.

What we do know is that the two witnesses will prophesy for three and a half years during the entire Great Tribulation sponsored by the Antichrist. They will have the supernatural ability to control the rain, turn water to blood, and smite the earth with plagues (this sounds a lot like what happened in Egypt during the exodus).

BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen

What do Christmas and the End of the World Have in Common?

It’s hard to imagine a connection between Christmas and the end of our world as we know it, but a relationship exists. Strip away all the festivities, lights, and mountains of credit card slips and the association may become clearer.

 Birth. Death. Resurrection. Forgiveness. Judgment. These are the clues important to understanding how Christmas is linked to the last of our days on earth. Let’s examine each of these keywords as we paint a picture of the “Yuletide Apocalypse”.

The original intent of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ. Jesus, the enabler of salvation, had to come to earth, take human form, and then physically die as a sacrifice for humanity. (His birth and life were foretold hundreds of years beforehand by prophets such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Micah, and Daniel.)  If Jesus hadn’t been born, we’d have no hope of salvation or anticipation of His return to rescue followers of Jesus the Christ (Messiah or Savior) from God’s judgment. We shouldn’t be surprised that early Christians wanted to celebrate the event.

After a brief life of about 30 years, Jesus had to die in order to be resurrected, which in turn provided hope for His return and our salvation. (This too was prophesied between the 8th and 6th centuries BC.) Suffering and death led to a promised resurrection that freed Jesus’ spirit from His earthly body and allowed his return to heaven. There’d be no salvation without His birth, life, death, or resurrection.

Now, because of the Christ’s birth and subsequent sacrifice, we can be forgiven when we behave contrary to God’s ways if we truly turn from rebellion and follow Jesus. We’re also compelled to forgive others who treat us inappropriately (again, based on God’s standards). However, those of us who don’t forgive others won’t receive forgiveness from God. No forgiveness, no salvation.

So, without Jesus’ birth, life, subsequent death, resurrection, and God’s forgiveness, we’d have no choice but to experience end-days judgment and potential punishment. The birth we celebrate at Christmas paved the way for forgiveness for everyone and the freedom to choose spiritual life and a stay from end-times judgment. So, celebrate the birth that gives life this season, and forgive to be forgiven!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Crisp air, crowded malls, and credit cards a-flying can mean only one thing: the holiday season is upon us! In fact, Christmas is a mere 4 weeks away. My, how time has flown since the last bout of bustling buyers scrambled for trinkets and travel arrangements! Yep – it’s definitely time again to ponder the ‘reason for the season’ and, indeed, the season itself.

Read the Q&A titled, “Holy Days: Christmas” from my book Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss (available in 2014) and you’ll learn some little-discussed facts about Christmas. For instance, Jesus’ birth took place in a warmer time of year when the animals were grazing. As a result, they weren’t near a manger kept in the lower part of a typical Jewish home where the animals would’ve been housed during the colder months. And the actual number of wise men is anybody’s guess. Read the Gospel accounts closely and you’ll also notice that Jesus would’ve been about 2 years old and not a newborn baby when the wise men finally arrived with their gifts. Simultaneous with that ah-ha moment may be the sudden realization that the gifts were necessary to see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus through a 2-year exile in Egypt.

If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How, then, did Christmas come into being and assume current traditions?” Most likely, a well-meaning fourth-century Church established the holiday to acknowledge Jesus’ birthday but coincide with pagan recognition of the winter solstice on December 25th. Why? Perhaps it was to attract those pagans to the Christian faith. Look around and you’ll see we do the same even today through churchgoer actions, speech, and approaches to entertainment and worship. But, we can go down that rabbit hole another time.

You may be getting the idea that I’m not a proponent of Christmas. The truth is that I think the holiday is fine when recognized for what it is: a time of feasting, family, and indebtedness with little actual regard for our Christ. Let’s change that – even if for only a fleeting moment – by imagining together what a Christ-centered Christmas could look like.

I see clothes and food for the less-fortunate, without indebtedness, delivered by children and their parents. After all, this is how our Christ said we’ll be judged in the last days. And we’d sing songs about redemption, forgiveness, and expectation of amazing things to come – not about Frosty, Santa, chestnuts, or elves.  We’d share stories about Jesus from the Gospels and imagine what His life was like. There’d be feasting and drinking (in moderation, of course).  Our Christ gave the greatest gift of all to us: the choice of eternal life. We’d celebrate it as the gift that ‘keeps on giving’, adoring the gift-giver all the while.

But, Christmas reality along with its gaiety and materialism are upon us. Are those your real reasons for the season? If so, dare to be different and give the Christ this Christmas.