Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who is the Greatest

We all like to compare ourselves to others.  We like to make ourselves feel better because we can always find someone worse than we are. Of course, that is much easier than comparing ourselves to the standards God has set for us.  Today I want to talk about comparing ourselves to others and take us through a few Bible passages that illustrate those who compare themselves to others.  One theme we will see is that the one doing the comparing is the one who has the problem with God. 

First let's look at the account of Mary and Martha:
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. "But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42 NKJV
Here we have 2 sisters, Mary and Martha.  Martha was running around serving guests but not really spending time with anyone.  Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Martha was upset that Mary was not lifting a finger and complained to Jesus.  Jesus chided Martha saying that Mary is doing right and that Martha was doing wrong.  What can we learn from this?  First of all, if you are resentful towards those who do not serve the Lord while you are serving, you are serving with the wrong heart.  When we serve God rightfully, we serve as a result of our relationship with Him and in response to His calling.  We serve unto the Lord and for the Lord and whatever anyone else does is of no concern.  Becoming resentful of others in our service is a result of pride in all that we are doing for God.  Remember, we GET to serve God and if it is not seen as the privilege it is, then you need to check your heart.  We see from Jesus' response that He never asked Martha for any of the things she was doing and so Martha was serving in her own strength and of her own pride at being a good hostess.  Jesus went there to spend time with Mary and Martha and Mary chose to cherish that precious time she had with her Lord.   What else we can learn from this is that relationship comes before service both in time and in importance.  God desires our hearts first and serving too much without nurturing that relationship will lead to the burnout that Martha experienced.  I can tell you from person experience, how true that is. 

Next let us look at the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Luke 18:1-14 NKJV
Again we have two people.  We have a Pharisee and a tax collector.  The Pharisee puffed up in his pride thanks God for him not being like other (in his mind) more sinful people.  His righteousness (in his mind) is premised on the fact that is he better than others.  The tax collector, on the other hand, knows he is a miserable sinner unworthy to even be in the presence of God.  He did not base his righteousness by thinking of some worse tax collector but based his righteousness (or lack there of) in how he stands before God.  That is the right heart.   We are not to base how well we are on how we compare to others.  When we stand before God, we will stand before God alone.  We can not say "But God I was not as bad as that other guy over there."  When we stand before God (and despite being saved we will stand before God to give account of our lives not for the sake of losing salvation but to the sake of rewards) He will measure us according to His Word, and not the actions of others.  We need to recognize that no matter how good we may think we are in comparison to others, we are still only getting into Heaven by the grace of God.  None of us is worthy of salvation.  We all have fallen short of the Glory of God.  We all deserve damnation, but by the awesome mercy of God by sending His son to take that penalty for us, we will not receive what we deserve. 

Next let us look at the parable of the Prodigal Son (or at least the end of it):
"Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 'But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 'It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'" Luke 15:25-32 NKJV
We all know about the Prodigal son.  He took his inheritance from his father and went out and partied until he used up all that money. He found himself poor and destitute and living and working in the most miserable of conditions.  He hit rock bottom and realized that he never had it better than when he was with his father.  And so he went home fell down before his father pleading for mercy and acceptance and his father took him back in. He did not just take him back in as a servant, but restored him as his child.  Now we see how his brother reacted.  His brother was upset that they were celebrating the return of his brother.  He complained saying how he was always loyal and faithful and he never had a party.  In his own pride and envy, he missed the point.  The celebration was for his brother's repentance. His brother was living in sin and has repented and returned to the father.  The point is that it is not about what the brother did for his father as his father recognizes that, but it is about the prodigal's return to his father.  Instead of rejoicing of his brother's repentance, he was jealous of the attention he was receiving.  He was more focused on his own feelings than about the salvation of his brother.  May we never get so puffed up.  I used to visit Trenton State Prison where I spent time with convicted and admitted murderers who came to Christ in prison.  Many people would say they do not deserve salvation and many would say that they wished they wold burn in Hell for their actions, but God says differently.  Our heart should rejoice with God and the angels at their repentance, but instead many get caught up in their own selfishness.  Just like in the Prodigal Son, the sins of those men are between them and their Heavenly Father and if He chooses to forgive them (and He does), what have we to say?  Don't be so prideful to think you deserve salvation any more than anyone else does.  The whole point of mercy is that we don't deserve it.  It is about God's awesome and unmerited grace.  God loves and longs for the murderer in prison just as much as He loves you just as the father loved and longed for his prodigal son as much as his brother.

And, finally, let's take a look at Peter:
Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Matthew 26:33-34 NKJV
Here we have Peter who is bragging to Jesus about how strong he will be for Jesus.  He is puffed up in pride, in his own strength, making himself above all others in saying that he would stand by Him if all else fell.  Jesus puts him right in his place telling him that, in fact, he will fall.  May we never be so puffed up to think we are above others and think that we will not fall.  David, a man after God's own heart, committed adultery with Bathsheba and sent her husband off to die to cover it up.  We also have the example of Peter, an Apostle falling.  And while we know the end, I doubt anything thought Judas would fall at that time.  None of us are above falling and when we pride ourselves into thinking we are too strong to fall we are at the greatest risk.  We must abide in Jesus and rely on His strength or we have no hope but to fall.  Peter's error was in comparing himself to others.  He said that he was stronger than his companions.  He may even have been stronger comparing his strength to theirs, but he was not relying on the strength of God.  It does not matter how strong you or I are in terms of resisting temptation, it matters how strong God is and how much we abide in Jesus and rely on that strength. 

So who is the greatest in the kingdom?  I daresay that question does not even matter.  Here is how Jesus answered that question:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Mathew 18:1-4 NKJV
It goes without saying, but Jesus is amazing.  I just imagine those apostles falling all over themselves of the great things they have done for Jesus bragging about which one will be the best and there goes Jesus putting a child in their midst and saying be like that.  I can see their jaws drop. I can imagine their thoughts regarding a child.  How strong can a child be?  Not very strong at all.  What can a child do?  No much.  What does a child know?  Nothing really.  What even can a child contribute?  Again, nothing.  But that is the point isn't it?  A young child is all about relationship.  They cling to their parents with nothing more important in their lives than that love they receive from mom and dad.  They rely on their parents for everything and always ask for their parents help.  They do not know much of anything and so they ask their parents all sorts of questions about almost anything.  The child knows nothing, can do nothing, and is completely reliant on his or her parents.  Oh to be like that young child to God.  To realize that of ourselves we are helpless and must cling to the strength of God.  Being the greatest is not about being better than others, but by humbling yourself and having that childlike love for God.  And the more humble you are, the less you will think of yourself especially in comparison to others.  And being humble, like the tax collector we read about earlier, we will see ourselves in relation to Jesus and strive for that.  We will see how inadequate we are and how awesome He is and we will cling to Him to be more like Him.  Humility is the key to greatness in the kingdom of God.  And there lies the great irony here.  You will not be the greatest in the kingdom by desiring it or striving for it.  You will become the greatest by giving up those desires and just trusting God to make you into what He wants you to be.  If you want to be the greatest, you have to first assume you are the lowest. 
So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:7-11 NKJV

Monday, August 30, 2010

God is REAL!

Today I am going to change things up a bit.  I am going to step back from a Biblical exposition today for more of a philosophical one.  Not that any philosophy in my mind has any superiority to Scripture.  In fact, anything in my own mind is grossly inferior to God's wisdom contained in His Word.  What I want to talk about today is the existence of God and my argument is that all believe in the existence of God and there is no real such thing as an atheist.

I have read books by Dan Barker, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins.  All are leading "atheists" and each takes a different approach to disprove the existence of God.  One thing they all have in common is the hatred they have for a God they say does not exist.  This is especially true of Barker.  The issue is, though, if they do not believe in God then why hate him?  They call him a tyrant, violent, murderous, sadistic, and a few other choice words.  They speak about him with such venom and anger that I am surprised steam does not come out of their ears.  Again, why such anger for a figment of our imaginations?  I do not believe vampires exists.  They are fictitious demonic beings becoming more and more popular through the Twilight movies.  Children are even starting to get involved with biting or becoming "vampires" etc.  They are having an effect on our culture.  I am concerned for what is going on, but I do not go off ranting about vampires.  That would be silly.  I don't believe they exist and so its just foolish to complain about them.  Atheists who speak hatred of God do not disbelieve in God, they just hate the idea of a god and so hate God.  They want to be the be all and end all of the universe.  They want their intellect to be the supreme intelligence.  They do not want to be accountable and accept things in faith.

There are 2 main arguments regarding the existence of God.  Those arguments are free will and morality.  They are very much related as morality is impossible without free will, but I will treat them separately in this posting.

First let's discuss free will.  Free will can not exist unless there exists a God.  I know this goes against the premise of the "Free Thinking" atheist movement, but there can be no "free though" unless there is a God.  Free will can not exist without God because "will" (free or not) can not exist without God.  "Will" is a spiritual thing.  It is your soul.  If the the "you" behind your thoughts and ideas.  It is what drives your mind.  The brain is an extremely sophisticated computer capable of doing amazing things.  It accepts inputs from all over your body  and uses those inputs to calculate heart rate, breathing, balance, muscle movement, vision, hearing, smell, taste, and more.  And all of that is automatic.  What I want to talk about are the parts that are not automatic.  That is our consciousness.  We can consciously take over control of our breathing (until we pass out then the automatic system kicks back in) and some have even learned to control heart rate.  We control our arms and legs and various other muscles.  We are even capable of liking or disliking things.  I do not like black olives.  Why?  I don't really know, but there is no biological reason.  It is just a matter of some often illogical part of ourselves where we decide what we like and dislike.  But there is that magic word for our will: "Choose."  What is it in us that chooses?  It is our "will". 

So what is "will?"  Why can't it exist without God.  For Will to exist, it must be apart from your brain.  It can not be part of your brain because it controls your brain.  Remember, the brain is just a computer and computers do not have the ability to perform "free choice." For computers, choice is a matter of programming where certain inputs go through certain algorithms to come up with a certain action.  If there is no God, that is the substance of our brain.  The fact that I am writing this blog is not the result of a decision I made but somehow through millions of years of evolution my brain was "programmed" in such a way to react to the stimuli in my life.  I am a Christian, because it was genetically predestined that I would choose such a faith.  There is no will because for will to exist it must exist separate from our brains.  This is a difficult concept to explain, except that the belief in free will is enough to prove it exists.  How can we have the concept of free will unless it exists?  How do you recognize your consciousness unless there is consciousness to recognize it?   True, this is basically the "I think therefore I am" argument, but it is a valid argument.  You can not deny your own existence because to deny it you must exist in the first place.  Anyway, your "will" is who you are.  It is beyond your brain, even beyond your personality.  How many times do we catch ourselves telling ourselves that we need to change parts of our personality?  If our personality (without Christ largely based on our experiences in life) is all we are then how can we decide we want to change it?  It is also intangible and immaterial.  It could not have evolved with us because it is not something based on our genetics.  It is not part of the brain because it controls the brain.  It can't be part of the brain otherwise it would not work contrary to the brain.  How often do we do something that we "know" is wrong or dangerous yet choose to it anyway?  We overrule our brains often.  How can a computer overrule itself?   The fact is that it does not and can not.  Our consciousness is separate and distinct.   Even science can not define it.  It can see its results and look at how it effects the brain, but they can not see what is behind it.  They can only theorize.  And being that it is not a "physical" thing it can not come to be through evolution. 

Even the atheists admit as much. They have a big debate amongst themselves regarding the concept of free will.  Some say we do not have it.  Some say we do have it.  Some say we have the illusion of free choice (which is logically impossible).  They are not sure what to do about the problem of the will.  Some have even made up evolutionary concepts for those many factors that make up who we are, but none of those explain how we try to change who we are.  And none are good models nor are any widely accepted.  It is a complete unknown to them.   The fact is that our "will" can not be explained without God.  Our "will" is our soul, plain and simple.   Either way, free will or not, without a soul behind who we are, all that we do are artifacts of evolution and being that free choice does not exist we have no choice in who we are.  If we have no choice in who we are, we are not accountable for what we do.

And that brings me to my next point regarding morality.  Morality can not exist without free choice because morality is choosing to do right.  If you have no choice in who you are or what you are then you have no choice in how you act.  If you lie, cheat, steal, and kill it is only because you are genetically programmed to do so.  Even if you act right, you did so because it is how you were programmed.  Even if who we are is based on stimuli as we grow older, it is still not any choice we made.  It is just the result of our "programming" as we grew older. Think of the automatic pilot on an airplane.  It is used for take offs, flying, and even landing.  If the computer is successful in landing the plane safely, can we call that computer moral?  Of course not, it was only doing as it was programmed to do.  It did not "choose" to land the plane safely.  Conversely, if the computer malfunctions and crash lands, should we try the computer for murder?  Of course not, because the computer did not "choose" to crash the plane.  It was merely a malfunction.  The same argument can be made about a brain with no soul behind it.  Without a soul, it is just a computer reacting to stimuli.  It can't be moral or immoral because morality is choosing to do right.  The brain would be amoral, not right not wrong, just reacting to stimuli. 

Furthermore, morality can not exist without a higher authority.  Even atheists, for the most part, acknowledge that there exists right and wrong.  I have head 2 arguments from atheists regarding morality.  One being that Christians and atheists, statistically speaking are of the same morality.  The other being that morality is simply choosing to do the least amount of harm.  Even if you accept the premise of the first argument (and I don't), it still does not explain what morality is.  The second fails in 2 ways: morality is oftentimes at odds with doing the least harm and it does not explain why it is even moral to do less harm (there still need to exist a higher power for harm to me morally wrong).  If morality was simply doing the least amount of harm, then it would be "moral" to allow your child to be raped to save the life of 2 others.  That was a shocking statement, but in the world of the morality of doing the least harm, it is a moral act. 

The larger question is the concept of morality itself.  Atheists should be more likely to argue that morality does not exist yet again they can not deny its existence.  Morality is that sense we all have of right and wrong.  We all know its wrong to lie, cheat, steal, and murder.  We all have a conscience that nags at us when we are doing wrong.  Even unredeemed man has a conscience.  They would argue that its an artifact of evolution to not hurt the species, but morality often does not parallel with is right for the species and even more often transcends any relation to survival of the species.  Plagiarism, even among the scientific atheists, is considered wrong.  But why?  Why is it wrong to steal the ideas of someone else and claim it as your own?   Why is rape wrong?  Rape has nothing to do with survival of the species, yet we all know it is wrong.  I dare say that in the long run, even murder has no bearing on the survival of humanity yet it is wrong. 

The fact is that we can not even claim the existence of morality without a Higher Authority.  If morality is something that we can subject others to, there must be a law that transcends humanity.  If there is no higher power, then man is the highest power. If man is the highest power, then each man defines what morality is for himself.   We then have no right to impose our morality on one another.  I can not say to someone else that it is wrong to steal from me because his sense of morality that it is right to steal is just as valid as mine.  And what will happen is that society will break down into the strong abusing the weak.  There has to be a higher law declaring that theft is wrong for me to hold him to that moral law.  For an atheist, there is no higher power so the concept of morality is moot to them, or at least it should be.  Again, they can not deny its existence.  In fact, they embrace it by making moral judgments against God and against Christians for spreading their faith. 

Atheists are a walking contradiction.  They spend so much time judging something they do not even believe exists.  They are filled with anger at our behavior and beliefs yet their own dogma teaches that we are not responsible for our behavior or beliefs.  They teach that there is no higher authority but yet claim a higher law in their judgments of us and God.  They embrace a self-defeating philosophy where they prove God's existence through their efforts to disprove Him.  They would be better to just argue that we were mere animals, or not argue at all.  There is no point in an atheistic worldview to argue anything.  Life and death are meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.  We are all just animals alive for a brief time then dead. 

They are not atheists, they are just arrogant.  They  can not accept that they are under His authority and they can not accept that they can not understand Him.  It is not that they do not believe in God.  They just want to be God and they hate God because they see Him as what is standing in their way of obtaining that height.  They are of the Spirit of Satan and do not even realize that they are the fulfillment of prophesy:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:18-25 NKJV
This passage says it all.  God predicted their behavior about 2000 years before they came to be.  These so-called atheists ignore the glory of the Creator for the sake of the creation.  They speak of God as though He were a man.  They are arrogant regarding their so-called intelligence when really they are just petty fools before God.  A God they will stand before one day and give account for their rebellion.  God says it plainly, they are without excuse.  Unless they repent, they will be judged. 

Everyone is aware of the concept of free will, which is why freedom is so universally important.  Everyone is away of right and wrong and good vs. evil as it is written in all our hearts.  Everyone looks in wonder of the beauty of creation from the individuality of each snowflake to stars that decorate our sky.  The signature of God is written into everything within and outside ourselves.  Some, though, refuse to accept that and they do so to their own destruction.  What is ironic is that same God who is subject to their ridicule, rebellion, denial, insults, and judgments is the God who sent His son to die for their sins.  The greatest tragedy will be that in their arrogance they may never see that despite all they have they done, if they turn and accept Jesus they will be accepted into the arms of God as His children.  That is how awesome the grace of God is.  They think they are so smart, but in the end, they will tragically learn a truer saying has never been said:
THE fool has said in his heart, "There is no God."  Psalm 14:1a NKJV

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Voting

With us entering the political season (although it is beginning to seem more and more like a year-round thing), I want to take today to speak about voting.  No, I am not going to tell you who to vote for, but I will say that we should all vote.  I want to talk about what we as Christians should be looking for in our leaders.

First let's take a look at the purpose of and how we as Christians should relate to government:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7 NKJV
First of all, we see we are subject to the governing authorities, providing those rules are not against the rules of God.  Remember, man can not usurp God's authority and by the examples of men like Daniel and the Apostles, we see that we are to disobey government when the law is in violation of God's law.  Otherwise, they are our earthly leaders.  Sure, they lie and steal and take away our rights and freedoms, but God warned us that would happen if we did not live directly under His authority:
And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants." 1 Samuel 8:11-17 NKJV
Kind of sounds like our government doesn't it?  We may want to change to a different set of rulers and things may get a little better or a little worse, but the fact is this is what a wordly government will provide.  So by voting, do not think you will change the fact that no matter who is in office, there will not be the complete freedom that we so look for until Christ returns to rule and reign.  So, the first principle is to be realistic.  No one who you vote for is going to provide truly Godly governance because man is not perfect.

So what do we look for in a leader?  First of all, the man should be Christian.  God's guidance is ultimately the best guidance and if someone does not know God, how can that person seek His guidance?  I know many call themselves Christians and we bend over backwards making so many excuses for them that it really makes me sick.  By Christian, I mean Christian, solidly Christian.  I do not recall a politician who has ever said clearly and unequivocally that Jesus is Lord.  At least no one ever elected.  And why aren't those solid Christian elected?  Because we as Christians do not vote for them.

That brings me to my second point.  God (and I know this will be a shocker for many) is not a Republican.  He is not a Democrat either.  When we choose a leader we should choose people not parties.  I know the argument that voting for a so-called "third party candidate" is a waste of vote and we are only hurting the lesser of 2 evils of the major parties running. It is only a wasted vote if we keep believing the lie that it is.  If we all voted for a third party, that party would not be so small anymore.  As for "the lesser of 2 evils", well, less evil is still evil.  Should we vote for any evil at all?  Does God ever tell us to choose "less" evil as opposed to "more" evil?  No, God tells us to choose right.  We are not to compromise as Christians.  Stop being manipulated into believing the only choice is less evil.  I know Christians who vote for a pro-abortion candidate just because he was a Republican.  Are you kidding?  How can anyone who believes that it should be legal to slaughter babies be qualified to be a ruler in your life? You are subjecting yourself under the authority of a baby killer!

Other than being a Christian, we should select someone who shows a knowledge and respect for our Constitution.  Why?  Because while we do not have a king in this nation, we do have a  Constitution as our highest authority.  It is, in a sense, our "king" in that all our laws and how our government interacts with us is supposed to be in line with that document.  That, or course, is not the case and we see all the problems we are having today.  That document is meant to restrain government and grant us our freedoms.  It is being used for quite the opposite today and that needs to stop.  A true Christian will respect that because the primary oath for any office is to uphold and defend that Constitution.

I am not trying to steer you in any particular way, so I will cut today short.  I just want to encourage you to be involved in the process, go out and vote, but make sure you vote righteously.  Look for man or woman who will seek God in all their decisions, someone who declares Jesus as Lord unashamedly, and someone who will uphold the document he takes an oath to uphold.  The only wasted vote, is a vote for evil, not matter how "less."  Don't look at empty promises or party affiliation or any of those other shallow issues.
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Bride of Christ

A couple of weeks ago I made some posts regarding husbands and wives.  I spoke of the Biblical roles for each and the rewards for following God's plan for marriage.  Being that this is Friday, and being that I do love my wife, today I want to talk again bout the ladies and in particular the wives.  I am not going to talk about being a wife but today I want to talk about what you represent.  I want to encourage you in your very special role.  Women, you are not just the bride of your husband, but you represent the Bride of Christ! 

The Bible describes a marriage like this:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24 NKJV
We see clearly here that in marriage, the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church.  And how is the church described?
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV
And here we see that the church is to be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin, as his bride.  And as his bride, how will Christ present us to Himself?
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  Ephesians 5:26-27 NKJV

And that is who you represent.  Rejoice in what that means.  Rejoice in that Christ trusted you to be a representation of his beloved bride.  How beloved is that bride?  All of creation, the death on the cross, the pain of people rebelling and turning against Him, all of it, all of everything happened for us to become His bride.  Genesis to Revelation, creation to the New Jerusalem, all was part of His plan to ready His bride.  Our marriage to our Lord is the grand finale the Bible with a "happily ever after" of unimaginable joy to follow.


And how has he romanced us? Just look at Creation!  A man may give you a box of chocolates.  Jesus created chocolate.  A man may give you beautiful flowers that may last a week or so. Jesus gave life to all the flowers of the field as a testimony to the beauty of His creation.  A man may gaze at the stars with you.  Jesus designed the heavens to declare His glory.  Just look at the beauty around you, in all of creation.  All of that was done for us. 


Let's look more at our marriage to our Lord:
Then a voice came from the throne, saying, "Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!" And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."  Revelation 19:5-9 NKJV
Think of your wedding or if you are single think of weddings you have been to.  If you have never been to one, think of one you have seen on TV.  In fact, along with your own think of the most glamorous elaborate wedding you have seen in real or on TV and think of how it compares to our wedding with our Lord.  I remember my wedding and how our guests overfilled the small church we were in.  I recall celebrity weddings with the whole book of Who's Who in Celebrity-land are there.  But think out our wedding with the Lord.  Think of the entirety of the heavenly host in attendance.  Jesus quipped before his arrest that if He wanted, He could have more than 12 legions of angels to rescue Him.  A legion at that time was 6826 men.  12 legions would have been 81912 angels.  Now even if that was the entirety of the heavenly host of angels (and I do not believe it is), that is how many ANGELS would be at our wedding.  That is not including all the other beings that are in the Heavenly realm with God.  Our wedding may be presided over by a beloved pastor.  Celebrities may even get a famous minister.  We get God presiding at our wedding.  Sure you may have a worn a white dress demonstrating your purity on that special day.  We will be dressed in white so pure so fine that it would be the envy of the most wealthy of brides.  Your dress may have been designed by a famous designed and fitted by a skilled tailor.  Ours was made by God.  Our wedding will be unimaginable.  Your wedding may have been the culmination of many months of hard planning.  Ours will be the culmination of creation itself, planned before the very foundations of the earth. 

You are the representation of that bride.  Do you realize what an awesome honor that is?  Do you realize the trust God has placed in you to represent His bride in a marriage relationship?  Husbands, do you understand what precious gift God has given you?  You are to care for your bride just as though she was His Bride.  In fact, she is His bride and so are you. This message while meant to be an encouragement for women is for the men as well.  Look at your wife as the representation of what you are to Christ.  You are His bride.  His beloved.  He courted you with the beauty of creation itself.  He proposed by his resurrection after his death on the cross for your sins.  When you accepted, his "ring" was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  As you go through your engagement, he has an intimate relationship in your life sanctifying you though his blood.  And when you marry, because of his shed blood, you will not just wear white as a representation of purity but you will be pure. 

The last passage I referenced in Revelations is not the end of the story.  There is the marriage of the Lamb, but there is also the coming of the New Jerusalem.  God refers to it as though it were a bride prepared for her husband.  It is our coming together after the wedding.  It is the beginning of our true "happy ever after," after the greatest romance in history.  The city is as a bride, but not the bride as his bride resides in that city.  It is Jesus' adornment for His bride.  It is our eternal home.  We can carry our wives over the threshold of our new homes, God carries us in our home descending from the Heavens.  The best thing, though, about the New Jerusalem is not its opulence or its glory.  It is that God will dwell there.  God's glory is the light of that city.  And what is so awesome, so amazing, so special about that is that we will live there too.  His bride, together with our Lord, for all eternity.  Amen!
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  Revelations 21:9-27 NKJV

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Necessity of Creation

Today I want to talk about Creation.  I am not going to make a case for creation, I will leave that to Christian scientists who are much better qualified than I to make that case.  There is much evidence that points towards creation and against evolution, but you would never know that were you to listen to most scientists today.  In all honesty, it is not even that important to me because I believe in God and I believe the Bible to be His Word.  I take that in faith, and so if the Bible says we are created, then we were created.  What I want to talk about today is why it is essential to believe that we were created. 

Just as an aside, I never liked the phrase Intelligent Design.  I understand it is a Trojan Horse to try to sneak Creation into school, but that sort of defeats the purpose.  Jesus does not sneak.  If schools reject Creation, and they do, it is not our place to try and sneak it in.  We need to be bold in our belief that we were created, not hide behind phrases that are not even accurate.  We were not "designed" by some "intelligence", we were Created by the Living God.  God created us in His likeness.  God created the world to minister to our needs. 

The first reason it is essential to believe that we were created is because the Bible says we were:
IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1:1 NKJV
The Bible is the Word of God and is therefore inerrant.  If we were not created, the Bible is wrong.  If the Bible is wrong, it is not the Word of God.  If it is not the Word of God, where does our hope of salvation come from? If we can call creation into question, we can call everything into question.  Therefore, it is essential to believe in creation just for the fact that the Bible declares it.

It is also important to believe in creation because we were created in God's image.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27 NKJV
Evolution teaches that we were not made at all and that we are merely at some point in the evolution of our species.  We are not special at all either.  The Bible teaches that humans are special.  It teaches that man was created separate from the animals   The basis of our special relationship with God is that we were created in His likeness.  We have a soul.  No other animal has a soul.  Did God just sit back and wait for monkeys to get advanced enough and give them souls?  Of course not.  God created us in His likeness in order to have a relationship with us.  That is not possible with evolution.  A foundational belief for our relationship with God is the belief that we were created by God and in His image.

If we do not believe we were created by God, we also redefine who God is.  If everything happened as science propaganda would have us believe from Big Bang to mankind, and we are ultimately the result of billions of years of genetic mistakes until we get to what we have today, what does that say about God?  Did God just happen upon us already evolved and decide to give us souls or did He set the Big Bang in motion and wait for us to form by evolution?  If any of those are true it says our God is distant and unconcerned.  It says He is not really involved in our lives but watches from a distance, sometimes acting if He feels it is necessary.  There is no intimacy as a Father to a child or a Creator to His creation.  Our God is a God who is intimately involved in the affairs of this world and in our individual lives. 
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.  Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV
Not only do we refine who He is, but we also negate His rightful authority if we believe Him to not be the Creator.  As Creator, He is the rightful Lord of what He made.  If He did not create us, then He is an undeserving dictator forcing his authority upon is by His strength.  He goes from a loving Father to a brutal tyrant.  God will judge us because it is His right as Creator.  God rules in our lives because He created us.  Without creation, it is no longer a free act of love to surrender ourselves to God, but a necessary tribute to a conquering ruler.  It may sound cold, but He created us so He has every right to make the rules.  He has the right to define sin and set standards for our lives.  He does this in love, because He knows what is best for us and what is best for us is a relationship with Him.  When we could not meet those standards, He sent His son to die to pay the penalty for our failures and restore that relationship He created us for. 

Finally, and most importantly, creation is essential to the plan of salvation.  Without the fall there could be no salvation.  Adam and Eve were created in perfection. They were without sin and living in a paradise created by God just for them.  Eventually, they rebelled and sin entered the world.  As their descendants, that sinful rebellious nature remains in us all.  God gave Adam and Eve free will with the desire that they would follow Him.  They used that free will to seek after sin and so it has been ever since, thus the necessity for our Savior to restore the relationship God intended for us.  Without creation, Adam and Eve evolved from imperfection and thus imperfect themselves.  They would have been spiritually dead and therefore unable to have a relationship with God.  If there was no relationship, there could be no fall and no relationship to restore and therefore no Jesus.  Conversely, if God was able to have a relationship with them in their spiritually dead state, Jesus would not have had to come either.  Besides, if we exist to be in a relationship with God, why would He choose a means that makes that impossible even from the start? 

So now we need to ask ourselves why God went through all the trouble.  Why God chose to create us.  Why go through all the pain and watching man bring sin into His creation thereby adding filth to perfect beauty? Why watch as His people continually reject Him?  Why go through a process by which He knew would end in His Son dying on the cross?  Let's start with some Scripture:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Colossians 1:15-17 NKJV
and again:
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. ...  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:1-3, 14 NKJV
and finally:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 NKJV
The simple answer, God went through it all so you can have a relationship with Him.  I do not mean the general you, I mean specifically, YOU!  I mean Ben, or Robin, or Tara, or Bill, or Jen, or anyone just put your name in there.  We were created by, though, and for Jesus who knew us before we were created, before anything was created.  He knew us before the foundations of the earth predetermining our relationship with Him.   And everything from "Let there be light" until now has happened so Jesus can have a relationship with you.  Think about that, think of how important you are to God.  I truly believe that if that random list of names was short by just one name, God would have done things differently but as difficult this way was, it was the only way for God to have a relationship with all who were chosen.  Why did God choose you?  He knew you would choose Him.  Why did you choose Him?  Because he first chose you. If you wan to know if God chose you, then choose Him.   A mystery for sure! But while the things of God are above my understanding, I will marvel in the fact that God chose me!  Marvel in that, be amazed, be humbled, and above all, rejoice!  You are a created chosen child of the Living God!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 NKJV

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Message Regarding Dating

Everyone wants to be loved.  From a very young age "crushes" are a way of life for us.  Teens (and disturbingly even younger) are dating and adults "play the field" before "settling down."  This is even common in the church.  But what does the Word of God say about dating and relationships? What does the Word of God teach about seeking a mate in life?

I want to break this up into several parts.  I want to address when to start dating, dating as a Christian, and finally what the Word says we should be looking for in a mate.  The Word gives us much guidance in all of these areas. 

When should a Christian start dating?  First of all, I do not believe children should date.  They do not have the maturity to handle the emotions and feelings that their developing minds and bodies are giving them.  Even if your son or daughter believes that their virginity is to be saved for marriage, the line for what is appropriate sexually is often blurred.  The real clear Biblical line is complete abstinence from any form of sex, but when emotions and hormones are combined with an immature mind, compromise is all too common.  Furthermore, the young psyche is such that they will often make that boyfriend or girlfriend the most important thing in their lives, affecting their relationships with family and God.  We also know that young relationships inevitably end in heartbreak, sometimes tremendous heartbreak.  There is no need for children to date, and it only works to compromise their purity, emotional health, and values and sometimes with devastating consequences. 

As for the rest of us, I believe the Bible is clear.  We should not start dating until God is calling us to marriage. Playing the field and dating just for the fun of it are very new to us as a culture.  Up until the 1950's, dating was more like courtship and was predominately a process for choosing a spouse.  In the 1960's sexual freedom and feminism abounded and so dating around became popular.  In fact, it was not until around 1900 where love and romance became important in finding someone.  The new sense of dating around was borne out of sin and takes people from what the should be doing while still happily single.  Here is what the Bible says about being single:
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 NKJV
When you are single, you should be focused on the things of God.  Being married and being in a relationship causes one to change that focus to the things of his or her spouse or loved one.  The difference is that, for the most part, we are called to be husbands and wives at some point in our lives.  We are never called to be boyfriends and girlfriends.  That is just the means by which we select a husband or wife.  As single, our focus needs to be on the Lord.  We do not have the ties of family and so we are free to serve the Lord in a greater capacity than those who are married.  If you are not ready to be married, you are practicing for something the Lord has not yet called you to and by doing that you are taking away from His service.  Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it ends up taking much time and commitment. 

Furthermore, dating before you are ready to meet your husband or wife is an act of the flesh.  There is no spiritual benefit from dating around.  If you sow to the flesh, you will reap to the flesh meaning it will have no spiritual benefit and can in fact cause spiritual harm.  If you are not planning on marrying then any dating you do puts you at risk for compromising your purity - something that solely belongs to your future spouse.  I am not saying that if you date you will sin, but you are putting yourself at risk for no good reason.  Even King David, a man after God's own heart, fell into sexual sin.  Do not ever think yourself above falling.  And just like I wrote about children, there is that fuzzy line of what is appropriate and inappropriate once intense feelings are involved.  As the inevitable sexual feelings come as the relationship grows, will that line become negotiable or movable?  I dare say that it more than likely will.  I can tell you from personal experience, that dating before you are ready to marry does not give you some kind of education, it gives you baggage.  It gives baggage that becomes an unfair burden to whoever you do eventually marry.  Also, if you involve yourself in a physical relationship, you are allowing someone to steal what rightfully belongs to your future spouse and what is stolen is something you can never get back. 

So what is right in terms of dating as a Christian? Well it should be a time of evaluating whether or not that person you are dating meets God's requirement for a spouse and whether that is whom God has chosen as your future spouse.  I will address those issues a little later, but you should meet their friends and family, talk about the things of God, read the Bible together, and pray together.  Yes there will be dating and romance, but just as important (and I would argue even more important) are the things of God.  The picture of marriage in the Bible is the picture of Christ and His bride the church.  You need to evaluate if the man can be a spiritual leader and if the woman can be that help-meet.  But in everything, you need to remain pure.  God does not honor fornication even if you "plan" to get married.  It is sin no matter how much in love you are or how much you think you will definitely be married.   Sex before marriage is sin, plain and simple. 
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NKJV
And again:
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;  Ephesians 5:3 NKJV
Fornication is simply any kind of sex outside of marriage.  That is not negotiable.  It is always sin.

I want to take a moment to address the issue of cohabitation, that is living together before marriage.  I have already addressed the issue of having any kind of sex before marriage so I will not restate it here, but even if you maintain your purity, what image are you portraying and what temptations are you subjecting yourself to?  First of all, we are not just to abstain from sex, but we are not even to give a hint of sexual immorality and to flee from sexual immorality.  Living together gives the impression of impropriety and it exposes you to temptations.  It is certainly not "fleeing" from sexual immorality.  Read Ephesians 5:3 above.  Do not even let sexual immorality be named among you.  In other words, do not even give someone a reason to charge it.  Do not let it even be named, let alone done.  As for fleeing sexual immorality.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Ephesians 6:18 NKJV
and again:
Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV
By "form", it means appearance.  In other words (and this is how it translated in other Bible versions), abstain from every appearance of evil.  Do not even look like you are doing something wrong.  Do not even give people the impression that you are involved in a sexual relationship by living together. 

So finally we arrive at what a Christian should be looking in a spouse.  First of all, and most importantly, you are looking for another Christian:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."  2 Corinthians 6:14-16 NKJV
A Christian has no place dating an unbeliever.  The Bible is absolutely clear on that.  There is no compromise on this issue.  If you are a woman, you are seeking a spiritual leader.  How can someone who does not even believe in Jesus represent Christ in your marriage?  How can someone who does not know the Lord raise your children in the admonition of the Lord?  How can someone who does not follow Christ lead you in the ways of Christ?  Quite simply, he can not.  As for men, how can one who does not know Christ represent his bride?  How can one who does not follow Christ, follow you as her leader in Christ?  Quite simply, she can not. 

Despite the clear word of Scripture, some still believe their wisdom is above God's.  I will take a moment to address a couple of the most prominent arguments.  The first is so-called "missionary dating."  That is the belief that you can win them to Christ during the relationships.  First of all, its wrong to even begin dating someone who is not a Christian but getting past that, let's look at the practicality of it.  First some scripture:
Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." 1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV
Your morals will be corrupted, not the theirs.  In fact, just by dating someone you have already corrupted your morals.  How can you be an example to someone when the very basis of your relationship goes against what God clearly tells you to do?  You can't share the importance of God when by your actions you make the unbeliever more important to you than God.  You already ruined your example.  If you are a woman, how can you show the man you hope to become Christian that you would submit to his authority if you do not submit to God's authority first?  Is God not greater than any man you can meet?  And if you are a man, how can you expect a women to follow you in Christ someday if you do not follow Him yourself now? 

The other argument is the "love" argument.  Claiming that God would not have given you those feelings if God did not want you to date that person.  By that logic, homosexuality would be right as long as the 2 parties were somehow in "love."  God will not act against His Word and so if you have romantic feelings for someone who is not a believer, those feelings are NOT from God. 

Other than being a Christian, what else is important?  For a woman, you need to find a man who is a strong Christian.  Remember that this man is responsible to lead your spiritual walk with the Lord.  If you have a stronger walk than he, you still need to submit to his leadership.  That can cause problems and an unnatural balance in your marriage.  You need someone to look up to spiritually.  If he is a weak Christian, he will be a weak leader.  He must be mature in the Lord.  He must be a strong man of God. As for men, you are seeking a woman desiring to always grow in Christ.  It is hard to lead a woman that does not want to go anywhere.  She must not be complacent in her faith, but desire grow closer and close to the Lord.  She must also be willing to submit under the authority of your leadership.  That is not easy to find nowadays. 

We all want to find someone to love.  It is reflected in popular movies that almost always have a love theme and music which is almost always about love.  We all want to love and to be loved.  But for us in Christ, God has a man or woman of God that He is preparing for you and He is also preparing you for them.  We can't become impatient and try to rush God's perfect plan.  Doing so only hurts us in the long run.  God has that person, just be patient and wait for the both of you to be ready.  If you want love, wait for God to provide it because I can tell you with all sincerity that finding that someone God has for you is a precious gift.  I can tell you with all sincerity that God's provision is so much better than what you can find on your own.  Love created by God is love indeed.  Love created by God is the only true love you will find and there is nothing sweeter on this earth.  Wait on God, it will be well worth it!
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases.
Who is this coming up from the wilderness, Leaning upon her beloved? I awakened you under the apple tree. There your mother brought you forth; There she who bore you brought you forth.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.  Song of Songs 8:4-7 NKJV

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Awesome Boundless Majesty of God

There are many misconceptions about God.  Many perceive God as sort of a grandfather in the sky, some see Him as sort of like Santa Claus, some see Him as distant and abstract, some see Him as just a figment of our imaginations.  Today, I want to give a more accurate picture of who God is.

One thing we need to understand about God, is that we can not fully understand God:
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.  Psalm 145:3 NKJV
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.  Isaiah 40:28 NKJV
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?" For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NKJV
From those passages we see that we can not comprehend how great our God is.  We can not begin to understand His understanding and knowledge.  We can not figure out His plans or motivations.  And that is a good thing.  Would you want a God you could comprehend? You may think that you do, but understand the ramifications of a god so limited in power that we, as mere mortals with our mere mortal brains, can figure that god out.  It is encouraging to know that our God is so far beyond us that it is beyond the limits of the brains God created in us to understand.  It's amazing to know that whatever our need, no matter how big it seems to us, no matter how impossible it seems to solve, and no matter how high it seems to us to overcome that it is nothing to our God.  It is nothing because the biggest, most powerful thing we can possibly imagine is not even close to how big God is.  I am eternally blessed to have a God bigger than myself and bigger than anything I can perceive facing in this life. 

Even better, if God is bigger than we can perceive and that the Bible teaches us that God is love than his love is greater than we can imagine.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 NKJV
Another thing about God is that He is omniscient, that is He knows all.
Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,' Isaiah 46:9-10
He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. Psalm 147:4-5 NKJV
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.  Proverbs 15:3 NKJV
It may seem scary that God knows everything, but it is actually an encouragement.  In our lives, we will all face problems that come up with no warning whatsoever. We can take comfort in God's omniscience during those times.  Remember there are no surprises for God.  Whatever crisis you are facing, God knew it was going to happen from before the foundations of the Earth.  He knew about it and had a plan ready for it as well.  While His plans may not be our plan (at least in the flesh), we need to put our trust in God who has perfect Wisdom.  We also need to trust in the fact that God knows the end from the beginning and that no matter how things seem in our present, they will ultimately work out for our good and His glory as long as we abide in His Will. 
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139: 13-18 NKJV
What's amazing is that God is filled with perfect wisdom yet still chooses to think about us!
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. " Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV
God is also omnipresent, that God is everywhere all at once.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.  Psalm 139:7-10 NKJV
"Am I a God near at hand," says the LORD, "And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the LORD; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:23-24 NKJV
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He ponders all his paths.  Proverbs 5:21 NKJV
You can not flee from the presence of God.  Jonah tried to run from God and look what happened to him.  But again, this is also an encouragement.    Think about the vastness of creation and that God exists everywhere in Creation and not only exists now but exists at all times.  God wasn't anywhere, He is there.  God will not be anywhere, He is there.  What I mean is that God, being ever-present, is present at all times.  God does not merely know the past, He exists in the past.  God does not have some crystal ball where he merely predicts the future, He is there!  That is one of the great mysteries of God.  What we perceive as time is all part of God's creation.  God exists not just in creation but also outside creation.  While we are bound to the present, God is not so bound.  To God, everything happened, is happening, and will happen all at once. I know that is impossible to understand, but remember our minds can not comprehend the things of God.  But despite God being everywhere and at all times, He chooses to dwell with you.   No matter where you are or what you are going through, God is there with you.  I do not mean as some general "force" like you see in Star Wars or as some concept that some eastern religions teach that their god is in everything, but He is present and very real and very personal way. 
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11 NKJV
And, finally, God is omnipotent, that is God is all-powerful.
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  Revelations 19:6 NKJV
'Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.  Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."  Mark 10:27 NKJV
God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and He did it by just speaking it all into existence.  From countless stars more powerful than our own sun to things so small we can barely see it with the best of our technology, God's power created it all.  There is no end to God's power.  What an encouragement to know that the Almighty God is MY Father!  Let that be an encouragement to you!  I shared earlier in the post that if God is for us, who can be against us.  Think about that.  God is for YOU!  God loves you as His child!  The same God who created the heavens and the earth and holds more power in His hands than the Universe can contain promises Himself to strengthen you. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV
And if God giving you strength is still not enough, let Him BE your strength:
GOD is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NKJV
Our God is awesome.  When I think about God and all His might and I think that even I, as insignificant as I am, am important enough for Him to send His son to die for me, I am amazed beyond words.  Think about what we read today and how it applies to our lives.  Think about how God not only knows every sin we have committed, are committing, and will commit but He was right there with us as we were doing it.  We know that God can at any just just hit the "reset" button and start all over with new and more obedient creation.  But despite all that, despite knowing how much we would fail Him, despite knowing our sin would send His Son to the Cross; He created us.  Not only did He create us, but He loves us.  Not only does He love us, but He sent His son to die for us so that we, as undeserving and rebellious as we are, can have an close intimate relationship with Him.  I don't understand God's love and mercy.  I can't comprehend how for all the times I have failed God, He still sustains me, loves me, forgives me, and cares for me.  His love and mercy, for me, are everything.  Without them, I am nothing.  With them, I am a child of the Living God. 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV

Monday, August 23, 2010

Taming the Tongue

We all have moments where we say something we later regret or use language we should not use.  We all have times where we have a so-called "slip of the tongue."  Some of us, though, seem to "slip" more than others.  Some of us make a habit of saying things a Christian should not say and some routinely use foul language.  Today I want to talk about taming the tongue.  It is what the Bible teaches us to do:
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.  James 1:26 NKJV
and again:
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little.  Proverbs 10:20 NKJV
That is a strong statement.  But it is true.  Are you useful to God if you do not control your tongue?  I dare say with the authority of the Word of God, that you are not.  Think about it, people will judge the kind of person you are by your language and the kinds of things you talk about.  If you use foul language, if your boast about the sin your commit, if you boast about the things you are good at, if you talk more about sports or politics or news, or if you show anger or bitterness, you will be perceived as such.  And shouldn't they?  Is not the tongue used to express what you are feeling?  If you never express your love for God or your appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus, what is that saying about you?  Can you truly say you love God if you never talk about that love?  If God is truly the most important thing in your life, should it not that be what you speak about the most?  And that is where you are useful or useless regarding how well you control your tongue.  The unsaved are never going to believe that you truly love God or that God has power in your life if you never express it.  They are never going to believe that God has changed you if your speech is no different than theirs.  The tongue is what you use to declare who you are and what it is important to you.  

Let's look more on what James has said about the tongue:
Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:5-8 NKJV
The tongue is powerful.  We need to keep that in mind.  We can use it to encourage others or use it to tear them down.  We can use it to start wars or bring peace.  Even the best of us has moments where we say things we later regret, which shows just how hard it is to tame.  As we just read "But no man can tame the tongue."  That makes it all the more important that we are vigilant with what we say to one another and what we say to those who do not know the Lord.  Our words can have powerful effects on those around us.  We need to always keep that in mind.

Let's continue in James:
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.  James 3:9-12 NKJV
We use the very same tongue to sing praise to God on Sunday that we use to gossip, curse, insult, and hurt others the rest of the week.  The same mouth that tells people we love God is used to tell others what people we hate.  God shows us how wrong that is in that those others we hate are made in the likeness of God.  Remember that next time you want to hate someone.  We can not say we love God is we say we hate anyone else.  It is addressed more directly here:
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.  1 John 4:20-21 NKJV
What this verse means is that man is created in the image of God.  Sure, many do not behave like they were created in the image of God, but that is how they were created.  And "created" is the key word.  We are all individually created by God and in His likeness and we must love each other on that basis alone.  How someone behaves is between that person and God. 

Here are a few more verses involving how we wrongfully use our tongue:

Gossip:  "And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not." 1 Timothy 5:13 NKJV

Crude Talk and Jokes:  neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  Ephesians 5:4 NKJV 

Anger and Fighting: A fool's lips enter into contention, And his mouth calls for blows.  Proverbs 18:6

Foul Language, wrath, malice, blasphemy: But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.  Colossians 3:8 NKJV

Lying: Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.  Proverbs 12:22 NKJV

Continuing back in James:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  James 3:13-16 NKJV
Here we see the source of those foul things that come forth from our mouths.  It is not of God. We see here that God's wisdom produces good conduct and works done in meekness.  It also tells us that we are not to boast of the bitterness, envy, and self-seeking that is in our hearts.  Do not lie and claim any of those things are of God because they are not, they are from below, they are sensual and demonic, they are of Satan and our flesh.  That is the source of your foul language, that is the source of your coarse jesting, that is the source of lying, that is the source of hatred of your brother, that is the source of every bad thing that comes from your mouth.  We need to be vigilant to keep these things from our hearts. 
Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, or give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:25-27 NKJV 
Give no place to the devil.  Yes, it does take a good amount of vigilance, but the Bible teaches how to accomplish this by telling us to pray without ceasing and to take each though captive.  The fact is the more focused we are on God, the less focused we will be on the things of the world.  The more we are in His Word, the more we will fill our hearts and minds with the things of God.  As I shared a few days ago, the things we allow into our minds will find their way into our hearts. 

Finally, we need to address how we should speak.  The Bible answers tell us:
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.  Colossians 4:6 NKJV
We are to share with others the grace God has shown to us and we are to show how that grace affected us by being graceful to others.  There is no place in the heart of a man or woman of God for anger, bitterness, envy, and the like.  The man or woman of God has a new heart created God and we need to allow it to be filled with the things of God.  I will end with the rest of James 3.  Keep that in mind in how you speak with people today.  Ask yourself if you are sharing the empty "wisdom" of Satan or the Boundless Wisdom of God.  Have you brought your tongue under the subjection of Christ?   
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18 NKJV

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You Are What You Eat

Everyone know the saying: "You are what you eat."  That statement is even more true for our spiritual lives then our physical lives.  Spiritually speaking, you are what you eat.  Those things that you expose yourself to and allow into your life will have an influence on your spiritual life.  A few weeks ago I posted "The Company You Keep" in regards to people we allow to influence us, today I want to talk about things.  In reading this post keep these passages of Scripture in mind:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV
"The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."  Luke 11:34-36 NKJV
We need to be careful of what we allow into our minds and for that we need to be careful what we watch and listen to.  The first and obvious example is pornography.  Once you allow that into your minds, it never goes away.  It becomes a stain and affects your relationship with your loved ones.  Furthermore, if you are married, it is adultery plain and simple. 
"But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  Matthew 5:28 NKJV
Pornography is only about lust and is therefore automatically adultery.  You can not be a faithful husband and watch pornography.  If you sow to pornography you will reap a troubled marriage and ruined sex life with your spouse.

But getting past the obvious, let's look at some other things.  I want to focus specifically on entertainment.

What kind of movies and television do you watch?  Is it edifying?  Does it draw you closer to God or does it put ungodly things inside your head.  Pornography, for a Christian, is not just something rated XXX, but can be something on television that promotes lust or creates lust in your heart.  We live in a highly sexually charged world and our entertainent reflects that reality.  Do you watch shows that contain nudity?  Do you watch movies that feature foul language?  Are you entertained by the glorification of sin?  None of things should be!

What kind of music do your listen to? Music was created by God to be used for His Worship and to glorify Him.  It was certainly not created to glorify sin, which is what most popular music of today does.  Do you listen to rap music filled with horrible profanity, glorification of sex and violence, and turning women into sexual objects?  Do you listen to rock music that glorifies sex and drugs?  Do you listen to popular music that glorifies sex and other sin?  I do know that not all music is bad, but if you actually look at the lyrics you will see that it is not Godly. I mean, even innocent sounding songs like 'Party in the USA' by Miley Cyrus is about a girl who is homesick and gets over it by going clubbing and hearing songs by Jay-Z and Britney Spears (neither known for wholesome living or music).   Do you find yourself listening to music with foul language?  Do you sing along even to bad words or with songs that glorify sex, drugs, violence, and other offensive things?  That alone proves my point that what you allow into yourself becomes part of you.

What about other kinds of entertainment like video games?  Do you play games like Grand Theft Auto where you pretend to rob, steal, have sex, and more.  Do you play other graphically violent games featuring barely dressed female characters?  How can you say that you hate sin if you enjoy pretending to commit it?  It should make you sick, instead it entertains you. 

The Bible commands us:
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV
How can you be taking each though captive to the obedience of Christ if you are purposely filling your mind with things that are repugnant to Christ.

The Bible also says:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Romans 12:9 NKJV
How can we claim to hate evil if we are entertained by it? 


If you sow violent, sex-charged, sin-glorifying, drug-pushing entertainment, you will reap its rewards - a struggling marriage, a damaged relationship with God, a distant relationship with your children.  You will have a wrong view of women.  Spritual growth will be slowed or stopped.  You will reap the emptiness of a flesh-filled life.  You will not reap the joy and peace that only sowing to the spirit can provide.

So what do we focus on? The Bible is clear on that as well:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  Philippians 4:8 NKJV
Fill you mind with the things of God.  Pray, read and meditate on His word, fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  When you sow to the spirit, you will reap the spirit.  When you reap the spirit, the joy and peace you will experience will go way beyond what you can imagine.  If we reap the Spirit, we will reap the fruits of the Spirit of which is so sweet and nothing is more satisfying.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV