Thoughts on Death

A dear brother just recently passed – as did Billy Graham. So, I have been pondering death – the first death that is – recently. If you follow me on my personal blog then you know I suffer from seasonal depression. (Please Note: I am not complaining, I am just stating this for it pertains to my thoughts on this subject.) Now being Christian, and having a Christian upbringing, I have heard the statements about how we are supposed to feel and what we are supposed to see when we see a brother or sister pass away. I have heard people say all of the “He is in a better place now” and so on. But it is one memorial service I was at about a decade ago which really affected my outlook.

When we lose someone, it is absolutely okay to be sad! Don’t let what anyone says make you feel guilt over feeling. The man I consider my pastor, John Z., was giving the eulogy at a dear brother’s service during my senior year of high school. Someone else, who was also rather close to me, told me to rejoice in this brother’s passing. He had had an awesome life, full of service to the Lord, and full of many amazing things, but my pastor, John, was standing at podium and he was quiet for a moment as he was overcome with his sorrow. John looked out at us and through his own emotion he said, “We are sad today, not because we mourn for our brother. He is standing face to face with Christ, no longer feeling pain or problems. We are sad, for our own loss.” We can be sad! In fact I might say we are supposed to be sad. In fact Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Eccl 3:4).

This affected me so greatly! It is so freeing!

I will tell you right now, I am sad! I am trying to stay in the right frame of mind, however, and not let this sadness take over my thoughts. I am praying and keeping Him first in my life. I am trying to listen to the promises God gives us in his word. Things where Jesus says (all ESV):

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” ~ John 11:25

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” ~ John 14:1-3

But I think the greatest promise about this is what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)

Just as Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be the Lord that very day in paradise, so we know when the Lord returns He will bring those with Him. These verses won’t drive away the sadness, but they do bring assurance to us. We need this assurance other wise we will grieve as those who have no hope. We have a blessed hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For God loved the world so much he sent the Lord Jesus and gave him for us that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life with Him.

Please lift up all those who have recently lost family! Pray for them. Pray their passing could be a great witness to for the Lord in this time.

New Year’s Thought – 2018

Well, this year went by in a blaze of speed I had not yet felt. I can’t believe it is now 2018. I’ve been through a lot this year for it to be over so soon. I’ve finished some projects and had to reevaluate others. I’ve missed out on some goals while pursuing others. I didn’t quite complete my goal of getting the commentaries on 1 – 3 John finished in order to get them to print, but I see a bright future in 2018 for the Believe Something Better Bible Commentary Series. I also feel excited for the possibility of a newsletter for Believe Better Ministries. We will see what the Lord permits me to do this year.

My thoughts this time of year are typically very reflective. Christmas is over, things are winding down it is time to sit down and read my journal and see what happened this year. (Most of the time what I really mean is see how I messed up this year.) This year has been different. I am not saying I am different, but the time is different. I still feel reflective, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and read my journal or really put any effort into self-doubt (I will admit I am not suffering from the symptoms of seasonal depression as badly this year.

This has brought to mind a truth which I seem to remember about January 12th and forget again on February 1st. We are not meant to wallow in our past mistakes! We need to forget them and move on. I am not saying we need to ignore them, I’m saying we need to learn from them but then move passed them. There is a verse which is commonly used as a new year’s verse (so you will forgive me for doing it now) and it is appropriate.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

This is not just something I want to remember during the first and last weeks of each year, but rather it is something I want to remember for this whole year. I am going to put it on my book marks, in my notebooks, on a card in my wallet, simply it is going to be everywhere for me this year. I am going to make it my verses of the year.

Maybe we can do it together. Let’s make these two verses the verses of 2018, and let’s treat those around us with the same courtesy. The friend whom you’ve had an argument with and you can’t remember how it started? End it, forget it. The estranged family member? Reach out to them, you make the steps for mending your relationship. How we treat the people in our lives should be a reflection of how we love God (see 1 John), so, treat your loved ones with full unconditional love (agape love).

This is my major goal for 2018: Unconditional, godlike, love through forgetting what lies behind and striving to what lies before. Happy New Year, everyone!

Christmas Thought – 2017

Christmas is here again. My thoughts this year have been on relationships and the application of love in our Christian lives. I’ve been going over the passages of the “Greatest Commandment” in consideration of John’s teaching in 1 John. Writing about 1 John as I am, right now, I’ve been touched by John’s continued use of love. One verse really touched me as I went through 1 John:

“He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

(1 John 2:10 BOGV)

This verse impressed on me something I knew already, but had forgotten – or hadn’t gotten in my bones yet (as one of the Elders of the Willamette Bible Chapel says) – along the way. It brings to mind the conversation Jesus had about the “Greatest Commandment”. Jesus said the whole of the Old Testament (the Law and Prophets) depends on the love of God and love of our neighbors. In a clarifying parable we see in loving his neighbor the Samaritan took care of a person in need. At Christmas we are told it is better to give than receive and numerous other aphorisms of taking care of those around us.

What is one of the greatest ways we can take care of our neighbors? Taking care of their needs? Yes, of course, but what is, arguably, everyone’s biggest need? Eternal Salvation? So often, we get so caught up in Christmas we forget what makes it important and it’s not Jesus’ birth. (Muslims even believe in the virgin birth (Qur’an 3:47; 66:12) and yet miss the purpose of the miracle.) The importance of Christmas, and the virgin birth, comes from it being the first sign about Jesus.

We should be using it as a means of pointing our friends, family, and neighbors to Jesus, and His work on the cross. Through this we show love for others and are able to show we remain in the light. Keep this in mind through your celebrations this year. Celebrate Jesus, not just for the miraculous conception and birth, but for Him setting us free from sin and condemnation.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Conversation with a Martyr

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

OK, that could be a very misleading title!

I want to make it clear I have not personally contacted a martyr for the faith. Rather this is a work of fiction. I have always been – at least when it comes to writing – a fiction writer. I love to write fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. You in fact can read my fiction online as it is currently being serialized. Well I was sitting in my chair reading Voice of the Martyrs and the Lord smacked me on the head with an idea I just couldn’t shake. Well… I think it was the Lord anyway. As I said I just couldn’t shake it I had a visceral need to write it and finish it.

I thought I’d give you all a chance to read it. I’ve been holding it back as it is different from anything else I’ve ever written. The idea is I’ve been praying to God about being the kind of person who is willing to lay their life down for Him. I’ve never thought I was this person. I want to be this person, but never felt like I had the courage to be. This part is not fiction, this part is absolutely true. I have prayed this question many times in my life. Wondered for many years if a great persecution happened here in the USA would I be the person hiding his beliefs to get by or would I stand up and shout God’s good news from the roof tops?

The story is essentially God giving me an answer. Whether this answer is real or fake, I cannot tell. I’ve pondered it and handed the story to wiser men than I. I have nothing more really to say about the story.

I hope you enjoy it.

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

Easter Thought – 2017

Well, here, we are in 2017 and standing again before the Lord in worship of His sacrifice for us on the cross. As far as holidays go, Easter really is my favorite. I’m brought to my knees, with tears in my eyes, as I think about how worthless my righteousness is, and yet God thought a relationship with me worth it enough to pay the price to have that relationship. Relationships have been the big-ticket item in my thoughts and Bible stud recently. I recently posted a thought here, and gave a short word on it at the Willamette Bible Chapel, where I spoke on Colossians 1:24–27.

Relationships are important! They are really in a lot of ways, the most important thing. We see this even in the law as the Pharisees ask the Lord Jesus what the greatest commandment was. His responses to this question are both completely relational (Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). Furthermore, the verse which is singular best known verse in the Bible: John 3:16 gives us a relational statement about why Jesus came to the Earth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world!

Christianity, for some reason has almost become more like an achievement or badge to wear rather than what it’s supposed to be. Christianity should be more like the relationship status we post on Facebook:

“RB is in a relationship with the Eternal Creator of All — God”

This is what Christianity should be. This is what Easter celebrates. We are celebrating God bridging the gap for us so we can have a relationship with Him. If God hadn’t done this we would only be able to view God as one mighty lawgiver. Instead, however, we get to enjoy the benefits of a personal relationship with the most powerful Being which exist. A Being whose very word says He is love (1 John 4:8).

This is what I am remembering this Easter.

Hope you all have a happy Easter.

Thoughts on Friendship – 2017

Willamette Bible Chapel just had their annual Men’s Retreat. I attended and was truly blessed. The subject this year was friendship. I really appreciated this subject as relationships are a strong call in my life. I think everyone has a huge call in their lives toward relationships. I personally feel they are the most important thing in our lives. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor”. This tells us, even from the time of the law, relationships were primary in the heart of God.

Relationships are our primary view and shining forth of God. John states in his first epistle that we cannot say we love God and hate our brother (fellow believer whether man or woman). So, it is our relationships in which we show how much we love God. Through loving our brothers and sisters (fellow believers) and our other neighbors (those who are not believers as well) we show how much we love God. Through this – loving the people around us (believers or not), and loving God – we fulfill the whole law.

One of my other thoughts on relationships, well friendships really, is our intimate friendships affect our views, attitudes, and everyday choices. If I make intimate friends with a non-believer I need to be careful with this friendship so it does not drag me away from God. Rather, I need to shine the light of God into their lives. If I allow it to pull me away from God, I allow, also, my witness for God to be torn down. So, I need to guard my heart from such things. I need to strive toward God and shine His light.

I’m not trying to say we should cut ties with the world, and those who are unsaved. This would not be loving our neighbor as our own selves. Cutting ties with those who are unsaved, also, tears down our witness. For to whom are we witnessing? Ourselves? No, we are witnessing to non-believers! So, it would be terribly inappropriate to cut ties with the unsaved. Did Jesus do this? No, of course not, He was a friend to sinners.

The difference is Christ is God, perfect, omnipotent; able to not let the world tear Him down and destroy His witness. We are impotent and must depend on the LORD for our strength. So, through all our friendships we need to cleave into God. Our intimate friendships should, however, be with believers. This is because our intimate friendships when with other believers, shall build us up in the Lord. Have friendships, evangelize, shine the light of the Lord as a city on a hill! Relationships are one of the greatest ways to evangelize. Be honest, be loving, be Christ to everyone.

Thoughts on the Election

With the election over people on both side are feeling lost, disenfranchised, and even scared. I’ve personally read social media messages by those on both sides of this political season filled with anger hate, and discrimination. Some of these posts were written by friends of mine whom I know Christians. Now before we go any further I am not one of those people who thinks Christians are any better than non-believers. I had this whole argument lined out about redeemed vs. perfected, but I’m going to skip it. Suffice it to say Paul (who wrote almost half of the New Testament) called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and said “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV). So, yes, all Christians are sinners.

But as I was praying the last night (the 8th) before I went to bed and before I knew the outcome of the election. I prayed a specific prayer:

“Lord Jesus, my sovereign Master and King, as the people of my country choose their next leader, I lift up to You the decision. You are king of all and in control, Lord, lead the decision. But, also, help us to know You are in control over this situation. With a political season which has been so divisive in not just our country, but in Your body, help us to come together unified in love and our common faith. Lord Jesus, You are our head, You are our Savior. Help us to turn our eyes away from petty man-made doctrines and institutions and turn our faces back to You.

I love You, Lord!

—Amen.”

We need to be healing the wounds! We need to be coming together unifying. Christians are not called to do what they are doing. We are called to live quiet lives (1Thes 4:11; 1Tim 2:2), be subject to all authorities and human institutions – including paying taxes (1Pet 2:13-17; Rom 13:1-7; Titus 3:1;), and pray for our leaders (1Tim 2:1-2). These things leave no room for us to be making snide remarks or posting angry things on social media. Christians should be those who are gracious enough to be empathetic, for we have a God who knows what we feel, who shared humanity and gives us grace freely.

Finally I will close with my prayer today when I found out the results the election:

Lord Jesus, my Master and my God, with Trump becoming president lead us and how we should go. Lord God, You are the one who really is in control, You direct the steps of all mankind. I will put my trust in you, not in the institutions of this world.

Jesus, You You are my King!

I love You, Lord!

—Amen.”

Pray for his leading in your life, but more than that, go be a sibling, parent, cousin, aunt/uncle, husband/wife, or just a friend, love someone and help them when they need it.

Experiencing Something Better

Believe Better Ministries is proud to announce a new project we are working on. This project is called Experiencing Something Better and it is written by Christians for Christians. The project is a series of books each containing stories of real experiences Christians have had with God. So here is what Believe Better Ministries is looking for: Your Story! We are looking for Christians to write stories to fill the pages of this new project.

We will not turn any story away based on denomination, creed, orthodoxy, or the lack thereof. The goal of this series is encourage Christians of all walks of life from every denomination. The way we are defining experience is anything from an answered prayer to a Christophany (a visitation of Christ). So start writing your story about your experience with God and submit them to us via our e-mail. Subject: ATTN: ESB Story.

We look forward to reading your story.

Epistle to the 21st Century Church

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Epistle to the 21st Century Church

A letter written to the Church sent from a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ; who is His Son.

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

First let me tell you that if any one of you, my Brethren, find any fault, error or wrong thing in this letter discard it immediately for it is not of the LORD. But if you find that my writings are good and in harmony with the Word of God than heed them.

Now, Brethren, we have fallen away from the things that are of Christ and turned to the things of men. If any of you cannot quote to me John 3:16 than you must be a new believer; and for the new believer I will quote it here:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16 (KJV)

Brethren think clearly, there is no qualifier presented, not even in the verses following. Do you believe me? Look it up for yourself. The Apostle Paul knew this and wrote of it in his Epistle to the Church at Ephesus. In this letter Paul told them (and through this letter us) that they were saved by grace alone not by works of the Law (Eph 2:8–9).

Brethren, if in His Word God tells us that no works gain our salvation why have we placed ourselves under the Law again? Such things the Jews tried to do before, and the Apostles spoke very clearly about this. The leaders of the churches – the Priests, Pastors and Elders – are supposed to be knowledgeable of the Word of God, why do they then not lead you to understanding of how you have become saved?

Peter, the Apostle who led the other Apostles, spoke on this when it was brought before him. He rebuked them asking why they were placing a yoke upon the Gentiles that no Jew has ever been able to bear. He then reminded them that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we are saved (Acts 15:7–11).

This rebuke was meant for all men who placed the Law on the believer – the Christian. Brethren if my salvation rested on my own shoulders and I died tomorrow I world go to Hell because I am not worthy. I am a decrepit servant who does not even deserve to work for his Master let alone be given grace by Him, but yet I am saved by the blood of Christ. I pray that my words will be heard by you that you will no longer carry a yoke on your shoulders.

Even Paul, who could count himself perfect, did not count his works as salvation, but counted them as loss for the sake of Christ. In his Epistles to the Philippians he said that if anyone has the ability to have confidence in their flesh Paul does. Then he lists his qualifications but follows this list saying that none of them can help him because these qualities are worthless when compared to knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:2–8). Paul’s qualifications are impressive, even amazing, he could count himself blameless before the Law. Again I say to you he still counted these qualities as worthless!

Paul was very clear on this in his exhortations to the churches and men that he had left behind him on his missionary journeys. He preached the gospel of grace and he wanted all men to know that anyone who tried to put the Law over them should not be listened to. He went so far as to curse anyone (including himself and angels) who preached a gospel contrary to what Paul preached (Gal 1:8). Because when it comes down to the end anyone who preaches contrary to Paul is saying God’s way is not good enough. So are you willing to say that God’s plan is not good enough?

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient enough (2Cor 12:9) and if His grace was sufficient enough for Paul who was the foremost (or greatest) of sinners (1Tim 1:15) than why is His grace insufficient for you? But I do exhort you as Paul did that we should not sin against God. For just as Jesus told the Adulterous Woman “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11) we must strive to do the same and bear fruit. For what is faith? Faith is not just sitting on your hands doing nothing but faith is believing in something, and belief is a word of action. Just as James said faith without action is dead (Jas 2:26). So in our faith must we have action that goes along with it.

What is this action? It is the love that we are commanded to perform. We are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-39). If you truly love other as yourself than how will you sin against God? This is the truth and heart of the Gospel: Not following the Law (for the Law itself places a curse on the person who does not complete all items in the Law – Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10), but rather following the love. Our example in this is our God, Himself. He gave Himself – all of Himself – so that we could be with Him; offering Himself as sacrifice so that He could give limitless grace to us. That is our example on how to love and how to live.

So do not forget that you are not under the Law, but also don’t forget that this does not allow you to be lawless. So I end this letter to the Body of Christ with Christ’s own words which He sent to Ephesus: “Return to your first love” (Rev 2:4-5).

Finally brothers do not forget to take care of one another in love, not just spiritually but if there is a physical need take care of this need as well. My prayers are with you always and may the Lord Jesus the Son of God and the Christ rain down his peace on your heads.

Quick Update for Newsletter – Prayer Requests

I just have a quick update for the Newsletter. This update is about prayer, more specifically prayer requests. We, at Believe Better Ministries, are always open to praying for you when ever you want us to. That being said we would also like to open it up to the rest of the Community that has started following our Blog and those who have already signed up for the Newsletter.

If you ever have a prayer request feel free to e-mail it to us at BelieveBetter[dot]Ministries[at]gmail[dot]com we will always pray for you! If it is a more of a confidential prayer request, feel free to tell us so. If it is even more confidential but you still would like prayer you can always e-mail me, RB, and I will pray for you. You can e-mail me at BelieveBetter[dot]89[at]gmail[dot]com.

But again we want to open this up to the community and spread the prayer. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, you can do so by clicking the link on the right at the top of the sidebar. And over the next two months (because our first issue is coming out in January) we will be collecting prayer requests to go out to everyone who subscribes.

Thank You!

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RB