Tag Archives: faith

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part III: Love

Last week, we considered hope – confidence in our future with God. This week’s look at the love of faith, hope, and love, comes from an article I wrote several months ago titled, “How do I love Thee?” In particular, we’ll look at the unconditional, charitable action that must come as a result of our Christian faith.

Unconditional Love. This love doesn’t come and go with an emotional wind. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason despite feelings. Greek noun agape is this love that God has for all creation. Verb agapao is love action. God is love (agape); God loved and loves as we should (agapao).

For instance, God hasn’t always been happy with humanity but still loves so much that He gave His Son for all people and takes His time before bringing judgment.

We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34-35).

So, how should we love?

… ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).

According to Jesus and the apostles, we are to be kind and charitable to others besides honoring the Father with all we are and have. So, we will behave in specific ways if we remain with Christ and have the Spirit of God working within us. We will be patient, kind, charitable, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). Being self-controlled is essential to bringing the Kingdom of God to those who don’t know Christ (yet). We must not react angrily or speak hatefully – especially in this day of social media when and where we’re on public display! One hateful word, especially attacking character over behaviors, can make God’s Kingdom unattainable for so many people!

Remember that God has loved us first. In response, we must love people and give Him complete devotion. Do the right thing and watch what we say and write, understanding that we must remain patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled despite how we feel. Finally, our love from faith must move us to care for others.

Next week, we’ll have a ‘whale’ of a time with Jonah!

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part I: Faith

Faith is something to which we belong or have. I am of the Christian faith, and I have faith. Many of us will say that we have faith, but what is it? How do we get it, and how does it relate to our relationship to God and people?

First, faith is belief – confidence. The apostle Paul tells us that it is why we hold on tight to the unseen things of our Christianity, whether of spirit or fulfilled prophecies (Hebrews 10:39 & 11:1).

Second, it is not meant to be blind faith! The Bible repeatedly teaches that we must learn wisdom and knowledge that lead to a healthy fear of God and salvation (2Timothy 3:13-17). Why? So that we can stand firm in persecution and confusion and walk in God’s ways and not be deceived, something that Paul warns will happen in the last days (1Timothy 4:1). Be forewarned: deceit can come from within our churches too, but we can stand firm by knowing the truth of God (Colossians 2:6-8).

Where does our non-blind faith come from? It comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), prayer, the Holy Spirit (for illumination), meditation (Psalm 1:1-2), discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16), testimonies, and applying what we learn or experience.

Finally, faith MUST lead to action! All knowledge is useless to God and others if it doesn’t move us to act. That action is the agape, unconditional love, that feeds, houses, clothes, teaches, doesn’t react in anger, listens and encourages, and is kind. Here’s what Jesus’ brother James says about faith-born action:

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 2:17-20.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.James 1:22-25.

Next week, we’ll continue our faith, hope, and love journey by exploring how our confidence (faith) in what God has done and is doing assures us that He will do all that He has promised.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Why Bad Things Happen, Part II: Why??

Last week, we began examining “Why do bad things happen to me or any good person?” and learned that humanity separated from God, which introduced death and pain. We walked away from perfection and must deal with the consequences. This week, we’ll dig deeper into why bad things happen.

First, everyone is subject to fortune and misfortune, blessings, and catastrophe. Some wicked people will prosper – often because of deceit and injustice. Others will suffer from natural disasters or others’ bad choices despite their love for God and people.

Second, we experience the actions of others. Anyone can choose to harm us or who live carelessly.  But we know this – otherwise, there would be no need for end-of-the-world judgment and consequences. People will drive drunk and take lives. Some will steal and cause poverty and hunger. Others will, out of their anger or addictions, cause harm.

Third, we suffer from our actions at times (e.g., Matthew 26:52). Our lifestyles introduce risk. People who drive or ride in vehicles run the risk of being maimed or killed in accidents. Those who jump out of airplanes may die. Sportspeople may be killed or seriously injured, and so might those of us who participate in the national or local defense.

Also, our technology creates many risks! Cancer increases may be related to chemicals and carcinogens with which we pollute the air, water, and food. Genetic engineering may increase crop and livestock bounty but introduces the risk of human mutation and illnesses. God didn’t force us to employ electricity, vehicles, or chemical or genetic engineering, and yet we blame Him when we reap the consequences associated with our lifestyles and environments!

Finally, faithful followers of Jesus may suffer trouble out of faith (Luke 14:27-30):

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Next week, we’ll continue this train by considering how we can restrict, or enable, the presence of God in our lives. So, join me for Part III!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

The “A-B-C’s” of Sin and Righteousness

What is righteousness? What is sin? What do the two have to do with each other?

~ Sin Defined ~

Make no mistake – there’ll be a reckoning at the end of this current age, or era. (Please refer to my book Finding the End of the World for details regarding the end of our world as we know it!) It’ll come as judgment and consequence both to those who were and are obedient to God’s instructions and those who’ve been disobedient. This disobedience, rebellion, or sin must be dealt with one way or another – either through a true change of heart that leads to a change of behavior (repentance) and resulting forgiveness, or by judgment and sentencing.

Many things are often loosely defined as sin because they contradict manmade doctrine even if there’s no apparent rebellion against God’s ways. Some core behaviors should be called sin but aren’t. Understanding what sin really is and how it often manifests itself will be crucial to avoiding it and keeping our eyes on the prize of eternal life with God and His Christ. Here are the primary forms of sin as identified by the Strong’s Concordance for the Old and New Testaments (‘H’ = Hebrew Old Testament; ‘G’ = Greek New Testament):

Hebrew or Greek Word for Sin Primary Meaning Strong’s #
khat-aw-aw’ offense Η2401
khaw-taw’ to miss Η2398
hamartia offense G266
hamartanō missing the mark G264

For the most part, sin is defined as an offense or ‘missing the mark’. But missing what mark? Offending whom? In this author’s opinion, sin is missing the standard (mark) set by God and is therefore offensive to Him. Wherever there’s sinful behavior, there’ll be something contrary to God’s ways or commandments. Let’s look at these standards and commandments in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of what we’re to strive for.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” (cf. John 14:15 & 23). This implies that not keeping His commandments will reflect a lack of love, or rebellious behavior – sin. What were these commandments? That we love God appropriately and man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). He tells us that the Law [of Moses] and teachings of the prophets are summed up in those two statements. This makes sense since nearly everything we can think of to do is related to our treatment of God and man. Here’s an interesting and related tidbit: the first five of the Ten Commandments relate to our treatment of, and obedience to, God; the last five dictate some basic guidelines for how we should treat our fellow man. Everything we do – or want to do – should be measured against those two categories. Want to know whether a particular action (whether intended or carried out) is a sin? Just consider how it will affect God or fellow human beings. Is it really that cut and dry?

Scripture clearly teaches that there’s a distinction between an isolated rebellion against God (sinful action that we need to repent of and be forgiven for) and practicing sinful behavior. While the former can be resolved along the journey toward righteousness, the latter will bring clear separation from God and invoke judgment! Practicing sinful behavior, which certainly implies a lack of repentance, will, as I’ve said several times, result in God’s wrath at the end-of-the-age judgment to come (see 1Corininthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21, for instance).

We know that sin is rebellion against God and His ways. Sin without repentance and the practice of sin will lead to separation from God and ultimate judgment. But how do we gain an understanding of God’s ways – the standards by which we should compare all we think and do? We can only come to know the mind of God and His instructions through two ways: (1) Communication with Him through the Spirit that resides in us once we’ve truly believed in the Christ and His incredible gift of salvation; (2) knowledge of God’s instructions and ways through exposure to the messages and testimonies found in the Bible.

 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” —John 14:26.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. —Romans 10:17.

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.

~ Righteousness Defined ~

“ . . . for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.

By Strong’s definition, righteousness is ‘equity of character or action; by implication innocent and holy – just and right; right – justice and its execution’ (see the Strong’s definitions and related verses below).

Essentially, we’re righteous if we’re living right and are just in our actions. This is the opposite of sinful behavior. Sin and righteousness are incompatible – we can’t be both at the same time!

Want to be righteous? Learn God’s ways (again, see 2Timothy 3:14-17 and others that tell us to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures of the Torah – Old Testament – and letters and Gospel accounts of the New Testament to accomplish this).

The righteous will be rewarded; the sinful will be punished. Sheep or goat – which will you be in the last days?

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 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!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XII “Nothing can separate us From Jesus!”

Misquote: Nothing can separate us From Jesus!” This misunderstanding hinges on taking Romans 8:35-39 out of context and paves the way for dangerous doctrines. Here’s the abused reference:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:35-39.

Actually, WE can separate ourselves from the love of God (which is action – not emotion!) through disobedience and our own lack of faith-born action.

To understand and apply Paul’s intended message, we must answer these questions:

  1. “Who was Paul speaking to and in what context?”
  2. “What is the ‘love of God’?
  3. “Who are ‘we’ who can’t be separated from God’s love?”

Let’s tackle the question regarding Paul’s audience and the context of his letter to the Church in Rome first. Paul was speaking to both Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) believers, and the overarching theme of his letter was the gift of salvation and eternal life to those who choose to follow, being led by the Spirit. This theme included a reminder that nothing can keep the righteous from God’s mercy and protection. Here’s a breakdown of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter.

Chapter One: The righteous live by faith; all others will experience God’s judgment (v.17-18).

Chapter Two: More about the judgment of the righteous, who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will attain eternal life (v.7) and the unrighteous who practice evil and will suffer God’s wrath.

Chapter Three: All – both Jews and Gentiles – have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Righteousness isn’t attained through works of the Law (note: this is a reference to the Law of Moses and NOT ammunition to claim that belief needs not result in action!).

Chapter Four: More about righteousness through faith (not works under the Law).

Chapter Five: The gift of redemption through our Christ. Also included is a reminder about what the faithful may need to endure and the growth that comes as a result: “. . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; . . . through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (v.3-5).

Chapter Six: God’s grace offers no leeway to continue in sinful behavior. We are to be obedient and not sinful (see “live by faith” in Chapter One; “doing good” in Chapter Two; perseverance in Chapter Five, etc.). “. . .  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed . . .” (v.16-17).

Chapter Seven: Comparing and contrasting the law of God and the law of sin.

Chapter Eight: No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By the way: the way ‘in’ is used implies that there’s no distinction between us and our Christ with regard to our behavior . . . “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (v.9)  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (v.14)

Next, we need to define the ‘love of God’ the righteous can’t be separated from. This is the action-based agape love made manifest by God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. It has nothing to do with emotion and is the same kind of ‘love’ we’re told by Jesus to have for him and our God through obedience (John 13:34-35 and 14:15-31, James 2:14-26, and many others). This is the ‘fruit’ resulting from the Spirit at work in the lives of the righteous. No obedience to God and Christ’s commandments, no Spirit. No Spirit, no fruit . . .

Finally, although it should be clear now, let’s look at ‘who’ can’t be kept from God’s saving grace. As we saw in several chapters climaxing with Chapter Eight, they are the righteous – those who are led by the Spirit, live by faith, do good, persevere, and are obedient to our God and Christ. They don’t practice sin and aren’t those who only believe and yet don’t act.

In summary, these early chapters of the letter to the Romans establish a baseline of righteousness and unrighteousness and introduce the choice that can bring life. Those who choose to accept God’s gift of redemption through an ongoing covenant by being will be rescued from God’s judgment to come, and nothing can change that. Conversely, the unrighteous disobedient (including those ‘believe’ but are inactive) will experience God’s wrath. Be righteous and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, 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!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part II

“1,000-year-long God Days” & “Robbing God”

Let’s continue our Apocalyptic Misquotes with a look at abuses that give birth to erroneous end-of-the-world timing, extortion, and prosperity gospels (see Part I for a more complete introduction).

Misquote #1: “One of God’s Days Equals 1,000 of our years” Nearly every manmade last-days doctrine has been created and perpetuated by being selective in identifying supporting Scripture, spiritualizing or ignoring contradictory passages, or taking verses out of context to prop up an agenda. At least one major example takes 2peter 3:8-10 out of its context to support a belief that one of God’s days equals a thousand of our years.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. —2Peter 3:8-10.

Why is this done? To help validate several bad doctrines:

  1. Creation was done in six days, which really equaled 6,000 years.”
  2. Each of our millennia equaled one day of creation. So, since the earth is 6,000 years old, we’re at the end of the creation period and it’s now time for Jesus to come back for the last day: the millennium kingdom! That means he’ll come back at any time!
  3. Often coupled with the example in #2 is a position that Jesus can come back at any moment (imminent return). This is supported in part by abuse of 2Peter 3:10, “Jesus will come back like a thief!” However, the “Day of the Lord” is always a reference to the coming wrath of God, not the return of our Christ for His bride.

Here are two things to carefully consider when attempting to understand Peter’s real intent behind what we read in 3:8-10:

  1. The word ‘like’ is used here. This indicates simile and not a literal one-for-one meaning. For instance, I might say, “Being married to my wife Joanne is like heaven on earth!” Of course, I’m not telling you that my marriage is heaven itself. . .
  2. Equally important as considering the use of ‘like’ is the context Peter is using. He’s referring to God’s patience with us in relation to His coming end-of-the-world judgment. In other words, ‘God’s timing is His timing . . .’ Judgment of the wicked is coming, but God is taking His time to give mankind a chance for reconciliation before then.

Misquote #2: “”You’re robbing God if you don’t pay your tithes to the church” This extortion of Saints and perpetuation of deadly prosperity gospels has gone on in the Church for roughly 1,800 years and has been made possible in great part by an abuse of Scriptures such as Malachi 3:8-10.

Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” —Malachi 3:8-10.

I’m intrigued by the fact that while nearly every Christian religious leader will tell you that we’re no longer under the Law, they’ll imply that you’re under at least one: tithing. But, my desire is to stay objective and teach. So, let’s take a look at several problems with this abuse of Malachi 3:8-10.

First, in context, God is admonishing the nation of Israel for not keeping the covenant with Him through the bringing of tithes to the temple. This was critical not only to the worship of God, but it was vital to the survival of the priests and their families. In fact, this tithe was their inheritance whereas the other tribes received parcels of land within the borders of Israel as their inheritance. Here’s a very brief breakdown of Malachi’s message from God:

  • Chapter One: God admonishes the priests for their unfaithfulness in keeping the Law (as related to sacrifice) and resulting lack of respect.
  • Chapter Two: God continues by claiming the priests have turned from the righteous ways of Levi. They mistreat their wives and engage in divorce, which God hates.
  • Chapter Three: The kingdom of God and of Christ; judgment; verses 8-10 deal with the nation as a whole robbing God by not brining in the inheritance of the priests, used to sustain themselves and their families.

Second, our covenant with God through the Christ doesn’t rely on any rule or subdivision of the Law of Moses. Read Acts 15:29-20 and 21:25, and you’ll find that new, non-Jewish converts to the faith had only these specific requirements: stay sexually pure and be careful of the source of their meat.

Third, there is absolutely no New Testament mandate to tithe. What you will find with regard to the giving of our resources:

  1. We are to give without mandate or limit to care for the brothers and sisters in Christ. We see an example of this with the collection taken up by Paul to send to Jerusalem during a time of great trouble and famine.
  2. There was no example in the first century of today’s church model that requires vast resources for salaries, building projects, utilities, etc.
  3. Besides the benevolence we saw in #1 above) we see only one other use of funds in the first century church: benevolence to care for those who spent their time traveling to spread the Gospel and couldn’t work. Interestingly, Paul did this and yet worked when he could and took no money from those he ministered to . . .

Note: I’ve been asked, “Won’t God still bless my tithes anyway?” Well, who knows . . . Again, there’s no requirement for us to tithe and, just as with the Pharisees who weren’t to neglect the weightier matters of love and mercy for sake of legalism (Matthew 23:23), we’re still supposed to obey the commandments to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ who can’t work including those who spend all their time spreading the good news of salvation to the lost.  So, help fund churches and their programs if you’d like.  However, be sure to still be obedient out of faith through benevolence.

For more information regarding the timing of the return of our Christ, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Also, keep an eye out for my upcoming blog on Tithing and for the book I hope to publish later this year titled, “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss”.

Next week, we’ll look at bad doctrine related to the timing of Jesus’ return and the apparent need for God to have an audience to show up as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture.