The Enticement


With lascivious eyes
Lustful whispers and sights
Expressions mesmerizing
And words enticing
She wooed him to adultery
He fled from debauchery
Not listening to flattery
Giving God the glory!

She was capricious
But also tenacious
Daily she lured him
He gave not to her whim
She waited for a chance
Wouldn’t snap out of her trance
But one day, she caught up to him
She said “Come to bed with me”

He refused her command
Left his cloak in her hand
When the master came
She played a game
He listened to her claim
On Joseph, she laid the blame
She showed him the cloak
His anger awoke

The slave was confined
But God was with him
He exalted the Hebrew
Released him from shackles
made him a blessing
A revealer of dreams
A savior of the land
A tool in God’s hand!

A poem by Maria Joseph

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Can Non-Christians go to Heaven???


The short answer is “YES, they may“. Now that you have the answer, you might want to go back to what ever you were doing.

This is probably the “One Question” raised by Atheist’s that literally stumps the average Christian. The other being “How can a benevolent GOD, create suffering that kills innocent children? or Why does GOD allow evil?” There is a great explanation about this given by Ravi Zacharias on YouTube.

Back to the question at hand.

Will God prevent a good and morally upright atheist from going to heaven; while allowing a reformed child molester to go to heaven?

I think the Christian knows the answer to that – Yes He Will (Prevent the atheist from going to heaven).

Jesus Christ dogmatically stated: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Exclusivity is the hallmark of Christianity. Even Islam is more inclusive than Christianity.

But the Bible declares that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, see also 2 Peter 3:9). The Bible’s most famous verse declares that “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life ” (John 3:16).

Could a loving God sentence people to an eternity of torment for not having had a chance to hear about Jesus?

Let’s see how Jesus reflects on the subject.

When Jesus had to confront the Pharisees of his time who were demanding a sign from him. Jesus says

“The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:41-42).

Let’s just assume that Jesus is using figures of speech here, that He didn’t actually mean what He said; because He is literally saying that the Queen of Sheba, Assyrians from Nineveh and the Jews are all going to be judged at the same time. You have to be alive to be judged!!!

Why do we have to be judged?

On this planet, we have to pay a price every time we break a law. Be it as trivial as jay walking or a serious crime like murder. The law is absolute and we have to face the consequences.

Jesus is simply saying, that he will bear our punishment so that we can be set free from the law. All we have to do is put our faith in him. [ I can’t imagine of a simpler agreement or term to avoid the consequence that is due to us]. Christian or not, we are all fallible, even the best among us have shame written on our back side. Therefore judgement is unavoidable.

Obviously, a non christian, may have never heard about Jesus. Even if one did hear about Jesus, very few are willing to step outside the comfort of the religion that they were born in. [Because they simply can’t believe such a ludicrous claim]

If God is love, isn’t it unfair for Him to destroy the people who have never heard of Jesus Christ? Is it fair for Him to punish people in hell for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time? How about those millions of babies who didn’t even have the chance to even understand what the Bible says? How about those people who lived and died in places where Christianity is forbidden or during the times when it would be difficult for them to know Christ? Will they all be thrown into the lake of fire even if it wasn’t their fault?

This would mean that God is a complete failure! He could not even save the majority of mankind from the evil works of the Devil!

Before you write him off, consider this

II Peter 3:9 tells us:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, NOT willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Ezekiel 33:11 adds:

“Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I DO NOT ENJOY SEEING SINNERS DIE. I would rather see them stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?”

These are just a few verses showing God’s infinite mercy, love, and compassion toward us. He does not want anyone to perish. In fact, He wants to save as many people as possible.

So, what is the fate of those nonbelievers and non-Christians? Will they also be saved or be eternally tormented in hell-fire?

Forget everything that you have been told by secular media. The real truth about Death & Resurrection is that everyone gets a second chance.

The answers can be found in the two Biblical books devoted to prophecy: Revelation and Ezekiel.

Revelation 20 talks about the first resurrection, when Satan will be bound for a thousand years immediately after Christ’s return (verses 1-3) and of the resurrection of the saints—Christ’s faithful servants throughout the ages (verses 4-6). Christ and His saints will rule for 1,000 years (commonly called the Millennium). Then, after the Millennium, another group will be resurrected to life. This group is called “the rest of the dead” (verse 5).

Who are the rest of the dead? Verse 12 reads: “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God.” This will include the vast majority of those who have lived and died through the thousands of years of human history—all resurrected at the same time. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of this coming resurrection (Ezekiel 37:5-6), and he saw how God will give physical life back to what will turn out to be billions of people. Make sure you read his description and try to imagine what this will be like when human bodies will be reassembled and then resuscitated.

What will happen to the unbelievers? After they are given life, they will be given an opportunity to learn about God’s Word. We read, “And books were opened” (Revelation 20:12). The books (Greek biblion) refer to the books of the Bible. Those who were blinded to God’s truth before (Mark 4:11-12; Revelation 12:9) will then have the Bible opened to them—so they can truly understand it!
Revelation 20:12 then goes on to say, “Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” This represents the opportunity for eternal life being opened to all these people. This will be accomplished by God offering His Holy Spirit to billions of people (Ezekiel 37:14).

All of these people, the billions upon billions of them, will finally be able to understand the Bible, know and believe and obey Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to live forever.

This is the hope for all the people Christ mentioned—people like the queen of Sheba and the inhabitants of Sodom—and all the other people who have ever lived and not known the true God and His truth.

resurrection of unbelievers

resurrection of unbelievers

PS: I wrote this article as a reminder to myself. I hope someone finds this useful. Of course the working assumption is that the reader believes in GOD.

When the likes of Sam Harris questions the authenticity and relevance of the God of the Bible, this is what you tell them.

The voice crying out in the wilderness…


 

Today we find ourselves in the second week of Advent, this time of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return. A time to reflect on our own lives and prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
The scripture from the beginning of Mark’s gospel is titled, “The Proclamation of John the Baptist.” Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels, it is direct, it is to the point and each verse is filled with meaning and purpose.
Mark is direct enough that he skips the nativity and baby Jesus account and immediately begins with the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark begins his gospel and account of Christ by going back in time.
Mark goes back about 600-700 years to the time of Isaiah. From the Old Testament account of Isaiah he quotes, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Make straight your paths, for the promised one is coming. In Isaiah’s day he spoke to a Jewish audience that had been exiled. In Mark’s account he talking about Christ and the messenger preparing the way for him.
Mark writes, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’
In this painfully hectic time between holidays, how much time are we spending preparing our hearts, souls and minds to meet and be present with our God? This time of year we don’t celebrate credit card debt or empty bank accounts. We don’t celebrate added inches to our waistline.

No, we celebrate the birth of our God. The mystery of the incarnation and the insane lengths our God went to, to reconcile us to him. To bring us closer to him.

In preparing for this sermon I read about and questioned why our God would need someone to prepare the way for him. Why would an all-present and all-powerful God need a man dressed in strange clothes – camel’s hair, and who ate weird things (locusts and honey) to prepare the way for him?

Is it because we all stand on the shoulders and accomplishments of those that have gone before us? We all stand on the ground that was prepared for us by others. All the hard work of our ancestors and their desire to see their children succeed have benefitted each of us.

Unfortunately, these bodies and minds of flesh that have short memories and are inclined to take credit for what has been accomplished.

Even our God, who emptied himself of all his divinity, needed someone to prepare the way for him. An all-present and all-powerful God would rely on a mere mortal to be the voice crying out in the wilderness.

Why would God need someone to prepare the way for him? And why would he pick a strange looking and acting guy to be that person?

….It would take someone with far more knowledge than I to fully answer that question. I think it has to do with the humility of our God. We celebrate, honor and worship a God that gave up the splendor and glory of heaven, all that beauty to come to this world riddled with sickness, disease, war, famine, acts of evil and death.

I think that I would rather look at that from a distance and bask in the beauty of heaven. But not our God. He saw the terrible consequence that sin caused and he decided that something had to be done about it.

He traded his mansion for a mud hut, he traded power for humility and splendor for suffering. He sent his messenger, John the Baptist, before him. John appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

In spite of his strange appearance people flocked to listen to him and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. “Make straight your paths, prepare the way of the Lord.”

People came from the Judean countryside and from Jerusalem to see, hear and be baptized by John the Baptist. He had his own disciples and was popular enough or posed enough of a threat that even the Pharisees came to see what all the commotion was about.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near, make straight your path, prepare the way for the Lord…….Repent……confess……..understand your own brokenness before your God……..ask for forgiveness for the kingdom of heaven has come near…….

What if each of us in our own way is John the Baptist? We may not go out into the timber or near the closest river and cry out or wear strange clothes, but what if each of us as we commit and recommit to our faith every day is living like John the Baptist?

Every time we commit to be read our bibles, to pray, to be a part of a small group, to do something for someone else, every time we chose to be intentional about our faith that we straighten our own path and influence those close to us.

Lives of faith can scream and proclaim the gospel without speaking a single word. Proclaim the gospel always said St. Francis, use words only when necessary.

People went to John the Baptist to repent of their sins and to be baptized. In his humility, John proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist knew his mission was to prepare the way for the one that is coming, one far more powerful than he.

We have also been made aware that one that Christ, is going to return. Are we preparing the way for his arrival……

Are we proclaiming the good news of God’s action and arrival in this world, the coming of God’s kingdom, his ministry, death and resurrection?

As we celebrate and honor the second Sunday of Advent, let us remember all of those that have gone before us. Let us remember the spiritual giants in our own lives and Mark’s gospel does recalling the words of Isaiah.

Let us live bold, courageous lives of faith that speak to this world and those in it who we are and what we are about. In this painfully busy time of year, let us slow down and take time to reflect on what is truly important and why we celebrate with gifts, good food and precious time spend with family and friends.

Let us go with the knowledge and the truth that our God is coming back to this earth. It may not be in our lifetime, but he is coming back. If we don’t see him in the time each of us has left, that is no reason or excuse to be convenient or flippant about your faith.

Let us be about the work of the one that created all that is good and holy. Let us be about the work of a God that became the word incarnate. A penniless, nomadic preacher that come to save the souls of many.

Pastor Shawn LaRue, Pastor @ Seymour UMC

Author of Incomplete

You did it for the least of these…..


 

We have arrived at the end of Christ’s public ministry in the book of Matthew. Matthew’s gospel was written in the last half of the first century with an emphasis on the fulfillment of Christ as the Messiah.
This passage of scripture opens with the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy from the book of Daniel, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, and then he will sit on the throne of his glory.”

Christ is in the last week of his life. He has spoken parable after parable of what it will be like upon his return and the work, we as Christians should be about until his return to this world. Christ gives fair and ample warning about what will happen come Judgment Day.

Today’s scripture is titled, ‘The Last Judgment.’ “All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.”

All nations means just that – all Jews, Gentiles, everyone from everywhere. Separating the sheep from the goats was a common practice for shepherds in biblical times.

Having mixed herds was common, at night sheep would be placed in an open pasture, while the goats needed to be protected from the cold. Sheep have more commercial value than goats do.

The bible oftentimes makes reference to the vocation of being a shepherd. God’s people are often times referred to as sheep, whether we like it or not. Have you ever wondered why………

Given the context and setting – 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, being a shepherd and tending to livestock was a common occupation – people could identify with it.
Sheep need protection, guidance and provision. It is also believed that sheep respond to the voice of their shepherd.

We share these things in common. We are also in need of guidance, provision and protection and if we take the time to listen we will also recognize the voice of our shepherd, of the one that provides, protects and guides.

A shepherd had to be willing to lay down his or her life for who and what they were protecting. Christ, our shepherd, was willing to and did the same when he laid down his life for us.

On that Day of Judgment, when the Son of Man returns in all his glory, the herd will be separated, like the parables of the past two weeks – the wise and foolish bridesmaids and the servants who were charged with investing their owner’s estate.

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.

I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Our God is omnipotent and omnipresent. He has unlimited power, he knows everything and is always present. Everywhere all the time, to everyone. The God we serve is a God for everyone.

Our God champions the poor, the marginalized and disenfranchised. Our God is a god of the poor, downtrodden and forgotten. A god of the hungry, thirsty, sick, lame and the incarcerated.

A God of the homeless, those in care facilities, nursing homes, the homebound and all those that can’t do for themselves. We do not need to look any further than Christ’s life and who he spent time with during his ministry.

He spent time with those that needed him most. He eased their suffering through his own acts of mercy. He gave sight to the blind, provided living water and broke the shackles of sin that enslave us.

After they have been separated the righteous answered, “Lord when was it that we say you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When was it that we say you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?

When was it that we say you sick or in prison and visited you? The righteous seemed to be surprised and unsure how to answer God’s question. We don’t remember seeing you or we would have surely given you food, drink, clothing and visited you.

I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s life and example. Taking care of the dying, cleaning their wounds, teaching young children by writing the letters of the alphabet in the dirt with a stick.

She said that each person she interacted with was Jesus in a distressing disguise. Each person, every human being bears the image of the Creator and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

The king answered the righteous, “Truly, I tell you just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” When you treated one of the least of these well, someone that could do nothing for you, you did it for the very God that we serve.

Then, Christ will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink.

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me. The accursed when into panic mode, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry, thirsty, as a stranger, naked or imprisoned and did not take care of you?”

Pleading their case they are. If we only would have known we would have stepped up to the plate. If we hadn’t fallen in love with everything that the world has to offer we would have taken care of you.

If they had only not fallen into temptation, if they could have only gotten past themselves, if they would have only taken to know our God and his heart the accursed may have had a different outcome.

The challenge of being a Christian in a world of commercialism, advertising and temptation. The challenge of living a spiritual life in a body of flesh and blood.
It can be very difficult. I think it would be hard, almost impossible to know the heart of our God without spending time with him, without reading his word or spending time with others that believe in him.

This chapter from scripture, the 25th chapter of Matthew gives another window into the heart of our God.

There is no mention in today’s scripture of church affiliation, tradition, attendance or giving. It is about how we treat others. It is about having compassion and spending time with those that are suffering. It is about living merciful lives and easy the burden of others.

This scripture speaks to the heart of a God of compassion, a god of mercy, it speaks to a god of love. May we always be about God’s work.

Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC

Author of Incomplete

The parable of the talents…..


We are closing in the on the holidays already which doesn’t seem possible.  Soon we will be in the season of Advent in the church, a season of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return. 

Like last week’s scripture, today’s scripture is about what we do while we wait for Christ’s return.  Today’s scripture is titled, “The Parable of the Talents.”

At this point in Matthew’s gospel Christ is in his final days.  He has returned to Jerusalem for the last time.  His final parables in Matthew’s account are about what we are to be doing while waiting for his return.

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.

 A talent was a measure of weight in biblical times.  The master of the estate was incredibly wealthy.  A talent is about 75 pounds of precious metal.  75 pounds.  An ounce of gold today is worth around $1,300. 

If you do the math a talent or 75 pounds of gold today is worth around $1.5 million dollars.  That is one talent, the first servant got five and the second servant got two. 

What does scripture say that the master of the estate did after giving this large amount of money to his servants…….He went away.  He didn’t give them any instructions.  He just gave it to them.  It seems apparent that he trusts them to be wise with it.

Helluva nice guy isn’t he.  What if I were to tell you that the master in this parable is Christ, he left but not before giving a bounty to his people?  What if I told you that the servants in this parable were you and I? 

That we have been given a treasure or a talent in the form of intellect, knowledge, life experience, talent, time, our ability to earn and a ton of his grace to boot?

And what if I told you that someday we will have to account for what we did with our God-given talent?  I will come back to that.

The master of the estate, he just left.  No directions, no instructions.  The servants were free to do what they would with what they were entrusted with, much like we are.  I want to talk about this for a minute.

Our God, the God that we serve limits himself in this parable and he does this often.  He limits himself so that others have an opportunity to lead and flourish. 

Christ, being of the same spiritual substance of The Father, came to this earth in the same limited manner that we exist, in flesh and blood.  Bound by time and space among other things. 

He limited himself as a penniless, itinerant carpenter turned preacher who emptied himself of his divinity to take on our broken condition.  He goes beyond limiting himself, he completely emptied himself.

He lived like the poorest of the poor with the poorest of the poor and spent his time with the lowest of the low.  Now, Christ did heal people, he performed miracles, he brought people that were dead back to life. 

But he lives his time on this earth consistently restrained.  And why would he do that………Is it because he hands the keys to the kingdom over to us, to each one of us?  That he wants each one of us to be about his work.

Is it because we are in his final days in the book of Matthew and he is making sure to make his point that he is leaving and these are the expectations for those who profess to know him?

God calls us to lead in one form or another.  Leadership isn’t about titles, we are called to lead our families, our church, our community, our school and many other things.

We weren’t made to sit on the sidelines idly watching the world go by.  Here is another window into my cynical and twisted mind.  In my experience in different leadership positions those that sat idly by, not only did they not help, they consistently attacked, smeared and hurled insults at the ones trying to get things done. 

Enough of that.  We are called to lives of service.  He are called to lead, we are called to be in ministry and we are called to be the light in this world.  We don’t retire from Christian service.  As long as there is air in our lungs we are called to be of service to the church.

After leaving his servants to do what they would with his money, the master returned.  “The one who had received the five talents had gone off and traded and made five more talents.”  He had doubled his master’s money.

“In the same way, the one who had been given two talents made two more talents.”  He also had doubled his master’s money.  Pretty impressive, do you know how much time it would take to double your money – legally?

“But the one who had received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”  After a long time the master, or Christ in this example, returns.  He is anxious to see what his people have done with what he has entrusted them with.

The one given five talents had pleased his master, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things.  I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”  Enter into the kingdom and splendor of God’s presence.

The one given two talents had also pleased his master and is greeted the same, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things.  I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”

The servant given one talent had to give his account of what he had done with what he had been given.  This servant’s response appears to be more of a reflection on his own character than the nature of the God we serve.

“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid and I hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.” 

The third servant, the one given one talent sat idly by.  After many years, maybe even a lifetime he had not been about his master’s work.  I envision this servant shrugging his shoulders as he hands the money back and then goes on the offensive about how it isn’t really his fault.  It is the master’s fault, it is God’s fault that I didn’t do anything productive with what he gave me.

The master was not happy.  “You wicked and lazy servant!  You knew, did you that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it with interest.”

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten talents.  For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 

“As for this servant, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

A warning parable about the accounting we will have to do when Christ returns.  Everyone is gifted whether they think they are or not.  The gifts we are given vary from person to person, no one gift is better or more important than another.  Those gifts are not to be wasted or to sit idle.

In this season of Thanksgiving, as we approach Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us be about God’s work in this world.  Let us feed, clothe and minister to the poor.  Let us be the church.  Let us be the light, the city on a hill that give sight to the blind and ears to hear for those that need to know our God.

Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC

Author of Incomplete