Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Keep your lamp trimmed

In this blog post, I will look at the parable of the 5 wise virgins and the 5 foolish virgins.  This parable is found in Matthew 25: 1-13.  I’ll post the whole parable and then comment on the verses.

"Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,  but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 

Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’  But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Jesus told this parable to his disciples, and they were surely aware of the Old Testament wedding traditions.  The groom was to come in the middle of the night, after all things were ready, to take his bride from her father’s house.  The virgins were the ones attending the bride; in today’s vernacular, they were the bridesmaids.  They knew the time was close and that the groom was coming to take his bride soon, but they were unaware of the exact date and hour. 

The wise virgins took extra oil with them in their flasks in case their lamps ran out.  They were unsure how long it would be until the groom came, so they wanted to make sure they had enough oil. Oil is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit.  When we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit through Jesus.  By spending time in the Word and in prayer, we can keep the oil of the Holy Spirit renewed in us.

The shout of “Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him,” reminds me of Revelation 4, where Jesus tells John, “Come up here!” and he was instantly transported to heaven. 1 Thessalonians 4:16  reveals that we will be called to heaven with a shout and the blast of a trumpet at the Rapture. 

The wise virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps at the call. They kept their flasks filled with oil.  The foolish virgins, however, didn’t keep their flasks filled, so they lost their chance to attend the wedding banquet because the master didn’t know who they were.  He didn’t know who they were because they didn’t spend any time with him. 

When the foolish virgins asked the wise virgins for some of their oil, the wise virgins refused to give them any of their oil because there wouldn’t be enough oil for all.   The foolish virgins should have brought their own oil in their flasks, which is obtained by spending more time with the Lord and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  The oil of the Holy Spirit in you is your own.  We each need our own supply of oil of the Holy Spirit.

As time passes and Jesus has not yet come back for His bride, we can become spiritually lazy and we can “fall asleep.” If we “fall asleep,” we will not be ready when the Bridegroom comes.  Friend, take a look at your faith. Are you staying filled with the Holy Spirit by spending time in God’s Word and spending time in prayer?  Will you be ready when the shout comes and the trumpet sounds?  Or will you not have enough oil of the Holy Spirit?  Will you be unprepared?  Will you be one of the foolish virgins who the Lord will say He doesn’t know?  Jesus said in the parable that we should be alert because we don’t know the day or hour of His coming.

If you have “fallen asleep,” take time today to repent of your spiritual laziness and spend more time with the Lord in prayer and His Word so you can know Him more and He can say He knows you. When the time is right and all is ready, Jesus will come back and claim His bride (the church).  You don’t want to be left behind when the trumpet sounds.   All of the events going on in the world today means the Lord’s return is closer than ever before.  Maranatha! 

Thanks for reading! See you next time!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

The ultimate Avenger

Our family, along with many others, will be heading to the movie theaters this weekend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will probably be the top grossing film of the summer.   The comic book/movie Avengers are quite a motley crew.  There is a scientist who, when angry, turns into a giant, green guy with shaggy hair who likes to beat up bad guys.  There is an attractive woman in a skintight black jumpsuit who is a trained assassin.  There is a handsome man with long, blond hair who swings a large sledgehammer very well.  There is a guy who is really good with a bow and arrow. There is a guy who was unfrozen over 50 years after World War II who uses a round shield to defeat the bad guys.  And last but not least, there is a technologically savvy, snarky guy who has a ball of adamantium in his chest, and who flies around with an iron uniform on.  In the first Avengers movie, the adversary was named Loki, and he resembled Satan in word and in deed. All these colorful characters are courtesy of the fertile mind of Stan Lee. 

There were avengers in the Old Testament as well.  The avenger of blood was the person who would chase after a murderer and then kill the murderer.  If the murder wasn’t premeditated, the murderer could escape to a city of refuge and the avenger of blood couldn’t touch the murderer there.  If the murderer left the city of refuge before the high priest died, however, the avenger of blood had every right to kill the murderer. 

The ultimate avenger, however, is Jesus Christ Himself.  At the Second Coming, Christ will return in the sky, riding a white horse, and all the armies of heaven will ride behind Him.  Jesus will then defeat the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the lake of fire.  An angel will then throw Satan into a pit and lock him them up for a thousand years. Satan will be released from the pit at the end of the thousand years to deceive the nations.  There will have one final battle, and God will destroy the rogue nations with fire.  Satan will be thrown in the lake of fire with the Antichrist and the False Prophet. Sin and evil will be conquered for all time. 

People enjoy action hero movies because they represent the eternal battle of good versus evil, and good almost always wins in the movies.  But when Christ returns at the Second Coming, it won’t be an action hero movie – it will be the real deal.  Will you be with the armies coming back with Christ, or will you be trembling on Earth when you see Him in the sky?  Don't wait too long to make that decision!

That's all for now! Thanks for reading! See you next time!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Woe, woe, woe . . .

Luke 11 was the gospel reading in my Bible reading plan the other day.  Starting at Luke 11:37 and through the end of the chapter is the story of a Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house for dinner.  Jesus strolled in and sat down without performing the Pharisee hand washing ritual. The Pharisee was aghast; he wanted to know why Jesus didn’t do the ritual cleansing. Jesus then rebukes the Pharisees because they clean the outside of the dish and cup (referring to their outside bodies) but not the insides (referring to their hearts).  Jesus then rebukes the Pharisees for tithing one-tenth of mint and herbs, but not performing justice and love for God. Jesus also rebuked the Pharisees for wanting the highest places in the synagogues and the praise of men.  He called the Pharisees unmarked graves.

A lawyer then tells Jesus that He is rebuking them as well and Jesus tells him that the lawyers put burdens on the people that are hard to carry, but the lawyers don’t help the people.  He then goes back to rebuking the Pharisees, telling them that they build monuments to the prophets that their fathers killed, thereby approving of them. He then rebukes the lawyers again, telling them that they took away the key of knowledge and they didn’t go in themselves, let alone help anyone else.

Jesus didn’t mince words when it came to the Pharisees and the scribes.  Jesus called them whitewashed tombs elsewhere in the Gospels.  Here are the folks that I think Jesus would rebuke if He were walking on the Earth today.  

Woe to the TV pastors who prey upon the poor, who spend the money that the poor send to them on nice things like jets, mansions, etc.  Woe to them because they tell the poor if they “plant a seed,” it will return to them one hundred fold.  The TV pastors get richer and the poor get poorer.

Woe to the Catholic priests who sexually abuse children.  Woe to the Catholic hierarchy, who don’t expel the abusive priests out of the church, but move them from parish to parish, and pay off the families who sue the church with the money collected from the parishioners.

Woe to the churches and denominations that embrace homosexuality, who don’t preach that homosexuality is a sin.  Woe to those denominations that ordain gay ministers and LGBT ministers, which is against God’s Word.  Woe to those pastors who marry gay couples, thereby giving them the blessing of the church, even though God is not blessing their unholy union. 

Woe to those denominations that hate Israel and don’t pray for her, as Scripture tells us to do. Woe to those denominations that hate the Jewish people, for Jesus was Jewish (and so were most everyone in the Old Testament). 

Woe to those churches that support abortion.  Abortion is murder (thou shalt not kill), and it kills those who Jesus called precious. 

Woe to those churches who corrupt worship by making it a Broadway production with lights and fog machines and loud instruments, and with songs that don’t even mention God and/or Jesus.

Woe to those “pastors” who don’t preach about sin, who preach about having “your best life now,” who are more like inspirational speakers than pastors.

Woe to those pastors who embrace New Age and/or occult teachings and mix them with Christianity. Woe to those pastors who mix Islam with Christianity (Christlam).

Woe to those pastors who don’t use the Bible as the basis for their sermons, but preach “pop psychology” sermons (“How to Effect Change in Your Life,” etc.), or use popular books as the basis for their sermons (The Purpose Driven Life). 

Dear reader, examine the church you attend in light of the “woes” explained above.  If you find you’re attending one of these churches, I implore you to leave that church and find one that doesn’t embrace any of these sins.

Thanks as always for reading! See you soon!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Diane’s Etiquette Guide for Public Transit Riders

I utilize public transit to commute to my job every day, and I have noticed that the behavior of some public transit riders is much worse than ever.  There are already some rules posted on public transit vehicles, but people either don’t (or can’t) read the rules or they just don’t care about rules. So here is my etiquette guide for public transit riders: 

      1.  If you are listening to music or watching a video on your phone, please use headphones.  No one else wants to hear what you are listening to. Also, please do not turn your music up so loud so that everyone else around you can hear it.  Not everyone shares your taste in music.  You are also ruining your hearing, although you may not care.

      2.  If you are listening to music on your headphones, please do not sing along aloud.  This is especially offensive when the music you are listening to contains obscenities.  I was on the train one afternoon on my way home from work and the guy in front of me was rapping a song with the lyrics, “Get the f*** out of my face, I said, get the f*** out of my face,” and he rapped this phrase over and over again.  A public transit vehicle is not a stage on which to sing and/or rap and/or dance in your seat.  Thankfully, I had my own mp3 player with me to listen to so I could drown out Mr. Rapper.

      3.  If you are having a conversation with another passenger, please keep your voice down.  I would hope that you would not want everyone to know your business. In addition, some people use their commuting time to study, read, or even take a nap.  Loud conversations are very distracting.

      4.  Please do not curse or use foul language.  If you would not use the words you want to say in front of your mother, your grandmother, and/or your children, then don’t say them on public transit. If you don’t mind using foul language in front of your family members, then you have a bigger problem.

      5.  Do not leave newspapers or trash behind when you exit a public transit vehicle.  Take your trash with you and place it in the nearest trash receptacle.  Public transit vehicles are not your personal trash repositories.

      6.  Please use deodorant.  I know, you worked hard today and you sweated a lot. It might be 100 degrees outside.  But there is nothing worse than to sit behind someone who reeks of body odor and/or cigarette smoke.  It does not make for an enjoyable commute.  Keep a spare deodorant with you and take a minute to put it on before leaving work.  A spare container of deodorant doesn’t cost very much and it will make the ride much more pleasant for all of us.

      7.  If you smoke, please don’t light up right before you board a public transit vehicle.  The strong scent lingers on your clothes and makes the ride unpleasant for the people sitting near you.  If someone is sitting near you who is allergic to smoke or has asthma, they could have a medical emergency if they are exposed to the tobacco smell. 

      8.  If you are sitting in a seat designated for handicapped riders and someone comes through the door that looks like they obviously need the seat (like someone walking with crutches or a cane or in a wheelchair), then get up and let them have the seat. Someday, it may be you needing the handicapped seats because you’re using a cane or crutches, or you may be in a wheelchair. 

      9.  Gentlemen, please pull up your pants.  No one wants to see your underwear and/or butt crack.  The women of the world thank you. 

I have been a public transit rider to commute to the various jobs I have held in downtown St. Louis for almost 30 years.  Behavior on public transit is worse now than ever before, and it’s because people are more selfish.  People want to do what they want to do and they don’t care what anyone else says or how they feel, or even whether it’s legal or not.  It’s the attitude of the “me first” generation.  If people would put others before themselves and be courteous and helpful, the world would be a more pleasant place. 

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading! See you next time!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Joy to the World" - is it really a Christmas song?

"Joy to the World," which was written by Isaac Watts and set to music by George Frideric Handel, is a well-known and well-loved hymn.  But did you know that it really isn't a Christmas hymn?  The lyrics are based on Psalm 98. A look at the lyrics of "Joy to the World" indicates that it is actually about Christ's second coming and the Millennial Kingdom and not about His first coming.

For example, in the first verse, there is a line that reads, "Let earth receive her King."  Jesus did not come as a king at His first coming, but as a baby in a manger.  "And heaven and nature sing" is a general reference to verses 7-9 of Psalm 98, in which the seas, the rivers and the hills rejoice.

The second verse has a line that reads, "Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns," and the fourth verse starts with the line "He rules the world with truth and grace."  The third verse states:  "No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground." These are references to the Millennial Kingdom, when Jesus will reign over the new earth.

So why do we sing "Joy to the World" at Christmas then?  I believe it is to remind us that Jesus is coming back again.  Indeed, in some mainline Christian denominations, Advent is the only time you'll hear about Christ's Second Coming.  Advent is definitely an appropriate time to think about the Second Coming, but I think Jesus' second coming should be talked about more than once a year.  If we have been born again and are taken to heaven in the Rapture, we will be coming back with Christ at His second coming, and how exciting that will be! We should be looking forward to the day when Jesus will return and establish His reign upon the new earth.

Wouldn't it be awesome if that when Jesus returns, the whole world, mankind and nature would sing "Joy to the World"? The second verse reads: "Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy."  How thrilling that would be!

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately.  I've had a lot of stuff going on the last few months and just haven't been in the mood to write. I hope that 2015 will be a better year.  Since today is Christmas Eve, I would like to wish my loyal readers a happy and blessed Christmas!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

The good, the bad, and the ugly of social media

Social media can be used for good purposes, it can be used for bad purposes, and sometimes, the use of social media has ugly results.  Here are my thoughts on social media.

The good:

You can find folks you haven’t seen in years.  Have you lost track of that cousin you used to hang out with in grade school?  He or she is probably on Facebook.  Do you have family members or friends that live in other states or other countries? Facebook can help you keep in touch with them. 

On social media, you can find groups of people who have common interests, like sports, Bible studies, etc.  You may never meet any of these folks in real life, but you can converse with them like they’re in the same room with you. 

Social media is also good for following people and companies you are interested in.  You can get glimpses into their activities without seeing them in person.  If you’re having an issue with a product or a service, Twitter is a fast way to get a business’s attention.  The business will rectify issues quickly so their other followers will see that the business wants to make their customers happy.

Social media is also a great way to promote your business.  You can post about special offers, new products, and job openings.  You can ask your business’s followers questions about what they would like to see or purchase.  You can post contests and giveaways.  If you have an emergency and have to close your store early, or you have different hours for weekends, you can post about it.

Social media is great for those of us who write blogs.  You can use social media to publicize new blog posts.  If your blog has a Facebook page, you can post items that are too short to blog about, or use it as a way to keep your readers engaged. My Branson on Your Budget blog has a Facebook page. I use it to post special information.  

Twitter is really good for obtaining news quickly.  I follow national news organizations such as CNN and local TV and radio stations on Twitter to get news updates.  It only takes about 30 seconds to post a news item on Twitter and post a link to a web page if more information is available. Twitter is great when major news events are occurring.  You can follow what’s happening in real time.  Twitter wasn't around for 9/11, but if it had been, it would have crashed with everyone posting updates. 

The bad:

If you’re a private person who doesn't want to be found or a criminal, then perhaps social media is not for you.  Google is the friend of those folks seeking people that don’t want to be found, and once you’re found, watch out. 

Intent often can’t be deciphered on social media.  You may post “I’m going to kill ____,” or “I’m just really depressed and I think I’m going to end it all” on your timeline and not be serious, but people who read your posts don’t know that you’re just kidding.  They may become concerned and call the authorities.  Depending on where you are on your life's journey, having the authorities know about your social media posts could have some major repercussions. 

Violent movements and organizations also use social media to publicize their activities and to recruit more people. 

If you spend more time on social media than you do with your family, then you may have a problem.  If you’d rather play Facebook games than eat, then you may be addicted to social media.  If you get up in the morning and the first thing you do is check social media, then you may be addicted to social media. 

The ugly:

Potential employers look at your social media presence and if what you post doesn't comport with the type of employees they want, then they will not hire you.  If you’re a student, colleges to which you apply will also look at your social media presence to see if you’re the type of student they want to admit.  If they don’t like what they see, they may decide not to admit you.  If your relatives don’t like what you post on social media, they may disown you. 

So how should you use social media wisely?  Be careful as to what you post on social media. 
Actions have consequences, so stop and think before you post (or do anything, for that matter).  If what you want to post could get you in major trouble, then don’t post it!  My general rule is that if you wouldn't want your mother to see what you post, then don’t post it.  If you don’t care if your mother sees what you post, then you have deeper issues than I can cover in this blog post.  This includes not only the writings that you post, but the photos/avatars that you post or use as well. 

Post enough so that people don’t worry about you, but don’t post too much.  Familiarity breeds contempt. 

You may wonder why I wrote this blog post.  Recently, a family member posted something on Facebook that they shouldn't have. Someone turned him in.  But because this family member didn't think before he posted, something his mother was looking forward to greatly will not happen now, and that’s very sad.  I wanted to post this to warn others so you can use social media correctly and avoid this fate.  

Thanks as always for reading!  See you next time!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meeting up with Melchizedek

Melchizedek is an very interesting person.  Melchizedek is only mentioned twice in the Bible, in Genesis 14:18-20 and in Hebrews 7:1-17.   The Genesis account is a story, while the Hebrews account explains Melchizedek’s background.  Some theologians think that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate theophany, or in laymen’s terms, a pre-New Testament appearance of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  I don’t agree, and I will explain why below. Let’s start by looking at the Genesis account about Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:18-20 (NKJV): Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

In this story, we see Abram (better known as Abraham), who is traveling home from the battle where he and his soldiers rescued Lot from his kidnappers.  He meets up with Melchizedek, who is called the “king of Salem.”  In the Hebrews account, it is explained that “Salem” means “peace,” so Melchizedek is the King of Peace.  Right away, we know Melchizedek can’t be Jesus because in Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace.  Melchizedek is also referred to as the priest of God Most High. Melchizedek also brings out bread and wine, which are also the communion elements. No reference is made to Melchizedek breaking the bread and drinking the wine, like Jesus did at the Last Supper. 

Melchizedek blesses Abram by the God Most High. Melchizedek describes God Most High as the Possessor of heaven and earth, which means He owns them.  So God is blessing Abram by Himself and blessing Himself by Himself.  Very interesting!

The last part of verse 20 is confusing.  It reads, “And he gave him a tithe of all.”  Did Abram give Melchizedek the tithe, or vice versa?  If it had been me, I would have written it so it would be clear who gave the tithe to whom.  However, in the Hebrews account, it shows that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe, or a tenth, of all the booty he took from the slaughter of the kinds.  I

Now let’s take a look at the Hebrews account about Melchizedek:  

Hebrews 7:1-17 (NKJV):  For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.

For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the Hebrews account, more detail is given about Melchizedek’s background.  The Hebrews account states that Melchizedek is without father, without mother, and without genealogy. This is not true of Jesus.  Jesus has 2 fathers – His earthly father, Joseph and His heavenly Father, God.  He also has a mother (Mary). The Gospels list 2 genealogies for Jesus - one through Joseph, and one through Mary.  Melchizedek is also described as having neither beginning of life or end of life.  God has always been.  He has no beginning or end.  God was before the beginning in Genesis 1:1, which reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God had to exist before He could create everything.

The Hebrews account states that Melchizedek is made like the Son of God.  If Melchizedek is made like the Son of God, then how can He be the Son of God?  Human sons often look their fathers.   It also states that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, but the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi, therefore, the eternal High Priest must be from the order of Melchizedek and not the tribe of Levi.  Melchizedek was the priest of the Most High God before Levi was even thought of. 

Jesus, then, comes from Melchizedek's order of priesthood because He is God’s Son and His sacrificial death on the cross rescued sinners who repent from eternal damnation, thus making Him High Priest in heaven. 

There is evidence in the Bible that God does indeed have a human image.  In Genesis 1:26-27, it reads:   "Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."  "Us" and "Our" here refer to God and His Son Jesus.  If man was created in God's image, then God must look like us humans.  

Another reference to God looking like a human is in Daniel 7:9.  Daniel has a vision of God, and he describes God's appearance as the Ancient of Days: 
"I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;"
After all this discussion, my conclusion is that Melchizedek is God the Father Himself in human form and not Jesus, the Son of God as posited by some theologians.  

Thanks for reading this hopefully not too long winded post!  See you next time!