WHO’S HE REALLY PUNISHING?

Aside

WHO’S HE REALLY PUNISHING?

by Bill Byrnes
Romans: 2:1-3: “If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge others, you are really judging yourself guilty because you do the same things they do. God judges those who do wrong, and we know that his judgment is right. You do wrong yourselves. Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God?”

With all the natural disasters occurring in the past few years haven’t most, or all of us “believers” been asking ourselves, “Is God punishing us?–and if so, why?” Yes, I’ve been wondering that too, and I’m glad that I never came up with any kind of answer… until recently.
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“Is God punishing us?–and if so, why?”

What “lights my fuse” on any questions like these are the rants by extremists who continue to misinterpret the Bible to suit their own political agendas and personal prejudices. Can’t you just hear them spouting their verbiage: “The reason God punishes us with this drought (or with all these tornados, fires, floods or whatever) is because this country recognizes ‘so & so’s’ stand on various issues!” My  favorite runs something like this: “God never intended America to be a  country like this” (Add your own political preference here)!
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Well, to all the  extremists who think like this–I hate to be the one to tell ya’ –but– YOU’RE WRONG!!! Furthermore, IF God is punishing us  did you ever think that maybe he punishing us for something else?  Maybe its because we  STILL AREN’T doing what the Bible asks us to do!
Before I go any further, let me back-off a little and say that there’s MANY, wonderful, well-intentioned believers,  who espouse the extremist views mentioned above. My gripe is not with them, but with their religious leaders, who keep telling them what to think, instead of leading them to the Bible and letting the word of God help them with their decision making! I wonder if these are the same leaders backing the extremists who say they are disciples of Ayn Rand, a well-known, self-proclaimed– ATHEIST? And, what’s surprising is that after some candidates espouse their belief in religion, they’ll turn right around and proclaim to be followers of Ayn Rand! Duh…contradiction anyone?
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Are some religious leaders backing extreme  candidates who say they are disciples of Ayn Rand, a well-known, self-proclaimed ATHEIST?

Maybe I don’t have all the credentials in front of my name that they do, but this much I can say: I read the Bible and I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! And, these are the only credentials anyone needs to enter into this discussion, or any discussion about what the Bible says!
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“And a voice came down from Heaven and said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, and with whom I am very pleased.’ ” Matthew: 3:17

Make no mistake about it. When Jesus was born, life became a “whole new ball-game”, and he would be the umpire! “I have not come to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfill the law”. Matthew: 5:17. He simplified the voluminous Mosaic laws, and the Ten Commandments, into two simple rules that everyone could understand: Matthew: 22:36-40: “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first & great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.” Furthermore, Jesus taught that ALL sins are forgivable INCLUDING speaking against him or the Father! The only sin that COULD NOT be forgiven: “…anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit, now or in the future.” Indeed, anyone could receive forgiveness, and therefore salvation, by accepting him. John: 8:12: “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness, but will have the light that gives life.” Jesus added to this thought with his metaphor comparing himself to a vine: John: 15:1-2; 4; 7: “I am the true vine, my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruitRemain in me and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone, but must remain in the vine. In the same way…you must remain in me. If you remain in me and FOLLOW my teachings, you can ask anything you want and it will be given to you.”
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Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Let me add this caveat: forgiving someone does not mean that you agree with them–or that you would do the same things. To me, forgiveness means that you accept the fact that true judgment of their actions is an issue best settled by God! Therefore, we MUST NOT judge others, or execute laws that punish others based upon our judgments.
Luke: 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”
With these thoughts in mind, I’ll ask this question: IF God is punishing us with these natural disasters who is he really punishing? Does it make sense to think he would punish us if we WERE following the teachings of Christ? In the opening paragraph, I said that I had not come up with any kind of an answer…until recently. My answer is this: IF God is punishing us with these natural disasters… then it’s because we, still, have NOT followed the teachings of his son! Don’t forget John: 7: “If you remain in me and follow my teachings, you can ask anything you want and it will be given to you.” Conversely, if we do NOT follow Jesus’ teachings, “… (We) they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies.”
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IF God is punishing us with these natural disasters… then it’s because we, still, have NOT followed the teachings of his son!

This final note to all  extremists: our country did not start going downhill when prayer was banned in public schools; it started when we stopped praying outside of school, and when we stopped reading the Bible and started relying upon others to do that for us!

TODAY’S NEWS–YESTERDAY!
By Bill Byrnes
(Illustrated by Rich Gowran – CaptivatingNews.com)

Mark:9:7: Then a cloud came and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud, saying, “ This is my Son, whom I love. LISTEN TO HIM !”

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Let’s recap the main points from my previous article (If Everyone‘s Right–Who is Wrong?). The Right and the Left keep slamming each other with interpretations of how the Bible supports their side only. On the surface they both appear to be correct. The only way to understand this issue is to understand how the Bible applies to modern issues: in short, let’s find out about today’s news–YESTERDAY!
When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, their stubbornness caused faith break-downs that brought on God’s punishment: they would wander for 40 years, never to see the promised-land of Canaan! God imposed Mosaic law to keep the Israelites faithful and racially pure. This would insure that Jesus would, in fact, fulfill scriptural predictions regarding his birthright.
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Young nation of Israel wanders the desert for 40 years.

Christ’s presence fulfilled the law–then he changed it! He simplified all previous laws into two simple commandments: love God and love each other. All his teachings (parables) explained how people could adapt to life WITHOUT Mosaic law and WITH his two rules of love. In so doing, he made INDIVIDUALS responsible for their actions NOT the group! This concept is critical to understanding the challenge of applying the Bible to modern day issues. Romans:2:2-4: “God judges those who do wrong things and we know that his judgment is right. You judge those who do wrong, but you do wrong yourselves! Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God? He has been very kind & patient, waiting for you to change, but you think nothing of his kindness. Perhaps you do not understand that God is kind to you so YOU WILL CHANGE your hearts and lives.”
Another passage from Romans, further establishes that the tyranny of group enforcement is finished: 3:21-22: “But God has a way to make people right with him WITHOUT the law and he has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about…through their faith in Jesus Christ!”
This does not mean that everyone’s personal moral compass dictates what is right and wrong. Don’t forget the THREE caveats: love God, love each other AND accept Jesus Christ as your own, personal, Lord and Savior! Jesus did not leave this concept “open-ended”. The idea of “no laws” doesn’t mean “anything goes”: Matthew 12:30-32:“Whoever is not with me is against me…So I tell you people can be forgiven for every sin and everything they say against God. BUT whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will NOT be forgiven. Any one who speaks against the Son of Man CAN be forgiven, but anyone who speaks AGAINST the Holy Spirit will NOT be forgiven, now or in the future!” Wow! This is one of those instances in the Bible where one sentence has tremendous impact! Any sin is forgivable…ANY sin – even speaking against Jesus! But speaking against the Holy Spirit…no…No…NO!
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Why does this exclamation occur? A brief explanation would help with this question. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the Old Testament approximately 80 times–approximately 240 times in the New Testament. Numerous sources share this definition: the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God manifesting itself in all of Creation and especially in individuals. These manifestations enable people to perform some task for God that they normally would not be able to perform. Examples include the “gift of tongues”, or speaking a language they’ve never known; other Biblical examples include Bezalel designing the “sanctuary”(Exodus), Gideon summoning Israelites to battle (Judges), and Samson killing a lion and his Philistine enemies (Judges). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit effects the conception of Jesus in Mary (Matthew), and teaches his disciples (Acts). The Holy Spirit definitely increases his activity after Jesus’ death–getting three times as many mentions as in the Old Testament. An easy inference: it might be forgivable to doubt God, or even Jesus: but DON’T EVER DOUBT the things you see (or that have been seen) that clearly show his presence at work in this world! Stated another way: you might doubt the cause–but DO NOT doubt the effect!
Another quick mention: many theological sources agree that while we should not judge others–it doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their views. So, if someone says something we find untenable–that does not mean that we can question their human dignity (of this, I‘m guilty)–or their right to exist–or to say that they are against God’s “laws”. I’ve explained how God and Jesus feel about “laws” and judging others. There’s nothing more to add!
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One more explanation before getting to today’s issues. The issue of “church & state” is definitely a two-way street! Just as the church shouldn’t dabble in politics–politicians SHOULD NOT dabble with the church! The POTUS found that out recently with the outcry over birth-control coverage by insurance companies. Fortunately, he had a successful compromise that achieved the same goals. The GOP has discovered that they shouldn’t be bringing church issues into politics. You’ve all heard the pundits, including several GOP sources, say that candidates will find this successful ONLY with the extremely conservative elements of their party and NOT with the general public!
Getting to the real “nitty-gritty” of today’s issues. I hope I’ve successfully argued that picking any phrase from the Bible to support our arguments–whether Conservative or Liberal–is pointless! We can both find phrases supporting our views. That’s why both sides appear to be correct!. Any side  constantly “judging” anyone not agreeing with them saying their opponents are not following the “laws” of God – are WRONG!
If we base our lives upon the two-great commandments, and exercise God’s caveat that we accept his Son as our Lord and Savior — we will all receive Salvation! It’s NOT me who said this—-it was GOD! Jesus himself gave the ONLY exception – NOT…ME! Even if you doubt that God and Jesus exist,  ALL OF YOU CAN RECEIVE SALVATION!  So any “group” judgments against the individual ARE GONE! They’re HISTORY… and have been since Jesus began his teachings!
Let’s add another thought. We are ALL sinners( see: Book of Romans)! We should ALL accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I cannot say that enough…and don’t forget, it is an important prerequisite to receiving salvation. However, I don’t believe saying this is a contradiction to any previous statements. If you have any doubts–refer, again, to Matthew: 12. Also, let me offer this Biblical reference: Luke:23:39-43:”And one of the  two criminals  crucified with Jesus  said,  ‘If thou be Christ, then save thyself and us too!’ The other criminal  rebuked him saying , ‘Does thou not fear God, seeing   that  thou art in the same condemnation? And us, justly so being condemned, but, this man has done nothing to warrant this!’  The he looked at Jesus and he said ’Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’  Then Jesus said unto him, ’Verily I say unto you, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ “  There’s no mistaking that meaning : even  a convicted felon of the worst kind–even unto the moment of their death–if they accept Christ–they will be saved! (Thanks to Pastor Ted Maxx for that observation.)
My final thought is for my several Liberal friends who admit to being atheists. I will always extend to you Christian love, and give you the dignity you deserve as fellow humans. But please, stop and think! Did you ever consider that by supporting the causes you do–especially ones that adhere to Christ’s teachings–you might be a little closer to God than you realize–or might admit to?

Isaiah:58:10: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness.”

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“…Thou shalt be with me in paradise.”