August 28, 2023

Ep.1296: Do Christians Have to Go to Church?

Understanding what the Christian church is and what it is not

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CHAPTERS

[00:13:02]
According to Scripture, how do we become a saint?


[00:32:17]
What does it mean to be part of a holy temple in the Lord?


[00:46:40]
Is being in the body of Christ more than just going to church on the weekend?


Theme Scripture: Revelation 3:22

When Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his disciples in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples of all the nations." He told them to baptize these disciples and teach them all that he had taught and commanded them to know and do. Ten days later, God’s spirit came upon the apostles, and this is where the Christian church had its beginning. Fast forward 2,000 years, and we find Christianity divided into countless denominations. We see an apparent decline in Christianity as church attendance seems to be steadily decreasing. So, is going to church a significant marker for being a true Christian? To have a real answer for this question, we need to establish a clear understanding of the scriptural relationship between church and its role in a true Christian’s life.

Continue Reading

Where's the church?

Christianity began as a group of individuals who were called out to follow Jesus after his death and resurrection. This group had no organization, except for the apostles and God’s spirit. They had no buildings of their own and would meet wherever they found the space. Often that was at the homes of one another. The point here, is the early church had no church. They had no specific place to go as their official home base of operations. In fact, they themselves were called "the church."

Through the passage of time, this humble beginning became a forgotten fact. As Christianity grew, its focus veered away from simply being called "the church" to making it a destination. In many cases, this destination became more and more elaborate. This led to a focus on the outward appearance of a physical place rather than the inward spiritual growth of those attending. This subtle change and all that comes with it opens up the possibility of a focus that may be spiritually lacking. We are suggesting that in some cases, going to church could very well be a counterproductive activity when it comes to being true disciples of Jesus.

How do I know if I am in such a position of compromise?

Check out our August 28, 2023 podcast, “Do Christians Have to Go to Church?” for answers. We delve into the meaning of “church” in the Bible. It's very different than what we here in the 21st century are used to. Not only does its true meaning serve as a wake-up call, but it also leads us to several other descriptions of what being part of THE church really means.

Each and every one of these descriptions adds deeper understanding as to what our Christianity should be driven by. We learn that meeting together should remain as a relevant part of a Christian’s life. But this activity is not for the purpose of fulfilling a social need or “checking off the box” of doing what we think is required. Join us as we see the Scriptures unfold the amazing privileges and responsibilities that being part of the church requires. Follow these scriptures and church will never be the same!

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August 28, 2023

Ep.: What is the “third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2?

In 2 Corinthians 12:2 the Apostle Paul was given a very vivid vision and revelation of the promised future kingdom rulership which will bring blessing to all people. This verse is complex so it is helpful to break things down to understand what is being said.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.”

2 Corinthians 2:12 

“I knew a man in Christ”

Paul is referring to himself and a vision he had seen more than 14 years prior. It becomes clear he is speaking of himself as “a man in Christ” as we read further in in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul speaks in this manner to avoid the appearance of boasting of the visions he was blessed to receive, and because of his own sense of humility.  2 Corinthians 12:5-6: (Philipps translation)

“I am honestly proud of an experience like that, but I have made up my mind not to boast of anything personal, except of what may be called my weaknesses. If I should want to boast I should certainly be no fool to be proud of my experiences, and I should be speaking nothing but the sober truth. Yet I am not going to do so, for I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me that his experience of me and what he hearts of me should warrant.”

2 Corinthians 12:7: (NASB) “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself!” 

“fourteen years ago”

The Apostle Paul received many visions and revelations in his life. Another example of a vision also about 14 years in the past is recorded in Acts 22:17-18:  “And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry up and get out of Jerusalem at once, because the people won’t accept your testimony about me.’”   

“whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know”

Paul did not know how to explain the experience of this vision. It was a miraculous experience and was absolutely real to him. It may have felt like he was in heaven, looking down on coming events, and yet he realizes he was still in his earthly body.

“caught up to the third heaven”

The Scriptures use the word “heaven” to describe three places, not just one.

We understand each to have symbolic significance as well, as different timeframes in the human experience. Each “heaven” refers to a period of time when the earth has been under different spiritual rulership.

A. The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere where birds fly.

(Genesis 1:20, Jeremiah 4:25; 34:20, Lamentations 4:19, Zephaniah 1:3)

This Hebrew word shamayim is translated as “sky” in the scripture comparing Genesis 7:3, “fowls also of the air,” with Genesis 7:23, “fowl of the heaven.” The word “sky” and “heaven” are used interchangeably from the same Hebrew word (Psalm 8:8). So, the first heaven is synonymous with “heights” or “elevations.”

Symbolic interpretation:   

The first heaven – the earth before the flood was ruled by the angels and was destroyed by God for the wickedness of mankind and the descendants of the angels inhabiting the earth. Peter describes that world as having perished when the earth was overflowed with water at the time of the flood. 2 Peter 3:5-6

  1. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” Genesis 6:4-7
  2. “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” 2 Peter 3:6

B. The second heaven describes outer space where the planets and stars exist.

(Genesis 1:14-17; 15:5; 22:17; 26:4, Deuteronomy 1:10; 17:3; Psalm 8:3, Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29)

Symbolic interpretation:

The second heaven – this present evil world ruled by Satan. Satan has been permitted to exercise control over the affairs of earth for a fairly long period of time. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he is referred to as the god of this world.  

  1. “So it will happen in that day, that the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high, and the kings of the earth on earth.” Isaiah 14:13
  2. “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7

C. This third heaven is where God and the heavenly sanctuary exist (1 Peter 3:22). The third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2 is what Jesus calls his “Father’s house” (John 14:2), and what the Apostle Paul calls “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Revelation 2:7). 

Symbolic interpretation:

The third heaven – the future kingdom of God and Jesus “on earth as it is in heaven.”

  1. “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our LORD and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
  2. “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13

The third heaven refers to the spiritual rulership of Jesus and faithful Christians over earth (Revelation 20:6), the new government which is going to produce and rule over a new earth, a new social structure upon the earth. (2 Peter 3:13). This new heavens, this government of Jesus and His glorified Bride class is going to create the “paradise”—the new earth that Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 4:4 was caught up into Paradise.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first [former] heaven and the first [former] earth passed away…And I saw the holy city new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. ” Revelation 21:1-2 

The end result of the reign of Jesus and his Bride is paradise on earth restored.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'” (Revelation 21:3-4)

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August 28, 2023

VIDEO: What is jealousy?

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August 22, 2023

Ep.: Is it wrong for a Christian to have or make Dreamcatchers?

Dreamcatchers have become a common part of popular culture, however they were originally created by and for Native American groups.

Quoting from the (American) Native American culture website, powwow.com: “A dream catcher is a handmade willow hoop woven to a web or literally, a net. They can include feathers and beads, and they’re traditionally suspended on cradles as a form of armor and protection. It is believed that dream catchers originated with Asibaikaashi, who was known as the Spider Woman. She was a custodian of all of the Ojibwe infants and adults. …Ojibwe women started weaving magical webs for the infants…as a medium of protection. These charms hung above the children’s beds to catch any bad dreams or other harm that might be present. …the web absorbs bad dreams at night and discharges them during the day. The feathers, on the other hand, act like ladders allowing good dreams to descend on the infant or adult who is sleeping.”

Believing in things like good luck charms goes as far back as ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Today you might hear of people carrying crystals, statues, rabbit’s feet, four leaf clovers or wearing “evil eye” jewelry. None of these things has the power to bring luck or offer protection from evil. They are just lifeless objects!

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Apostle Paul describes a Christian as being an ambassador for Christ. An ambassador is someone who represents his country in a foreign land. As Christians, we represent Jesus. People watch what we say and do. We wouldn’t want them to associate good luck charms with our faith. We don’t want these superstitious customs associated with following Jesus. Putting our faith in these items distracts us from our Christianity. We should leave these sorts of things behind because we want to put our faith in God’s wisdom rather than ordinary, powerless objects.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Doing all to the glory of God should be our standard of what we do, say and think, and even what we wear, carry with us, or what decorates our homes.”

1 Corinthians 10:31: (NASB)

Instead of making, possessing or wearing charms for protection or luck, we should be symbolically wearing the armor of God, as described in Ephesians 6:14-18: (GNT) “So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; …And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the spirit gives you.”

Through the holy spirit – God’s invisible power and influence – faithful Christians study the Bible, pray, and are blessed with wisdom from God, not luck. They have what He has allowed in their lives. They want to accept whatever His will is for them. When we have God’s protection, we do not rely on so-called “magical” objects. Our Christian faith is not about objects; it is about our dedication, loyalty, and living righteously, humbly and faithfully accepting God’s overruling in our lives.

Good luck charms and superstitious “protection” devices like a dreamcatcher do not have power, but God and Jesus do. The faithful Christian’s protection comes from above – not from superstitious objects like dreamcatchers. To claim such things as decoration or just for fun would be inappropriate for the Christian.

To learn more about luck and charms watch our video, “Do Good Luck Charms Have Power?”

Or listen to the podcast, “Ghosts, Reincarnation and Humanity – What’s Real? (Part II)”

 

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August 21, 2023

Ep.1295: How Can I Transform My Prayer Life? (Part II)

Discussing the practical everyday questions that make prayer work

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Play Part I

CHAPTERS

[00:14:07]
How am I presenting myself to God in my prayers?


[00:29:32]
How can I pray when I don't feel grateful for anything?


[00:46:04]
What are some reasons we don't pray and what can we do about them?


Theme Scripture: Jeremiah 10:23

In our last episode, we talked about many big-picture aspects of how the humbling and amazing privilege of prayer works. We learned that, as is usually the case with true Christian discipleship, there is much more to praying than talking to God about things and letting him know what we need and want. Today we will focus on the details of our prayer life. We will look at many of those simple questions about the practicality of prayer. Questions like, how do we fit prayer into busy lives? How do we pray when we are not feeling grateful for anything? How do we know if God is answering our prayers or if we are just making up answers? 

Continue Reading

Obviously, prayer can be tricky.

Here are a few examples of how we can become disillusioned. First, we can get very excited when we think about Jesus saying, “Ask and you shall receive,” so we pray when we want something from God. We have really good reasons for wanting it, so we tell him what’s on our mind and then look for His answer. Time passes and we don’t get what we want. Now we get all bummed out. We don’t understand. We were supposed to receive, just like Jesus said! What we asked for was a good thing, and we’re trying to be a really good person. Why didn’t God respond favorably?

We pray, but maybe we hold back with a few secrets.

Another example. We pray about a challenge we really want God to handle for us. We are detailed and sincere in our request, as we believe this issue needs serious divine intervention. As we pray, we think about some other things we have fallen down on but decide not to pray about those things. After all, they aren't as pressing for us. Besides, we feel like we really don’t want to talk to God about them anyway. Again, time goes by, and we don’t seem to be getting the answers we are looking for. What’s wrong? Doesn’t God see how important this challenge is to us?

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the kinds of challenges many of us have with prayer. They typify some of the mystery and disappointment we can face when our prayers don’t produce the kinds of results we are looking for. What are we supposed to do?

Check out our August 21, 2023 podcast, “How Can I Transform My Prayer Life? (Part II)” for some perspective. We take these basic questions and combine them with several others as a starting point for examining the intricacies of prayer. What we find is fascinating! Prayer is a powerful privilege in the lives of Christians that enables us to approach God through Jesus with our requests, our praise and our issues. But here’s the thing. Sometimes we confuse the purpose of prayer to be a tool of fulfilling our preferences instead of following God’s providences. Join us as we ask the questions, learn the differences and apply the lessons to a stronger prayer life!

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August 16, 2023

Ep.: What are in the seven seals of the scroll in Revelation?

Revelation is a highly symbolic book that requires careful study to understand what each of the seven seals of the scroll means. The scroll in Revelation first appears in chapter 5:1-5:

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 

And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” 

The one sitting on the throne holding the book (or scroll) with seven seals is God. An angel asks, “Who is worthy to open the book?”

No man was found worthy but the Lion of the Tribe of Judah was found worthy. This lion is better identified in verse 9 where it says, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” The lion, then, is Jesus Christ, also identified in verse 12 as “the Lamb.” He is worthy to open the seals of the book.

Then, beginning in chapter 6, the Lamb opens the seals, one after another. The seventh seal is finally opened in chapter 8 when the book can finally be opened, read and understood. The opening of each seal represents events that take place during the Gospel Age, the period beginning after the Christ’s First Advent and up to the introduction of Christ’s kingdom on earth, a period spanning over 2,000 years.

Here is a very brief interpretation of what transpires at the opening of each seal. It is helpful to know that horses represent teachings or doctrines that carry a particular influence.

(6:1, 2) – When the first seal is opened, a white horse appears and the rider is described as a conqueror of others. This white horse represents the purity of the original gospel message at the time of the early church. The rider then is the influence of the apostles, especially of the Apostle Paul.

(6:3, 4) – With the opening of the second seal, a red horse appears and the rider has a sword to kill and power to take peace from the earth. This depicts the time when false doctrines were introduced into Christianity and Christians fought for power.

(6:5, 6) – The opening of the third seal saw a black horse and a rider with a pair of scales in his hand. This describes the time in history, often termed “the Dark Ages.”  The teachings of Christianity became darkness rather than light. This began the church/state union of the Holy Roman Empire. The rider carries scales as if to make sure everyone conformed to the demands of the corrupted church. That church system became the judge in place of God.

(6:7, 8) – The fourth seal saw a green horse with the rider named, “Death and hades.” He had the power to kill at his own discretion. This was the period of Papal supremacy where it had the power to control all doctrines but her doctrines led only to death.

(6:9-11) – The fifth seal saw the souls of the slain under the altar. This describes the persecuted saints who were faithful to the truth found in the Scriptures. They eventually cry to God for justice against a system that persecuted them. But they were told it was not yet time for God’s judgements to be revealed.

(6:12-17) – The sixth seal saw a great earthquake, the sun blackened and the moon turned to blood. The earthquake symbolizes the French Revolution where religious doctrine was severely challenged in what was called “The Age of Enlightenment.” This corresponds to the sun turning black and the moon to red. The sun is the New Testament Gospel. The moon is the Old Testament Law. Men like Voltaire challenged and ridiculed religious thinking. The “stars fell to the earth,” picturing the apostles’ loss of influence). This again, showed a disdain for Christianity.

(8:1) – Finally, the seventh seal is opened and there is silence in heaven. This takes us to the end of the age when the faithful church is complete and God’s earthly kingdom is established. 

A study of the book of Revelation is challenging. Many Christians do not agree on some specific applications, but a helpful approach is to view many aspects as historic fulfillments. We suggest that the 7 churches (chapter 2-3), 7 seals (chapters 6-8) and 7 trumpets (8-11) run concurrently and describe different aspect of the Gospel Age.

Seeing that the events described were all predicted before they occurred should help us appreciate that God has command of human history. God is preparing the world for the great blessings of his earthly kingdom. Mankind’s experiences will be a vital part in teaching that we cannot properly rule the earth without the guidance of God. We all need Him and His divine plan will result in the blessing of all who have ever lived!

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August 15, 2023

Ep.: What is the ransom?

The concept of the ransom is important because it is the entire basis for our Christian faith and the plan of God for the world of mankind. 

What does it mean to say “Jesus is the ransom?”

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom <Strongs #487> for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

1 Timothy 2:5-6: (NASB)

Ransom:  Strongs #487, antilutron, a redemption price

Strongs #487 is only used in this one place in the Bible.  It is derived from two Greek words:

        anti:  Strongs #473, instead of or because of; used to denote substitution or correspondence

        Lutron:  Strongs #3083, a redemption price, ransom

So, the word ransom in this one text means a “corresponding price.” 

Adam, a perfect man, chose to disobey God resulting in sin and death for him and all his offspring.  The entire human race was doomed to the prison of death in order to satisfy justice – Adam paid the penalty of his disobedience to God. (Romans 6:23: (KJV) The wages of sin is death…)  All of our race are either dead or dying.

Without the intervening sacrifice of Jesus, the cycle of sin and death would continue in misery until eventually the human race died out. 

The death of the perfect man Jesus became the substitute or corresponding price for Adam.  Jesus willingly volunteered to die and thereby paid the ransom by his perfect obedience to God.  The man Jesus would take Adam’s place in death, thereby satisfying justice.

Having paid the ransom price allows the work of the ransom to begin.

“In Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

1 Corinthians 15:22 

This legal equivalency of “a perfect life (Adam) for a perfect life (Jesus)” allows for the resurrection of mankind and their opportunity for everlasting life in the kingdom.  Mankind will finally have the full opportunity to be obedient without inherited sin.  As a reward for his sacrifice, Jesus was resurrected as a highly exalted spirit being to complete the great work of bringing mankind back into a relationship with God.

The ransom does not excuse the sins committed by those in this lifetime – it does not suddenly count sinners as saints and usher them into everlasting bliss.  It merely releases the accepting sinner from the first condemnation and its results, and places him again on trial for life, in which his own willful obedience or willful disobedience will decide if he may or may not have life everlasting. 

“The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world…” John 1:29: (KJV)

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19: (NASB) 

To learn more about God’s plan and Jesus’ ransom sacrifice listen to, “Are Jesus’ Ransom and Our Salvation the Same?”

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August 14, 2023

Ep.1294: How Can I Transform My Prayer Life? (Part I)

Who God hears, why He says no and how prayer works

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Play Part II

CHAPTERS

[00:14:34]
What happens if no is the answer to our prayer?


[00:32:37]
Is there ever a time when we should put our prayers on pause?


[00:47:03]
How should we pray?


Theme Scripture: Jeremiah 10:23

Prayer is an incalculably awesome privilege, and yet it is massively misunderstood. Prayer can easily become a ritual, an almost automatic activity like brushing our teeth. We know we need to do it because we know it’s really good for us. So, we do it at what we think are the appropriate times and in the appropriate ways. Prayer can also become a time of wishful thinking, a time when we essentially tell God how our lives could and should look. It can also become a complaining session, a finger pointing session and even a pity party. Wait, let’s take a breath! Prayer is the opportunity and privilege to talk to the God of all things through His son Jesus. If we are going to use this amazing tool, we want to be absolutely clear as to how it works and why it works!

Continue Reading

Let’s look at a few important and fundamental questions.

First, does God hear every prayer that is offered up to Him?

Going even deeper, does God answer every prayer spoken? There are several scriptures in the Old and New Testaments that give us guidance on this.

The basic answer is no, God does not hear and answer every prayer.Why not? The Bible describes prayers that are not heeded as from those who are wicked, following idolatry and not following God’s Law. We might look at this and think, I’m safe, none of that applies to me! While this may be true, there is another scriptural piece to this equation. How focused am I on seeking God’s will and God’s way over my own? God answers those who truly seek Him.

Second, what about when God says no?

Does this mean we are praying for the wrong things or praying with the wrong attitude? That may be true, and it may not. There are several scriptural examples of very faithful ones receiving “no” answers from God. This can only mean that there are several very good reasons for a no answer.

Third, does God ever want us to stop praying?

While our immediate response to this might seem obvious, there is a much larger and deeper purpose we may be missing. Again, scriptural examples help us understand this.

Check out our August 14, 2023 podcast, “How Can I Transform My Prayer Life? (Part I)” for more. We walk through a detailed explanation of these three fundamental points and set the groundwork for how a vital prayer life actually works. Understanding the attitude of our approach to God and the likelihood of getting strong “no” answers from Him is critical. Our prayers are for the purpose of aligning ourselves with God’s will and way. They should keep us open to hearing Him as we ask, seek and find what He wants us to do. Join us for this journey into the amazing power of prayer. All of this sets the stage for Part II of this series which asks the everyday practical questions of how prayer fits into our busy and emotional lives.

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