Tag Archives: hell

Weed Patrol – Christian Style!

A lot is expected of pastors. I taught and shepherded but also patched sheetrock and fixed toilets. And I embarked on regular weed patrol from March to November. Why? Because the parking lot was full of cracks that offered freedom to the little critters that resembled green welcome things but weren’t. They would overtake the parking area if I didn’t identify and kill them.

On the other hand, my wife patrols for weeds in our yard. Not so easy! It’s all green, albeit different shades of the stuff. Separating weeds from flowers and grass takes skill and determination. I can tell the difference between green and asphalt, but Joanne can segregate harmful green from good green and irradicate the unwanted (thankfully!). What does effective weed patrol have to do with Christianity? Plenty!

Anyone who practices rebellion against God’s ways invites destruction. You might think that person is easy to spot, but a weed can’t spot a weed, and there are plenty in the Church! Here’s what Jesus said about the subject: . . . “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. . . . So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30, ESV).

The weeds are there and destructive. Let me give you an example. Decades ago, a weed named James invaded our church. He said the right things and impressed church leadership but ruined marriages, stole money, and poisoned people. Thankfully, faithful Christ-followers recognized the bad from the good, asked questions, and tested James and his motives. The challenges brought out incredible weediness. He was busted and ousted . . . but not before leaving a path of destruction and pain.

So, true God-fearing Christ-followers must exist with the sinful (even inside the church) until the end of time. But they’re always on weed patrol. They’re in tune with God by the Spirit and know His ways—so much so that they know when something doesn’t belong. They’re so focused on bearing His image and pleasing Him that the weeds become obvious. Be that wary person! Learn your weeds! Learn your wheat—the good stuff of God. Learn to tell the two apart.

In summary, recognize a weed to keep from becoming one. We all know what happens to weeds! In the following article, we’ll go ‘further into the weeds’ as we discuss what to do with churchy weeds.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley, MDiv, DMin.

No Affirmation or Couch Potatoes!

Many Christians live at one spiritual extreme or another that could rob God of the partners He seeks. One supposes that Christians don’t have to do anything but admit Jesus is their Savior and that they are sinners. This dangerous position where most Western Evangelical Christians live produces spiritual “couch potatoes” and flies in the face of Father and Son’s commandments to honor, grow, love, and obey. How did THAT happen? Well, it’s been coming for many decades through gross misapplications of foundational principles such as salvation by grace, a lack of discipleship, bad teaching, and plain self-centeredness. Father and Son know who they are and what They’ve done—They don’t need our affirmation but DO want our partnership!

God seeks partners for reconciling His creation in this age and rulership in the next:

  • “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, . . . Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2Corinthians 5:18-20)
  • “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS” (Revelation 2:26; see also Revelation 3:21 and 1Corinthians 6:2-3).

The partnership role requires training and transformation through discipleship, which should be each Christian’s highest priority as a disciple and disciple-maker. All else flows from it, from worship to spiritual growth. But statistically, fewer than 20% of churchgoers regularly engage in discipleship or related activities like small groups, Bible study, fellowship, prayer, and accountability (https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/). Additionally, only 14% of today’s Christians appear to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found consistent with those of Jesus (https://www.barna.com/research/christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees). The statistics suggest that little discipleship is taking place, and imitation of the One we claim as Savior is even rarer. No spiritually-lazy people are allowed in God’s Kingdom, though!

  • “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away . . . If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:2-16)
  • “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 25:41-43)

In summary, God doesn’t need our affirmation, nor will He tolerate Christian laziness! In my next article, we’ll have fun going on weed patrol, Christian-style!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley, MDiv, DMin.

The Future: Jesus in the Feast of Atonement

The fall feasts of God celebrate and look forward to rescue and rest. They occur in September or October, depending on the near-total darkness of the sun and moon over Israel and begin with the Feast of Trumpets, which marks the new year and is called the ‘in-gathering.’ In the future, it will announce the rescue of God’s people before His judgment, which will fulfill the Feast of Atonement.

Atonement happens ten days after Trumpets. The time between the two is called the ‘ten days of awe’ used for repentance. On the annual Day of Atonement, the priest entered the innermost part of the Temple to atone for Israel’s sins (temporarily cover the debt to God, so to speak, with the blood of animal sacrifices). Significantly, the Jews believed that God’s final judgment would happen on the Day of Atonement in the future. It makes sense considering that all the other intentional feast days by God were, or will be, fulfilled.

Indeed, Jesus told His disciples in about 26AD and showed the apostle John in a vision in roughly 90AD about this judgment following the future ingathering and subsequent resurrection of all humans:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32)

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:11-12)

So, how did or does Jesus fulfill this feast? By willingly dying on a horrible instrument of Roman torture and death 2,000 years ago. It’s important to understand that atonement means ‘reparation’ or to make right. In a sense, it’s to repay a debt or settle the books. Jesus began this atoning work by being the one perfect sacrifice to satisfy humanity’s debt to the Creator, who will complete it through His judgment preceding the new age. More on that next week when we dive into the final God-ordained feast and the one we genuinely look forward to, Tabernacles.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Future, Jesus in the Feast of Trumpets

Rescue. Rest. God has, does, and will save people who are His and renew them. The spring feast of Passover celebrates God’s power to do just that, beginning with rescuing His people from Egypt nearly 3,500 years ago. Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, also in the springtime, remind us to be set apart for God’s purpose: partnership with Him in returning creation to the perfection it once enjoyed before we messed everything up. If we do this, we too will find rescue and rest at the end of this world to which the fall feasts of God look forward.

There are three God-ordained fall feasts: Feast of Trumpets (often called Rosh Hashanah because it heads up the new year), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). And just like “Passover” comprises Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, “Tabernacles” comprises Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

The fall feasts beginning with Trumpets happen within 28 days in September or October, depending on the lunar calendar. Trumpets begins on the first of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, and is the only holiday on the first day of the month at the new moon. This time of near-total darkness will be significant to Christ’s future fulfillment of the fall feasts upon His return.

Anyway, this time called the “in-gathering” celebrates the harvest of the earth and is a shadow (forerunner) of the harvest of humans at the end of this age—some for destruction (by their choices) and some for eternal life with God. Again, the three fall feasts together celebrate rescue and rest in the past and to come. The feast and future fulfillment begin with a blasting of the trumpets.

“Ron, why trumpets??” Trumpets in the Old Covenant represented God’s voice and power in warfare (e.g., Numbers 10). Blowing them was a warning that something extraordinary was about to take place. In the beginning, it was the ingathering of God’s people at Sinai to be in His presence (Exodus 19). It will announce the gathering of God’s people at the end of this age (e.g., Matthew 24:31; 1Thessalonians 4:16).

For more information about Christ’s return and God’s coming rescue and rest, please consider studying Finding the End of The World—the result of decades of research, writing, and teaching on the subject. Next week, we’ll continue our fall festival discussion with Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

White Robes & Green Thumbs

What do white robes and green thumbs have to do with each other? Lots! In our Christian faith, you must have both to grow and persevere until the rescue (salvation) that will come when Christ returns (1Peter 1:3-5). Allow me to explain.

White robes imply a setting apart (holiness) from worldly things for the things of God. And the things for which we’re to be set apart are purity and good works and spiritual growth and maturity.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” —Ephesians 2:10.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that belief without productive faith will buy ‘fire insurance!’ Jesus said that would result in destruction (John 15:2-6). James confirmed that knowledge without action is dead (James 2:14-26). But righteousness (abiding by God’s standard) and holiness will earn a white robe and rescue at the end of this world and an eternity with God:

“After these things, I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands … And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” —Revelation 7:9-14.

White robes are good. But where does the ‘green thumb’ fit in? Well, living by God’s standard and doing good works out of faith don’t come naturally. They happen because of a change of heart (mind) and spiritual maturity. We must decide to receive the wisdom of God and learn how to grow it and put it to work. Jesus explained this in a parable about spiritual soil (Matthew 13:1-9 (parable) and 18-23 (explanation)).

Briefly, the parable showcases four kinds of people as an analogy of sowing and soil. The first is on no ground, the person who doesn’t understand the things of God and rejects them. The second is rocky soil: receiving wisdom but being unproductive. The third is thorny ground, representing the worrisome and greedy, intentionally and selfishly unfruitful. The fourth is good soil: the person who receives the good news of God’s Kingdom and matures accordingly. The green thumb in good soil earns a white robe.

Do you have a ‘white robe?’ Well, it depends on your soil and willingness to receive truth and grow in it. What kind of soil are you? Let me know if you need some fertilizer! I realized too late that I was to address healthy conflict resolution and dealing with anger last week. So, let’s go there next week.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Fig Trees & The End of the World

“Ron, what do fig trees have to do with the end of the world and God’s judgment?” Lots! In the Bible’s New Testament, we find multiple end-of-the-world and fig events.

First, in Peter’s account that bears the name of his scribe, Mark, we find an interesting parable about Jesus cursing a fig tree on the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:12-14). Jesus picks out one tree of probably thousands to make a point about the nation of Israel. Although the figs weren’t ready to be picked (verse 13), there should’ve been fruit because there were leaves. The tree was like the Pharisees who gave an outward impression of [spiritual] fruit where none existed. Jesus, in an active parable, cursed the tree to demonstrate judgment that would come soon through Rome and at the end of this world. Think of this as a near-far prophecy revealed by Jesus with the fruitless fig tree. Are there other instances? Yep!

Second, Jesus explained days later to His disciples that any unproductive—unfruitful—person, including self-proclaimed Christians, would be destroyed in the last-days judgment:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned (John 15:6). Also, read Matthew 25:31-46.

Or … If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10).

So, the one who bears spiritual fruit by obeying God’s commandments will not suffer the same fate (destruction) as the cursed fig tree. Alright—one more end-of-the-world figgie thingie!

Finally, Jesus used the blossoming of the fig tree at springtime in a when you see this, you will see that comparison to explain that the generation of people to see the signs He had just prophesied in verses 14-27 will also see His return:

Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Mark 13:28-30).

I understand that some Christians believe that “this generation” in verse 30 refers to the disciples’ generation. However, “this generation” will be the one to see the end-of-the-world signs, which haven’t occurred. By the way: this fig tree instance is a Jewish idiom (figure of speech) just like Matthew 24:28 (dead bodies and vultures).

In summary, we who desire to abide with God must bear fruit or suffer destruction by our own choice. What’s next? Let’s have some fun with being thankful in all circumstances in A Gratitude Attitude for Latitude!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Cheap Grace

Now, I’m a Protestant Christian by default, but we live in a Protestant ‘get saved quick’ culture whereby someone may be told to say a silent and unbiblical ‘sinner’s prayer’ to avoid hell and go to heaven. There’s often an invitation to invite Jesus ‘in’ instead of an outward devotion of all we are and have to the King (e.g., Matthew 22:37; Romans 10:9-10). Few understand the cost of a relationship with God, so that’s where things usually stall. For about 85% of people who ‘get saved,’ there’s no discipleship, disciple-making, or charitable activity. This grace is one-sided and cheap, and it devalues our ransom paid by Christ. The Bible tells of costly grace, though—something about which Dietrich Bonhoeffer addressed in his book, The Cost of Discipleship:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. . . . Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.

What about the ‘get saved’ history? It was never a thing until after the formal Protestant Reformation. From the beginning of Christian history until then, converts were either part of the universal Church or not. They responded appropriately to God’s call through Christ and lived transformed lives within their communities until they died, or they didn’t. The idea of an instant and permanent one-sided passive salvation wasn’t, and still isn’t, a thing in many Christian circles, including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths. “So, Ron—then how do I become part of Christ’s universal Church?” Good question!

There’s nothing ‘quick’ about entering God’s rest now and rescuing from His wrath at the end of this world. The lifelong process appears to be: (1) become equipped for decision-making through things such as Scriptures and evangelism (e.g., John 20:30-31), (2) decide to respond to God’s call through devotion, love, and discipleship (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 10:9-10), and (3) remain in the relationship (John chapter 15). In other words, understand well, choose well, and then stay and grow spiritually, no matter the cost.

What’s next? Well, I’m an end-of-the-world guy (Finding the End of the World, 2011) and recently ate some fig bars on a mini vacation. So, I’m motivated to write about Fig Trees & The End of The World. See you next week!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Godly Obedience

It’s July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut. Reformation preacher Jonathan Edwards turns the hearts of hundreds of listeners as he explains that their disobedience to God’s commandments [to honor Him and love people] has put them in a precarious position:

Your  Wickedness  makes  you  as  it  were  heavy  as  Lead, and to tend downwards with great Weight and Pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend & plunge into the bottomless Gulf, and your healthy Constitution, and your own Care and Prudence, and best Contrivance, and all your Righteousness, would have no more Influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a Spider’s Web would have to stop a falling Rock.

Don’t worry—this week’s article isn’t fire-and-brimstone teaching; however, there’s certainly great value in simple instruction about the consequences of obedience or disobedience to God’s commandments. But what are the commandments? Do we really need to do them?

Jesus reiterated two overarching commands from the Torah (the first few books of the Old Testament): Honor God with all we are and have, and love people (cf., Matthew 22:34-40). He stated that everything taught about God’s ways can be wrapped up in those two commands. He went on to say that:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

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. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24)

Seems simple—right? Not really. If it were, we wouldn’t continually mess up, treat people horribly, and speed down that highway to hell so-to-speak. Here are a few abbreviated tips I pulled from the Bible that may help you obey, stay in the relationship with Father and Son, and inherit the Kingdom of God:

  • they love is pointless and deadly (James 2:14-26). So, help others; feed the hungry; be slow to speak and quick to listen; be slow to respond as you give reconciliation a chance (Matthew 5:39).

What about next week? Well, I think I’ll tell you about the short guy (not me!) who stands tall in the Kingdom of God: Wacky Zaccy!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

People lie with incredible ease these days. Empty, unkept promises fill the air, and it’s common to speak what we believe people want to hear. Flattery brings a smile or manipulates but leaves the victim empty and the liar or flatterer headed for destruction. Let me give you a couple of personal examples.

Years ago, a pastor would say, “Ron, I love you!” during each visit. The words, empty as I soon discovered, made me feel good at first. However, he regularly didn’t honor his word in our relationship. Outright lying and not fulfilling promises had become his way. I recently had a negative experience with a local business and was promised a call by one manager who didn’t keep his word. A second manager also made empty, unmet promises. The situation was finally addressed, but distrust had set in. Perhaps many of you have had similar experiences of flattery, empty promises, lies, broken contracts, or deceit in relationships. Maybe it’s a phone call that never came or an email that never materialized. I’m sorry if so! It wasn’t always this prevalent and certainly isn’t what God intends!

“A man’s word is his bond” was a common phrase once upon a time. And a handshake was as good as a contract because people kept their word. The understanding was that if a person could not be trusted, they would be of little value as a community member. God-fearers and Christ-followers understood that God valued honesty and word-keeping and that anything else would bring deadly consequences.

Telling the truth has always been important to God. At the beginning of time, He spoke, and stuff happened. The heavens and earth appeared, as did all creatures on land and sea and in the air. God spoke through the prophets and what He said through them came true. God promised to provide a way back to Him. Once again, He kept His word. God is fair and just; He does what He says He will do. Honoring His promise to send a savior is one reason why God is love – the kind of love He desires from us (1John 4:17-21). He has no use for liars and deceivers in this world, His Kingdom, or the coming age:

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. —Revelation 21:7-8.

So, keep your promises, do what you say you’ll do. Don’t lie or deceive others but be trustworthy as God is trustworthy. In that, we can love as God loves and join Him in this age and the next.

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Ron Braley, Northview Christian Church

Gifts of the Spirit

Gifts given by the Spirit include the languages of men (for preaching and teaching those of other nations) and angels along with interpretation, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, and the discerning of spirits (Acts 2:4 – 13; 1Corinthians 12:7-11). Read the rest of 1Corinthians Chapter 12, and you’ll learn that these gifts are for the benefit of God’s community, the Church (note the capital ‘C’ used to denote the universal assembly of followers, not local collectives/churches).

We find a reiteration of some of these gifts and their use to unify and train the Church in Ephesians 4:1-6. One important note: The Spirit gifts us according to the Father’s purposes, not ours. We may be enabled to use one or more gifts any given time, but appointing ourselves as apostles, healers, or miracle workers, etc. as if we are assigned permanent gifts may be prideful and could restrict God from working through us dynamically. God will do what He will do through the Spirit to suit His good pleasure (will). Next, we’ll discuss the discernable effects of our walking by the Spirit and what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit.

Blessings,

Ron Braley

http://www.findingdiscipleship.org

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