Those Who Can Be Bribed

Matthew 28:12 And after the chief priests had met with the elders and formed a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money 13 and instructed them: “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report reaches the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the guards took the money and did as they were instructed. And this account has been circulated among the Jews to this very day.

      The agenda that the chief priests had was made clear when they bribed the soldiers into saying that the body of Jesus had been taken away by the Lord’s disciples. Stop The Resurrection might have been their goal, but not attainable since the Resurrection was already in full process by the time the bribery scheme was being put forth. We can deduce that bribery was standard practice among the chief priests as they were so fast to offer bribes to pay the soldiers and they had done it with Judas Iscariot days earlier. The priests understood that anyone could be bought if the currency was right for the moment in life.

      It is said, that we all have our price and can be bribed or bought at a certain point for something that we think is valuable beyond our grasp. In many cases, people sell out for very little value or worth. A thief sells his soul for the few things stolen in a break-in. An addict of any kind will compromise their will and belief for the next hit of whatever it is that they are slaves to. Surprisingly, we can be bought and bribed for very little. Even if we think we are above such temptations, we need to be vigilant in asking God for the strength to make honest choices. Rom. 12:3b Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

       I was talking with a friend who was so disappointed with the corruption in the financial investment sector. He said “The sad thing is when those who are caught with the bribes and kickbacks in hand, their company losses are just written off as a tax deduction, and the culprits are let go ending up at another company doing it again. How has dishonesty become the standard for doing business?” Prov.11:1 Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is His delight. I believe that there are a lot of good companies that do follow ethical business practices but yes, the potential for dishonest gain is a temptation at all times. We are all susceptible to greed, lust, and covetousness, but by the grace of God, there go all of us.

      There is a strength in the Lord that God has given us through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. Because His power dwells within us we have the anointed ability to resist the devil and choose righteousness. Reading the account of the Lord’s words to the church of Smyrna, there is an expectation from the risen Lord that the members of the Smyrna assembly will be able to overcome persecution, trials, and temptation of the most brutal kind. Rev. 2:10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. These Saints are being admonished and instructed to not be afraid of prison, suffering day after day, and possible death, but to use the crown of life that Jesus has for them as their mainstay and vision for their faith in Christ. Jesus expects that once we are walking with Him in the new and regenerated heart that He gave us through our Resurrection-powered born-again life, we will be able to overcome the briberies of the world.

      The Lord has absolute confidence in His gift of salvation and its power to enable us to fight the good fight of faith and to do it with the blessed assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us. The Lord says that we can do great things in Him. Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Give me strength for what? To do all things that God has placed in my heart. The power of the blood that Jesus shed contained the full measure and assurance of His grace for our salvation and the ability to overcome all the warfare of the enemy. We are protected by God’s knowledge of our capacity to overcome sin. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our faith-filled ability in Christ. 1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The Lord will show us the way out of temptation and the way to destroy the works of darkness.

      The briberies of the world are all around us and at any time we can choose to be paid off, bought off, or to take off with the bribes offered. Or, we can make our hearts stand firm in the righteous power the Lord has given us through Christ. I grew up in a time when a handshake was the bond of an honest contract between two or more people resolving a business deal. Our yes, was our yes, and our no, was our no. We under-promised and over-delivered until one day that seemed to change. Where did we drop the ethics ball? These days, every other phone call is a scam and our parents and grandparents are targets for outright online thievery. Don’t let the chief priests of the monetary system bribe you into a seductive choice for the sake of a temporary windfall. Our souls are of eternal worth and Christ’s love for us will give us the greatest treasure of all. We have eternal life now and we have been paid for in full through Christ. There is no greater security than our infinite God keeping us next to His heart. May we see the true value of His love for us.

 

Cultural Pitfalls

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

      Shawn Smucker writes, “As has been the case in far too many instances, Christianity conforms to culture. Christians of every ilk set up idols of particular beliefs, polarizing themselves into camps of Correct and Incorrect.”

      It is worse than what Shawn says. Cultural defensiveness is often the litmus test as to whether we will believe what is being said about God. Historically, the culture of the day has dictated the Christian’s acceptance of political choices, regional beliefs, and the temptations at hand within the era the culture is part of. We have in some cases made the Christian faith no more than a social club to be part of because the people are nice and pleasant to be around. The church will never get permission from the world to bring God’s righteous standard to a culture that welcomes vice and iniquity as normal behaviour. The world system is corrupt, and calling something evil as being good, is its default setting. Isa. 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness to light and light to darkness, who replace bitter with sweet and sweet with bitter.

      The amalgamation that the body of Christ and the present-day culture bring together, has hindered the power of the Holy Spirit to move freely within the hearts of believers. Vexing the Holy Spirit with what we deem as culturally acceptable does not bring freedom to our souls because God will resist our acceptance of sin. This attitude has produced an immature Christian who excels in self-righteousness and lives by an insipid doctrine of tolerance toward anything that sounds like a homily. 2Tim. 3:5 Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. Don’t have anything to do with such people. Do not make holy covenants with people who do not put Jesus first in their hearts.

      The Apostle Paul pleaded with the Galatians to rethink their direction and the cultural choices they were making because they were going backwards in their faith. Those who were teaching the erroneous doctrines of salvation by working the laws of self-righteousness were creating a culture that had deceived the Galatians into thinking they could earn a place on God’s board of directors, (paraphrased) while still living the life of what was socially acceptable. Gal. 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. The cultural norms had wormed their way into their hearts and they began accepting philosophies that would distort the simple message of salvation in Christ. Gal. 3:3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

      What this type of self-righteous dogma does to a soul, is create a survival of the fittest religiosity that results in the cruelties and butchery of the Crusades, or the brutal torture of the Inquisition. It allows carnal choices to be made in the name of God, and within a short period, an idea like the Holocaust becomes a reasonable solution to a certain cultural group. You cannot wash your clothes in filthy water and expect them to come out clean and fresh. Yet this is what mankind does when they compromise their Christian faith so they can be accepted in the culture of the day, or they bring the current culture into their interpretation of which scripture they will accept. Culturally processing their personal salvation plan through all the filth of human philosophy and then wondering why they do not feel clean of heart nor have peace of mind. Gal. 3:1 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.

       Self-righteousness normally creates a maladroit culture that exists just outside the boundaries of God’s kingdom. It looks religious, but this existence will not bring anyone into the presence of God. On the contrary, it ensures they continue to flounder in self-deception. It’s like the nations who lived around the encampment of Israel and could see the Tabernacle in the wilderness from afar but had no way of entering the protection that God’s presence offered those who lived within the camp. The warnings that God gave the Israelites to not be like the people of Canaan are still the same instructions we are to follow today. Lev. 18:3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. The culture of Canaan was cruel and horrific and God made it clear that there would be no mixing of these carnal practices while ministering to God.

      True intimacy with God produces relational responsibility and a heartfelt desire to please the Lord. Similarly, when we express love to our spouses, we try to give them what makes their hearts glad and brings joy to their souls. Unlike becoming intimate with a wrong life partner whose attraction is mainly superficial, and all the enflamed emotions are hot and salacious in the first days of cohabitation, but later on, sadness and disappointment are the state of being because the love is not genuine of heart. Someone rightly said, “If you marry a child of the devil you are going to have problems with your father-in-law.” You cannot serve two masters. We, the body of Christ, need to live in the culture of God’s kingdom and set the standard for all cultures to gravitate and eventually become part of the Lord’s loving gift of salvation. Our Heavenly Father must become the banner we live under. Jehovah Nissi – The Lord is my banner. Ex. 17:15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”). His banner over us is love, and the culture of God’s kingdom has no cruelty within it.

      At this time in our history, there is a vicious battle for the mind and the ownership of the culture’s soul. Christianity would be an attractive choice if more Christians lived as Christians, and were not hell-bent on becoming spokesmen for the trends of society that draw Christians away from the foundational truth of the Gospel of Christ. If you have a passion for a particular segment of society that needs help, make sure that what that society stands for is not contrary to God’s purposes and righteousness, or you will find yourself fighting against God, and that is a lose-lose situation.

      Christ is the cornerstone of the culture that Christians abide by. We are the living stones in the Lord who are building the spiritual house of God through Christ. We cannot do this by bringing the corrupted culture of the world into God’s holy building project. We have a mandate to keep cultural cruelty out of our testimony of love. 1Pet. 2:4 As you come to Him, a living stone — rejected by people but chosen and honored by God —  5 You yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This we will do when we seek God with all of our hearts.

 

Why Does God Hate Me?

Malachi 1:2 “I have always loved you,” says the LORD. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” And the LORD replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, 3 but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”

      When someone feels hated by God, it is a hard place to come out of. The Psalmist Heman the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 88, and he seems to have been in a state of despair. Heman’s thoughts and self-doubt are expressed out of anguish, and basically, he seems to be saying that God hates him. Of course, this was not true, but the feelings were in his heart and he felt raw and vexed of soul. Psalm 88:14 LORD, why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 From my youth, I have been suffering and near death. I suffer your horrors; I am desperate. 16 Your wrath sweeps over me; your terrors destroy me. 17 They surround me like water all day long; they close in on me from every side. Heman’s groans can be felt, and his thoughts are filled with emotional despair which causes him to make a final statement of loss, and its reason hurts the heart to think about it. Psalm 88:18 You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.

      How many people have felt like darkness was their closest friend while living out their faith in our Lord’s salvation? History states that Heman was a grandson of Samuel the prophet, and was one of the composers of the music that was written for the Psalmist who had inspiredly written the Psalms. Heman would have seen firsthand and heard of the greatness of God. He would have participated in the praise that declared the wonders of God’s goodness. Yet, within this environment, he thought God had not favoured him in life nor had he felt God’s friendship. To say that darkness was his only friend implies a feeling of being noticed but not seen, or not found to be valuable to God. How many times have we felt the sting of rejection, and wanted to scream out of frustration at the angst playing havoc in our hearts? Many a strong person, would at this point, shout out loud, “Why does God hate Me”?

      Whenever the statement is made, “God does not hate anyone,” without fail, someone says, “God hated Esau but loved Jacob.” It is interesting to see the word God uses to express this statement. The Word of God says, that in effect, Esau hated his birthright. Gen. 25:34 Then Jacob gave some bread and lentil stew to Esau, who ate and drank and then got up and went away. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Some translations say that Esau showed contempt, scorned, slighted, belittled, and treated his right as firstborn with disdain. The Hebrew word for hate is sânêʼ, (saw-nay’) which suggests how Esau valued his birthright, and how he hated the responsibility of that birthright. When God says he hated Esau, God is using the same word sânêʼ that Esau used to belittle his birthright. God saw no value in Esau, the same way Esau saw no value in the gifting and responsibility God had given him through birth. Rom. 9:13 As it is written and forever remains written, “JACOB I LOVED (chose, protected, blessed), BUT ESAU I HATED (held in disregard compared to Jacob).”

      I can handle God not seeing any value in me, because I too, see no value in my existence compared to God’s values. I can agree with God if He appeared to me and said, “Norm, I don’t see any value in you.” I could say, “Yes Lord, we are on the same page, I don’t see any value in me either. However, Lord, I could never rise from You hating me in the sense of that word’s usage today. I would be in the deepest despair of existence. For truly Lord, it would have been better that I not have been born.” At least being of no value is a starting point for hope in the goodness of God, and the possibility to mature into a position of Godly value. I’m not saying that I am not valuable to my wife, children, friends and some segments of society. I may have earthly value, but it is reasonable to believe, I have no heavenly value at all. Therefore, the question might become, “Why do I feel God sees no value in me, rather than why does God hate me?”

      I can see why God treated Esau in the manner He did because Esau treated the things of God with pure contempt. There was more than the contempt towards the birthright that Esau disdained. He also did not honour his parents and married outside of God’s recommendation for righteous living. Esau married Hittite wives who were idol worshipers and would also bring grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Gen. 26:34 At the age of forty, Esau married two Hittite wives: Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon. 35 But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. No matter the dispensation God is instructing His people within, the wages of sin are still death, disintegration, and dissipation of character and soul. Esau chose to hate God and what God valued, and God returned to Esau what he had sown in life. Mal. 1:3b I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.

      Many people feel a burning stare of God’s expectation upon their lives and falsely interpret that feeling into thinking they are hated. The dilemma they are facing is that they are trying to measure up to the All Mighty within their fragile existence and self-righteousness. However, God is love and has given us His holy gift in Jesus Christ to be able to come home to Him. The Psalmist Heman, and the many people in the Bible who felt like they had fallen short of God’s love, protection, or standard had simply met the reality that God’s righteousness is beyond what anyone can imagine it to be. There is nothing on Earth or in the universe to compare God’s righteousness to, nor has anyone understood within the realm of our existence the fullness of its grace. We all fall short of the Lord’s perfection. Only through Christ can we start life’s holy journey. Even within a lifetime of walking with the Lord will still be required to realize that we have nothing to offer toward God’s salvation plan except to receive that eternal grace-filled gift He has offered us. It is all God and Him alone who brings us along into His holy existence.

      Timothy Keller said, “We tend to put much emphasis on the quality of our faith rather than the object of our faith.” With this in mind, we might take responsibility for the question and ask, “Why do I hate myself, and blame that feeling on God?” Perhaps the solipsistic nature of our souls causes us to seek the reasurance of salvation in the performance of our faith, rather than the object of our faith which is Christ the Lord. Maybe it is because we cannot resist our willingness to be in control of God that we cannot see our desperate need for His deliverance. Like the Apostle Paul, we wrestle with our inner man as we conform to the image of Christ, crucifying our flesh day after day. Rom. 7:15 For I do not understand my own actions I am baffled and bewildered by them. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity.

      As I accept my need to be in God’s presence while being fully immersed in the work of His sacrifice, I hope to come into a mature measure of authentic faith and ask, “Why does God love me?” This is a far better question to resolve in my soul. The answers are much more faith and soul-building rather than the never-ending questions of dark sayings that ask, “Why does God hate me? I think the devil would be far too pleased to fill you in on the many reasons that question invokes. No saints, we need to find our rest and assurance in the finished work of the cross and accept the love it took for Jesus to take our deserved place on that cross. God does not hate you, He loves you and He will bring you through difficult suffering, growing heart pains, and higher expectations to prove His love for you, and one day you will hear Him say, “Well done faithful friend.” May we all hang on to these words of life. John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

 

Frustrated Hope

Job 6:8 For oh that He would grant my desire, and my petition might come, and the Lord would grant my hope!

      I thought aloud and said, “Why do I hope so much, and nothing comes of it?” I truly needed to ask myself whether I was living in the Lord’s hope or simply wishing for things to happen. Hope gives life and power to faith, and if there is no faith coming forth as a result of our hope in God, it is all wishful thinking. We can find ourselves in the deepest oubliette of our making and become imprisoned by the hopelessness we are immersed in. Prov.13:12a Delayed hope makes one sick at heart. Delayed hope also creates an insouciant attitude toward hoping in the ability of God for one’s life. We need an honest faith-filled hope in God that will allow us to see what God wants us to hope for in Him. Psalm 33:20 We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield.

      The unintended consequence that can happen when we are frustrated in hope is that we start working out God’s plan in our strength and creating a revision of our frustrated thoughts. Sarai was frustrated with God’s plan and promised that she would have a child and become the mother of many nations. She eventually wrote her own action plan to help God along. Serai told Abram to have a child with Sarai’s servant so that her frustration would go away. (paraphrased) Gen. 16:2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go into my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Of course, the legacy of Serai’s frustrated hope resulted in a decision that is still felt today. Ishmael the offspring of Serai and Abram’s selfish reasoning has been causing wars and strife throughout the Middle East and beyond to this day. Gen. 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.

      King Saul had been instructed to utterly destroy the Amalekites and everything they owned from the city, and people, to the livestock. Because of fear and peer pressure, Saul rewrote the orders that the Lord had given him through the prophet Samuel. When Samuel eventually showed up he heard something that should not have been there. 1Sam 15:14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” Saul’s frustration while waiting for Samuel created fear within his soul. Saul was afraid of the people, so he allowed the raiding party to bring the sheep and oxen as a sacrifice for the Lord. 1Sam. 15:24. Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. The unintended consequence for Saul was that he would lose the kingdom to another who would follow God’s instructions.

      This is why we need to keep our hope in Christ and not in our capabilities to pull off the project. The Word of God is full of people who tried to do God’s plan their way and only ended up with frustrated lives and hopelessness. Our confidence and hope need to be in the cross, and all that Christ did for us through His accepted sacrifice. We are never going to get it right by the constant observance of the law. This is why we needed a Saviour who satisfied the demands of the law through His blood. The law is a guide, instruction, or signpost that leads us to Christ, where we accept Him by faith. Gal. 3:24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. This is the fundamental difference between having my hope in God and wishing for stuff to happen.

      Before I knew the Lord, I was separated from Him because of my sin and I had no eternal hope. I had an eternal existence, but no hope for that existence. Eph. 2:12 That at that time you were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, not having hope and without God in the world. Life was frustrating because the emptiness within my soul could not be filled by all I was wishing for. I needed a foundation that could only come through Christ the Lord. Once Jesus moved into my soul I could now hope in God and pray for the issues of life to be taken care of and I could do it by faith.

      Do I still find myself in times of frustration? Yes, absolutely. However, I have a God-given plan for that frustration, and that is to settle down in the Lord’s peace and begin to cast my cares upon Him. 1Pet. 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. After I cast my cares upon the Lord, then through prayer, and faith in God’s love for me, my frustration begins to wane, and the hope of glory revisits my heart and leads me to the promised land of God’s goodness. If you are frustrated with life, spouse, friends, or existence then turn your eyes upon Jesus and hope in His grace that can heal all that ails your body, soul, and spirit.  Psalm 43:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God. Yes, hope in God!

 

In Dependence

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end and the result from the beginning, and from ancient times the things which have not yet been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will do all that pleases Me and fulfills My purpose.’

      Whether we want to believe it or not, we are always going to be dependent on God’s grace toward us. We will never reach a state of independence but will remain in the existence of being dependent or being in dependence. Many people have been fooled into thinking they can become independent of laws, governments, and social expectations. Yes, we can move off the grid and farm our gardens to separate ourselves from the majority of the population. We can become minimalists and give away most of our belongings as well as cut ourselves off from all social platforms, the internet, and bank cards. However, eventually, we will be dependent on someone, something, or some system to get us through the next part of our lives.

      God has created everything on earth to need or depend on something else to make creation work. The soil needs the bugs, the flowers need the bees, the birds need the seeds, our souls need love and so on it goes. We are all in a state of dependency. I depend on the oxygen that goes through my lungs to keep me breathing even though I do not understand all the science involved in how oxygen is generated within the laws of our atmosphere. I am dependent on God leading me through life and eventually bringing me home to His presence. John 15:5 I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

      When Cain was being banished for killing his brother, his reaction to God’s punishment was overwhelming to him because he was losing his privilege of being dependent on God and the only society he knew. Gen. 4:14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. Cain most likely, did not understand how much he needed his brother and the relationships he had at the time. He found out how dependent he had been on God’s structure of day-to-day living. He thought he could eliminate his brother because he had become independent of Abel in his heart. Cain’s problem was that God’s laws of live and let live, so to speak, could not be resolved in his heart, because of his envy towards his brother, and therefore, Cain was blind to God’s laws.

       As the world gets smaller, because of our ability through media to see what is happening in real-time around the world, we can see that we depend on more than our neighbours to get by in life. We depend on the logistical systems that bring products of all kinds to our shores and borders. Even people who have detached themselves from society and the different jurisdictions still need to come to town once in a while and pick up the machinery or power-creating equipment that they need to remain independent. That is the rub, isn’t it? From the doomsday preppers to the mountain cabin dwellers, we all eventually discover that we are still dependent on something or someone.

      We read the story of Naaman a great general in the army of Syria but he was a leper. 2Kings 5:1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favour, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valour, but he was a leper. Naaman might have had a great military mind but was not independent of the leprosy that he was afflicted with nor the social problems that came with that terrifying disease. Like so many of us who need God and a healing miracle, Naaman also needed healing. As great as he was, he found out he had become dependent on the man of God to give him instructions as to how to be healed. 2Kings 5:10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

      Like Naaman, we too, need to find the Word of the Lord that will bring the deliverance we need, and hopefully keep us fully dependent on God. Let us not fall for the white-washed theory that we can be independent from God’s life-giving grace. We need to realize that God’s plan for our lives is reliant on our obedience to the One who created the plan. Isa. 46:10b My purpose will be established, and I will do all that pleases Me and fulfills My purpose. The older I get the more I see that I need my relationship with the Lord and all the people He has brought through my life. Some of the people were hard lessons to learn, and others were a pleasure to know because of the abundant blessings they have brought to my heart. May we remain In Dependence on our God and each other.