|| Fresh Blog
Friday, 31 July 2009
Here we go again, stepping on the delicate toes of certain segments of Christendom, but the truth must be told. Please be patient as you read whether you agree or disagree. There may be a Scripture surprise or two along the way and at the end.
Some of you may be pretty clueless as to what the fuss is all about, maybe that is because you have focused more upon the New Testament Covenant and not studied the Old yet. Or if you are a new believer, praise God, you may have not yet been "religionized" by some of the contending views from the well-"leavened" church world around us.
Our subject is from "The Feasts of Israel".
In the Old Testament, there were 7 mandatory "feasts" of the Lord given under the Old Covenant.. They involved sabbath observances and many other ordinances. The "Feasts" were known as: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles. These feasts were of great prophetic significance that held much hidden revelation and promise for what would take place later in the life of God's people, both Jew and Gentile.
There were many specific instructions on exactly how they were to be observed. You may want to read Exodus 23 and leviticus 23 for more details .
Jesus and His disciples appear to have "kept" the feasts as did most of Old Israel. There is no specific mention that they kept all of them according to the letter as I can't find where they dwelt in tents for the*Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, but we do know that Jesus was without blame as touching the law.
*Lev 23:42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths
Nehemiah 8:15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
Nehemiah 8:16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God
The focus of this writing is the Christians obligation or relationship to either keeping or observing the feasts. We have many voices pointing us toward observing, re-enacting, practicing, and keeping the Feasts of Israel as given in the Law of Moses.
Like many other subjects that have been complicated by the church and other religions, confusion reigns.
It is bad enough the Christian "church" "celebrates" such blatantly pagan "holidays" such as Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Halloween.
But on the opposite side we have those who religiously set forth keeping the Old Testament holidays as given to Israel. Many of the "Messianic", "Jewish Roots" brethren and some prophets declare we need to "keep the feasts and the sabbath".
(Here again, we get different versions. Some hold to the letter of the Law observances and some practice a symbolic observation).
The apostle Paul was a messianic believer in Jesus Christ, and wrote the majority of the books of the New Testament. He was confirmed by Luke, Peter, the elders in Jerusalem, James, and many others as an apostle and writer.
To his voice and writing we add Peter, James, Jude, Luke, and John. These "holy men of God" wrote AFTER the cross of Christ which ushered in a NEW Covenant which had been prophesied:
Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah
Many scriptures bear witness that God sent a NEW Covenant after the first Covenant:
Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he (JESUS) is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were (PAST TENSE) under the first testament,
Hebrews 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things that that of Abel
Mark 14:24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Ahhh, we have a NEW covenant as the OLD one decayed and was prophesied to vanish away.
We have an article called "Tell me you who desire to be under the law" which tackles those who would put you under Old Testament Laws such as tithing, circumcision, and other "matters of the law".
Here are a few of the many verses which point this out:
Romans 10: 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Col. 3:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world,... are ye subject to ordinances?
3:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances (contained in the law) that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it (the law) out of the way, nailing it (the law) to his cross;
Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Now that we have established the fact that we are subject to a NEW Covenant, let us give the verses which likewise COMMAND the Christians, churches, or readers of the New Testament to observe, keep, practice, or obey what the Old Testament commanded of those 7 feasts.
We read that Jesus gave His disciples the commands, ordinances, and instructions for the churches. God had the disciples write the scriptures and gave them the faith which they in turn were to give their disciples.
These are the Scriptural passages in which Christians and churches were instructed, commanded, or reminded to either keep or observe the 7 feasts, and the sabbaths (BTW, there were several sabbaths and one of them lasted a year)
as they were written and set forth according to the OT Law:
No, you are not in need of magnifying glasses.
There are NO NEW Testament commands, instructions, or reminders to keep or observe the feasts, sabbaths, new moons, or even buy a Hebrew calendar to live by. -EVEN though Paul said in 2nd Thessalonians 3:4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command. (note the "we". He included the other apostles and brethren)
If you have read "The Tithe That Binds", the revelation we were given from God that there is not one verse instructing any Christian or church to pay tithes in our New Testament covenant, the same applies to keeping the feasts, sabbaths, and ordinances of the Old Testament.
The instruction to literally observe these ordinances from the OLD Covenant was never repeated in the New Testament instructions to any of the saints or churches.
Many Old Testament verses are quoted in the New, but not Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy concerning our obligation to observe the feasts according to the OT.
No booths, no trumpets, no worry about getting all yeast products out of your home for 7 days during Unleavened Bread, no bloody slaying of a lamb in the back yard for Passover, , .... You are not obligated to any of that and God is probably offended if you do.
He sacrificed His own Son in order to make you free from the Law of sin and death which included the feasts, circumcision, and sabbaths.
Note and take heed: the feasts included death penalties for improper observance.
Exodus 12:19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land
And if you think you can observe a "modified" version of the feasts, for example, observing the Feast of Tabernacles by camping out in the back yard or on your roof in a hut made from branches and sticks, remember what it says in the LAW in how you are to do so:
What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Leviticus 23:42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
If you are still with me, we will now seemingly contradict ourselves and tell you how we as Christians, WILL keep the feasts!
You see, the law "changed".
Hebrews 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
An example of this change is the law of male circumcision. Under the Old Covenant all males were to be circumcised on the 8th day aftr birth.
It was mandatory.
It was "forever" an ordinance:
"He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
These are the verses commanding Christians to be circumcised in flesh: __________. (empty again).
Here is the "change also of the law" revealed:
in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ
Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live
Do you see it yet? The true circumcision is that of the heart, as done by God, not of the flesh as done by man.
Now let's apply this truth to a feast, The Feast of Unleavened Bread:
Exodus 12:17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
Leviticus 23:6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread
This was a feast to be observed for 7 days, and it had a shocking death penalty attached for improper observance:
Exodus 12:19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land
Does "7 days" ring a bell?
How about 7 years, as in 7 years of Jacob's Trouble, i.e. the Tribulation?
How might we connect the MANDATORY feast of unleavened bread to the church during those"seven days" -i.e. years?
What is our "bread" in the New Covenant?
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, gave us His body and blood to "eat and drink". i.e. to consume.
We obey the command to eat and drink His body and blood by consuming His Word. His Word is life-giving "bread".
But something happened.
The Harlot Church came along and added "leaven" to the Word.
We are commanded to purge out the leaven of the harlot (apostate Christianity) and partake of the "unleavened bread" of God's Word so that NO LEAVEN may be found in our "house, i.e. the temple of our body that houses God's Holy Spirit.
We should define spiritual "leaven" at this point.
It may be sin, *tradition, the Laws of the Old Testament, or even malice. (*church tradition and denominational rules that got added to our faith).
Matthew 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
1 Corinthians 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven (like the feast), neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision (tithing, sabbaths, feasts, or OT Laws),
Christ will profit you nothing.
3 Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
But the church has done far worse than our Jewish brethren in that we have added our own leaven to God's Bread.
Here is a list of "leaven", such as words, practices, and traditions you will not find in our Christian Covenant and not found in God's Scriptures:
"the trinity", Christian "tithing", the church board, pastor sole authority over an assembly, "purgatory", "the Mass", "Easter", "Christmas", patriotism, Sunday School, and more here.
You may as well include your 501c3 churches that yoked themselves to the spiritual darkness of the government beast also.
Those are words, traditions, and phrases unknown to the New Testament writers.
Jesus said we will be judged by His Word, not traditions. -and He will judge us severely during tribulation if leaven is found in us.
John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
-Thus we will NEVER be judged by the words, rules, and traditions added by men.
1 Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.
Men just love adding "leaven" to God's Word and they will judge you lost or as a heretic for not agreeing with their unscriptural terminology.
Thus for "seven days (years)" we will "keep" the Feast of Unleavened Bread by walking in the purity of Scripture, walking in HOLINESS, and being free from sin.
The Old feast of Unleavened Bread has changed for a spiritual people called "Spiritual Israel", the church. (consisting of both Jew and Gentile).
How may we be purified?
It is through repentence and faith in "what is written".
Our Covenant is "new" and "a better covenant", in which we are free from the ordinances, i.e. the feasts, sabbaths, new moons, and holidays of the Old. Let no one rob you of this liberty and bring you back into bondage.
"Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.
I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain."
-Paul to the Galatians in chapter 4.
The Galatians had turned back to the leaven of observing sabbaths, feasts, new moons, sabbath years....
What did Paul mean by "observe"?
Here is what "observe" means, and if you are a feast observer, this may be significant in understanding what Paul wrote:
to "observe", gr. paratero, 3906:
to stand beside and watch, to watch assiduously, observe carefully
to watch, attend to with the eyes
to watch one's self
to observe, keep scrupulously
to neglect nothing requisite to the religious observance of
"Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.
I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain."
Is there a single command to keep or "observe" the sabbath or feasts in Christ's New Testament?
Is there a single reminder to any church or saint in the New Testament church to observe the feasts as given in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Nehemiah?
-I am still searching....
For those who are prone to wrestle and twist non-specific words like "commands" and "commandments" from the OLD Covenant into New Testament laws,
here are a couple of specific, straight forward New Testament commands:
Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
2nd Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.
2nd Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly (not working), and not after the tradition which they received of us.
( no mention in the passage of tithes, feasts, or sabbaths.)
1st Timothy 4:11 These things command and teach.
(no mention in the passage of tithes, feasts, or sabbaths.)
1st Timothy 5:7 These things also command, that they may be without reproach.
(There was no mention in the passage of tithes, feasts, or sabbaths.)
1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband
John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another
Titus 1:14 not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth
Remember, when God gave those feasts back in (the Torah), Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deut., He used the words "YOU SHALL....", or "thou shalt...", or "ye shall..." depending on the translation.
Here is an excerpt from Leviticus 23 regarding part of the feasts:
36 Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto Jehovah: on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto Jehovah: it is a solemn assembly; ye shall do no servile work
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths
Amazingly, the words "ye shall" are not used in the New Testament in reference to the OT law.
FINALLY, Paul wrote much of the New Testament. Paul was a Jew, he was a student of Gamaliel, a pharisee, zealous for the OT LAW, and a persecutor of the church until he was converted.
Paul was far better qualified to determine what feasts, laws, commands, ordinances, sabbaths, new moons, etc. we should observe, and he wrote many words to the churches he loved and gave himself to. (Romans, Corinth, Ephesus, Philipi, Thessalonica, Colasse, Timothy, etc.)
Here is where Paul gave a church a reminder to observe the feasts as practiced by Israel under the law, or in any other form or variation:
3. __________________ .
Oops, Paul must have forgotten to write those commands in any of the epistles. BUT he did say this in 1st Corinthians 14:37
If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.
Who will you believe? the writers of the New Testament or someone with "ye shall.." in keeping the feasts and sabbaths?
If you look for them as an ordinance given to the church, you will not find them given. To understand the detailed requirements of the Law concerning them read Exodus 23, Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16.
-and remind yourself that the address and location God chose to place His Name was Jerusalem, Israel. (you can google Jerusalem Israel to find it).
That was the "place" where Jesus and His family, then later His disciples went to keep the feast sbefore the cross.
What do you think was the significance was when Jesus pronounced Jerusalem "your house is made desolate" and when the Romans came later and totaly destroyed the city? NO ONE kept those feasts as they were "ye shall" "forever" ordered in the Law.
Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:
1 Kings 11:36 ... that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.
Yeast is leaven, added to bread, it becomes invisible, makes the bread more appealing to the flesh, and puffs up the loaf.
HOMEWORK FOR YOU:
Here is a Bible search engine:
In the NEW TESTAMENT, look up the words: (I used the American Standard version)
1. Holy Days
2. Feast/ feasts
3. New Moon
9. BONUS WORD: tithe, tithing, tithes.
10. "Ye shall"
You will find the results most enlightening and you do not need me to see the obvious. Just keep in mind the death of Christ ushered in the NEW Testament and it became of force after the death of the testator, Christ.
Hebrews 9:17 For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth
God bless each and every one of you and may He keep you in Christ's love and truth.
Monday, 20 July 2009
This post is one that I have been mulling over for a long, long time.
No, it is not about politics or law enforcement.
It IS about one of the great unspoken sins that hides itself in most churches and in the hearts of many Christians.
(also see "Murmuring". )
It may grow out of how we handle a disagreement.
Tithing, keeping the 10 Commandments & the Sabbath, going to church, listening to the pastor, does not deliver us from this.
This suppressed sin will guarantee pain, sickness, affliction, and even death, if allowed to hide or fester in our heart.
It will make room for anger, unforgiveness, pride, and self-righteousness.
The evidence for it finding safe harbor in Christianity is widespread. It separates, divides, sickens, and kills. It destroys families, friends, and relationships.
When most of us hear, read, or think of the word "hate", strong, violent emotions come to mind. Perhaps racist groups, militant terrorists, or some angry person on TV news or in a movie.
Even good 'ole PATRIOTISM stirs up hatred against others from different countries, religions, or people groups simply because they are in a different country.
But we will confine this to a very surprising finding from God's Word.
He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him.
|But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness..
Those three verses are well worth reading over and over and over.
Here is why:
|Hateth: greek. miseo, Strongs 3404
it means: to hate, pursue with hatred, detest
...from a primary word misos (hatred);
to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less: - hate (-ful).
That little "eth" means a contiuing action. God is saying "GET OVER IT. FORGIVE... like I said".
"Oh I'm a Christian, I don't hate anyone" we say.
Have we "detested" anyone?
When we understand Gods measure of what "hate" really means, what He is saying is to "detest" someone is to "hate" them.
Another word to include might be "to despise".
To continue to view them with feelings of ill-will, malice, a grudge, bitterness, or unforgiveness is to hate.
Do you doubt this? Remember Jesus said "to look upon a woman with lust" is the same as committing adultery with her. We may not think we are "hating" someone but if we merely "detest" them, the truth is we are not walking in the light.
Is it a wonder why so many Christians have physical afflictions? We as Christians are guaranteed to have offenses come our way, -make no mistake about it. God will make sure we are tempted and tested in regard to this, and he expects us to overcome.
Matthew 18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come
And how important is it to our salvation to NOT hold hate/ detesting/ or despising others?
And how important is it to our salvation to NOT hold hate/ detesting/ or despising others?
1 John 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that
no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
What Jesus taught:
1. to the disciples in John 20:23,
"Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained"
remit: forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up
retain: to use strength, seize or retain (literally or figuratively): - hold (fast), keep, (hold) on, obtain
So if we do not forgive, we "retain" their sin in us, and we suffer punishment. Try "retaining" some toxic material in your body and see if there is not an effect.
2. Jesus taught because of unforgiveness, that:
(Mat 18:34) ... his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
I am convinced that most, if not all depression is the "tormentors" at work, and eventually, sickness and even death, follow. Jesus said we would "pay all" for not forgiving.
This for only "detesting" someone?
How long do we remain agry with someone?
If we "retain" ANY "aught" (i.e., anything) against "anyone", we are committing "hate crimes".
How do we overcome?
We must repent and "forgive". -even the small stuff.
We pray forgiveness toward them, we confess forgiveness for them, and we can even speak kindness to them no matter what caused a falling out.
We can do that on our part, and if they will not receive our forgiveness, then Jesus said they would be "turned over to the judge".
If we have "retained" in ignorance, someone's offence and have "pursued" them by "detesting" them, then we repent. Some of you reading this have conditions in your physical body and and relationships that have been caused by these things and wondered why you cannot get well.
We know of church-going people with joint and connective tissue diseases which are a direct result of "detesting" someone, (i.e., hate crimes). We know of some who are crippled for the same cause.
Christians can really love good when they agree, but watch out if you don't agree!
They say they are walking in God's love, and how they "love the Lord", but they hold on to grudges and despise their brother?
1 John 4:20 If a man say, "I love God", and hateth (despises) his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
14 Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord:
15 looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled;
Even our doctrinal disagreements can slip us into the shadows of spiritual darkness.
Romans 14 addresses those who would "set at nought" someone they disagree with over a matter of faith:
3) Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him
4) Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand.
Others are nagged by depression and mental torment from not forgiving. It matters not to God whether it was another Christian, the local mayor or another politician, our own children, family, a neighbor, or someone on an internet forum.
Gods standard is purity and His people are "defiled' by hate crimes.
we are to walk in LOVE and FORGIVENESS..
13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye:
14 and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.
Father I pray that as your children we may forgive anyone who has offended us. Please grant each of us the grace to forgive and forget in order that we may also be forgiven and healed, both spiritualy and physically. Thank you for giving us this grace and mercy, may we do likewise.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
and again in Mark 11:
25 And whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any one; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Recently we were given the website of Thurman Scrivner to hear some audio testimonies of healing and faith. ("Katlynn's Miracle"). What a moving story it is and a great testimony of God doing what He has promised us in His Word in healing a precious baby who almost died in a terrible car accident.
When I looked at all of the audios, there were so many, it was a daunting choice. I asked the Lord, WHICH audio should we listen to and chose "Lord, WHAT Have I Done Wrong".
Well the Lord directed me correctly for us in answer to prayer. You see, we desire to walk in faith and holiness, which also had been our prayer and how we might better please God.
In a nutshell, Thurman told of someone who needed healing and there was an obstacle called sin in the persons life. The person is a Christian and could not think of any sin he/she had been committing, until brother Thurman asked them if they had been murmuring or complaing agaist ANYONE.
The person said "yes" and recalled who it was and that it had been going on a long time. Thurman brought out Philipians 2:14 which says:
"Do all things without murmurings and questionings (means disputing):"
Immediately I paused the audio and instantly knew of my own guilt before the Lord. Oh, sweet repentence as my wife and I now became accountable to more truth from scripture. I realized I had probably broken this admonition at least every month and maybe every week since becoming a Christian 30 years ago. Thank God for the blood covering but now we may receive the blood washing us by the water of the Word as we repented and seek to obey the King of kings!
Here's the verse as defined:
"Do": the act of doing. Our actions.
"ALL": in the Greek, it means "all". ALL?, -yes, all. God's Standard.
"things" a word added to the text, not in the original, so you can drop "things" if you want.
"Without": the opposite of "all". In other words, none, zero, zippo.
"murmurings": a murmur, murmuring, muttering
a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed.
murmuring 3, grudging 1. complaint 2, grumbling 2
Well there it is, the definition from the Greek lexicon. OUCH!
Every day last week found us repenting as the memory of many times we disobeyed the Word here in complaining, grumbling, and secretly debating with friends, family, our children, the neighbors, politicians, and other Christians. And we are STILL repenting as God refreshes our memory from what we now recognize was sin. This is even more serious when we do so against Christians because we are not discerning the Lord's body.
"For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep." 1Cor 11:30
A week later, my Bible fell open to another re-inforcement of what God is surely teaching us:
Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the judge standeth before the doors.
We now had TWO strong witnesses but the Lord was not through and gave revelation for these verses.
As we were now very aware of our sin concerning "murmring", the Lord revealed His judgement, which results in chastisement.
Usually this takes the form of sickness, affliction, physical problems, or accidents for a few examples. Even things like acne, warts, bunions, disease, sickness, diabetes,etc. which are all part of His "judgements" referred to as the curse. And he said in scripture to His people, "The curse causeless alighteth not"..
This is not taught in most churches and the sufferings of Christians bear witness to the truth of God chastising His people but they "just don't get it".
The Lord plainly says He will judge us in this life and chastise us. 1Cor. 11:29-32 and Hebrews 12:6-15 for example, and we bettter read carefully.
When we read "behold, the Judge stands at the doors", the Lord gave understanding that the WORD of God is the judge standing before the "doors".
(John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day)
"Doors", plural. What was that?
Those doors are our natural senses: the ears, the eyes, the touch, the smell, and especially our mouth.
So we have the Word as a witness and judge as to what goes in and out of those doors.
Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Now back to Philipians for the GOOD NEWS.
As we look again at Philipians 2, I would ask you if you have ever wondered about your spiritual garment?
Here is an example:
Revelation 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Have you wondered how you were doing and the condition of yours?
I have, and sure hoped it was clean. The good news is that as we obey the Word and REALLY BELIEVE the Word (not just knowing it or just being hearers), then our robe is washed and purified by the Word.
Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
-which is what the passage in Philipians 2 goes on to says also:
15 that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world,
Isn't that a wonderful Promise from God?
We "MAY BECOME BLAMELESS..." as we repent and obey this Word through the power of the holy Spirit. I might add that the promises of God are taken hold of by FAITH as we obey the living Word. Not only that, but when we meet the requirement of repenting and confessing our sin, then we may also receive the benefit of healing.
This is why many do not get healed, they simply do not connect sin with physical affliction. God has promised us over and over in scripture of His Will is for us to be healed, and to walk in holiness.
Repenting deeply for our murmuring, complaining, grudging, railing, and condemning people brings cleansing and healing; we have this priviledge as his sons and daughters.
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Loving Life Fellowship
Saturday night after 2 year old Louis was in bed, Steve and Sandy stayed up to watch the "GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU!!" show on TBN hosted by their (sort of) pastor, Dr. Phil Abrams, Apostle.
They had not been to service for six months, even though they had received a few calls from some of their friends at LLF. They had been very frightened by the (to them), unexpected closure of nearly every church in the country on what was now remembered as "3/3/12" (which also had a gematria of 666. 3+3=6. 6+6=12). But as hard as they tried to forget God, especially Steve, who had a short stint with alcohol for a few weeks that only left him more miserable and empty inside, there was simply no getting away from the shocking "change" that had been set in motion since the election of 2008.
But Dr. Abrams program Saturday night seemed to hold great promise. He was interviewing Evangelist Hugo Reismann, a Christian Mystic, who was immensly popular in Europe, and who was conducting "special services" at Loving Life for three weeks. "Brother" Hugo, as he preferred to be called, rattled off his miracle healings, and more financial miracles as a result of his "giftings'. He showed before and after pictures of people in wheelchairs, people with cancer, hearing loss, and a blind man who was led up to the platform and received his sight, then threw his dark glasses away and ran off the stage shouting.
Financial miracles included people getting large job raises, a $2,000,000.00 lottery winner, job promotions, people receiving gold tooth fillings, and a free Hawaian vacation after they gave into his the ministry. Dr. Abrams even appeared to be moved by his words and he got up to give Brother Hugo a hug and say "I LOVE YOU!" and Loving Life loves you too!"
"He makes it sound so easy" Sandy said, but Steve was skeptical. However, they both enjoyed the singing and "worship" portions of the program and the music was probably the deciding factor in the decision to go back to church at Loving Life the next morning.
Smiling Dr. Abrams reminded everyone that "God really wants to bless you!" and he gave a short reminder that you must give in order to receive. He went on to make the case that "we all need each other and everyone needs love and encouragement."
- "MORE than ever!" Sandy quietly agreed, and she hoped Steve caught the double-meaning of her comment.
Once more the cameras zoomed over to the singing group from LLF as they sang and rocked to the thump---thump---thump of another worship tune called "My Good God Life", which had Steve and Sandy both smiling and tapping their feet in time to the lively beat. In the backround behind the singers, gold glitter fluttered down as the song came to a close. Dr. Abrams stood up from the hosts seat, smiled and looked directly into the camera and said "SEE YOU IN CHURCH!"
As the program ended, service times and contact info for Loving Life Fellowship appeared, along with their toll free 888 counseling and donation line. (E-Fund Cards, Paypal, gladly accepted).
Steve and Sandy were both up early in anticipation of going to church at LLF. Steve even went out to his backyard storage building where he had hidden his Bible under the floor six months ago when the big church crackdown happened. They were so anticipating some kind of blessing, they even arranged for a neighbor's 14 year old daughter to babysit little Louis so he would not be a distraction to them "connecting to their spirituality" as Dr. Abrams put it.
When they pulled into LLF's two-acre parking lot through the open iron gate, they did notice the 3'x5' sign:
"A DRA approved ministry!" and thought "COOL, we won't have to worry about government agents spoiling the service". Apparently many others felt the same and Dr. Abram's TV program had probably been responsible for over 400 new members as they referred to LLF as "The Church of Our City". There was more than just a boast in that statement because there were only five churches still open out of more than 200 that were operating before "3/3/12" and LLF was the largest. All the open churches were DRA (Dept. of Religious authority) approved, 501c3, government licensed institutions of worship.
Promptly at 9:00 am, sevice began as the house lights flickered and dimmed. The chatter quickly died down as the dimly lighted sanctuary's stage spot light came to illuminate a beautiful lady in a long white flowing gown with a backround choir softly singing. Ethereal and almost angelic in appearance, she began her song in a low, Brittney Spears style, sensual moan, with her voice picking up slowly in volume and power as she began to sing "The Day My Life Changed", a song about finding her True Love (which everyone thought meant Jesus although his name was never mentioned).
The effect of the lighting, the music, and the powerfuly suggestive song sent chills up the spines of Steve and Sandy. Steve whispered in Sandys' ear "I can't believe how much they changed, this is AWESOME!"
Sandy was likewise moved, and the next three songs just built up an electrifying anticipation that rippled through the large auditorium.
After the music, Dr. Abrams quickly got up from his throne-like chair on the left side of the raised platform, took the mic and said "Brothers and Sisiters, Folks, and Visitors, We are having an awesome move of Gods spirit here, and I hate to interrupt for such a small matter. But because we LOVE you here at Loving Life and because "God really wants to bless you", we must give you the opportunity to participate in the blessings of God!
"Did you like Sister Chastity'and the choir?" "Wasn't that a beautiful song set and the lighting heavenly?"
"AMEN, AMEN!" responded over eighteen hundred voices from the auditorium.
"Thank you, thank you, now that we are just getting started with the blessings, remember that YOU are what this is all about, and YOU make it happen! Listen, we have the finest church presentation in the the WHOLE State of California because God is blessing us. Do you want to be BLESSED?" he shouted.
"AMEN!" came the unified voice from the assembly as the ushers moved throughout the richly carpeted, 58,000 square foot building. "Then GIVE us your best, give us your tithes, give us your offerings, give us your sacrifices, so God can open the floodgates of prosperity to you and rebuke the devourer".
"If you don't know it yet, God wants to bless you!".
"ONE HUNDRE FOLD, ONE HUNDRED FOLD" he chanted like a mantra. Many people echoed "ONE HUNDRED FOLD" as they prepared to "contribute".
Wireless bill and credit card scanners in hand, the ushers moved quickly, quietly, and efficiently through the crowd who were almost in a frenzy to use their E-Fund Account Cards, some older people still wrote checks out, and only a few used cash which was processed through the wireless bill-scanners. (The service netted well over $50,000, the second service brought even more). With the wireless scanners and card readers, a donation could be processed faster than a check could be written, with an E-receipt posted to their E-Fund Account, with an automatic tax deduction recorded.
Steve and Sandy had done their part too, some out of guilt over the last 6 months of non-attendance and giving, but mostly out of the excitement of the moment as they were swept up by the words of Dr. Abrams, the music and lights. Steve had stretched their E-Fund account to the limit with a $1,000 tithe-gift, but Steve thought, "In your face devil, and DRA! -as he thought of a 100-fold return on money they really needed to make the car and credit-card payments with.
With the collection out of the way, another song was introduced by LLF's Chorale. It was one from their fourth CD titled, what else... "God Wants to Bless You!" which was their best seller by far and had even been picked up by secular (non-religious) radio stations. Steve and Sandy couldn't wait to purchase a copy from the Music sales stand in the lobby, right next to the Starbucks kiosk.
With scarcely a pause as the music softened, Dr. Abram's brought Brother Hugo to the stage, announcing to the assembly "As an ordained Apostle in the Kingdom, I would like to introduce our dear brother Hugo who will minister to many of you. Let your faith arise and may God bless each of you! -Brother Hugo!"
Brother Hugo gave thanks to the assembly (thinking to himself, "especially for the $25,000 I will take in for this"), and to Dr. Abram's "for giving me this opportunity to be a blessing". Brother Hugo was indeed the recipient of many blessing himself. Thanks to LLF his personal jet plane was fueled $5,000, he was staying, along with his entourage at the Airport Regency Hyatt Hotel with his meals and room service tab all picked up by LLR. There was a $455.00 bar and lounge service tab included, which was scoffed at as a "mistake" from the food bill when a secretary from LLF noticed it in the receipts. Dr. Abram's himself told her to go ahead and pay it as it didn't matter and "we are not to judge".
Brother Hugo proceeded to read a couple of paragraphs from his new book which could also be purchased in the lobby. For 25 minutes he told stories of miracle after miracle which he had done (all "documented" in his book). As he spoke, he walked through the large auditorium in his white Brioni suit and all of his blonde hair in perfect place, a perfectly trimmed goatee gave him the look of distinguished authority.
Sometimes he would stop, look someone in the eye, and say something to them while reaching to touch their forehead. He used short, powerful phrases to both men and women: "you man of steel!", "100 FOLD!", "POWER ON YOU", "FIRE FIRE FIRE!", "The ANOINTING BE UPON YOU!", and many others. The effect was most always immediate; the one he touched would slump over in their seat, or if they were standing, they would crumple like a rag doll only to be caught by one or two "catchers" that assisted Brother Hugo.
The crowd was awestruck, many having traveled hundreds of miles or more to attend. Some were a bit frightened, but generally most of the crowd hoped to receive a "touch" and "a word". Sandy was almost breathless as Brother Hugo approached her and Steve, "Oh Lord, let him see us" she prayed. Sandy's prayer was answered because, sure enough, Hugo looked in their direction and then made eye contact with Sandy. He walked striaght over to her saying "the FIRE OF GOD!", and as he touched her head, just as she passed out, she FELT something go through her head to her toes.
After 30 minutes of "ministring" Brother Hugo went back to the platform and said "Many of you will never be the same after today. Some of you are already blessed and if you look in your wallet or purse you will find out why". When Steve looked in his wallet, to his shock and amazement, there was a new, crisp, $100.00 bill in it that was not there before. Others screamed when they made the same discovery.
Hugo went on, "some you are healed now, someone with a hurt back, a lady with arthitis, a man with bone cancer, someone with limited vision can see", and he named some other infirmities. "Will you stand if that is you?", -and around 50 people stood, some of them weeping. Hugo was still speaking, "if you will now look around you, many will see gold dust", and sure enough, Steve saw it! He picked some off the thickly padded seat and rubbed it between his fingers in disbelief. Sandy was awake again and Steve smiled at her and hugged her, but when he looked into her eyes, he thought he saw something that he had never seen before. Reasoning that it was just the effect of being "slain in the spirit", he gave it no further thought.
Dr. Abrams had returned to the mic and was now bringing the service to a close. "Can everyone say "God loves you" to your neighbor, and "we love you too. Loving Life loves you and thank you for worshipping with us, remember God wants to bless you! and if you have a need, call our 24 hour counseling line 1-888-666-8888. You may also purchase our CD's and Brother Hugo's book "How to Keep Your Blessing" out in the lobby. Please come back soon and bring someone with you, amen."
Feeling a little wobbly, Sandy got up with Steve and went into the lobby to buy the book and CD Dr. Abrams had reminded everyone about. Steve spent half of the $100 that he had found unexpectedly in his wallet and Sandy just smiled in a dazed kind of way. Steve thought to himself "if I didn't know better, I would think she had been drinking! -but he laughed it off as he was kind of high himself on the whole experience.
After making their purchases and walking outside to a BEAUTIFUL Sunday morning, they saw Dr. Abrams drive past in his beautiful white Jaguar with a dark-suited man in very dark glasses in the passenger seat. Steve thought he better hurry because the second morning service would begin in 30 minutes.
Sandy giggled,as together they walked outside and soon they were driving to the Red Lobster. It was sure easier getting a seat in a nice restaurant without all those "church people" and "fundamentalist Christians" around, but after what they had just been to, maybe it was better for those "dead churches" to be shut down anyway, along with the patriotic, "God and Country' troublemakers. Now THIS is what church ought to be" Steve thought, as he recalled brother (snicker) Ralph's invitation long ago to a "home gathering of believers".
As they ordered their meal, both Sandy and Steve decided to "celebrate" the 100-fold blessing, Steve with a glass of wine and Sandy with a martini (shaken not stirred). Steve thought that was a bit odd because Sandy had not drunk hard liquor anything since professing faith in Christ back in 2005. But you could not argue with what they had just experienced, and LLF had a "judge-NOT" philosophy which Dr. Abrams had written a best-selling book about, and that had become a foundational pillar of Loving Life Fellowship.
After Sandy finished her second martini, they returned home, Sandy for a nap, and Steve to their bookkeeping and bank statements after leaving his Bible in the back seat of their white 4Runner. Steve popped in the LLF Cd "God Wants to Bless You!" and with new confidence and hope, went to work on their bills.
Wednesday, 08 July 2009
When Steve and Sandy's world suddenly changed, along with millions of others across the land, several patterns emerged in the lives of multitudes. The government edict regarding the "church situation' and the "temporary" closing of churches in America set into motion several distinctive trends.
As the days went by the news was spread via word-of-mouth, by phone, and by mail. The internet was now strictly controlled and monitored. All websites, email, instant messaging, including text-messaging by cell-phone were monitored by GOOGLE, which had been taken over by the government the same as General Motors, Chrysler, Sears, Marriot, and dozens of other large corporations with government appointed "czars" as directors.
Many Christian websites were blocked or shut down, only those approved by the authorities were allowed to continue as long as they conformed to the State of Emergency "Hate Speech" laws enacted by Presidential Executive Order #200011666.
This Executive Order banned any real or percieved wording that could cause "emotional duress or psychological or physical pain" to any group or person of any sexual lifestyle, racial group, religious group, nationality, or sub-culture with harsh penalties which included confiscation of property and/ or imprisonment.
Surprisingly, TBN was still on the air, although their programming lineup had changed. To their amazement, their pastor and Apostle, Phil Abrams, D.D. now had his own show: "GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU!!"
However, Steve and Sandy, and millions of other "Christians" like them now found themselves with some crucial choices regarding their spirituality which would put them into one of the emerging trends:
1. Play it safe, protect their jobs and finances by full cooperation with the new laws, avoiding any outward display of anything "Christian", including getting rid of their Bibles in case of a house search.
2. Stay very neutral and see what happens.
Steve knew phones were monitored and possibly he was under close observation at his job as a California Division of Land Resource Protection administrator. His job was now only part-time due to the mandatory job furoughs and his work allotment was now down to 28.5 hours per week. Steve also ran a small retail software business which he and Sandy had started 12 years earlier. With the economic recession in full stride, it too had been downsized and they had long ago laid off their 5 employees.
3. Go back to one of the official, government-licensed, sanctioned, 501c3 churches that had re-opened under the new North American United Church (NAUC), Department of Religious Authority.
(The Department of Religious Authority was the new cabinet position headed by Richard Wolfsen, "Pastor Rick" as he was called jokingly by department workers).
Although they were not attending, their church, Loving Life Fellowship, was one of the re-opened ones proclaiming a "non-judgemental", "positive message of love, tolerance and diversity". They had noticed the church had re-opened and the new gold-trimmed 3x5' sign at the entrance gate, under the existing one, "A DRA approved ministry!"
4. Forget Christianity altogether because God would never allow the USA to become like this. Just make the most of each day and try to get what pleasures were still out there. They had always been good, moral people, they thought, never committing adultery, being honest, and helping others. But some of the people they had known from church were now partying it up in an attempt to escape the growing pressures of life. Some immersed themselves in work and business, some turned to drugs and alcohol. Some filled their lives with people, friends, and family. Indeed, with the growing number of homeless, many families had already doubled up and others had taken in or rented out parts of their homes to outsiders.
5. Try and find some other Christians for fellowship, which was very dangerous because you simply did not know who might denounce you to authorities as there was a $500 Reward for information leading to the arrest of "Christian subversives" as they were now referred to daily in the news media. Christian subversives were those who believed the Bible literally, believed in prophecy and the book of Revelation, believed that God healed apart from doctors, and believed in the Old US Constitution instead of the new Revised Standard Constitution of the US Federation of North America.
6. Steve wondered what became of "brother Ralph", who had mentioned going "underground" and was still rumored to be in the area, although there were also many stories of Christians being arrested and taken to one of the many "Detention and Re-education Centers" operated by the Wackenhut security corporation, which had also been absorbed into the government as part of the FBI-CIA-NSA consolidation in Dec. 2010.
These choices and the thoughts relating to them were all constantly swirling around in the mind of Steve and Sandy. Then there were people were suddenly disappearing and no one knew what happened to them.
Steve felt the weight of these whispered stories and also the nagging fear and paranoia regarding the new laws, the detention camps, their finances, and who could be trusted. In his confusion, and in his anxiety over their debts (they had $8,000 credit card debt, a car loan of $12,250.00, and and a mortgage of $158,000 on their home which was now worth only $55,000 but they loved their home and were determined to keep it), Steve could not get a firm grip on a course of action. This bothered Steve greatly as he had always been a man of goal-setting and planning out his future.
But now the future was murky because his world and the world of millions of Americans had changed with suddeness. The "business cycle" of a temporary recession had become an economic quagmire with no end in sight, even his 401k and his government retirement pension were not his but were now shown as "credits" in his government "Benefits Account".
Another shock came in the mail one day (mail deliveries were now on Tuesday through Thursday only), when Steve and Sandy were notified that they owed the government $4,592.00 for "non-approved charitable giving", retroactive to 2005, relating to what they had given to a chuch they once attended before moving over to Loving Life Fellowship. The letter stated:
"In an audit of your reported giving to Bible First Independent Church, aka BFIC, as recorded in the IRS 1040 Income Statement years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and as verified by our examination of BFIC financial records and your Income Tax records for those years, you have an outstanding balance due.
As BFIC is not a Department of Religious Authority approved institution and was permanently closed by Executive order on March 13, 2011 you are hereby notified that this amount has been automaticaly deducted from your Personal Benefits Account credits and any shortfall will be attached on future earnings as needed.
The amount due from you, retroactive to the years 2005-2008 is $4,592.00.
Only approved Institutions may receive tax benefits. (see government website).
By law, there is no appeal of this notification and all judgements are final.
Thank you for your cooperation,"
Dept. of Religious Authority in full cooperation with the IRS-Federal Reserve"
This letter effectively wiped out Steve and Sandys savings from their last really good income year back in 2006, and put a dent in what they had put aside in their 401k (now in their Federal Personal Benefits Account).
When Steve read the letter his face turned red as he struggled to control his anger, and he sarcastically said to Sandy "at least they didn't hit us for what we tithed to Loving Life, it could have been worse". But Sandy was shaken and through her tears said "but Steve, we gave that to GOD! How can they? Now they're robbing our savings too!" Steve replied they would just have to work harder and longer, but Sandy did not want to give up any more of her parenting time with 2 year old Louis. They also wondered what happened to the pastor of Bible First, and thought he had moved away as the church was closed and the property auctioned off with the proceeds going to the DRA.
When the Federal Reserve Bank merged with the IRS, the tax laws had radically changed in 2010. The Fed now had total control over the economy and the IRS was now operating as the enforcement arm of the Fed, which also controlled the Department of the Treasury. This completely consolidated all financial institutions, the Treasury Dept., the IRS, all banking, lending, commerce, the stock market, savings accounts, investing accounts, and all purchasing under the auspices of one gigantic governmental regulatory power.
All transactions were by law, computerized and instantly reported. The conversion to the electronic reporting by all business was required by law and any not in compliance had their business license revoked. There were harsh penalties for non-reporting, and even cash was monitored by a special scanner that would wirelessly transmit to the internet and was used by mobile vendors, service industry people, and sales people. The system was able to track each and every dollar bill via an implanted barcode and any "lost" or "stolen" bills were traceable and became unspendable if someone tried to spend unreported cash.
Businesses such as local gardeners, yard maintenance, and handyman services were forced to comply as there were also $500 rewards for information and arrest of anyone caught trying to barter or use unreported cash. Some of those radicals and fundamenalists had said the only step missing was the "identity chipping" of people which they called "the mark", but this was already being done by upper level Federal employees, military, and some law enforcement agencies.
This had all happened with the money changeover in 2010. ALL "old" Federal Reserve notes in every dollar denomination were turned in and exchanged for new ones at a rate of ten old dollars for one new dollar, which also contained the electrinic bar code that was read by the Logiscan scanners. Although this defacto devaluation of the dollar hurt those that had not transferred their money overseas into other currencies, there was a temporary lift in the economy as foreigners flocked to the US to purchase anything of value.
Steve wondered if his job with California Division of Land Resource Protection would fall into the "identity and security" chipping requirement as was being adopted by so many government and even many of the larger private organizations. Now that California had gone into full-blown bankruptcy, a financial bailout agreement was being forged that would transfer all State owned assests, including all buildings, State parks, and property, over to the Federal government.
While this protected the Employee Union Contracts, retirement, and benefits from a catastropic loss, due to the State of California's insolvency, it also meant that California was now the property of the Federal government and all State employees now worked for the Federal government.
The cities would soon find themselves in the same position as the political dominoes fell and the parade of mayors going to Congress begging for bailouts was a long one. All roads led to D.C., as the Federal Government was the only entity with the ability to create the money needed to bailout every bankrupt entity.
Steve and Sandy were soon to come to a clash of the life they once knew and the spiritual realities prophesied long ago in the Bible. The choices they would make would determine where they would spend eternity.
Almost every evening included a discussion between them regarding the near future and what they should do in light of the events rapidly developing around them.
"Why not go back to Loving Life Fellowship?" Sandy suggested one Saturday evening, "I really need some encouraging, and remember, GOD wants to bless you!!, right?"
...to be continued.
Monday, 06 July 2009
What would happen if the churches were all closed? Could it happen here?
Imagine one day, a typical Sunday morning, that a family leaves home intending to go to church. "Steve, Sandy, and 2 year old Louis" decide to drive over to the familiar granite-faced building with the gated parking area and notice there are no parked cars in the normally full parking area. Instead, only a dozen or so other vehicles are seen slowly driving through the parking lanes, heads are seen turned, looking at the building.
As they too look at the building, with a shock, they see a large "closed" sign on the door and they wonder "WHAT happened?" They quickly decide to drive over to another "church" in order not to be late.
Upon arrival, the same scene is repeated, only this time a small group of people stand near the boarded up doorway reading a poster and shaking their heads in confusion.
With a growing sense of something strange mixed with thoughts of "we better hurry if we are going to get a service in before lunch", they ignore the cluster of other Christians and zip over to yet another church, one they do not care for all that much, but.... at least it's church.
With a shock, they arrive at church #3 and it too is boarded up, this time with two policemen at the entrance. They notice a police car driving away with someone in the back seat but cannot see who it is. A man and his wife are just getting into their car to leave as Steve and Sandy pull alongside to ask "what is going on?"
The man in the other car whispers, "They just took the pastor away in handcuffs. I guess some of the deacons got in a scuffle with one of the deputies who put the "CLOSED" poster on the door."
At this point, Steve is really alarmed. He takes out his cell phone to call some church-going friends and discovered they are all finding out the same story: ALL of the churches have been closed, locked out, and some of the leaders arrested. They are stunned. "This is the USA, hey, we have a Constitution and Bill of Rights, we're free, MAN!"
Most of the parishoners were unaware of the new "emergency" declared late Saturday night by the President. Some had heard of a possible "bank holiday" being declared (which actually happened the next morning on Monday, just like it did when President Roosevelt declared one back on Sunday, March 05, 1933
"Amidst the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a four-day "bank holiday" today. All U.S. banks would close effective March 6 to keep Americans from withdrawing their money in panic. "Suiting the deed to the word, the President over the weekend declared a condition of national emergency and invoked war-time powers to bring about a state of financial stability which had been upset by the sporadic closing of banks in many States," -informed the Indiana Evening Gazette on March 6, 1933.
But this was 2012.
Steve and Sandy were vaguely aware of the growing hostility to Christianty and other religions, but they were busy with family, job hunting, Steve's part-time work, nightly television, the latest movies, and of course, SPORTS! They gave little thought to the news sound-bites about some being arrested for violating the strict "Hate-Speech" laws because they mentioned homosexuality in a negative sounding way, or families losing their children to the CPS (Child Protective Services), because they took them to a church service against their will and told a teacher at school.
Nor did they connect the Presidential orders regarding the "present dangers" of "subversives, terrorist hate speech", "anti-government talk spawned by talk radio", religious and Christian patriot elements." The President promised "to do all I can to protect good Americans from these elements."
The President's speech was given in the wake of the latest wave of nationwide "TEA" parties (taxed enough already). The recent takeover by the Federal government of IRA's, Keough's, and 401k private pension retirement accounts had generated massive tax protests as the Feds moved in on the last storehouse of untapped money, in order to pay on the 77 trilion dollar national debt.
Many churches were involved with the Tax protest movement, especially the patriotic "God and country" ones who had seen the loss of church tax deductions, the loss of gun ownership rights, and the shocking arrest of Rush Limbaugh under the "Hate Speech" legislation.
The church they usually attended, Loving Life Fellowship, was very involved with Community Service projects and fund-raisers, the pastor emulated one of the famous television pastors of a "Mega-Church', and the services were "events" consisting of dramaticaly lighted stage performances by professional sounding musicians and singers. A $400,000 sound system rocked the 5,000 seat "sanctuary" with contemporary "gospel" music, the pastor was a polished speaker in an immaculately tailored suit. Television cameras broadcast the services regionally and the parking lot was usually filled with upscale cars and SUV's.
Sermons were well-prepared, oratorical performances, accompanied by sophisticated lighting, sound, and huge simulcast monitors that focused on the speaker. "Our Message" given by Sr. Pastor and Apostle, Phil Abrams, D.D. was one that comforted and uplifted the people with a positive, upbeat theme that always included the pastors motto: "GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU!!!" (-"now turn to your neighbor and say GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU!").
But today was different, there would be no "services" held. Not at 9am, not at 11am, not at 6 pm.
Confused and shocked, Steve and Sandy went home and began to make calls to friends and family. They found the same story repeated everywhere; closed churches; some, if not many, arrested, and a growing fear for what had happened to their life. They found out about the mandatory government edict forbidding Christians and other religions assembling, effective as of midnight on Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Steve, being a business man was very concerned. Not only were they on the churches computer membership list from when they had enrolled 5 years earlier, but also there was a concern for the records held by the church in regard to their tithes and offerings during that time. He wondered if there was any danger for himself if the authorities were confiscating church records and computers and looking for "supporters".
He was also worried if his involvement with any of the TEA party events might be a problem.
Months later, his concerns were validated when he received a "visit" from 3 government agents who showed him to the penny how much he had given each year, and even his church attendance records that the deacons had kept. Steve noticed on one of the agents laptops, his address, other data, and his name was on a page with a blue asterisk * next to it.
As Sandy and Steve were now very concerned about "the church situation" as it was referred to in the news, they thought it best to lay low and not go. He had heard stories of vocal Christians losing their jobs, credit, and having property seized. Steve thought it best to get rid of any Christian books, computer bookmarks, and did his best to "sanitize" their home of anything Christian. "I have a family to feed" he reasoned, and besides, it was not all that bad an idea. Those churches mostly existed to serve their own comforts and self-existence.
Steve also thought about those friends they used to know that had invited them to a "home fellowship" group but Steve had scoffed at them saying he would only go to a "REAL CHURCH". He did not stay in touch with them, no one saw them around the mainstream churches, they had seemed to fade away into obscurity.
He did remember a final conversation with "brother Ralph" in 2006. "Brother" Ralph had warned Steve the hour was very late and he should get out of debt, get out of sin, and get into the Word of God for himself. He tried to warn Steve his church was not preparing him or his family for troubled times and his fellow church-goers were spiritualy asleep and not following the Holy Scriptures, even though they had the appearance of "Christian".
Steve and Sandy both knew their lives were not all that "holy", but as they had gotten to be friends with other church members, they saw the liquor, movies, jokes, and normal American lifestyles that gave the impression everything was OK, grace was in, sin was out. Everyone, mostly drove a nice car, borrowed money to finance their desires, and even Pastor Abrams was known for being a "regular" guy with his Rollex watch, black BMW, and his season tickets to the Giants games. He was also involved in local politics holding an official position on the Airport Commission and was the unofficial "City Pastor", as his golf buddy, the Mayor called him.
That Ralph guy was "too overboard" on the Bible, and Steve was very uncomfortable around him. But now, the occasional thought about that"brother Ralph" flickered across his mind and he wondered "What IF he was right about that stuff?" -which made no sense, because if Ralph was right, he would have a big following.
But now he had other things to worry about, those agents, that blue star by his name, and the gnawing questions over what happened to those people who had been picked up by the unmarked, black vehicles?
And one more question regarding recent events; why were some of the closed churches reopening? -some with new pastors, some with name changes?
The more Steve thought about it, the more comfortable he was with the idea of shutting those places down, taxing or confiscating all that untaxed church property, and giving the boot to all the phony showboat pastors he recalled seeing in them and on television. In his mental juggling, Steve would sometimes think it good for the government to clean up the churches, and at other times worry about the loss of liberty.
But Steve also wondered where was God in all of this? Right now, self-preservation for he, Sandy, and little Louis was at the top of his list, he only wished he would never had joined that membership or written those "tax-deductible" tithe and offering checks which now were witnesses of his "faith".
... to be continued
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