Customs can be a good thing. Good habits can save our lives. I have a “routine” here at the ministry that keeps me out of trouble, most of the time. From six in the morning until 10 at night, the routine keeps me constantly involved with my duties and responsibilities and leaves me no time for devilish things. However, we need to look closely at our routines from time to time to make sure they are righteous. We can get involved in routines from a young age which may seem good, and be approved by our parents, but may be detrimental to our Christian life. One of those “customs”, or routines, is church. We can get so involved in the routine of church that we forget to actually ask ourselves if it is from God or not. If we do the research we will find that “church” actually comes from the Catholic system of paganism. Today, all denominations and churches are following the Catholic-pagan system of church. The true “church” of God is very rare to find. The word “church” in the New Testament, the only place you find the word, is a pagan manipulation of the Greek word, “Ekklēsia”. The meaning of the word actually means “to call out from”. But it has nothing to do with forming what we call today a “church”. In fact, the reason for the word, the early Christians were “called out” from the “church” of their day. How ironic. If they saw us today, they would sound the alarm to “come out” from our churches. The early Christians were trying very hard to get back to the “old paths” of the Old testament. They wanted to get away from the pagan-synagogue system, which we have reverted back to. They wanted to imitate Abraham and Isaac and Jacob who had no “church” system. We need to do the same. Luke 22:39 to Luke 23:56 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. Jesus had two customs. During His three years of ministry seldom did He go to the Synagogue. One reason was simple; they threw Him out. You see, Jesus didn’t make church His god, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom”, not to be a member. (Matthew 9:35). He started that custom when He was twelve years old. I think we should follow the “custom” of Jesus more often in our lives. With trouble just before Him, He didn’t go to church. With sorrow in His heart for what He knew, He didn't go to church. With the weight of the world on His shoulders, He didn’t go to church. No, where did Jesus go? To pray to His Father in a secluded spot. He didn’t go talk to a pastor or church leader, He went to talk with His Father. I think that is an awesome “custom” to follow in our lives. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” I’m still working on that one. Most of the time, I think, we enter temptation without knowing it, and therefore, have a hard time praying in advance not to enter temptation. I wonder if we need the help of the Spirit of God in greater power in our lives to point out the temptations in advance so we can prepare ourselves by prayer that we may not enter into temptation? Or, could it be, that we need someone close to us, who loves us, someone we trust, to point out to us that we need to pray because they see us about to enter into temptation? Of course, for many, that would be insulting. I’m beginning to think we are vain, prideful and arrogant thinking we “know” our church doctrine and therefore do not need to worry about temptation. I wonder if the disciples wondered what Jesus was talking about. After all, they were Jews and knew the Ten Commandments, how could they fall into temptation? And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, . . . In prison I developed the habit of kneeling before God and praying. I didn’t care if others watched, made fun or not. I was in the presence of God Almighty. Nothing else was important. . . saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” We need to pray, “not my will, but Yours, be done” more often. I want God’s will accomplished in my life. I thank Him for all the problems that have happened in my life. Why? Because without them I would not be here in this ministry today. God has led and allowed everything in my past in order to bring me here. Adversity brings out the character of God in our lives, if we allow it. But if we make excuses for the adversity, it will do nothing good for our lives. I think too many are praying for what they want, and when God gives it, it turns out not to be for their good. Then they blame God. Why? Well, many are praying for God to give them what they want, even though what they want violates the Ten Commandments. God can’t bless us if we are breaking the Ten Commandments. It may seem at the time that God is blessing us with a new job, even though it may require us to work a few hours into the Sabbath, but in reality, God tests us to see if we are more committed to our selfish wants, than His honor through obedience. I think that is the reason few pray, “Thy will be done”. They are afraid that God’s will may not be for them to get what they want. We must never allow our wants, feelings and desires to stand in the way of our obedience to Jesus and His Ten Commandments. God loves us and knows what is best for us. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. If we surrender our lives to Jesus, angels from heaven will stand by our side to strengthen us and keep us from evil. But we must surrender every want, every desire, every thought to the obedience of the Ten Commandments. No selfishness can be in our lives. Selfishness destroys. We must be like Jesus. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. I think many of us, if not most, avoid the “agony”. We think that if we are Christians God will remove all agony from our lives. Not so! Agony is what helps us build character. Only through patience will we enter Heaven; great patience and trials! Here is the patience of the saints, says John the Revelator. Amazing how easy it is to glide right over words we don’t want to hear and miss the truth. Most of us land on “saints” and pat ourselves on the back thinking we are the saints for belonging to a church. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, . . . It’s that word “sorrow” that is the problem. I supposed they may have been discouraged by the message from Jesus that they would all abandon Him. That Peter would deny Him. That one of them was betraying Him. They were confused. It wore them out and they decided to sleep it off. I understand that. Many times the troubles and discouragements wear me out and all I want to do is sleep. But I’m also learning a very important lessons, it is at those times we really do need to pray. Also, I think many of us avoid reading great swaths of the Bible because the Word of God brings us discouraging messages. Why? They aren’t what we want to hear. And yet, probably, they are just the messages we need to hear to keep us from temptation. That is why I have the “custom” of reading through the Bible at least two to four times a year. Who am I to decide what message I need or don’t need? . . and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Just before the disciples lay troubles they had never before encountered in their lives. But they did not anticipate them. In our lives, much trouble is just before us. The political landscape we have experienced from 2020 is nothing compared to what is coming. God has allowed that little experience, a teeny time of trouble, to wake us up and begin setting habits of prayer so we will not enter into temptation. It is time to “rise and pray”. While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. There will come a time when it will be too late to pray. Probation will have closed and all the prayers in the world won’t help us then. The disciples had time. It wasn’t the end of the world for them, yet. They still had opportunity which they eventually took advantage of to repent and develop better customs and habits. When the real time of trouble hits us, there probably won’t be time. We need to get into right habits now. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Do not put your trust in man. Your family, friends and acquaintances may seem like good friends, but their true characters will be revealed when persecution arises against those of us who obey God’s Law. They will act like they care for you, but they will betray you with the kiss of death. We love them. But be careful about your associations with them. It really is easy to test who is your friend and who isn’t. Just start talking about Jesus and your love for Him. A simple test. And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Too many are ready to fight, argue, debate and kill for their church. Few are willing to submit to the will of God and give their own lives. Even though the disciples loved Jesus, they still had not been converted to the gospel. That would come after the cross. Many today are in church claiming to be Christian, but they haven’t been converted. I pray they find the cross of Jesus before it is too late. And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. All that manliness, action and testosterone runs high in our churches. Many are ready to draw blood. Many may not actively take part, but in their hearts they are cheering on those who do. It has to do with, “I got to do something” syndrome. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. “No more of this!” We are to sit at the feet of Jesus learning how to live the life of peace, joy and love to all around us. We are to be peacemakers and healers, not charging bulls. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Yes, too many churches, pastors, ministers and leaders come out against us. They hate the truth. If we point people to Jesus instead of their church, they draw their swords. When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” And yes it is. The whole religious world is covered in the “power of darkness”. Under the guise of “Jesus” and “Christianity” or “religion”, they hide their swords, spears, hate and clubs. They don’t want to have a civil conversation about truth since they know what truth is, but refuse to live it. No, darkness is their hour. Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. When God’s people are being seized and led away by the churches or the state, do we follow at a distance? Are we afraid of being seized and led away by the mob? We need more of the spirit of encouragement. There is a wonderful lady who sends me encouragement notes she pens herself. I do appreciate it. Many send their “encouragement” by their tithes and offerings each month. Those also are a great encouragement. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Interesting! They “kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard” while the Light of Life was standing before them. Do we sit down at the “fire” of human wisdom, man’s degrees, our pastor’s eloquence? Or do we stand with the Light of the world as John did? Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” “As he sat in the light” man had kindled; it was difficult for people to know if he was a follower of Jesus. The servant girl had to look closely to know. Do people have to look closely at you to know if you are a follower of Jesus? I hope not. I would hope that you are standing so close to the Light of the world that you will be illuminated for all the world to see who you are standing with. But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” I think there are many who claim the Name who, by their actions, deny they know Him. Why do we let the world make us cower for our beliefs? What are we afraid of? Of losing our job? Losing our freedom? Losing our influence? What are you afraid of losing? God has everything you could ever think of needing. Trust Him. And if He decides you need to lose something, praise God. Probably that “thing” or person was taking you away from Jesus instead of bringing you closer to Jesus. And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” Do we get offended when people point out our desire to be a Christian? Does the hair on the back of the neck stand up if people look to close into our lives? When people ask if we are “Christian”, do we deny it? Are we relieved when we have gone through the day without anyone asking if we are “Christian”? And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” Sometimes, though, the pain in our hearts is too great as we see our Lord’s name taken in vain or Christians taking the brunt of jesting and ridicule. It becomes evident that what we are projecting at the time isn’t what is in the heart. But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. However, if we are afraid of losing something because of our love for Jesus, we may deny knowing Him. What will it take to bring you back to your love of Jesus? And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” Jesus is our best Friend. He loves us so much. He wants only what is best for us. Why do we let the world come between us and the One who loves us? Why do we sit with sinners when we could be standing in the Light of dignity?And he went out and wept bitterly. If you truly love Jesus, you will weep bitterly when your sins have been pointed out. When I went to prison, I wept bitterly and long. Sitting with sinners will deprive us of all that is good. My best Friend is Jesus. Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. Why? All He did was heal the sick, bind up the broken hearts and raise the dead. Why were they mocking and beating Him? How is your heart? They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” A day is coming when they will stand before Jesus and recognize that Jesus, blindfolded or not, sees everything. They will not be able to hide from Him. In their hearts they will know that He knew who struck and beat Him. Then they will weep bitterly, but it will be too late. Jesus still loves them, but because they refused to clean out the sins from their lives, their lives have become incurable and they, along with their sin, must be burned up. And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. Why? Because they rejected His love and chose their wives, children, family, church, their rites, rituals, ceremonies, traditions and services. Jesus didn’t promote their church. He was too pure for them and they couldn’t stand that. They wanted to bring Him down to their polluted state of church. That was easier than rising up to His standard of purity. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, . . . Have you been interrogated? If you love Jesus it is time to fill the mind with truth and the soul with obedience. Interrogation is not an easy thing to go through. We must be founded on the Rock or we will be knocked off and washed away in the mud. . . and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. That is why argument and debate have no place in the life of a Christian. We present the truth and leave it at that. In this ministry I used to get my ego and pride over the truth all tied up in a knot while debating with others. It would get hot and furious. Then the Lord showed me that it accomplished nothing. Now, I just present the truth and leave it at that. (Still working at it.) However, there is a difference between arguments and debates, and sharing the gospel. When a person shows a true and sincere desire to know the truth, I will share the truth with them. But if all they want to be is combative and looking for a fight, I simply point them to the Bible studies on our website and leave it at that. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” And that is true in our lives. Instead of arguing and debating, let them see the “Son of Man” as He sits at the “right hand of power of God” in our lives. Let our lives show the peace, joy and contentment that comes from knowing Jesus. So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” If people want to point fingers at us and make snide remarks, let them. Love them! Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Let your words and your actions prove you are who they claim you are—a Christian. Let them hear it from your own lips, that, “Yes! I am a Christian!” don’t hide it. Don’t try to defend it. Just state the facts and leave the rest in the hands of God. Be willing to sacrifice everything for the Name of Jesus. Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. No matter where life takes you, take the Name of Jesus with you. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” Mixing truth with lies is what the churches are doing. Was Jesus misleading the nation? Of course not. He was telling truth they didn’t want to hear. His truth was not the narrative they were speaking. Was He forbidding the giving of tribute to Caesar? Of course not. Just the opposite. Was He pronouncing Himself as Christ and a King? Not in so many words, but yes, in His actions. His demeanor was that of a king. His character showed Him to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament promised Christ: Messiah. The church could not allow that. If He was the Messiah the church would have to bow to Him. That could not be tolerated. He must bow to the church or be destroyed. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” That was the crutch of the whole problem. The Jews didn’t want Him for their king. To accept Him as their King they would have to dismantle their church system, derived from paganism, as they had developed it since the Babylonian captivity. Their pride was too great for that. Pilate wanted to know because it was treason to take the place of Caesar. If Jesus was an insurrectionist, raising a revolt against the civil government, He must be destroyed. Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” However, Pilate was not dumb. He wasn’t stupid. Do you think He knew nothing of Jesus? Pilate had his spies watching every move Jesus made. He knew that Jesus was no threat to his own power or the power of Rome. But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” The church can’t tolerate anyone who “stirs up the people”, or is “teaching” outside of their authority. Not allowed! When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. Herod also had his spies watching Jesus. Unlike Pilate, who himself was not really concerned with Jesus as long as Jesus did not pose a threat to his power, Herod at first had a desire to be righteous. He had listened to John the Baptist. The Spirit of God was moving upon his heart. But after killing John, he shut the door to righteousness. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. Herod was now only interested in knowing if John had been raised to seek revenge. He also was interested in the power Jesus had. How did He raise the dead? How did He heal the sick? How did He feed almost ten thousand people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish? Why? Because, all Herod could think of was power. If he could do the same, the people would flock to him and he could become Caesar. But Jesus refused to satisfy his curiosity. We are not here to satisfy curiosity, we are here to share the gospel with those who truly are asking and seeking. This shows the difference between Herod, who was not interested in eternal life, and that of Nicodemus. Nicodemus truly was interested in eternal life. He wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah. His was a heart open to the Spirit of God. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Ok, we had our fun. Send Him back and get this “loser” out of here. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. It is amazing how enemies can become friends over Jesus. This happens from both ends of the spectrum. Enemies who accept Jesus as their Savior become friends for good. Enemies who reject Jesus can also become friends in their hate of Jesus. Same “friendship”, just a different outcome. Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.” He has done nothing wrong, yet, for the sake of the crowd and the emotions of the moment, ok, I’ll punish him. God is a God of justice. Righteousness is the foundation of His thrown. I never understood that concept until a few years back. In my world, where I grew up, there was no justice and no righteousness. Now I am beginning to understand it. Life is meaningless without righteousness and justice. But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. When Jesus met Abraham to tell him of the son who was to be born to him, He also explained why He was visiting Sodom. There was a cry coming up against Sodom that had to be investigated. People were claiming that there was no justice or righteousness. Therefore, He came down to investigate the charges against Sodom. Jesus did the same to this world. The cry of humanity had reached His ears and He had to find out if the world was truly without justice or righteousness. He came down to check it out. And yes, the charges were true. Now He had to make a choice. Would He destroy the world as He did Sodom, or would He save the world? They accused Jesus of insurrection against the government of Rome, but they wanted released to them one who had been convicted of insurrection and murder. Without the Spirit of God, the heart of man is desperately wicked. There is no reason, outside of the Spirit of God, in the heart of man. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” They wanted a murderer released to them because he was compatible with their own hearts. They were committing murder in their hearts against Jesus. A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” Amazing that a pagan had a greater sense of justice than the church. The church had lost all sense and understanding of justice and righteousness. The same will happen in the days leading up to the close of probation. You can see it happening now. Churches are working with the state to protect their own identities and positions. They are crucifying Jesus to keep their power. It will be the state that will work to protect the righteous against the church, for a while, but eventually, both will work together to punish and kill the righteous. But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. So the state will concede to the demands of the church and hand us over to the “loud cries” of the church people for our destruction. Their voices will prevail over justice and righteousness. Are you conditioning yourself now in order to stand against the “loud cries” that will come against you? He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. Justice and righteousness were turned upside down. Between the years 2019 and 2023, justice and righteousness were also turned upside down. Criminals were released while innocent people charged. Violent riots of burning and murder were allowed to proceed while peaceful protests were ruled criminal. God allowed these circumstances in order to wake up His people to what will be coming in far greater power. Without the Spirit of God in the heart, nothing and no one is safe.