Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Faithful and True

"As I look back, on this road I've travelled/I've seen so many times He's carried me through/If there's one thing I have learned in my life/My Redeemer is Faithful and True
"My Redeemer is Faithful and True/Everything He has said, He will do/And every morning, His mercies are new!/My Redeemer is Faithful and True." ~Steven Curtis Chapman

"My God is Faithful/Not a promise He has made/Has gone unfulfilled/All according to His Will/And He is able/For by His grace He supplies/My every need/Oh, His faithfulness exceeds/Beyond what I can see." ~Larnelle Harris

"Have faith in God." ~Jesus Christ

God has always kept His promises to us. The problem is that we don't know what His promises are, because we don't read His Word.

One of the main promises Jesus made to any who would follow Him is that they would be persecuted for righteousness' sake by those they loved the most (Luke 14:25-33; John 15:18-16:3). People often overlook this reality, quite simply because we don't tell them about it. We would rather they believe that God always does good things for us. And that is true--but who defines what is good?

Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that God works all things together for good to them that love Him, to them that are called, according to His purpose." Paul, who wrote this, suffered many persecutions. If you don't think so, just read 2 Corinthians 11:21-33. In fact, Paul says that he will boast in his infirmities! Why?

Because suffering for righteousness' sake makes us like Jesus. 1 Peter 2:19-23 says, "for this [is] gracious, if because of conscience toward God any one doth endure sorrows, suffering unrighteously; for what renown [is it], if sinning and being buffeted, ye do endure [it]? but if, doing good and suffering [for it], ye do endure, this [is] gracious with God, for to this ye were called, because Christ also did suffer for you, leaving to you an example, that ye may follow his steps, Who did not commit sin, nor was guile found in his mouth, Who being reviled -- was not reviling again, suffering -- was not threatening, and was committing himself to Him who is judging righteously..."(Young's Literal Translation)

When we say that we have faith, are we just speaking words into thin air in hopes that all of our troubles will go away? Or are we actually reading and trusting in the promises that God has given us? God keeps all of His promises. Do you know what they are?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Repentance: A Biblical Definition

I've heard it said that if you believe that the Salvation of a Christian is secure--that is, he cannot lose it--then you must believe that a Christian can sin in anyway and still get to Heaven. Theoretically, that could be possible, but in reality that is a far-fetched conclusion, one that is derived from a misunderstanding of the Gospel, often made possible by a poor presentation of it.

Here is the Gospel in a nutshell:

First the Bad News: You are a sinner. If you don't think so, take the test. The fact of the matter is, you deserve to go to Hell. You are no better than me--and I know I definitely deserve to go there. Why do I say this? Because God's standard of "good enough" is perfection. Are you perfect? Nope. Neither am I. So how can anyone get into Heaven? That's the

Good News: God sent His only begotten Son to suffer the penalty that we had earned for ourselves for all the sins that we have committed. Now He offers a free pardon to all who call upon His name.

But there is a catch: You have to repent of all your sins in order for Him to save you. What does that mean? Let me illustrate this with the following anecdote:

Imagine that you're out to sea in a pleasure craft (yacht, fishing boat, whatever you'd like) and there is a fierce and dangerous storm coming that you cannot outrun. Knowing the plight of all vessels in the area, the Coast Guard sends helicopters out to save the people the storm hits. The helicopters will fly everyone to safety--but not the boats.

When the Coast Guard helicopters come, do you:

A) Wave them off and have them come back in two hours because you're having too much fun right now -or-

B) Insist that they save your boat, too--it represents many years of hard labor and sweat and "climbing up the ladder of success rung by rung" -or-

C) Send your family and/or friends along, but you'll stay back and try to ride out the storm -or-

D) Stay with your family and friends who don't want to leave the boat (they have all kinds of excuses, like, "Oh, it's too cramped in the helicopter" and "Wouldn't it be fun to swim with the fishes and sharks and killer whales"?) -or-

E) Abandon the ship and all who cling to it and go to the safety of the helicopter, no matter what you spent on it or their efforts to call you back down?

Well, let's look at the consequences of each action:

If you chose A, then the question becomes, what if they don't come back in time?

If you chose B, is the boat worth more than the lives of the others?

If you chose C, are you too proud to be with your family in safety? The Coast Guard is providing the heroes, you know.

If you chose D, what kinds of friends demand that another person drown with them?

If you chose E, then you are ready to understand the Christian walk.

The ship is your life right now. The Storm is the Wrath of God. The Coast Guard is Jesus. The turbulent waters in which all will perish who do not embrace the Savior represent Hell.

When Jesus offers you the gift of salvation, you have two choices: let your sins perish and while you live, or perish in your sins.

Many people want to put it off--"Well, when I've had my fun, then I'll get saved." You fool! Many people die while "having fun"; salvation is now!

Most people don't receive Jesus because they don't want to let go of their old lives--"If I become a Christian, then I have to stop doing this, and that, and that other thing I do with the buds once a week, and..." So those things are worth perishing for? They aren't beneficial anyway--not to you, not to the people you sin against by doing them, not to your friends. Ultimately, anything that stands between you and salvation is an idol, a violation of the First and Second Commandments.

Some say, "Oh that Christianity is good for you, but I don't need it. I'll make it my way, you make it yours." Dude! You cannot outrun the Wrath of God! Jesus promised that God will make us give an account for every idle word we say!! That is how thorough the Judgment of God will be! You cannot escape! Jesus said that just looking at a woman with lust is all the same to God as adultery, and that unjustified anger is just as bad as murder--unjustified meaning both degree of anger and reason for it. Later, the Apostle John wrote that hatred is murder (1 John 3:15). One lie makes you a liar--and the Bible says that all liars have their part in the Lake of Fire. One stolen item--no matter what the value is--makes you a thief, and the Bible promises that no thief can enter Heaven at all. Man, you do need Jesus.

Others say, "But my friends!" Man, it's time you showed your friends a good example, for a change. If they don't follow you, then you are off the hook--but if you follow them, then you are responsible for their deaths, too, because you knew the truth and did nothing about it.

And, finally, there are those who leave their former lives behind, and serve the King of kings. If there is not a radical change in your behavior following your "conversion experience," then something is deathly wrong with the Gospel you accepted. Jesus requires that you let your sins drown in perdition, that you submit to Him--not merely "accept" Him, submit to Him for the God He is. If your coworkers, buddies, family members, friends, etc. cannot tell the difference that Jesus makes in your life, then you are not saved.

The Bible makes it very clear that there are vast differences between the way the world lives and the way that true servants of Christ live:

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law [because grace makes you better than the Law ever could, Romans 6].

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts
" (Galatians 5:16-24). If you haven't crucified your flesh with its affections and lusts, then you are not saved. Period.

What is the difference? Lusts are always evil desires. Affections may or may not be evil, they are just uncooperative with the Will of God for you at the moment. Asking for a wife is not a sin. Making obtaining a wife the goal of your life is a sin. Disobeying God in order to obtain a wife is a sin. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you," Jesus said (Matthew 6:33).

"But the context is not about marriage." No, but it is about basic needs. Jesus did say that there are men who need to get married (Matthew 19:10-12) and so did Paul (1 Corinthians 7). So, a spouse is definitely included. If you seek God first.

But anything that comes between God and you does not belong in your life if you are now His.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Divorce

Let me start by saying that there are reasonable, biblical grounds for divorce--but God hates it anyway (Malachi 2:15-16)

Sin is the only reason for divorce. Someone or some people sin against each other and against God, and the marriage falls apart. Well, truthfully, nothing is sound for those who forsake God's commandments. There are two things which God commands us to do, basically:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Love your neighbor in the way that you love yourself.

There is no love of God in the heart of a man or woman who commits adultery. There is no love of God in the heart of a man who abuses his wife. There is no love of God in the heart of a man or woman who does wickedly and denies it (1 John 1:8-10).

It is infuriating and saddening to watch "break-up" after "break-up" of family after family around this country. It doesn't matter who the couple is, it doesn't matter how old they are, or how many children they have (if any). It's still sad, still infuriating. It seems that loving one's neighbor, is more important than loving one's wife. And that loving oneself is supreme above all.

Fact: you will never stop loving yourself, so quit worrying about it. Self-love is never taught in the Bible because it is assumed (Proverbs 16:26; Ephesians 5:25-33).

Fact: the more you focus on loving yourself, the less you will focus on loving God, and in turn loving your neighbor: thus, a focus on self-love becomes a dangerous sin-trap for those who follow it.

Fact: divorce hurts more than just your spouse and you. I don't have to quote the stats for how the children turn out. I don't have to do extensive interviews for the number of people that are discouraged, "Well, if they can't make it, how can we?" And I shouldn't have to quote the numerous Bible passages that warn against adultery, but I will reference a few: Matthew 19:4-9, Mark 10:1-12, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 7, and, of course, Exodus 20:14.

So how do we avoid the issues that break so many couples apart?

1) Avoid fornication. Previous fornication is the most prevelant cause of adultery. If you don't hold out for "the one," it will be infinitely harder for you to hold in for "the one."

2) Be patient. Be patient selecting a spouse if you are not yet married, be patient with your spouse if you are married. It is not easy deducing the faults of a person who charms you, but time is the truest test. It is also not easy dwelling with another sinner, but you have no alternative: "For all have sinned..." Let love cover a multitude of sins--and don't abuse your spouse's love when you are tempted to sin.

Where does this unmarried 24-year-old who has never had a girlfriend get off telling you how to stay married? From watching people who don't obey God ruin their own lives and the lives of those they love. It is heart-breaking. Don't follow them.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

True Wisdom

"Be not wise in thine own eyes: Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It shall be health unto thy navel, and marrow to thy bones."--Proverbs 3:7-8

"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." --Wisdom speaking in Proverbs 8:13

"The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." --Proverbs 9:10

"...But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil." --Proverbs 13:19b

"A wise man feareth and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth and is confident." --Proverbs 14:16

"By mercy and truth iniquity is purged; and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." --Proverbs 16:6

"Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show his works out of good conduct and with the meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envy and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. Such wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envy and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of those who make peace." --James 3:13-18

Thursday, September 28, 2006

In My Humble Opinion--A Contradiction in Terms

I hear or see this phrase entirely too often: "In my humble opinion..." comes from the mouths of Christians who are supposedly trying to tell the truth in an inoffensive manner to those who reject Jesus Christ and His Word. But, you know, there really is only one way to be truly humble: to submit oneself to the Authority of God.

Jesus said, "If you continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Later, He said, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the deeds of your father ye will do; for he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of himself, for he is a liar and the father of it."

If you abide by lies, then you follow the devil, not God. Period. There is no way around that truth. You must find out the truth, if you would follow God. To say that you cannot know the truth for certain is a contradiction to the Word of God Himself, and therefore is not humble at all.

"There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD" (Proverbs 21:30), and therefore those who contradict Him are not wise. That is the real reason that men don't acknowledge the truth--that they do not fear God nor follow Him. They are proud and need to be humbled with reality. Skirting the truth as if it is really not that important is folly on our part, as well as unloving, because these people will perish if they do not come to know the Way the Truth and the Life.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why I don't believe in Free Will

But am still not a Calvinist.

We make up these terms as if we understand their full implications, but, the way people argue their points, I wonder. Free Will, Total Depravity--all of these wonderfully high sounding terms that supposedly define the Christian faith.

If only they were found in the Bible.

That's right, you will never see the phrases "free will" or "total depravity" in the Scriptures at all. And I believe that these terms were invented as a part of a lack of understanding by both "sides"--neither of whom is actually capable of grasping the truth (quite simply because it is "unsearchable", Romans 11:33-36). Only pride would tell a man otherwise.

This is what I find in Scripture: God ordains two paths, the path of obedience and blessing, and the path of disobedience and condemnation. He lets us choose which path we take--but we are never out of His control. God knows all the decisions we will make before we make them, and God has divinely orchestrated events in our lives using the good and evil choices that He knows we will make.

There are so many things that we cannot control, specifically the consequences for our actions whether good or evil and even the dates of our births, that for us to think that we could ever accomplish our own will is foolhardy to say the least. However, it is a clear contradiction of Scripture to say that we have no choice at all in whether or not we heed God's call.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve" is very clear. There is no arguing against it. But it is foolish to say that God is not in complete control, because He ordained who would be there at that time to make those choices.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Money: A Biblical Perspective.

There are a lot of verses in Scripture about money. Many people think that the Bible says that it's wrong to be rich, but that's not what the Bible says. Many people think that the Bible says that being rich means that you have favor with God, but that is not what the Bible says. It would be really nice if people actually read what the Bible has to say on a subject before speaking...

The Bible never says that money is evil. It says that covetousness is evil (covetousness=lust, which we covered in the previous post). It does, however, caution those whose security is money.

"Labour not to make wealth, From thine own understanding cease, Dost thou cause thine eyes to fly upon it? Then it is not. For wealth maketh to itself wings, As an eagle it flieth to the heavens" (Proverbs 23:4-5, YLT).

Jesus said, "Treasure not up to yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust disfigure, and where thieves break through and steal, but treasure up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth disfigure, and where thieves do not break through nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will be also your heart" (Matthew 6:19-22, YLT).

Like everything on this earth, money will pass away. Even those who think they have secure incomes are reminded that there is something far more important:

"Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
--(Luke 12:16-21)

Everybody dies. It is therefore more important to spend time on the eternal, rather than the temporal. So many people spend so much time chasing money. And it won't last. And it won't help them on the other side. Get saved from your sins. Today.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lust--A Biblical Definition

On my other blog, I talked about modesty and its opposition to lust, primarily sexual lust. But here, I want to define lust in the broadest Biblical terms. The Apostle Paul said, "I had not known lust except the law had said, 'Thou shalt not covet'," so it is pretty clear that "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" aren't always and only about sexual matters. The actual commandment reads, "Thou shalt not covet...anything that is thy neighbors," not just his wife, or her body.

This is one of the most often overlooked commandments of the Ten. Most people who define themselves as good never think of this one. Covetousness, or lust, actually initiates one into breaking all the other nine. I'll show you how. But first, I want to define lust.

Simply put, lust is a desire for anything that is not yours and is forbidden by God. A married woman, an unmarried woman's body (it's not yours!), a car that's too expensive, etc. In short, lust is a desire for something that is out of the revealed will of God for you. How do you know what He wants for you? By reading His Word. That's where God speaks most audibly to those who are willing to hear Him.

Truthfully, lust, by its very nature, places something above God in your life. It makes getting what you want more important than obeying God. When God says that you can't have this, lust says to obtain it by however you can, which usually includes lying, stealing, doing hateful things (remember 1 John 3:15 says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer), disobeying parents, etc. When God says to be content with this, lust says to pursue something else. When God says to pursue this, lust says to settle for that, because it's "easier. "

In short, lust leads directly to disobedience, if indulged. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15, NKJV). That is why Paul urges us to "clothe {ourselves} with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)" (Romans 13:14, AMPL).

Thus, the very nature of lust is a violation of the First Commandment, as well as leading to breaking the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eight, and Ninth.

It also leads to breaking the Third Commandment, because there is no more fear of God when He is not viewed as being on the throne. Not only using His name as a curse Word, but also pretending to be one of His, which is taking His name to yourself in vain--in vain, because it has no effect; or as Paul says, "For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]" (2 Timothy 3:5, AMPL).

Another problem with lust is that, in order to indulge it, you have to create your own God. Why? Well, think about it. If you know that the true God hates what you want to do, then you have a choice: crucify it or crucify Him. Most people choose to crucify Him.

Paul says, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. " (Romans 1:18-25, ESV)

See the progression? Jesus said that this is why people go to hell, "[because] light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:19-20, NKJV). This is why "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" and therefore why "God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28)--because they would rather serve a new god than give up their lusts.

Paul says that, in doing so, they actually make life harder on themselves, "to do those things which are not convenient" (the end of Romans 1:28, KJV). This would constitue a breaking of the Fourth Commandment in spirit, whether or not they observed it in the letter (which most Christians don't because the real Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday). How? Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to us to give us rest from our labors, just as God rested from His.

Most lust-buckets don't really get a break, because they spend all their time trying to get what they want. They forget about the rest that God has given them, because they can't take that break and still pursue their own goals. (I know--I used to be one of them.)

Steven Curtis Chapman thoroughly illustrates this with his song "Land of Opportunity", from his Signs of Life project:

"Another day is off and running/And I hear somebody pounding on my door/It's opportunity knocking/Says what I need is just a little bit more
"Every time I turn around I'm finding/Another chance to climb a little higher up/But it's never what I thought once I get there/And I'm left wondering "How much is enough?"

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"This is a world full of options/It's like a never ending buffet line/While all that I'm really needing/Is living water and the bread of life
"So as I'm walking through this life making choices/There is one thing I must never forget/This land of opportunity has one God/If I seek Him first He'll take care of the rest!

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God...Seek ye first the kingdom of God

"I can live like a prisoner to all that could be/I'm living in the land of opportunity/But a heart pure and simple/Is a heart that stays free/Living in the land of opportunity/I'm living in the land of opportunity

"(Seek ye first the kingdom of God)So many choices, so much it could be/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God)Living in the land of opportunity/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God){And His righteousness!}/(Seek ye first the kingdom of God){He'll take care of the rest!}"

Having that perpesctive makes life a lot easier. And it precludes all lusts. If you are focusing on the Kingdom of God, you will not walk in lust. Paul says, "walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, KJV).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Are You Really A Christian?

"And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"

One of the things that really bothers me is how many people claim to be Christians, yet when you see them in real life, they disobey God at almost every turn. Then when you show them what the Bible actually says, they reply, "Oh, that's your interpretation!" Really? I wonder what Jesus would say to that?

Actually, Luke 6:46 (our thesis verse today) is what I think He would ask most "Christians" today. There are so many that do what they want to do, but then try to call themselves by His name. In Matthew 7, Jesus warned us to be on the look out for those who claim to be His but actually seek to destroy us. He went on to say that many people will approach His throne, pleading their case to be let into Heaven, talking about the works they did before men in His name, but that He will command them to depart from Him as workers of iniquity, whom He never knew. Are you one of them?

Just what does it take to be a Christian anyway? I think we need to answer this question before we do anything else at all.

Simply put, it is one who has repented of his sin and been therefore forgiven of his sins, by God for the sake of Jesus Christ who paid for our sins. What does it mean to repent? The Greek word translated "repent" throughout the Bible is a word that means to turn around completely. An about face. Bascially, you recognize your life before Christ as worthless and make whatever changes He deems necessary for you to line up with His will.

You say that's not what you signed up for? Well, maybe you aren't really a Christian, then. This is what Jesus said: Now huge crowds were going along with [Jesus], and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters--[yes] and even his own life also--he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.
"For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him,
Saying, 'This man began to build and was not able (worth enough) to finish.'
"Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace.
So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple."
--Luke 14:25-33, Ampl.

Jesus Himself said that there was a cost to believing on Him, and that price tag is your rights and all you hold dear. "My rights?" Yes, your rights. How does a dead man--one who is crucified--have rights? He has none. He is ruled by the Cross. His natural affections are abandoned, because he is ruled by the Cross. The world's enticements mean nothing to him, because he is ruled by the Cross. That is the kind of life that Jesus calls us to live. That's the price that he calls us to pay.

Are you willing to pay it?