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Monday, December 24, 2007

Rethinking Christmas - Part I

This year I have sought to rethink or recover Christmas. I have faced a great deal of opposition in my attempt but I believe it is something that must be done. Every Christian is called to discern whether the things that they do is founded in scripture rather than merely following the influences of the world. In my search for the true way in which to celebrate Christmas many traditions have been called into question. It is not that I want to be a grinch (which I have been called) nor am I trying to do away with many of the good and beneficial things that are involved with Christmas. My aim is to celebrate Christmas in the best possible that brings glory to God alone in the most biblical way. In our society the existence of pluralism has caused most to think that if something is not inherently evil then it must be good and okay to partake of but the problem is that God gave us a best and when we are not constantly seeking after His best then we are not only hurting our selves (and missing out) but we are sinning against God by rejecting what He has given us to do. Now that I have given my explanation of what I am attempting to do here is my first issue:

SANTA - SOVEREIGN SAINT OR SACRILEGIOUS SYMBOL?


"Y
ou shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
- Exodus 20:4-6 (NASB)

The Bible says that we are to have no other gods besides the one true God. We are not to crave an idol, worship nature, or make up a god that fits to our liking. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve mankind has time after time been guilty of breaking this commandment and I believe the guilt continues. The modern day deception of the story or believing in Santa Claus falls into this category. I know that many will read this and begin to burn with indignation, wanting to verbally tear me apart and I understand. How could someone question the telling of children about Santa? It is not that hard when we look at scripture and the true reason (meaning) of Christmas. From the birth of Jesus Christ people have celebrated Christmas by praising God for sending the Savior into the world as payment for our sins. That is the historical and biblical reason for Christmas, no matter what cultural or spiritual background you are from. But for most around the world Christ has faded from our focus with Santa stepping into the spotlight. Children are raised being told that Santa is going to come to their home and bring them gifts. At the same time, those raised in Christian homes are taught that God is real, that He is the Creator, Sustainer, and that He sent Christ to be born of a virgin for forgiveness of sins. For that I am thankful but how is a child supposed to process this determining fairy tale from eternal truth. Sadly a child is not. With our cultures influence through media, children are receiving more messages about Santa and consumerism attempting to trump the belief in God and Christ. If we look at what we teach children about Santa we can see that we have created a god out of him. Like the the songs says, "he knows when you are sleeping/awake, when you've been bad/good so be good for goodness sake." Just in those little phrases we have made Santa into an omniscient and moral being. Then if you look at all the stories that revolve around Santa we find that he controls time and matter making him out to be sovereign and omnipotent. The only thing that he lacks, it seems, in comparison is omnipresence but as fast as Santa visits the world he comes close. Is Santa sovereign or is God the ruler of all things? I know you are probably thinking what is wrong with this guy and his deal with Santa? (Did he not get what he asked for?) It is nothing like that. I think that first and foremost the manipulation of an innocent child's mind is wrong and a lie that we will be held accountable for to God. (And no I am not a Puritan but the Bible says "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak , they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." - Matt. 12:36-37 NASB) This is especially dangerous in our pluralistic culture where every belief has been leveled out to be equally true. When we teach a child about God and Christ while at the same time we are telling them about Santa we are setting them up for unbelief. Eventually they are going to find out that Santa is a lie, either from you or a punk friend but when they do what do you think will happen to their belief in God? Of course it will be questioned. Well if my parents, in whom I trust have taught me about God and Santa and now Santa has turned out to be a lie what about God? That is a great tragedy that many kids, teenagers and adults are dealing with as I write. Giving gifts and surprising kids is good but when we shadow those things with a lie Christmas is lost and we are only celebrating the consumerism of our culture. So what if you are a parent that has already followed after the influence of the world - you can still do what is best! Confess to your children, tell them that you lied and that you were wrong and begin to explain and celebrate the true reason of Christmas. What a wonderful teaching moment for a parent to have with their children. It is a great lesson of repentance and a change of life that God desires from all of us. Remember parents, you will be held responsible for how you raise/train your children before God. Next if you are a parent and have not began the Santa story with your children yet, stay strong in your faith and stay close to the word of God. It is our only foundation on which to stand. And do not be condemning toward those that do Santa but help them one on one (not in front of the kids) to understand that God had something better planned for us than deception. Then for those that have been raised to believe in Santa as a child and now understand the true mean and reason for celebration - do not be bitter toward your parents. Forgive them and love them trying to show the truths of God's word through your actions. Many times we love to find truth and jump to condemn anyone else who does not see/understand it but we must be patient, as God is with us, as to bring them to understand God's best (His truth).

Just in closing I want to tell you a true story to bring this home:
A little girl had been disobedient to her mother. The mom came to her and told her that she had been doing wrong and the girl sadly turned her head to the side and began to mumble. Her mother thought that she was praying and saying that she was sorry for being bad. Well she was praying and she was apologizing for being bad but she was praying not to God but to Santa Claus because she did not want him to not come to her house.

That story among many others is just a small reason why the lie of Santa is so awful. God gave us the best, His Son, Jesus Christ born of a virgin as our gift for salvation. That is why we celebrate Christmas and the ultimate gift giver - God. Please think about theses things and search God's word for the truth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Conquered by Christ

This was posted at Desiring God yesterday:

The only statement Timothy McVeigh left behind when he was executed in Indiana, June 11, 2001, was a handwritten copy of the 19th century poem “Invictus” by William Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Henley’s life (1849-1903) almost exactly parallels that of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who said that the modern world had rendered God irrelevant so that we could legitimately say, “God is dead.” Corresponding to God’s demise was the rise in Nietzsche’s thinking of the “√úbermensch.” This was the air that Henley breathed.

Would that Nietzsche, who went insane the last 12 years of his life—and Timothy McVeigh, who claimed the rule of his soul till he lost it—had both seen the beauty of being ruled by Christ. It is fitting that a virtually unknown poet of the early 20th century, Dorothea Day, should write the counterpoint to Henley’s poem. “Invictus” means “unconquerable”. Dorothea Day’s poem is called “Conquered.”

Out of the light that dazzles me,

Bright as the sun from pole to pole,

I thank the God I know to be,

For Christ - the Conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,

I would not wince nor cry aloud.

Under the rule which men call chance,

My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears,

That Life with Him and His the Aid,

That, spite the menace of the years,

Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.

I have no fear though straight the gate:

He cleared from punishment the scroll.

Christ is the Master of my fate!

Christ is the Captain of my soul!

Which will be true of you?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blessed Birthday - Regretful Reality!


Within a few hours my 27th birthday will be here. I have no problem with the idea of getting older so the numbers do not bother me. I am thankful to God for the chance to serve Him while on this earth and for another year to do so. I am not looking for gifts or "Happy Birthdays" from all whom I see, but I seek something of much greater and lasting value. Sadly I do not think that I will receive this gift this year. The title is Blessed Birthday but a Regretful Reality for me. I am not trying to be pessimistic but it is edifying to take a look at your own life to see what God sees and not just what you want to see. What I want for my birthday is for God to be able to say "Well done, good and faithful servant." Those words would be an unimaginable pleasure to hear but I fear that God would have other words for me - maybe questions: How much have you loved My Word? How many of My people have you served and loved? Who have you told of the gift (salvation) that I made for you? Is there less of you and more of Me showing in your life than last year? What kind of steward have you been of the resources and talents that I have given you? Where is your treasure - in Me or in the fading flowers of the field? I could go on but I think that you get the picture. Do not get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for the blessings and grace that God has given me to live this past year but I regretfully admit that I have not pleased God in the way in which He deserves. Do not pity me in this confession but use this as a plumb line for your own life. How would you be able to answer the questions of God? We must seek to die to ourselves daily and to glorify Him in all things. It is a life long process but complacency always seeks to hinder our progress. Self examination by the Word of God is one of our greatest weapons against it. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor 13:5 -NASB)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Living Magnifyingly!


1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
3 Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols ,
But the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
9 Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity ."

- Psalms 96:1-10 (NASB)

Before I begin I must give credit where credit is due: I must thank and acknowledge John Piper as the originator of this illustration. It is a wondrous picture of the differences of how many of us reveal God to the world and how it ought to be done.

When we think of the word magnify, our minds tend toward the use of a microscope. In using, we place a tiny specimen underneath the eye of the microscope to bring it to the point of human comprehension. It is so small originally that the human mind cannot conceive of its attributes. For many of us (especially unknowingly - though not an excuse) this is how we portray God to the world. Our lives are tuned a microscopes because our view of and love for God is so small. So when the world looks through us (our lives) they see a small God not worthy of glory and praise. No wonder the world thinks followers of Christ are stupid and merely filling an emotional void. But there is another way in which we can magnify. The telescope accomplishes this purpose. When we aim a telescope at an unfathomably sized object in space, the object seen through the scope is seen in a comprehensible way. We are able to view gigantic planets and stars bigger than anyone could imagine and further away than technology can take us. This is how the Christian's life ought to be. Our lives should be as telescopes to the beauty and power of the God of the Bible whom no human mind can completely grasp. That is why we are to be telescopes - so that the lost world can see the God who created all things and is sustaining all things by His ultimate strength. When we act as though there is no hope the world sees God as small but when we live hoping in the wondrous promises of the Faithful Lord in all circumstances we reveal how truly amazing and worthy of all honor and praise God truly is. So I ask you: Is your life a microscope or a telescope revealing God to a lost world?

Why Is It Good News?

Paul declared to the Athenians:


"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist , as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
- Acts 17:24-31 (NASB)

What a beautiful presentation of the gospel! For ages past the word "gospel" has been portrayed as meaning "good news," and I agree with this definition. My problem lies in the way in which we have offered this "good news" to the lost. For so long we have sought to make the "good news" more desirable by adding to the message of the "gospel." We have attempted remove the wrath of God, that abides upon every unbeliever (Romans 2:1-11), from the "good news" and replaced it with the question of "don't you want to go to heaven, or don't you want to be happy or have joy and peace?" Where is the "good news" when there is no bad news. How can a person rejoice and embrace the "good news" if they had no idea that there was something bad awaiting them? The "good news" would not be good at all but merely strange or silly talk. Look at Paul's message: First, it begins by establishing who God is - the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things, the Sovereign over all things and Supreme God over all things. Secondly, Paul admonishes the Athenians to repent, but he does not stop there. He goes on to explain why - they must repent because God will judge all people everywhere according to righteousness through Jesus Christ. Then Paul finishes by establishing who Christ is and what took place. How dare Paul tell them that God is going to judge them. Would not that make them turn away from the "good news?" The fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us so that we could go to heaven would not be "good news" if we did not understand that the wrath of God was storing up against us because of our sin. That is key to the "gospel." It is not "good news" to a person that does not know that there is a problem. The problem is their sin, which is first and foremost against God. Once this is presented, which can be done through the presentation of the Law of God (Ten Commandments - Gal. 3:24) then the "gospel" of Christ's life, death and resurrection for our salvation to remove the wrath of God from us, will be such glorious news that they will cling to it as the most precious treasure (Matt. 13:44-46). That is the biblical way to present the "good news" and the only true way. Search the Word, see how Christ did it, and begin loving others enough that you deliver to them the true "gospel" of salvation.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Learning From A Horse

The other day I watched as a horse stuck its head and neck through a barbed wire fence to reach a patch of grass growing on the opposite side. The distance between the layers were not very far apart and I could not help but wonder how much pain the horse was putting itself in just for a small bit of grass. As I began to think about this, I realized that the very thing I was wondering about the horse, in an abstract way, applied to myself. How much pain do I put myself in just to satisfy a desire to sin. God has given me green pastures with flowing streams (His grace, love, and wisdom) to live in and a protective fence (His commandments) not to keep me in but to protect me from that which is on the outside. Yet there are many times when I find myself sticking my head through the barbed wire fence, causing great pain, just to feed on the sins of the world. Why do I do this? The only answer that I can think of is this; I do not know/understand all that God is and all that He has for me in this life and the life to come, so I look beyond the pasture of God's treasure to the distraction and imitations that the world offers. Just as a horse harms itself to reach the grass outside the fence because it does not realize all its master has provided, so do I cause much pain to myself, others and especially God when I am not satisfied in Him alone. What sin/desire/lust are you sticking your head through the fence for? It is not worth the pain and anguish that comes with its fulfillment! Seek to know and understand God and all that He offers and you will find all that you could ever want.

1 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 (NASB)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Have You Ever Wondered...

1 Peter 3:15 says, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you..." What a compelling verse! It makes us strive to be diligent in studying the Bible to make sure we know the right thing to say when we are asked. BUT, have you ever wondered why people do not regularly ask us to give a defense for the hope that is in us? I have many times. Just the other day I was listening to John Piper, the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of the Desiring God Ministry. The message was "Don't Waste Your Life". Piper asks "Has anybody asks you recently for a reason for the hope that is in you? Do you know why they haven't? Because it looks like you hope in the same things that the world is hoping in!" That's why! Where is your hope? Is it in the things of this world (money, success, material possessions, friends, family, looks, intelligence, etc.)? If our lives appear to be rested on the things of this word and not God in Christ and the work that He did and is doing in and through you then the world has no reason to ask.

So think about it! Does your life reveal that there is a supernatural hope living within you or are you just like everybody else? Yes, you may be a fairly moral person who goes to church, helps others, and the like but so do may other people that are destined for hell (Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims and many others that are without Christ). So what sets you apart? Are you living a life so radically sold out for Christ that everything you do is pointing to a hope that only can come through Him? It is not too late! Christ is worthy of all that we have and all that we are, so start giving Him your all right NOW!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beware of Light Reading!

"Shun novels; they are the literary curse of
the age. If you are a parent, keep novels
out of the way of your children. But whether
you are a parent or not, neither read them
yourself, nor set an example of novel reading
to others. Don't let novels lie on your table,
or be seen in your hand. This light reading
has done deep injury to many a young man
and woman.

The light literature of the day is working
a world of harm; vitiating the taste of the
young, enervating their minds, unfitting
them for life's plain work, eating out their
love of the Bible, teaching them a false
morality, and creating in the soul an unreal
standard of truth, and beauty, and love.

Let your reading be always select; and
whatever you read, begin with seeking
God's blessing on it.

But see that your relish for the Bible be above
every other enjoyment, and the moment you
begin to feel greater relish for any other book,
lay it down till you have sought deliverance from
such a snare, and obtained from the Holy Spirit
an intenser relish, a keener appetite for the
Word of God."

-
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) From his book Follow the Lamb. Found at Grace Gems.

There are many things that are essentially good, but when given preference over the things of God, they become tools of the devil. What earthly devices are stealing your affections away from the things of God?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Meditate On Such Things:

"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." - Hebrews 11:13-16

The verses are speaking of Abraham, Sarah, Issac and Jacob in the context of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews 11. It is referring to their obedient faith in following God, no matter what the cost. Because of faith, which was revealed by their obedience, God said that He was not ashamed to be their God. That is an amazing thing to have said about someone. Of course, most of us would say "Sure God is not ashamed to be my God. I go to church, pray some, read His word some, tithe, etc." While all those things are great and godly from a right attitude/motive but that is no reason for God to be proud to be our God, because there are some many lost people doing those things while thinking God is proud to be called their own. Abraham and the others were commended by God for their complete self-denial and total (besides a few flops -it's a given) submission in all things to God Himself. I would ask you to ask yourself "Is God ashamed or proud to be called your God?" Don't just ask yourself, ask God over and over if He is ashamed or not to be called your God. It is not an easy thing to do but an important and necessary discipline for spiritual maturity.

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." - Luke 9:26

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Intel Gets It - So Why Can't We?


http://video.intel.com/?fr_chl=052e351e9a5acbfc51c972a66c787b234921051f&rf=bm

Click on the link and watch "The Mystery" commercial first.

The other day I was watching T.V. and this commercial came on and I immediately thought of this connection. The commercial asks the question "When does a computer become a computer?" As that question was asked it peaked my interest. I finished watching the commercial and I saw the message clearly. I do not know if Intel has any Christian ties (wouldn't that be great!), but the message was what Christians have been wanting the world to announce for some time now. The answer to the question from the commercial was when the Intel processor was joined with the motherboard of the host computer. Do you get it yet? It is saying that it a computer at conception. Getting warmer. O.K. What I saw was the realization of the age old question - When does a human being become a human being? I know this may seem like a far stretch but the truth is there. In comparison to the commercial, a human being becomes a human being at conception. When the sperm (the Intel processor) fertilizes the egg (the motherboard) it is now a human being (a computer). Fine, so I may be crazy, but it is true. Life does not begin at birth but at conception. Psalm 139:13-15 declares "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was none of them." Although the commercial comparison may have been a far reach, the Word of God declares that from conception we are being formed and fashioned by the "hand" of God. The tragic reality is that people making computers (though helpful they are not even close in value as a human - no matter who they may be) understand this important truth while we argue whether or not a embryo (a baby) is worthy to live or die. I saw a shirt once that said "Your mother was Pro-Life - What Happened to You?" It is time for Christians to stand up for the most helpless and needy, unborn children. We were all there once and "Thank God" that some one stood up for us allowed us to have life (a gift given or taken only by God). Think about it and ask others - Intel gets it - So why can't we?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Do Church Signs Reveal the Church's Spiritual Health?

While on a trip this past week I passed this church sign twice. This picture was taken the second time around. The first witty message read "Try Our Sundays, They're Better Than Baskin Robbins." At first, that is a real knee slapper, but when you think about it, what a shame that a church has to put something so meaningless outside the church in attempt to draw people in. I know that to many this may seem extreme to be criticizing church signs, but to me the worldliness of the church signs reveals something more tragic. What has Christianity become? To many seekers today it is nothing more than "catch phrase" spirituality. Everybody wants the answers quick and simple. Unfortunately spiritual maturity in Christ takes time (a lifetime to be exact). Just as our outward appearance is to reveal our inward testimony (Matt. 5:16 -" "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.") so should the sign of a church reveal the inward workings of a church. Scripture quotes, biblical principles, and the like reveal a church centered on God's Word. Witty messages, catchy quotes, and silliness reveal a church that is worldly, thinks lightly of the Word, and is not maturing spiritually. Yes there are exceptions, but what do you think is more important? To draw them in with the truth of God's Word or to draw them in with silly and relevant garbage? I once heard someone say that in the way in which you hook a person is the same way in which you must keep them. You cannot draw people in to church with worldly stuff and then try to give them biblical truth. That is not what they were looking for. If you draw them in with the truth then they will not feel bamboozled when the church is God-centered and Bible-centered. Just a thought, but a serious one in that.

Other sad attempts: http://googlified.com/2007google-vs-god/
http://www.stopchurchsigns.com/
http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2007/01/church-signs-bulletin-bloopers.html

Sorry if that is just too much to handle.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What to Concerntrate On

From Oswald Chambers', My Upmost for His Highest


"I came not to send peace, but a sword." - Matthew 10:34.

Never be sympathetic with the soul whose case makes you come to the conclusion that God is hard. God is more tender than we can conceive, and every now and again He gives us the chance of being the rugged one that He may be the tender One. If a man cannot get through to God it is because there is a secret thing he does not intend to give up—‘I will admit I have done wrong, but I no more intend to give up that thing than fly.’ It is impossible to deal sympathetically with a case like that: we have to get right deep down to the root until there is antagonism and resentment against the message. People want the blessing of God, but they will not stand the thing that goes straight to the quick.

If God has had His way with you, your message as His servant is merciless insistence on the one line, cut down to the very root, otherwise there will be no healing. Drive home the message until there is no possible refuge from its application. Begin to get at people where they are until you get them to realize what they lack, and then erect the standard of Jesus Christ for their lives—‘We never can be that!’ Then drive it home: ‘Jesus Christ says you must.’ ‘But how can we be?’ ‘You cannot, unless you have a new Spirit’ (Luke 1 l:13).

There must be a sense of need before your message is of any use. Thousands of people are happy without God in this world. If I was happy and moral till Jesus came, why did He come? Because that kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level; Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Not Just "For" But "Because" of Us!

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us have turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgressions of my people,
to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself unto death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.


Do we reckon the work of Christ as merely something He wanted to do "for" us? To better understand/appreciate the work of Christ we must come to realize that Jesus came to earth in the incarnation, lived a perfect life, was crucified in innocence, and raised up on the third day not just "for" us but "because" of us! If we (all of humanity) had no griefs to bear, sorrows to carry, transgressions to be paid for, and no iniquities to to be crushed then there would not have been a reason for Christ to come. If we were able to keep the Law of God there would have been no need of a sacrifice, but "because" we all fall short of the glory of God, Christ came to take our place on the judgment seat of God. He became the perfect sacrifice that God required. We could never meet God's standard (that is the whole purpose of the Law - Gal. 3:24). Christ had to come not just to hang out with us here on earth and see what the food was like, but because we are fallen and and unable to please God. It is "because" of us that Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

"Woe to you, Scribes, Pharisees, and American Churches...?"


"Woe to you, scribes, Pharisees, and American Churches..." No, that is not what Jesus says in Matthew 23, but the more I look at the woes given and the condition of the American church, in general, I cannot help but see many parallels. Jesus says in verse 13, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people ; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." The vast majority of so-called Christian churches are guilty of shutting off the kingdom of God by presenting their own way to righteousness through works rather than trusting in the righteousness of Christ. These churches state that partaking of the sacraments (baptism, the Lord's Supper), prayers, good deeds, and tithing contribute to salvation. By presenting anything other than sola fide not only condemns the church presenting it but all others following after it as well. Ephesians 2:8 declares, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God..."

Verse 14 says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation." Oh how the American church has been guilty of this. This can be seen vividly on most so-called Christian television programs. The evangelist/preacher (pardon me while I scream) preys on the hurting, poor, and elderly by telling them to give money or "sow a seed" to their ministry and sit back and wait for God to bless ten fold. What a scam! What hypocrisy! Not only are these men and women robbing people with lies but they present themselves as people seeking the heart of God through their extravagant prayers and fake healings to make people think that are genuine. Jesus in Matthew 7 speaks directly to these people, saying "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles ?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

The next woe in verse 15 is, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte ; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." This woe stands out amongst the others because of its implications. This is a very devastating problem facing American Christianity in the present days. The church in general has abandoned preaching repentance and faith as a means of salvation and began making the gospel a way to wealth, health and happiness. When churches teach this or its followers go out into all the world and declare this false gospel the converts of it become "twice as much a son of hell" than before. What that means is that if you were to run into this person in church or on the streets and try to witness to them it would be useless because they think that they are already saved by walking the aisle, signing a card, raising their hand, saying a pray, or getting wet. Now they are not just lost but are convinced that they are saved while the whole time being condemned in the eyes of God. Without repentance, no one will see God. Mark 1:15 says, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Repentance and faith is the message that Christ preached and none other. We are not saved so that we can be wealthy, healthy and happy, but so that we can "die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow after Him." In that only is all joy and peace!!

The last two woes that can be paralleled to the American church are found in verses 25-28. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. One of the foremost reasons the lost want nothing to do with Christianity is the hypocrisy in the church. Yes it is true that Christians are not perfect therefore no church will be perfect, but the state of the American church reveals a picture far from perfect. It appears that we have more concern for buildings, programs and externals than the spiritual health and holiness of the church. We spend millions of dollars building new buildings that are beautiful but are filled with people who are anything but a imitator of Christ. We seek to make the church building and name appear spotless before the world while the members are filthy. This is all done for the sake of attraction so that more people will come. It is better to have a spiritually growing fellowship than a numerically growing church. Furthermore, it is not the building that is to attract people to God, but His mercy and grace that was shown to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. One way that the world sees the effects of salvation is through the body of Christ walking in a manner worthy of Christ.

The solution for the problems facing the American church is repentance and humility. We must repent (turn from mentally and physically) from our self-centeredness. Then we must humbly seek God's face and Word to find out what the TRUE church is to be and what we are supposed to be doing. We are the "bride of Christ", it is about time we start acting like it and being faithful to Him.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

It Is Okay to Hate - Somethings!


"Abhor (hate) what is evil; cling to what is good." - Romans 12:9

"But examine everything carefully; hold fast to what is good; abstain
from every form of evil." - 2 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Biblically, believers are commanded to hate. Unfortunately the command to hate is taken up to quickly by so many and directed at people rather than the intend object. We are commanded to hate evil and the greatest evil in our lives is SIN. Therefore we are to hate sin. This does not mean that we are to sit back and watch the T.V.: seeing the sins of the world and spew hatred toward those involved. Nor does it mean that we look at those around us to find fault in them while condemning them and thinking that we are hating biblically. This kind of hatred is to be directed at the very sin that plagues our own life. We are to "examine ourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5) and in doing so, seek to purge our lives of the very thing that Christ died to set us free from. Whenever we see sin in our lives we are to strike at it as if it were the most deadly cancer known to man. Just like a physician dealing with cancer, we are to strike with the first detection and with deadening precision, leaving no hint or trace of the sin. This is a hard task that requires discipline, reliance on God's wisdom and strength, and the guidance of the Word of God. Richard Baxter, a 17th century Puritan, left us a list of directions to hating and ridding yourself of sin.

"1. Labour to know God, and to be affected with His attributes, and always to live as in His sight.
2. Consider well the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ. Love Christ and you will hate that which caused His death.
3. Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what He has done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it.
4. Think what the soul of man is made for, and should be used to, even to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disables and perverts it.
5. Look always on sin as one that is ready to die, and consider how all men judge of it at the last.
6. Look now but upon sickness, poverty, shame, despair, death, and rottenness in the grave, and it may a little help you know what sin is."

Once you have come to hate your sin and desire to begin to deal with it, Baxter continues by giving directions to destroying sin.

"1. See that you take no part with sin, and wrangle not, or strive not against your Physician, or any that would do you good.
2. Keep as far away as you can from those temptations which feed and strengthen the sins which you would overcome.
3. Live in the exercise of those graces and duties which are contrary to the sins which you are in danger of.
4. Account the world and all its pleasures, wealth, and honours, so better than indeed they are, and then Satan will find no bait to catch you.
5. Take heed of the first approaches of sin.
6. Make God's word your only rule and labour diligently to understand it.
7. Wait patiently on Christ till He has finished the cure, which will not be till this life be finished."

For Baxter's complete work, see: http://www.puritansermons.com/baxter/baxter16.htm

"You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin." - 1 John 3:5

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Saved From Hell = Life of Gratitude: At least it should!

What is so terrible about Hell anyways?
Three times in Mark 9, Jesus describes the torments of Hell as a place "where their worm does NOT die, and the fire is NOT quenched." What a horrific thought! The thought we entertain for the majority of our lives is the eternality of heaven and what a wondrous thought! But oh, if we would consider just for a moment what awaits those who do not repent and trust Christ for salvation. They do not have any hope for heaven or any comfort to anticipate. Their only promise is found in an eternity of torment in Hell, where pain and anguish (physically, mentally and spiritually) will never cease to exist. That is all that awaits an unbeliever. The next time you begin to think about what joy a Christian has to look for eternally in heaven; first consider what would have been your home for eternity, if it had not been for the shedding of Christ's blood. It would have been Hell, forever. When we come to see not just what we have been freed for but all that we have been rescued from, our lives will become springboards of gratitude toward God. We will seek to be transformed into the image of Christ and we will be earnestly seeking to share what a great salvation we have been given to those who are destined for eternal torment. To better grasp the terror and eternality of Hell, John Bunyan wrote,

"In Hell thou shalt have none but a company of damned souls with an innumerable company of devils to keep company with thee. While thou art in this world the very thought of the devils appearing to thee makes thy flesh to tremble and thy hair stand upright on thy head. But O what wilt thou do when not only the supposition of the devils appearing but the real society of all the devils of Hell will be with thee; howling, roaring and screeching in such a hideous manner that thou will be even at thy wits end and ready to run stark mad again for anguish and torment. If after 10,000 years an end should come, there would be comfort. But here is thy misery; here thou must be forever. When thou seest what an innumerable company of howling devils thou art amongst, thou shalt think this again; this is my portion forever. When thou hast been in Hell so many thousand of years as there are stars in the firmament or drops in the sea or sands on the seashore, yet thou has to lie there forever. Oh this one word 'ever' how will it torment thy soul. A many are in the net moving toward that furnace of fire."

Think about these things. Mourn for those whose eternity lies in Hell, but do not mourn only. Praise God for the wondrous salvation He provided and declare to the world that "Jesus is the way the truth and the life."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lord, Change Me!

Lord, Thou art Beautiful,
Yet my eyes wander far from Thee.
Lord, Thou art Truth,
Yet my ears listen not to Thee.
Lord, Thou art Almighty,
Yet my trust is not given to Thee.
Lord, Thou art Faithful,
Yet my heart wanders from Thee.
Lord, Thou art Sufficient,
Yet my desires seek Thee not.
Lord, Thou art Worthy,
Yet my actions dishonor Thee.

Lord, set my eyes on Thee,
That I may gaze upon thy beauty.
Lord, open my ears to Thee,
That I may know Thy unshakable truths.
Lord, help my trust to be given to Thee,
That I may declare Thy might.
Lord, call my heart back to Thee,
That I may serve Thee faithfully.
Lord, let my desires be filled by Thee,
That I may live as You are all I need.
Lord, empower my actions to honor Thee,
That I may proclaim that Thou art Worthy.

Change me, make me more like You
That all glory and praise may be given that is due.
A.F.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From Death to Life to Living

Titus 3:3-8 "...But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared..."

The life I once lived

Was filled with much sin.

Slavery and bondage

Controlled me from within.


My spirit was dead.

My eyes were blind.

Death was my future,

With separation from the Divine.


Then God pierced my heart

By showing me His Son.

The pure life He lived

With the victory He won.


Victory over sin and death

Was offered by Christ to me.

By grace, through faith in Jesus

I repented and was set free.


The price that Christ had paid

No one can fathom the cost.

The life I now live through Him

All worldly things are counted as loss.


He was beaten and crucified

So that I could be without blame.

To crucify my sin and flesh

So that His cross would not be in vain.


Temptation will come and go

But in Christ I have all strength.

To follow Him in all my ways

No matter what the length.


For I once was dead in sin.

Condemned and destined for hell.

My Savior and Lord rescued me

Of whom, the world, I want to tell.

A.F.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Truth - Is It Changing or Is It the Same Today, Yesterday and Forever?

"I cannot agree with those who say that they have 'new truth'
to teach.
The two words seem to me to contradict each other;
that which is new is not true. It is the old that is true,
for truth is as old as God himself" -- Charles Spurgeon

I ran across this quote the other day and really hit home with the thoughts that I have been having about many new attempts at either recreating Christianity or tearing it apart and starting afresh. There are several prominent voices in Christianity and even in Baptist life today that are approaching the Bible, doctrine and theology in that manner. To me, that seems to be very arrogant on anyone's part to say that they have found "new truth" that tears apart the very foundational doctrines that our faith was built upon. For many of us, we look at this and think that this will not effect us in any way. Unfortunately we would be completely wrong. Think about the books ("Christian") you buy. How old are the authors? Who are they quoting? How deep are they in their doctrine and theology in their writing or do they just give you some "new" pop-psychological formula for happiness, contentment, love, self-respect, etc.? If we all were honest, we tend to go for the "new," easy to read genre that is shallow and doesn't challenge or grow us spiritually. Do they quote movies or secular authors rather than the Bible and historical Christian figures that gave their lives for the glory of God? - Sorry, drives me crazy!

What about music? We love singing and that is great but who are we worshiping in song- ourselves or God? Are our songs that we love filled with doctrine, scripture and theology or are they just foo-foo song about our "buddy" Jesus. (Sorry about that, it almost seems blasphemous...b/c it is!!!) I love music (almost all kinds), but my heart soars when I hear/sing songs that are scriptural and reveal the truths of God and of Jesus. Look for yourself at those beautiful proclamations and you will quickly abandon the weak me, me, me songs that seem to be so loved today.

Lastly what about church? What are your ideas of what a church should be? Today the big "new" idea is that we have to be seeker-sensitive by watering down the Bible, the gospel, doctrine, theology, and genuine fellowship in the body of Christ. Oh how far we have strayed! Do you like programs (not that they are wrong) more than the hardcore preaching of God's Word? What about singing (I know music again!)? Do you refuse to sing b/c it is not what you like, or do you come to the presence of God humbly seeking any means to glorify God with all that you are? For most of us we have to say we make church mostly about us (our needs?, our desires, wants, preferences), and yes all the other fingers are pointing back at me. Who is church for? Us or God? God!!!! Completely God!!!! In singing, in fellowship, in service, in ministry, in preaching - everything is about God and for His glory.
Before you freak out and leave church in search of the perfect one, listen to me. Well not to me but to God and the Bible and the voices of those who came before us. There is no such thing as a perfect church nor perfect people, but just as we as Christians are being transformed into the likeness of God (HOLY), we are to be seeking in any way possible to show others within our church what the true church is. We cannot do that by leaving the church, but only through humble determination in becoming all that God desires and requires from us.

This brings me to the quote at the beginning. To bring a radical transformation in ourselves and consequentially the church, we must run back to the "old truths" of our faith and flee from the silly superficial propositions of the present. Truth is not changing and is not relative. God's Word stands forever. We need to abandon the pragmatic and success-driven ideology of today and seek real, genuine Christianity that is lying in the "old truths" of the past waiting for someone to come and rediscover them. Not recreate, not tear down and rebuild, but rediscover what was set in place 2000 years ago with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This can be done. It will not be easy, and there will be opposition. We have two choices: stay humbly where we are and do all that we can to reveal what true Christianity really is or we can rebel against our surroundings when the first opposition comes and completely destroy our witness and the witness of our church. Which do you think is right? Hope you choose the right one.
Do not neglect those that have come before us, because we owe all that we have to them. Embrace them, learn from them, but always with the scripture as your guide. There is truth, but it is in God and God is not new; He has always been.

Hope to get you thinking and headed to what God wants for you and His people.
Romans 12:1-2 " ... be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." through the eternal truths of His Word.