Wednesday, March 08, 2017

THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS 1 Corinthians 1:17-18


THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS
Intro: We are living in a day when the message of the church is changing. Churches, and even whole denominations, are moving away from the old message of salvation through the blood of Jesus, and are moving toward a message of salvation through social activism and good works. The old bloody message of the cross is quickly being replaced by a bloodless message that lacks power and that lacks hope. Instead of hearing the devastating, but life changing news that men are sinners, people hear a message that tells them, "I'm OK and you're OK!"
     Well, I would like to take the same stand that the Apostle Paul took all those years ago. When he wrote to the church in Corinth, Paul reminded them that he had been called for one purpose and that purpose was to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That message was to be his focus and that message was to be his ministry.
     Today, I would like to restate the old, old message. I would like to remind everyone in this building about what happened that day when the Lord Jesus died on the cross at Calvary. Because, it was that event, which took place at Calvary 2,000 years ago that altered the future for every person who places their faith in the One Who died there that day.
     Please join me as we revisit the old, old story one more time. I would like to take you back to a little hill just outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem, where we will encounter an event that purchased and provided salvation for every person who receives that event as their very own. Let's return together to the cross of Calvary, and try to grasp The Message Of The Cross! As we do, please let the Lord speak to your heart and if you have never been saved, I invite you to come to Jesus today for salvation through His precious blood.

  I. THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS
A. A Strange Message - (That there should be life out of death. Ill. The Jews were looking for a Messiah Who would throw off the Roman yoke and give them liberty from their captors. They totally missed the fact that their Messiah would be One Who would suffer for the sins of the people, Isa. 53:1-3.) (Note: The message of the bloody cross of Jesus is still a strange message to those who have never experienced its life changing power. To them it is "foolishness". This word comes from the same word from which we get our word "Moron". To the lost the idea of trusting a suffering, bleeding man for salvation is moronic! Ill. 1 Cor. 1:21-24!)

B. A Shocking Message - (A brutal, awful death was experienced there on that cross.)The death Christ died on the cross was one of absolute torture. You and I cannot even begin to imagine all the pain that Jesus was forced to endure for our sakes. Allow me to refresh your mind this morning about the terrible price Jesus paid for you as He suffered for sin that day.
           1. Scourged - Matt. 27:26
           2. Beaten - Luke 22:63-64
           3. Spit upon - Matt. 27:30
           4. Beard Plucked from His Face -Isa. 50:6
           5. Mocked - Matt. 27:26-29
           6. Stripped Naked - Matt. 27:35
7. Nailed to the Cross - Matt. 27:38; John 20:25 (Ill. The ancient Assyrians were the first to "crucify" their victims. However, they did not nail them to cross, they merely impaled them on sharpened stakes and left them to die a horrible death that often took several days. When the Romans came along, they streamlined the method and added the little touch of actually nailing their victims to the cross. This method of death usually took several days as well.)
8. These truths don't even begin to scratch the surface of Jesus suffered for you and me, Isa. 52:14. His was a bitter cup, but one that He drank of willingly so that we might be saved, Luke 22:41-42.
(Note: To hear the details of Christ's death on the cross is disturbing! But, it is a necessary truth that mist be proclaimed and must be heard before there can be salvation. Friend, there is only one way for you to get to God and that is by the way of the cross. There is no salvation apart from faith in the work of Jesus on Calvary!)
C. A Simple Message - (Ill. Not clouded by demands and details, but delivered in simplicity and clarity.) One of the problems with the modern church is that we have tried to attach too many conditions to salvation. However, the Bible is clear when it tells us that the way to be saved is for the sinner to accept by faith what the Bible teaches about Jesus and His atoning death on the cross, Rom. 10:9-10. This is what the preaching of the cross is all about! It is not about you quitting your sins! It is about you coming to Jesus by faith! It's not about turning over a new leaf, it's about placing your faith in Jesus and Him alone for salvation!


 II. THE PURPOSE OF THE CROSS
A. About Making A Statement - Since way back in the Old Testament, the Lord has been telling me of His love for them, Deut. 7:7-8; Jer. 31:3. However, in Christ's death on the cross, God was able to declare boldly, for all to see, His boundless, matchless love for the lost of this world.(Rom. 5:6-8) The cross is God's statement of love to the world - John 15:13!
B. About Providing Salvation - The Bible, tells us that there is no other way to cleanse sin, but through the sacrifice of an innocent one in the of the guilty one, Heb. 9:22. This is seen all the way back in the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, Gen. 3:21. This same line of thought continues all the way through the days of the Tabernacle and the Temple. There, sin was atoned for by the blood of sheep, bulls and goats, but it was never taken away, Heb. 10:4; Heb. 10:10-11. However, the Lord Jesus went to the cross and died for the sins of humanity. When He did, His death on the cross forever settled the sin debt of man, Heb. 10:12-14; Heb. 9:24-28! It is clear yet? If not, then listen to these two precious passages of Scripture, Rev. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19. (Note: By the way, the word "saved" in this verse means, "to keep safe and sound, to rescue from all harm and danger; from destruction and from perishing!" Sounds to me like when a person comes to Jesus by faith and gets saved, it's a done deal! That person does not need to fear losing his salvation, John 10:28!)
C. About Defeating Satan - Ever since the Lucifer sinned and became the devil, he has been in the business of trying to hinder the work of God. He loves nothing better than keeping souls in bondage and seeing them condemned to Hell, Eph. 2:1-3. But, when Jesus went to the cross, I am of the opinion that the devil thought he had won the victory that day. I am sure he rejoiced when Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" But, what the devil did not know that day was that the Lord Jesus wasn't planning to stay dead! Maybe the devil should have listened closer and he would have understood that Jesus did not say, "I am finished!" He said "It is finished!" You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He did not die to stay dead, but He rose from the dead three days later and nailed old slew foot's coffin lid shut! The Bible tells us that the victory over the devil is found in the blood of the Lamb, Rev. 12:11. (Note: Satan is defeated! He may roar like a ferocious lion and he may try to keep you from God, 1 Pet. 5:8, but he has been defeated by the power of God and you do not have to remain his prisoner this morning! There is power in the blood of Jesus to set you free!)

III. THE POWER OF THE CROSS
(Ill. When the power of the cross is appropriated, three great and wonderful things take place. Notice what they are:)
A. Sin Dies - When a person places his/her faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, that person is forever changed! The chains of sin are broken, Rom. 6:14, and they are made into a new creature, 2 Cor. 5:17. Now, the new born believer does not have to live his life in bondage to sin, Rom. 6:6! (Ill. The blood has the power the change every life touched by it! There really is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!)
B. Hell Is Defeated - No blood washed, blood bought individual will ever experience the flames and fires of Hell! One of the most precious verses in the Bible pertaining to this subject is found in John 5:24. There, the Bible tells us that we will never come into condemnation! Romans 8:1 confirms this for us! Thank God, no child of God will ever have to go to Hell, Satan will not get his wish! That ought to cause us to rejoice this morning!
C. Heaven Is Delivered - The blood is the key that unlocks the gates of glory! When the blood is applied, the child of God becomes instantly destined for an eternity in Heaven with the Lord! That is His promise to every believer, John 14:1-3. And, there is only one way to get to that glorious place, John 3:3; 7.
Conc: When evangelist John Wesley was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused. "My friend," said Wesley, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'" The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit. Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! "I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," Wesley exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!"
     Has the blood been applied to your life? Is your name written down in Heaven? Is your faith in Jesus and in Him alone?
     If you need to come to Jesus for salvation this morning, this altar is open! If you need to come and get you walk with God straightened out, this altar is open. You come while the Lord is dealing with your heart today!

Monday, February 20, 2017

What is the GOSPEL message?


 

The word gospel means “good news” and is explained by the following six key truths of the GOSPEL Journey.

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

In these two chapters God creates all of the universe and everything in it (Genesis 1:1), including the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. God created Adam and Eve with purpose. He called them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) and fill the earth with their offspring. He gave them the mission of taking care of the earth and tending the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15.)
God made them to be in complete fellowship with Him and with each other. Their nakedness (Genesis 2:25) represented the fact that they had no sin, therefore no shame, therefore nothing to hide before God or each other. They regularly communed with God in the garden and had sheer bliss, pure happiness and unadulterated joy. It was during this time that they were living everyday as God intended, in right relationship with each other, God and His creation. The only command God gave to them was not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In the same way God made us to be in fellowship with Him. His original plan was that you and I were in absolute and perfect relationship with Him and with each other in total unity. God created us to be in harmony with all of heaven and all of earth. But that plan was disrupted by one evil act thousands and thousands of years ago.

Our sins separate us from God. (Genesis 3)

When Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6), and thereby sinned, they immediately became aware of their “error.” They sewed fig leaves together to cover their shame and hid in the garden from God (Genesis 3:7,8). Now they were hiding from the one that they used to fellowship with regularly. Men and women have been hiding from God ever since, covering their sin and shame with the fig leaves of religion or philosophy.
God confronted them face to face. As a result of their sin there were immediate and future consequences. The immediate consequences were being banished from the garden (Genesis 3:23,24), having difficulty in childbirth (Genesis 3:16) and our work turning from a joy that we love to a job that we hate (Genesis 3:17-19).
The future consequence for Adam and Eve was physical death. God had promised in Genesis 2:17 that the day he sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would “surely die.” Spiritually Adam and Eve died the day they sinned in the garden. Their souls became immediately polluted by sin and selfishness. As a result all of their offspring (and that includes you and me) were born sinful and selfish. Through Adam every person ever born is born deprived and depraved, deprived of God’s fellowship and depraved to the core (Romans 5:12-14).
When confronted by God the blame game begins. Adam blames Eve (Genesis 3:12) and Eve blames the snake (Genesis 3:13). Humanity has been playing the blame game ever since. What began as paradise unraveled with a single choice to disobey God and listen to Satan instead. Every war, famine, argument, sin and tragedy can be traced back to the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve chose to turn their backs on God for a taste of fruit.

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds. (Genesis 4 – Malachi 4)

From the beginning humanity has attempted to remove the stain of sin by good deeds. When Cain offered God vegetables as an appeasement for his sin God rejected it (Genesis 4:1-4). Cain was infuriated and killed his brother Abel.
In Exodus, the second book of the Bible, God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), not to save them from their sin, but to show them that they couldn’t live up to his perfect standards on their own (Galatians 3:23-24). Instead of looking to Him in faith many of the Jews looked to themselves and thought they could please God in their own strength. But God saw their “righteous” deeds like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Even the best of their good deeds were corrupted by selfish motives.
In Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, God gave the Israelites the sacrificial system. Every time a Jew sinned he or she was to sacrifice a goat without any blemishes (Leviticus 4:27-31). Think about that. If you were a Jew in the Old Testament and had to make a sacrifice every time you lied, lusted, gossiped, complained or argued you would soon run out of goats. Other offerings included offerings of bulls and sheep.
The sacrificial system was meant to point inward, upward and forward. It pointed inward to convince you of your sinfulness. If you were honest before God then you would soon realize that you could never make enough sacrifices for your sin. It pointed upward to make you trust in God for your salvation instead of sacrifices that you could make (Psalm 51:16,17). It pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who would someday come to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
The rest of the Old Testament tells the story of the Jewish people, some of whom realized they were sinners and needed God to save them (Psalm 51:1,2) and most of whom trusted in their own goodness instead of the mercy and grace of God (Isaiah 64:6).

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

When Jesus came to the earth he came as the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17) and the ultimate sacrifice (Luke 24:46). He lived the perfect life that we could not live and died in our place, for our sin. When he died upon the cross he screamed the words “It is finished” (John 19:30). What he meant by these three words was that the price for our sins was paid completely. He was fully God and entirely man. As a perfect human he could die for other humans. As the true and living God his payment for sin was infinite.
Jesus rose from the dead three days after he was murdered on the cross (Mark 16:6). He was seen by over 500 witnesses (I Corinthians 15:6) on at least 12 separate occasions over the course of forty days (Acts 1:3). Because he died our sins are paid for entirely. Because he rose from the dead we know that Jesus was who he claimed to be, God in the flesh.

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John)

The amazing thing about eternal life is that it is a free gift given to us by God through faith alone and not by any of our good deeds (Ephesians 2:8,9). Jesus paid the price for our sins when he died on the cross and all we must do is receive the gift of forgiveness through faith. When we believe that Jesus died for our sins and trust in Him alone we receive eternal life, are passed out of death into life and are guaranteed a home in heaven (John 5:24).
Eternal life is not achieved by good deeds but received through faith. It’s not a matter of trying but trusting. When we believe we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Almost the entire New Testament is dedicated to talking about this eternal life and the implications of it in our everyday lives. From John through Jude the disciples of Jesus show us how to live like Jesus intended, serving each other in love. This is the heart of eternal life!

Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever. (Acts – Revelation)

Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead we will be with Jesus forever in heaven. When we trust in Jesus we enter into a personal, permanent relationship with God called “eternal life.”
Part of the reality of eternal life is that it doesn’t start after you die but as soon as you believe (John 10:10). This life is the joy of a real, exciting relationship with Jesus every single day through prayer, worship and living in the strength that God provides through his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
The other part of the reality of eternal life is that all who have it will be with Jesus forever and ever in heaven someday. Once we receive it is ours forever and we are his forever!
The last chapter of the last book of the Bible makes it clear that we will “rule and reign forever” with Jesus (Revelation 22:5). In essence the last chapter in the story of the Bible concludes by saying, “and they lived happily ever after.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

WHAT BELFAST NEEDS!


WHAT BELFAST NEEDS!
Supposing you were asked today, “What does Belfast need?" how
would you answer? How many things would you suggest that might
be necessary for the improvement of the city? You might feel that
more shopping is a priority, although that is hardly likely. Maybe
better transport. Maybe better road maintenance‘ You might feel
that lower rates should be up the list. Perhaps you might step it up a
level and say that better healthcare would be the most important
maybe more jobs  and even better education for all. It is quite
possible that you would come up with many helpful ideas, and yet
miss the vital necessity. What Belfast really needs is an awareness of
God  His holiness. ..His righteousness... His hatred of sin... and His
love for the sinner.

As a nation we have drifted over the last fifty years, unwittingly,
gradually, but now we are moving at great speed away from the God
of the Bible and the God of our fathers. We no longer have any appre-
ciation of His holiness or our own sinfulness. The general attitude is
that if we are doing no harm to anyone else then what we do is our
own business. But what we do is Gods business. Not only does He
take note of everything we say and do, but the Bible makes it very
clear that He will judge us for those actions (read Ecclesiastes 3:15
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already
been; and God requireth that which is past.  Romans 2:6). Who will
render to every man according to his deeds: What Belfast needs more
than anything  our foremost need  is an understanding of our sin (read Romans
3v22, 23 ) 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ
unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all
have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  and an appreciation of the
holiness of God. Who is the Judge of all.

BELFAST NEEDS CHRIST!
What is the answer to this massive problem then? Perhaps it will be
better understood in the form of another question. Who does
Belfast need? In every election run-up there are men and women
looking for our support. They cover all shades of the political divide
and opinion. They will come to your door and ask for your vote. What
they are really saying is "Belfast needs me!” We don't doubt that we
need the best candidates to look after the city and keep things
running, but most importantly, Belfast needs Christ! Before anything
else, no matter how important to us, we all need Him. You need Him.
He is God's only answer to our need as sinners. The Province has
neglected Him. This country once respected the Bible, valued the
standards of the Bible and had a reverence for God. This land once
rang with the sound of the Gospel at street corners and in town
centres. Crowds came to hear the Gospel in large tents pitched in the
city. Missionaries left from Belfast to evangelise the world and to tell
the story of Christ the sinners Saviour. What has happened? lt all
started with that imperceptible drift. Then people began to doubt.
Before long they became dull of hearing, and the message no longer
got through. Then some began to despise the message. Today many
even deny it. Yet the Bible asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect
so great salvation?" (read Hebrews 2:3). Neglect has serious conse-
quences, and perhaps we are already reaping some of those as a
nation, but what about the consequences for you, the reader?

Politicians may promise, and for different reasons may not be able
to deliver. God makes an amazing promise to everyone today, and
the certainty is that He can and will deliver. He makes this promise to
the people of Belfast, but best of all, He makes it to you! He says that
we are all sinners and must bear the consequences because we can’t
help ourselves. Yet He loves the sinner and has sent His Son into the
world to die for such upon the cross at Calvary. What is His amazing
promise? That WHOSOEVER believes in HIM will NOT perish but will
HAVE everlasting LIFE! (read John 3:16). The greatest need we have
is of Christ the Saviour. Without Him we have no hope in time or
eternity. Without Christ we will miss Heaven and must endure the
judgement of God for ever. Would it not be wise to make the proper
assessment of your needs just now and place your trust in Him as
Saviour,  as your Saviour?

"Through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached
unto you the forgiveness of sins"
Acts 13:38

Ivan Gordon

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Reality of Christmas



What is the reality of Christmas?

We probably feel like we know the Christmas
story word for word. After all, this story is
the centre of our Christmas celebrations
and festivity. Yet, have we lost some of the awe and
humbling wonder that the birth of Christ demands of
us? Has this story become so familiar that it is reduced
to being mundane and ordinary? The birth of Christ
was never meant to make things feel festive once a
year; the reality of this event should shock us and
leave us praising God in reverent fear.

As Christians, it can he easy to consider the Christmas
story as simply an evangelistic opportunity; yet there is
a depth to this story that can still powerfully challenge
us within the church as well. Let’s look at some of the
details of the Christmas story to be reminded again of
the reality, love and hope revealed by the birth of Christ.


The ugly truth

In many parts of the world Christmas is presented
as a time of fun, family and food. There's shopping
to do, decorations to put up and presents to wrap.
But the tinsel doesn't really cover up what our world
is actually like. Wars are being fought; people are
seeking refuge in foreign countries; poverty increases.
And even within the ‘Christmas environment’ many of
us will be sufferinging with pain, grief, illness, rejection
and loneliness.

Christmas, we know it today, can’t cover the ugly
truth of our broken world. It is full of sin and suffering
now; and it was full of these things when Jesus was
born.The traditiional nativity scene often forgets the
selfishness, horror and violence that surrounded the
birth and early years of Jesus life.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in
the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the
east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has
been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star
in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and
all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all
the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he
inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is
written by the prophet: ’But you, Bethlehem, in the land
of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My
people Israel.’ ” -—Matthew 2v6 (emphasis added)

  Herod, the governing king in Jerusalem, is often
remembered in our nativities as the ‘evil ruler’
determined not to lose his throne to the supposed
“King of the Jews”. However, we rarely consider the
reaction of the Jews in Jerusalem who were just as
“troubled” as Herod.
   When Herod sought advice on this new—born
King, the religious leaders in Jerusalem were able
to quote the Old Testament prophecies about
the coming Christ. They know the promises, but
we are not told that they rejoiced when they
heard news of His birth. It is probably quite safe
to assume that they, along with “all Jerusalem”,
were disturbed! In the same  way there was “no room for .
{Mary and Joseph] in the inn” (Luke 2:7), there was no room
for the coming Christ in His world. Even His own people,
equipped with Scripture, did not want Him (John 1:11).
  Later, when Herod realised that the wise men were not
going to help him find this new born King, he took drastic
measures to destroy any threat to his rule:  

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by
the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent
forth and put to death all the male children who
were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two
years old and under, according to the time which he
had determined from the wise men. Matthew 2:16.

   Unsurprisingly, even though we include the wise
men in our nativities, this massacre is hardly ever
mentioned. It is a horrific crime and not something we
want to dwell on. Yet it did happen, and it is included in
the Bible for us to reflect on, rather than forget about.
While we will not have done anything as atrocious as
Herod, his single-minded determination to hold on to
his power and status is something that can resonate
with all of us. Surely this is a picture of what our lives
looked like before we gave them to Christ: we wanted
to be in full control; our way was most important, even
if it hurt others; we didn’t want God. to be king; we did
anything to quiet Him or remove Him from the picture.

   In the real Christmas story, the ugiy truth of sin is
clearly revealed, along with its devastating effects. Yet
the Creator did not come in anger or judgement, but
in a tiny, helpless baby. God’s intention towards our
rebellious world couldn’t have been made any clearer.
He had not come to destroy; He came as a gift of hope
and love to a world that didn’t know Him and wasn’t
looking for Him.

The saving love of God

   Although we might think of Christmas as a
 time of ‘escapism’, the intention of the biblical
 narrative couldn’t be any more different.  Jesus‘
birth was not one of fantasy/—He wasn’t born in a rich
palace with midwives on hand to support Mary. If He
had, what would it have said about God’s gift? That it’s
only for the rich and powerful? Or only for those who
are worthy in some way? The actual events and details
carry a very different message.

   A birth for everyone: Jesus’ birth plunges us into
the real world. Imagine the anxiety of Mary and Joseph
as they tried to find somewhere to deliver the baby;
or the unclear future that lay before them as they fled
to Egypt to escape Herod (Matt. 2:14). Jesus was born in
the stark reality of poverty, uncertainty and weakness.
As we are told by the apostle Paul: Christ “made
Himself of no reputation . , . coming in the likeness
of men” (Phil. 2:7 emphasis added). He wasn’t born in “the
likeness of rich, powerful, self-sufficient people”; by
His own choice, Jesus was born amongst livestock in
thc humblest of circumstances, and then placed in a
feedling trough. We are told in the book of Hebrews that
Jesus can fully “sympathise with our weakness” and he
was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”
(4v15). It wasn’t just that Jesus looked like us; He became
like us, suffering through hardships and trials, even
from the day of His birth. He truly became one of us.
Jesus really is for everyone. He was born in a stable
(or cave of some sort) crowded with animals. It wasn’t a
high—profile, ‘private property’ kind of place; there was
no lock on the door to keep the world out. In fact the
first visitors to see the baby in the manger were people
of relative unimportance: shepherds (Luke 2v15-16). They
didn’t stumble onto the scene, but were invited by "an
angel of the Lord” (\/.9), Jesus came that all would he able
to find Him and know Him personally.
   A rescue for everyone: Jesus was given two
powerful names at His birth:

  "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His
people from their sins.” —Matthew 1:21 (emphasis added)

  "The virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and
they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated,
”God with us.” Matthew 1:23 [emphasis added)

   The promise of these names should leave us in
absolute awe. Jesus was born into a world not ready
for Him or looking for Him, yet He came to "save His
people” and be “God with us”. These are the names
God instructed to be given to His Son. Their message
doesn’t rely on our circumstances or how well we
are doing; it’s His mission to save us and make us
His again. Jesus’ names show His rescue can be for
everyone because it depends only on Him.
   A sacrifice for everyone: Jesus was called another
name at the beginning of His public ministiy; one
which adds some crucial explanation to the Christmas
story “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of
the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus wasn’t just born amongst
livestock, He was born as “The Lamb”.
   Lambs were very significant in Israel’s worship
towards God. God’s law required lambs to be sacrificed
as sin offerings (Lev.4v32), guilt offerings (14:12) and
other forms of offering. Yet the most important lamb-
sacrifice happened during the Exodus, when God freed
the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt (Ex. 12). Every
Israelite family was told to slaughter a lamb and put its
blood on their doorposts. When God then visited Egypt
in judgement that night, whenever He saw the blood
on the doorposts, He passed over that house. He only
brought death to the firstborn in the Egyptian houses,
where this payment of blood had not been provided.
   Jesus, "The Lamb of God”, is the fulfilment that the
Exdus “Passover Lamb”, and all the other sacrificial
lambs, pointed to. He wasn’t just born to teach and
lend us. He was born to die. In a similar way to the
Passover lambs (who died in place of the Israelite
born born), Jesus paid for “the sin of the world” for us by
dying in our place. He brought an end to the need for
sacrifices, taking away “the sin of the world” for good.
   Jesus didn’t die for innocent people, who were just
in the wrong place at the wrong time. And Jesus didn’t
die for His friends. Jesus died for His enemies: messed
up, broken people who have no relationship with God
and no way of making things right on their own. Now
anyone who puts their faith in Christ can enjoy a life
and eternity of “God with us”.

The hope of His return
   The Lamb was sacrificed when He was brutally
executed on the cross. His mission complete,
“He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His
head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). The mission,
predicted in the manner of His birth, was complete.
We are told: “after He had offered one sacrifice for
sins forever, [He] sat down at the right hand of God”
(Heb. 10:12). The way to God was made open for us and
the rescue was cornplete—Jesus “sat down”.
Of course, this is not the end of the story. Jesus’ first
arrival on earth also gives us a glimpse of His promised
return. God came to live among us, and now we wait for
the day when we will live with Him forever. As surely as God
kept His promise to enter our world and free us from sin, He
will keep His promise to return on that final day.

We need to learn the lessons
of Christmas and apply them to Jesus’ return. When
Jesus was born, few looked for Him, few expected Him
and many were troubled by Him. Which category do
we fit in as we wait for Him now? Are we like Herod,
who didn't want his world to be disrupted? Are we like
the religious leaders who ‘knew’ about the promised
Christ but didn't want Him to come? Or are we like
the often forgotten Simeon (Luke 2:28-32 and Anna
Vs36-38) who had been waiting eagerly for Jesus and
rejoiced when they saw Him?

   The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the
night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then
sudden destruction comes upon them . . . But you,
brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day
should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of
light and sons of the day. We are not of the night
nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as
others do, but let us watch and be sober.
I Thessalonians 5:2—6 (emphasis added)

   We are told that Christ’s return will mean
"destruction” for many; this should spur us on to
share the good news of Jesus with those we know.
For those of us who already trust Him, it means a
fulfilment of “God with us”. We will finally be with
Christ in His home, safe and secure with Him. As
the  promised Christ should have been central to
the Israelites hope, so too should His promised
return be what we are watching for and expecting.
Christmass is a powerful reminder that the end of the
story is yet to come!

Responding to Christmas

As well-known as the Christmas story is,
 crucial details and implications can quickly
 be forgotten. Most notably is the fact that
God had a choice. He chose to become a weak human
child. He chose to come to earth and be our sacrificial
Lamb. We can decorate this story with tinsel, stars and
presents, but that should never mask the purpose of
Christ’s entrance to our world: to suffer and die for us‘
   There is nothing wrong with joining in with the
fun and festivities of the Christmas season, of course,
but how might we also respond to the reflections in
this word
   Honouring Jesus as our King and sacrifice:
Jesus, “being in the form of God, did not consider it
robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of
no reputation. . . He humbled Himself and became
obedient to the point of death, even the death of
the cross” (Phil. 2v6-8). The mind-blowing truth of
Christmas is that our Creator God, who holds the
world in His mighty hands, became our sacrifice for
sin. Although we too frequently consider this to be
‘normal’, it should shock us every time we think of it!
   A powerful example of the kind of reaction Jesus’
sacrifice should stir in us can be seen at the last
supper before His crucifixion. Jesus wrapped a towel
round His waist and knelt down to wash his disciple's
feet (John 13v2-17). Peter was shocked at seeing his God
kneeling before him, lower than the lowest servant, to
clean him. "You shall never wash my feet! he exclaimed
(v 5) How could his Lord think of lowering Himself and
doing a servant's job?
   Yet Jesus reply: Ïf I do not wash you have no place
part with Me"(v8) Jesus "humbled Himself" on the
cross and became nothing to save us. The shock Peter
felt during the last supper is the shock of Christmas!
How could the King of the universe become such a
nothing for us? How could He have come to die for us?
   If we are to submit to Jesus and honour Him, we
must not just honour Him as King, but also as our
personal sacrifice for sin. As shocking as it is, we
cannot ignore this essential part orf His work in saving
us. It is very humbling to realise Christmas-and
Easter- fulfil the image of God kneeling before us,
wearing nothing but a towel, in order to wash us and
make us clean so we can enter His home.We can only
come to Him in awe with humble thanks and prasie,
relying on Him to do the work of savation for us.
   Sharing the message for everyone, with
everyony: Jeus came to pay for "the sin of theworld"
(John1 v29). His rescue is for everyone - this includes the
people we look at and say "They will never believe” or
"I can't ever see them singing praises in church.”
   The real Christmas story gives us a horrible glimpse
of how devastating and useless it is to fight against
God. We need to take this image of sin seriously.
Those who continue as God’s enemies are headed for
destruction. And so we need to take the wonderful
rescue seriously too. The people around us don't
desperately need to hear just that Iesus came to earth
as a Baby - they need to hear why. He came to rescue
them personally and to sacrifice Himself in their place.
   As great as it is to invite friends and family to our
Christmas church services and events, those things
can’t take the place of praying for the unbelievers we
know and seeking opportunities to share our faith and
hope with them. If we are deepiy impacted by the reality
of the Christmas story, we will be much more ready to
share why Christmas is so important to us personally.
   The Christmas story is not just a tradition or
outreach opportunity, it is God Himself leaving His
throne in heaven to save us. It shows us just who our
God is and what Christ was willing to do out of His
love for us. Reflecting on this story will help us stay
“rooted and grounded” in His love, so that we “may
be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the
width and length and depth and height—to know the
love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may
be filled with ali the fullness of God” (Eph. 3;17~19).

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Testimony of Evie

My Journey from Being a Catholic Believer to a Spirit Filled Christian

Evie - South Australia
Photo of Evie

Raised in the Catholic Church

I was raised a Roman Catholic. We went to church most Sundays and kept all the Catholic traditions. I had my “first holy communion” when I was in grade 3, which meant that we could partake in eating the holy bread (waver) in church which represented the body of Christ. Actually it not only represented the body of Christ, through prayer the priest “made it into the actual body of Christ”.
When I was about 13 years old I had my “confirmation” which was meant to be the time to receive the Holy Spirit. I was well prepared for this big event after attending several days of prayer, talks, group work concerning this theme. Expecting at least a little bit of manifestation when the priest laid hands on me and prayed, I left quite disappointed as nothing really happened. Anyway, they said we had received the Holy Spirit from this day on. I continued going to church as I believed there is a God and I had a bad conscience if I didn’t go. However, the rituals in church did not make much sense to me, when to stand up, when to sit down, going to the confession box and telling my sins, of course not all of them, to the priest who then would give me the remission of sins.
At some stage a new youth pastor came into our church and he introduced some new things like youth mass where we had guitar music and singing, youth groups, prayer meetings and more. There was a group of highly motivated teenagers and young adults who met for prayer meetings and singing choruses which drew my attention as I did believe in God and wanted to get to know Him.

You can talk to God directly and read His Word

During this time a girl told me that I could talk directly to God and that He could give me answers through the Bible. I was very astonished but she continued saying that she would often pray and ask God for answers and then open the bible and God would show her exactly what she needed. Well, this was enough motivation for me to buy my own bible. Roman Catholics usually don’t have a bible or think they don’t need one as the priest would tell them anyway what’s right and wrong. At first I felt ashamed going to the shop and asking for a bible but I wanted to find out about this prayer and answer issue and I ended up with my Catholic bible in my room reading and praying nearly every day. I thought if I don’t have time for God, He won’t have time for me. This went on for about a year I think and God definitely led my way and held my hand. “Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (JAMES 4:8)
Through reading the Word of God He was able to change my thinking and to work on my soul. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (HEBREWS 4:12)
I still went to the Catholic Church, seeking for God, but at some stage I had to leave in the middle of the ceremony as everything seemed very hypocritical to me. I could not help it. I asked God often to show me the right way and He did. Although there was not really an alternative to the Catholic Church in the area where I grew up.

Receiving the Holy Spirit

When I started my studies I lived away from home for most of the week. I joined a Catholic prayer group once a week where we met for short prayer and a big breakfast afterwards. One day someone whom I knew back from school, turned up. He started preaching about the Holy Spirit and baptism and our group leader became very aggressive; so much so that he nearly punched him. I just listened to this conversation and did not know what to think about it. When Michael, my old school acquaintance, left, I ran after him and could not help asking him to pray for me as I always believed in prayer. He joyfully said he would do this and invited me to a Pentecostal meeting. First I denied as I was always very cautious but after a few invitations I agreed to go there with my boy friend who was eager to find out for himself as well.
We ended up joining a Christian meeting in a living room. I certainly was not a person who could be easily convinced of something new and I was very skeptical. However what was most impressive at this evening was the singing; it was very powerful and full of joy - and everybody joined in wholeheartedly. Something I never experienced in the Catholic Church. Anyway, we had a lot of questions and they were all answered with the Scriptures. I could see, these people really knew their bible and the Word of God was the foundation of their lives.
When I was back at home I still had a lot of worries that this was a sect and I asked the Lord for an answer. When I opened my bible at a random page I read the following scripture: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy (which in the German bible is translated with ‘sect’) so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” (ACTS 24:14) So here was my answer directly from God. It was not a sect; it was a group who worships the God of the bible.
The next thing I wanted to see as proof was the speaking in tongues. So we went to a meeting where these gifts were operated and I heard my schoolmate speaking in a new language which I never heard him do before. Everything went very smooth and orderly, there was no crazy screaming or rolling on the floor. In my heart I knew it was from God. Also I think the assembly group prayed a lot for us to get saved. I know I was drawn to the meetings a few times when my feeling told me differently. Not too long and I got baptized under water in a lake and buried my old life. Afterwards we went to pray for the Holy Spirit. And this time I can say I really received the Holy Spirit as the Scripture says: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (ACTS 2:4) I started speaking in a new language through the Holy Ghost and this was my uttermost proof that the Word of God is real. Nobody would be able to ever take this from me.

My Journey as a Spirit-filled Christian

This was my journey from a Catholic believer to a Spirit-filled Christian and I praise God that He led me this way. “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (MATTHEW 7:7)
That's how I got converted in 1990 to the God of the Bible and a lot has happened since. I moved from Germany to Australia as a calling of God, got married and have 3 beautiful kids. Life has never been boring since. The path has not always been easy and at times I was extremely desperate and lonely and could not see any light at the end of the tunnel, a few times I hit rock bottom and thought it would be better to die than to live.
But one thing I know, there is ALWAYS a place to go: down on my knees to pray to God; and He was always faithful and lifted me up again and showed me His light and peace and most of all God gave me new strength to go on. If everything fails, HE never will! “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (ECCLESIASTES 3:1)
There is a purpose for every life and I am so glad I found the narrow way.
Evie
My Journey from Being a Catholic Believer to a Spirit Filled Christian

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

From Jehovah's Witnesses to Jesus--Gus Astacio's Story


I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, June 6, 1986; I was 14 years old, on fire with what I felt without a doubt in my mind was the truth. Just a naive young Puerto Rican from New York City. My father was what we would dub a worldly man. My mother, a tireless worker in the family was provider, homemaker, and spiritual leader. My sister when she was young was more into friendships but like a 2nd mom. You could still find them both zealously pioneering and pillars in their congregations. My sister married a great husband and brother-in-law of mine.
When you are occupied with your weekly studies of WT literature, spend many hours of door ministry and have to deal with the problems I faced, it can be consuming. As a result, life’s pertinent questions are forgotten in the distractions of a JW’s busy life. The devil wants the ringing phone of the Lord to go unheard, so he tries to occupy your mind into ignoring it. Fortunately for me I was not one of the many who allow the ringing to go unheard. It was distant at times but eventually I picked up the phone. I felt since we have the truth why should I cower to some ex JW’s. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you."
Another thing that always stood in my mind also was that we had always taught that the generation of 1914 would not pass away before seeing the end of the world. The WT society constantly (at assemblies and in the WT magazines and other literature) made estimates on what age a person during the time of 1914 had to be to be coherent of the events of that year. I remember reading 15 years of age and then later it was changed to being born in 1914. Of course I now realize several ages were used as a barometer. I also now know 1975 was a date predicted to be the year for Armageddon’s coming. Well like those who sold their homes because they implicitly believed Jehovah was speaking through the pages of the WT, I also felt without a doubt that Armageddon would come before the generation of 1914 would pass. It was my hope that I for a surety knew would come. As a young person the one thing I always feared more than anything in this world was death and old age, but with this hope of 1914 I was assured this could not ever happen. The average lifespan for people at their best is maybe 70 to 80 years old. I did the math just like many other JW’s. If you were born in 1914 and lived let’s say to be 90 then you and all those born in 1914 would live to the year 2004. And that is a stretch! I will be 33 years of age and in my mind walking into a paradise Earth. I always figured by 25 or 35 I would fulfill Rutherford’s talk on ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die!’ The concept of death was a very remote thing in my eyes unless I suffered from some catastrophic ailment or disaster.
My wife lost her mother when she was very young over the blood ban teaching JW’s hold. At times I can feel her pain. Many JW’s have suffered needlessly over keeping hold of doctrines that have been dropped like the latest fads. When I hear, read, and see the testimonies of my brothers and sisters earth-wide whom have lost family, homes, and lives over these off and on teachings it tearfully pains me. It reminds me of what is said at Isaiah 5:13,"Therefore my people will have to go into exile for lack of knowledge; and their glory will be famished men (the governing body) and their crowd (the rank and file JW) will be parched with thirst."
After 5 years of marriage I was disgusted by the fraudulent acts of spirituality by brothers just to get a title of what they felt was a glorified position. When I was young I was taught there is equality in the organization unlike the churches which have titles like Reverend and Bishop. That is clearly an empty statement because in the mind of many brothers they seek the titles in our organization for their own glorification. And responsibility is measured with authority. Many develop fraudulent relationships with Elders and Circuit Overseers to gain a position. Also door ministry hours increase but after they have received their title usually you find those hours leveling off. I always felt if I strive for a position it would be to serve the flock not for self importance.
Another reason for my change in desire was once again my hopes and dreams were stripped from me. In 1995 at the ‘ Divine Teaching’ convention the WT society made a major change in doctrine. They now defined the statement ‘the generation will not pass’ as not meaning those in 1914 would live to see Armageddon. They now said it meant this wicked generation. Well this wicked generation has existed for centuries. I suddenly felt the same sense of betrayal those in 1975 must have felt. I always felt that teaching was like my ROCK of assurance that I would never grow old and die. Apparently thousands of other JW’s felt it was their barometer and countdown for paradise like I did because in the ensuing years the attendance has dropped at the meetings worldwide. I can only pray that this is a wake up call for many JW’s that we cannot trust in the utterances of men for our hopes. Dates, times, and generations have come and gone along with their hopes of a better tomorrow. (1874, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1925, 1975, the generation of 1914 that was to never pass, promises given in the name of God Deut. 18:20 22.)
I then got a stable job, having worked the strenuous hours of restaurant management for 4 years. While on the job I would surf the Internet for sports. One day I was surfing the net, and I typed in JW’s. To my amazement there were many XJW websites. This gave me an opportunity to respond against people I was raised to detest. I began a quest for truth to destroy the dark sayings of the devil for good. I labeled myself ‘The Berean’ ready to answer and expose untruth. At home I wrote long articles for each claim. I found on many of the claims against the WT I could easily find a reason but on doctrinal issues it became evident there were serious flaws. This became even more evident on a website of associated JW’s for reform which clearly exposed in great detail, scripturally and medically, the blood ban as an unreasonable stand.
I wanted to feel secure in the religion I’d chosen despite my disappointments. It all boiled down to the purity of what we call truth. Truth exposes darkness not the other way around. As a result, truth was becoming clearer and clearer and this truth was not what was being taught by the WT society. The scriptures were opening themselves to me as never before. Yet my pride was preventing me from accepting some truths. Through all of this my life was being torn apart but I still could not stop. I confided in my wife and mother on all of the changes I was going through. For those that may read the next few sentences I do not want to impress upon any the need to accept the things I have but urge all to investigate and examine all things you may be taught by the WT or any man. 1 John 4:1 says, "Do not believe every inspired expression but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world."
In the last week of June, 1997 right before our District convention something phenomenal occurred. I’d already realized through a thorough study of scripture that many of the doctrines we lived by were flawed, but I was adamant against the teaching of the deity of Christ. So adamant that I publicly exclaimed to my wife, "I could believe anything but I could never believe in the trinity." Yet the weight of mounting flaws in our present teachings led me to an examination of this teaching, too. I read as much as I could on it yet couldn’t understand the concept of God being in heaven and on Earth. No matter how it was explained by others, even with scriptures, I could not understand. I then did something that never occurred to me before. I went in prayer to my heavenly father and asked him to give me understanding of any truths concerning him. I denied all men and their self accredited knowledge and pleaded that he teach me through the holy spirit. I felt deep conviction for my sins against him and begged his forgiveness for my lack of reliance upon him in the past. I openly acknowledged my failure to come to him and asked that I now be like a child in his hands, following him to all doors of truth and not men. While in this prayer I found myself constantly referring to him as my father instead of calling him by name. I felt a closeness to him I never felt before. It was a spirit of closeness as described in Romans 8:15. I confessed Christ as my savior and asked him to come into my heart. I prayed all of these things in his name and recognized that salvation comes by his name.
Afterward I went to sleep and awoke at an unusually early hour of the morning. I was drawn to reading the first 3 chapters of Colossians. I came across Colossians 2:9 and it read, "the Fullness of the deity dwells down in him bodily." I went to work, came home, went to sleep that night and awoke again at an early hour. I was drawn to reading the 1st chapter of Hebrews in my 8 translation Bible and in every instance it stated, "Your throne O God is forever." Well, I went to work still unconvinced but befuddled; came home and went straight to sleep. I was tired mentally, being unable to stop thinking about what I was reading. Well, I awoke this time about 1:00 a.m and I was drawn to reading the Bible. Ironically it was just an old fashioned NWT. I turned to Rev. chapter 1 for some odd reason. Jehovah in the NWT is the Alpha and Omega and speaking, but John says he turned to the voice that was speaking, indicating this voice was behind him. Well, he turns to Jehovah’s voice and sees Jesus! What men in their intellect could not teach me was now being taught by the Spirit of God. John 5:39-40, "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." That night I wept and denounced all men and their teachings and vowed to follow where the Holy Spirit would lead me. In Jesus I have the Bread of everlasting life and I can call on him for all things! John 14:14 states, "If you ask ME anything in my name, I will do it!"

Today I am swimming in the peace of having a loving relationship with my heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I love my family so much and only want the best for all of them. They all fully know the reason for my stand. I can only hope and pray that one day they answer that distant ringing phone and hear the beautiful voice of Jesus. While organizations, societies, and men come and go Jesus is always there unchanging and faithful. I have formally disassociated myself but am thankful for the time spent as a JW. It has made me appreciate the liberty of being a Christian that much more. Math. 7:8, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened." Romans 10:11, "For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’
Gus
____________________________
Following is Gus's letter to
To the Elders of the Suitland congregation and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
In recent months I have found some disheartening facts that have deemed my actions forthwith today. It is based upon the statement made by Joseph Rutherford that has substantiated the necessity of my investigative powers. And I quote, "Error always seeks the dark, while truth is enhanced by the light. Error never desires to be investigated. Light always courts a thorough and complete investigation." (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, p.13) What I found in my investigation was tragic at best!
All letters have a beginning, and thus I shall start with a doctrine that has cost many ones their eternal salvation. This is also a pattern of already fallen doctrine, what you would call old light. But I am more prone to believe it for the darkness it really is in agreement with The Commentary on the Letter of James. And I quote: "For God is he who said: ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ In its rising and setting, the sun casts shadows of changing length and intensity. Depending on the position of the Earth in its rotation and its orbit, considerable variation occurs in the way that the sun’s radiant heat and light are distributed. Unlike the sun, the Creator of the heavenly bodies is not subject to changes. There is no variation with him." Also 1 John 1:5 and Isaiah 5:20 harmonizes with the above quote showing that God does not change his ways like the WTS has changed it’s doctrines.
The doctrine costing people’s loss of salvation is the Great Crowd will exist on Earth as opposed to heaven. While many persons would choose to speak of numerous other errors which have caused loss or life in this world, I chose this one as the worst discrepancy due to its eternal rape of everlasting life! People in many cases have chosen the WT society’s way of worship due to its fantastic dreamlike hope of a Paradise Earth. Does this have scriptural basis? While the Bible does speak of a transformed earth, it is very clear that the Great Crowd are not the inheritors of this reality, but rather the repentant survivors of a wicked world are. (Zech. 14:16) The concept of an earthly hope was never incepted by the 1st century Christians all of which enjoyed a heavenly hope. It is rather a complete fabrication taken out of context by the WT society in 1935. C.T. Russell, the founder, would be rolling in his grave at the very concept of such a doctrine! It is very clear that there are only two instances a Great Crowd is mentioned in Revelation, and both times they are placed in heaven. Rev. 19:1 bluntly has them there, crying salvation in heaven to God. The same cry of salvation is in Rev. 7:10 by the Great Crowd! Rev. 19:1 cannot possibly be regarded as angels, because they do not receive salvation. To discard that scripture as a different Crowd is very inconsistent with the context of Revelation! I truly find it hard to believe that Revelation would speak of two different Great Crowds, narrowing the Biblical reference of a Great Crowd to one time in the Bible! Regardless, there is enough evidence even in the 7th chapter to validate that this is clearly a heavenly Crowd! In verse 15 of the 7th chapter, they are before (enopion--literally ‘in the sight of’) the throne in the Temple (naos--divine sanctuary, Most Holy, divine habitation) of God! Your own Kingdom Interlinear approves of such a definition.
The WT of 8/15/80 and 2/1/98 do not clarify this dilemma. The 2/1/98 WT, in particular, plays rigmarole with the 144,000 stating they are in the Temple with the Great Crowd, but negates to mention the significance of both classes existing in that Temple! Namely that the Temple represents heaven itself. Selective amnesia? This in all essence means that the millions that have passed the cup and plate without partaking have had eternity symbolically flaunted by their prospective noses within inches. It seems that Matthew 23:13, and Isaiah 5:13,14 come to life in view of the millions that have died believing in this doctrine. This pains me more than all the bad dates the society has predicted combined! Jesus clearly stated at John 6:53, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in yourselves!"  At Philippians 3:17-21, Paul clarifies the difference between persons whom seem to be Christians and true Christians, climaxing with the statement, "As for us our citizenship is in the heavens..." Here is true loss of life that can never be restored, taking away persons salvation. (2 Peter 2:19).
I will touch on the physical losses of this world. It is very clear when looking at the WT history of medical science that our leadership has been ignorant as to its application in scripture. I present the following as evidence of the WT society’s capabilities in judging for others as absolutely fallible and destructive! Rabies is nonexistent--GA 1/1/23 p.214; germs don’t cause disease--GA 1/16/24 p.250; vaccinations are useless--GA 2/4/31 p.294; vaccines cause demonism--GA 2/4/31 p.293; blood is nutrition--WT 7/1/51 p.415; organ donation a conscience matter--WT 8/1/61 p.480; organ transplants cannibalism--WT 11/15/67 p.702; organ transplants no longer cannibalism--WT 3/15/80 p.31.
Time and again WT policies have been detrimental to its own followers, and with no basis but pure speculation for its grounds for these death dealing policies. Have JW’s had free choice in such matters of life and death? No, many died for the vaccination ban as well as the organ transplant ban. Others went blind for lack of cornea transplants adhering to current WT policy. All of these policies have changed years later! When the choices are loss of communication with your entire social community for violation of policy or death by adhering to it, which one is worse? These were the choices made by dedicated JW’s for past policies, and are continuing today with the enduring blood ban policy. If the WT society was wrong on previous views of medical care and scriptural application, couldn’t the leadership be wrong on this policy as well?!?
The WT society has purposely taken a medical term out of context. The WT society uses the term ‘intravenous feeding’, but it is metaphoric in the absolute, no less than saying it’s raining cats and dogs! Blood that is eaten is digested through the stomach and than proceeds through the intestines, but this does not occur with transfusions. While blood is just as much an organ as kidneys, heart, liver, etc., it acts as a vehicle in intravenously, providing nutrients, vitamins and minerals throughout the body. It is not a digestible product. While the WT society does allow certain blood components such as albumin, immoglobulin, and RH factors 4-7, the reasoning is that these certain components pass through the placenta from a mother to her unborn child. Well if that is the reasoning, than the 11/17/93 Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) has purported for years that whole blood passes through the placenta, meaning Jehovah allows blood transfused naturally! I do recognize that most of the medical advice in error of the past was the ideologies of C.J. Woodworth, your former editor, but why continue his legacy of medical quackery with the blood ban?
If strict adherence to the ban is necessary to appease Jehovah’s wrath, why is it you allow blood fractions or organ donations which contain whole blood? Kidneys, liver, and heart consist of nearly 30% blood unto itself, according to JAMA. Why play with disaster and even allow fractions? Another example of medical metaphoric terminology is the phrase ‘blood fractions’. It does not mean a small amount of blood, but rather mass quantities of fractioned blood is necessary for transfusions which is pooled by many persons for supposed fractions. There are so many other validations for disposal of this unsound life- costing doctrine, but I’d rather allow a quote from the Consolation to sum it up: "Consolation Sept. 1945 p.29 (Dutch ed.) "God has never published a decree which forbids employing medicine, injections, and blood transfusions. It is a human invention like the Pharisees disregard for mercy and Grace. To serve Jehovah with all the mind does not mean to put our intelligence in a box. Principally because there is a human life at stake. The life being of great value is holy to Jehovah." And I ask, whatever happened to this very sane type of logic I see reflected in the Consolation above quoted!?!
I thought that reform was possible, but in light of this historical consistency of abuse, it seems very clear that this would destroy the institution. Matthew 9:16,17 also shows that this is like putting new wine into old wineskins, the wineskins would burst! The leadership has tried so hard to preserve its legacy despite whoever it might destroy in its quest for preservation. And I quote from scholar Daniel Taylor's book, The Myth of Certainty:
"The primary goal of all institutions and subcultures is self-preservation. Preserving the faith is central to God's plan for human history; preserving particular religious institutions is not. Do not expect those who run the institutions to be sensitive to the difference. God needs no particular person, church, denomination, creed or organization to accomplish his purpose. He will make use of those, in all their diversity, who are ready to be used, but will leave to themselves those who labor for their own ends. Nonetheless, questioning the institutions is synonymous, for many, with attacking God--something not long to be tolerated. . . . Actually, they are protecting themselves, their view of the world, and their sense of security. The religious institution has given them meaning, a sense of purpose, and, in some cases, careers. Anyone perceived as a threat to these things is a threat indeed. This threat is often met, or suppressed even before it arises, with power. . . . Institutions express their power most clearly by enunciating, interpreting and enforcing the rules of the subculture. Every institution has its rules and ways of enforcing them, some clearly stated, others unstated but no less real."
When faced with the many false prophetic dates of an ending civilization, has there ever been any true repentance? I took special note of the following quotes: WT 6/15/74 p.381-"Similarly the false prophet is not a person but is a system or an organization."  (self condemnatory isn’t it?) Also Isaiah 5:21 comes to life in light of the following quote... WT 6/1/97 p.14--"Modesty on the part of the faithful and discreet slave class prevents it from presumptuously running ahead and wildly speculating about things that are unclear. The slave class strives to avoid being dogmatic. How reassuring it is to know that the channel Jehovah is using today does not do so! It is both faithful and discreet." That is just about the most dishonest statement ever recorded by the WT society in light of 1874, 1881, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1925,1975 and the generation of 1914 that was supposedly to never pass, all dates given for the end! I feel the WT society has fallen into the pits of its very own statements of the WT Mar 1893, p. 1504, "...we have pointed out continually the tendency of Christian people toward union, showing, too, that such a union is predicted in scripture; but that its results, while designed to be good, will really be bad; and this because it will be a mechanical union instead of a heart unity." And last but certainly not least I wholeheartedly agree with the following quote from the WT 1895 p.216, "Beware of ‘organization’, it is wholly unnecessary. The Bible rules will be the only rules you will need. Do not seek to bind others’ consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey as far as you can understand God’s word to-day."
It is clear Russell was a contemporary reformer of his time, as well as John Smith, Ellen G. White, William Miller and others. And reform can easily be distinguished as opposition or apostasy to be so blunt. It is my discernment that the 1800's sprung forth Russell and others already aforementioned in fulfillment of 2 Tim. 4:3, which states, "For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled."  At what started with no intentions of harm has become a magnum of destructive power laid in religious rules and policies! You have, as Matthew 23:5 states, ‘broadened the scripture containing cases’ to the detriment and harm and salvation cost of others! How it pains me to do so, but I do disassociate myself from the Watchtower society, in an effort to be separated from the great sins my former religion is responsible for against God and others, thus keeping myself free from blood guilt! I do not regard any of Jehovah’s Witnesses as my enemies, but pray and love them hoping that they will see through the deceptions flayed before them.
Let it be known that I am disassociating myself, and that if any defamation of my name or character is made, then I will be forced to take legal action. Defamation would include disfellowshipping me as opposed to acknowledging my request for disassociation! I only hope and pray that those few men will come to Christ in true repentance over the great wrongs they have committed to those whom have been so loyal to their direction, and redirect such ones to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! John 8:24-I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am, ye shall die in your sins.
With fervent Prayers,
AGUSTIN J. ASTACIO
 

Friday, November 04, 2016



Julie's Testimony


I asked Jesus to come into my heart back in 1995 and was baptized that same night. I guess I wasn't serious about my decision then because not much time after that I was back to my old ways. I didn't have any real support (or so I had thought). I thought that my excuse would be good enough. I still had felt my heart was aching because I had let Jesus down. I thought living that way of life just wasn't for me and moved on. I thought my life was going great with being a newlywed and living happily. Little did I know my life was about to crash before me and I would be begging for God to save me. My then-husband had committed adultery and hid it from me.A few years, I had done the same sin and while I was "coming clean" with my then-husband about what I had done, he did the same with his own past. We had a VERY difficult time trying to keep our marriage alive. We both wanted our marriage to work but it was hard trying to look past our betrayals we both committed against each other. While we were still trying to work things out, I still had feelings towards "the other guy." This was the straw that broke the camels back. My then-husband demanded a divorce and I granted him one. I then went to live with the "other guy" and not long after we had lived together and were engaged in sexual sin, I learned I was pregnant and also that he was committing his own sexual sin on the computer. I was crushed with this knowledge and left.

I moved back in with my parents (dad and step-mom). They told me I could only stay there for 2 weeks, then I had to move out because if the management knew I was living there, they would raise my parents rent. So, on midnight of the 14th day of me staying with my parents, I called my mom begging for her to help me because I was about to be homeless and pregnant. She sent me $500 to help me pay some bills and use the rest for food. After I had finished talking to my mom on the phone, I went up to my bedroom and cried. I felt so alone and didn't know what I was going to do next. A little voice inside of me said one word that would change the course of my life. The word was "Pray." The first reaction to this voice inside was "what??? why should I do that?" But it came again with a little bit more urgency. So, I did what I was told. I prayed for the first time in a long time. I didn't know what to sayat first but once I started to say what I was feeling and said that I needed help and I asked God to help me and that I couldn't do it by myself. Once I was done praying, I fell asleep.

The next day, my dad and step-mom told me that I could stay as long as I was paying them $200 a month for to live in the room I was at. That would cover my room and board. Not long after that, I got a job at a local pizza company as a cashier. They let me work the easiest area so I wouldn't become tired as fast. Once I had to leave for maternity leave, I qualified for disability assistance. That was a God-send! After the birth of my son, 5 weeks post-partum, I found a job that paid the most I had ever seen for a cashier, only it wasn't for a cashier, it was for a banking corporation which later lead me to become a card dealer. I was making at least 60,000 a year. One night while surfing iTunes, I came across the free download that was featured that week. It was from Shawn McDonald called "Take my hand". I didn't check out the genre of the music and just downloaded it without a moments thought. Once I started to listen to it, I immediately realized it was a "God" artist. I was hesitant to finish the song but my heart wanted to hear the rest of the song. So I finished it and by the end of the song, I wanted to hear more from him. I went to his site and heard all of his songs. By then, I was wanting to buy his CD off  iTunes, which I did. I had never heard worship songs in this sort of fashion before. It was amazing! I mean, the music sounded like all the rest of
the music I was already listening to, but yet it had a positive message. After buying the CD, I spent the next 4 hours (!!) listening to it and couldn't stop playing that CD for a really long time. I think after a few weeks of listening to it, I began to go to church again and really started to read my Bible. I was filled by the Holy Spirit all over again and have been on fire for God ever since.
Since that time (1.5 years ago) I have been living a Christian life as much as I know how and am learning more everyday. I don't use excuses anymore. I just lean on God and ask him to help me out. He always does! Praise God! I must say that God was delivering what He had promised when I asked Him to help me. I went from almost homeless to having a well paying job which helped me buy two homes within the last 2 years. The whole nine yards. God is good! Well, the saying goes..."God gives and takes away". I am now in the position of moving out of my house due to a foreclosure. I had to quit my job because of security issues. I am not bitter over the events that are taking place because I know God has a better plan than anything I can imagine. I am looking forward to seeing what He has in store for me!