GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . So don’t give up!

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Reference: Galatians 6:7-9 )

Pilgram Marpeck wrote in “Five Fruits of Repentance” specifically referring to this passage from Galatians, “It is not enough that one merely says: I would gladly repent and confess of my sins. A part of it is to recognize what kind of fruit sin brings. For what each person sows,

they will and must reap or harvest, Gal. 6:8. For all pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering together with eternal death are the true fruits and reward, yes, the true wages of sin, which is given to all sinners who have not received grace, and by which they are condemned to eternal destruction. Whoever does not find Christ in this depth (that is, in this true baptism for the remission of sin) will not find Him in the height in joy and glory eternally.”

I am glad for Marpeck that “all pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering” can be avoided by the “ true baptism for the remission of sin”, and finding and abiding in Christ at a great depth. But there are people who lead good Christian lives and walk with God who still have “pain, anxiety, distress, and suffering”, and quite honestly we get tired of being told we could avoid this if only . . . .

Now I know Marpeck means these things that come into one’s life because of sin, and not because of ailments and illness, and circumstances beyond one’s control. But when you are struggling (as I have been for the past week or two) it is hard to hear these admonitions and not take it personally as being “preached to.” That is the problem, beloved, of preaching to an unknown audience – you don’t know if there are those out there whose life circumstances have caused them the very things you are preaching that can be avoided. And there has been many a “red-faced” preacher (or there should be) who has had to apologize because someone who is suffering has pointed out their lack of compassion. And isn’t that just the thing that God would warn preacher and minister about! DO NOT harm the innocent, naive, and down trodden.

But what should the message be to those who suffer in this life for things beyond their control? Well, actually, the same thing; don’t give up! Because God knows their suffering, and knows that they are innocent but suffer anyway. God’s mercy may not feel like it is coming through to them; but do not blame God. Set the blame at the feet of those who turn away from those suffering or dismiss them. As a person who both suffers and ministers to those who are suffering, I know important it is to discern between the suffering of a sinner and the suffering of an innocent.

I do not mean to preach to you, beloved, that you are dismissive of those who suffer. I just felt it was time again to stand up and remind the world that not all of those who suffer are deserving of it because they have sinned or have been wicked. In fact, it is those of us who are suffering that could and should be the recipients of good being done!

Beloved, may you be ever mindful of those in your faith group and circle of acquaintances, and of strangers also. Be mindful of their sufferings that they have not brought on themselves. Do good to them, encourage them not to give up but to keep moving forward to a life eternal that is free from suffering and misery. It is what we all long for! Selah!

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GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . The good, the bad and the in-between

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God,and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” (Reference: 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 )

Just as the writer of the gospels and epistles believed, the historic Anabaptists believed that the time of judgment would be coming soon. And if that was coming soon, then all who wished to repent should do so quickly. Jan Wouterss encouraged his accusers to make themselves right with God before the time of judgment. The irony is that his accusers thought it were people such as Wouterss and other historic Anabaptists who were living wrongly.

Wouterss said, “If I must innocently suffer for this unadulterated faith, I can think, that my Lord Jesus Christ, whose servant, I poor, sinful man am, fared no better at the hands of the authorities of that day and this through the instigation of the learned. O my honorable lords, repent, amend your ways and your doings. Jer. 7:3. And I also proclaim repentance of all my lords still living, who are guilty of the innocent blood of Joris de Ve, [Joris Wippe, who was put to death 1558] who shall soon come forth, shining in God’s glory, with great joy. For the day of the Supreme Judge is at the door: this is apparent from the pestilence, dearth, rumors of wars, and many other signs. O my honorable lords, be cordially warned of the evil which is to come upon you, for it is done out of love and friendship, and not through bitterness, for beyond doubt, we must all appear before the Supreme Judge; there every one shall give account of himself, and receive according to that he hath done; there excuses or regrets will not avail. Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10. Oh, reflect; it will soon come to pass, and none can escape it.”

There is an authenticity in Wouterss statement that is compelling. He stakes his sincerity on the fact that all will be judged by God, and if his motivations in encouraging his accusers were not pure, he will be judge by God in that regard. And this resonates deep within me. How we spread God’s word and the attitude/motivation we have to spread God’s word is just as subject to scrutiny and judgment as how we life and organize our own lives. It is no wonder we need the support and intervention of the Holy Spirit to live well and wisely!

May you beloved live your life such that the judgment and scrutiny of God will bare witness to your to dedication to a Godly life. Selah!

GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . All the choices we have made

If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him. For the wisdom of the Lord is great, and he is mighty in power, and beholdeth all things: And his eyes are upon them that fear him, and he knoweth every work of man. He hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man licence to sin.” (Reference: Sirach 15:15-20)

A paraphrase – according to me:

If you have the will and intent, keep all the laws and precepts that God has established from the time of the first calling of God’s people up until and including what Jesus made known. And try to keep with good intentions and determination as you can. God has placed before humanity two options – fire and water. Reach for whichever seems to suit your intentions. Before all of humanity is the choice of life and death; what people strive for, that is what they receive. Remember, the Lord’s wisdom is great, and the Lord is mighty in power, and sees all things. God’s eyes are on those who fear the Lord (and those who don’t.) He knows what everyone does, and is capable of doing. The Lord God has commanded that no wicked thing should be done, and has not given any permission to sin.”

I have not said much about the fact that we are in the third week of Advent. I have posting along side the daily blog Advent themed postings. There has not been much overlap between the two. That is not surprising because the themes of historic Anabaptists don’t have much overlap between themes of Advent and Christmas. It was the Roman Catholic’s intention to appropriate Christ’s birth and secular winter celebrations. And since the historic Anabaptists did not have much use for the state-run Roman Catholic church, I imagine that during that time there was not much overlap of Advent themes into their Anabaptist households. At least I have not read accounts where their would be.

Over years the Anabaptist/Mennonite faith has picked up Advent and Christmas themes, using them in worship services and other times of fellowship. I remember Advent candles playing a part of worship services, and we had yearly Christmas programs. And of course we sang Advent and Christmas hymns. And Christmas was celebrated in every Anabaptist/Mennonite home.

You may ask why I am writing along this line. Humanity has the choice, and has always had the choice as to how they celebrate Advent and Christmas. Whether they “stretch out their hands” to the commercialism of Christmas or the sacred/religiousness of Christmas. Whether the focus is on the bottom of the Christmas tree or in the stockings hung up in waiting. Or on the nativity scene and the baby Jesus. And those choices, it seems to me, might be reflected at other times of the year. We choose and reach out our hand to what is important in our life. God watches us. And in the fullness of God’s time those choices will be repaid. So, what you choose now will determine what you receive later.

It is my hope and pray in this Advent season, which is the beginning of a new church year, that you will choose will. And will continue choosing well throughout the year. Selah!

GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . All that we humans attempt to do and be

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Reference: Jeremiah 17:9-10 )

Sometimes I am not really sure how to take these scriptural excerpts. They seem to come across differently just reading them straight, out of context. When you read them in context surrounded by their neighboring verses a different sense comes across. So, what about this one? Is the heart “deceitful”? [A brief survey of translations shows that the word “heart” is used most often, but there are one or two instances where the word “mind” is used instead.) Well, it depends on the heart, and what you mean by “heart.” If you are taking about emotions, as in human emotions all on their own according to will-full human agendas, yes the “heart” is deceitful. But if you are taking about care and compassion, sensitivity and kind regard, no the heart is not “deceitful.”

The editors of Reading the Anabaptist Bible say that “the Lord searches the human heart and renders judgment” so I guess that would mean that the heart may be deceitful . . . or it may not. The writer of Jeremiah qualifies his statement by saying the Lord looks at the heart and mind, and judges one’s actions. But are not one’s actions motivated by the heart, and by the mind? Isn’t all of that a “package deal”?

In the verses preceding verses 9 to 10 two examples are set up; those who trust in human/mortal flesh, and turns away from God. And those who trust in the Lord and reap the benefits of living within the Lord’s guidance. So how could that faithful-to-God heart be “deceitful”? Or perhaps “deceitful” is not the right/best word. The Hebrew word has the sense of a steep or treacherous hill. Maybe a better way to understand this is that the human heart is inconsistent. It maybe oriented towards God; or it may be ruled by earthly or base agendas. This would makes sense if the Lord is to judge the heart by the actions that it prompts and motivates.

How would God judge your “heart” beloved?

GOD WILL REPAY ALL . . . . No Tricks or Hidden Information Involved

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” (Reference: Deuteronomy 30:15 )

Five years ago I said;

The essence of magic is misdirection. In a very simple magic trick the conjurer challenges his/her audience to find the small item (a small ball, a nut or some other small object) hidden underneath one of the three cups, shells, or other hollow object. And no matter how many times the guesser tries to guess where the item is hidden, they guess wrong. The reason? The item is never hidden under the object but is palmed by the conjurer. The essential knowledge needed to understand what is happening is hidden by the conjurer. God does not operate like that.

God sets out clearly and without misdirection what can be found in this life. If one searches for evil and sin, it can be found. If one searches for goodness and righteousness, it can be found. If one follows the round to death and destruction, one will get there. And if one follows the road to life and glory, one will get there also. The choice of which way one goes is up to each individual traveler.

Balthasar Hubmaier wrote, “See here, Christian reader, how bright and clear this Scripture shows us that God has freely entrusted to the human being anew also after the Fall the choice of evil and good, blessing and curse, life and death. So that even if the whole world said otherwise, heaven and earth would stand against it and testify openly on the last day before the judgment throne of Christ against all people that not God, but we ourselves, out of free will, are responsible for our sins and eternal damnation.”

May you, gentle reader, see what is clearly before you and make your choice accordingly. Selah!

It is no coincidence I am sure, beloved, that this theme comes after the theme of “Day of Lord.” While we do not know the timing, we are pretty sure end times are coming. These past years have been hard years with many changes, destruction, and death. Yet the world turns on. But it does not matter when the “Day of the Lord” comes because it is the destiny of humanity and all creation to come under judgment of God. How and when? No one knows for a certainty. One might not even believe that such judgment is inevitable. But it cannot be argued that this was written in Deuteronomy. And it cannot be argued that for at least two thousand plus years or more people have believed it and lived accordingly. The only question remains is, “What are you going to do about it?” I say again beloved, make your choice. Selah!

DAY OF THE LORD . . . Still another version . . . And more chances for wrongful living!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (Reference: 2 Peter 3:9-13 )

God is patient. And all things happen according to God’s time and not our time. Perhaps that is why some 2000 years after the writer of 2 Peter wrote this, we are still here. And perhaps that is why some 440 years after historic Anabaptist Jan Hendrickss was put to death we are still here. Hendrickss, like many others, wrote to his wife exhorting her to life a Christian life saying, “Let your meditation be in the word of the Lord, day and night concern yourself in His commandments and statues, and watch for His coming, and long for it, and avoid all appearance of evil, and act not as though you might live many years yet, but walk before the Lord just as if you were to die immediately.”

For many of the historic Anabaptists their best hopes for being reunited with family was when the Day of the Lord came and the Lord created a new heaven and a new earth for faithful believers. Earning a spot in that new heaven/new earth was where they hoped to be reunited with beloved friends and family for all time. If that day has not come, does that mean that the historic Anabaptists have still not yet been reunited? Or does the tremendous time between the writing of 2 Peter (and all the other gospels and letters), and the time between the historic Anabaptists now, mean that those passed from this old earth do not have to wait?

The question is, beloved, since we are now in the year 2014, and near the end of it at that, does all the waiting for new life in God still continue? It is easier to think that we need to wait if we do not anticipate the wait to be long. The gospel and epistle writers were sure that Christ would return soon. The historic Anabaptists were sure (I gather this from their letters) that the Day of the Lord would not be long in coming. But still we wait. And if this was not enough, I am writing this several days before you are scheduled to read it. And I am fairly certain my writing this will not bring about the end, anymore than the gospel/epistle writers and the historic Anabaptists writers writing were foretelling a speedy coming of the Day of the Lord.

Rather than living as if the Day of the Lord will come soon, we need to live as if the Day of the Lord is decades and centuries off. But that does not mean we can live any way we want! Quite the contrary! We need to live even MORE accountable lives! Each day we live longer than the day more, the more chances we have to go astray of the Lord. Each subsequent day brings dangers and dangers anew for sin and corruption, evil and vice.

We live in fearsome times, beloved. As fearsome as our spiritual ancestors, and more so. I pray for you beloved, as I pray for myself. May the Day of the Lord find us in good and correct relationship with our Lord. And may all the days until that last day may we draw courage, strength, endurance, and wisdom from our God. Selah!

DAY OF THE LORD . . . Another version

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (Reference: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 )

I do not know how consistent this narrative of the “Day of the Lord” is to other narratives, either written by the same writer as that of 1 Thessalonians (Paul) or by other epistle writers. It would be an interesting study. Such a study would need to take into account whether the “Day of the Lord” is the one of punishment or the gathering of the faithful – both dead and still living. Even in this series of verses on the theme of “Day of the Lord” has not been consistent in its accounts.

It is accounts such as these from the first letter to the Thessalonians that rapture stories are made of. I remember them first in the early to mid 1970’s, and then again with the “Left Behind” series, that has been a subject of many of my postings. In fact in December 6, 2009 I wrote about the “Left Behind” series and made some observations about that series in conjunction to this passage and a possible explanation as to why Paul wrote what he did to the Thessalonians. Clink on the underlined Dec 6 date to be taken to that post. I also post there what historic Anabaptist Jan van Hasebroeck wrote to his wife. It is, beloved, a love letter. It is of course a reminder and exhortation to faith – a great deal of the writings of the historic Anabaptist were. But it is also a love letter, testifying to his love for his wife and children and the hope that a time will come when they will no longer be separated.

This portion of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is also a love letter, outlining the love that God and our Lord Jesus Christ have for the believers, both those now dead and those still living. If Paul’s vision is accurate and correct, it is also still relevant. That everyone one who Paul knew and wrote to has already passed away, and their families also have passed away, and even theire descendents have passed away, and that countless generations after that have passed away – none of that matters if Paul’s vision is still accurate. It could still happen! Will it happen that way though? I do not know. But it is a lovely thought and vision.

May you beloved hold fast to your faith and belief so that when Christ returns, however the Divine returns, you will be welcomed into that holy presence! See you there! Selah!!