Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Christmas?


Main idea-
Galatians 2:21 says, "If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Background- Before I dig into this verse, I need to explain a bit of background to it. First, the Bible teaches that we all have sinned, we all are guilty before the holy God, and therefore fall short of His glory. In fact, unless God works in our hearts there is none who really seek after God, none who do what is right, none who really care about Him in their hearts. We ALL are focused on other things.
If you were to look at yourself honestly, you would agree that this is true.

Teaching- This verse teaches that we cannot become righteous by observing or doing the things the Law teaches. If we could be declared righteous, holy, just, good by doing things then Christ's coming to earth, Christmas was unnecessary. In fact, His death would have been the cruelest thing God could have done. The fact is that the Law, or doing good cannot save us.

Illustration- In our culture, we have this guy named Santa, who sees us when were sleeping, knows when we're awake, knows if we've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Our view of God has fallen into this, "If our good outweighs our bad, then God is happy with me and I will go to heaven."
If this is true, then Christ's coming in the manger, His death & resurrection were all unnecessary & a waste of time. Could it be that it wasn't a waste of time? Could it be that it is absolutely necessary that Jesus came? Could it be that we aren't as great as we think we are & therefore needed a savior to come & save us from ourselves?

Summary-James 2:10 teaches, "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."

Has anyone ever kept the law perfectly, 100% of the time? Haven't we all failed at some point? Aren't we all therefore guilty?
Because of sin, God's judgment is coming. He will condemn those who are unholy, who have turned from Him & refuse to submit to Him, who ignore Him & are too busy for Him.
AND that is why God saw it fit to send His Son, to come to a manger, to be revealed to sages & shepherds, to live among us, to, at the right time, die for us who are ungodly, to rise again. On the cross God judged our sin by putting it upon His Son, the unblemished "lamb of God". Our sin, our unholiness, our ignorance, our guilt was placed upon him. Jesus was able to take the load that we could not bear. He was able. We are not.

For Thought-
1. Have you finally come to a point where you are able to honestly admit to God that you aren't as great as you pretend to be? Have you come to a point that you can finally agree to God that you sin, have ignored him, and feel this guilt of conviction gnawing at your bones? Are you able to get real with God and finally let Him look into your closet? Can you agree with God that you aren't as great as you think you are. That you are not as good as you pretend?
2. Are you willing to accept God's provision of a savior for you? It would mean laying down your pride, realizing that you can't save yourself & allowing Jesus to be the one who saves you.
In the Hebrew sacrificial days, they would lay hold of an unblemished lamb & sacrifice it to God so that God would cover over their sins. This was a reminder that they all did sin & that a savior would one day come. Are you willing to lay hold, grab onto Christ & allow Him to be your sacrificial lamb? He is the one who is able to save you.
3. Lastly, God calls us to quit being so self-centered & turn to His way of doing things. He has called us to a high calling of loving Him & loving our neighbor. Are you willing to turn from being an enemy of your Creator, a person who loves self above all others and to loving Him & people? To allow Him to be the center, to become a person who is willing to place others on a pedestal?

This is the purpose of Christmas. This is why Jesus has willingly come.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What does following the Spirit look like?...open discussion



Galatians 4-5:1
Problem-
The Law is spelled out. It is black & white. It is easy to know if you are keeping the rules & following the Law.

However, we, as Christians, are not under the Law, but under Grace. We are called not to rules, but to freedom. We are not a part of the earthly Jerusalem (aka Hagar), but the heavenly Jerusalem (aka Sarah). We are not saved by the works of the Law, but by God's grace, through faith. We are free! It was freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery, of rules, of keeping the Law (Galatians 5:1). We are no longer slaves, we are now adopted as God's very own children. We died to the Law, so that we may live to God (Gal. 2:19).

By the way, the Law's intent, reason was to serve as a tutor, that leads us to Christ. The Law never made anyone righteous. Even Abraham was saved through faith, before the Law was given.

Questions 1. So how does the Spirit lead? Is it through rules (the New Testament)? Is it through emotions or promptings...and if so, how do we recognize those? Does the Spirit just want us to imitate Jesus and act out of love?

2. What does it LOOK LIKE to live by the Spirit? We know what following the Law looks like & if someone is or is not doing that. But what about living by the Spirit?

3. The Law has spelled out what is right & wrong & is therefore very black and white, and the Spirit=freedom, THEN how do we live in accordance with the Spirit & what does that look like? How do we obey God & do what he wants, so we can enjoy an open relationship with Him & enjoy living in His wisdom?


4. How do we know if we are being led by the Spirit?

A. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident in the person's life (Gal. 5:18-26).
B. We are not under the Law.
C. We will not carry out the desire (epithumia- upon the will, impulses, passions, lusts) of the flesh.
D. We will fulfill the Law-in freedom as sons, not out of obligation as slaves.

5. How does the Spirit then lead?

A. We know right from wrong & do not need anyone to teach us (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
B. We know what is good & what is evil (John 14:6).

6. What is the compass, by which we live? Are we actually trading the Hebrew Law for another set of rules? Are we exchanging the Hebrew Law for the Law of Christ? Or did Christ not give us a bunch of rules, but rather sent His Spirit to lead us?


7. So how do you know if you are following the Spirit? Or do we just do what we know is right & not worry about it?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our Purpose in Life: Love


What are we called to in life? What is the purpose of our existence?

Well, Jesus answers this. Here is the conversation-

We are called to-

Matthew 22:37 And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."


Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, known as the Jewish Shemah and Leviticus 19:18
NAU Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

NAU Leviticus 19:18 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.


So what does this love look like?
1. Hebrew word for love- aheb, "to love".
2. Greek word for love- agapao, "love".
Definition of the Greek word, meaning of the Hebrew- Friberg lexicon defines it as "Love, especially of love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action."

The best example is found in two passages- John 21:15-18; Joshua 24:15

CJB John 21:15 After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim'on Kefa, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me more than these?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I'm your friend." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I'm your friend." He said to him, "Shepherd my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Shim'on Bar-Yochanan, are you my friend?" Shim'on was hurt that he questioned him a third time: "Are you my friend?" So he replied, "Lord, you know everything! You know I'm your friend!" Yeshua said to him, "Feed my sheep! 18 Yes, indeed! I tell you, when you were younger, you put on your clothes and went where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go."


ESV Joshua 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."


Love for God is seen as an aheb and agapao type of love. It is a choice a decision to be devoted and loyal to God. That is the essence of what we are called to.
So, as Joshua challenged the Jewish people, we are left with the same challenge. To make a choice. To follow God (the Lord Jesus) to do our own thing, or to follow some other god (ie- Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Krishna, Shiva, Al-ilah, etc.). What is your choice?

3. This doesn't rule out the type of love that Peter expressed for Jesus. Phileo- which is a brotherly (Philadelphia), affectionate type of love. God wants our affection, but what He is primarily after is our agapao-type love.

Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 6, we are to love (aheb) God with all of our heart (inners), self (will, emotion, passion), and might (abilities). We are to be undivided.

Examples
-
A. I love God with all of my ability + passion - heart (unwilling to obey Him with my motives, ie- some televangelists who serve God to get rich)
B. I love God with all of my heart + passion - ability (unwilling to serve Him, ie pew potatoes or those who don't join the cause of Christ)
C. I love God with all of my heart + ability - passion (emotion, affection. I don't like God. ) (ie this person serves God, not willingly but because they are only SUPPOSE to and are under compulsion. God doesn't want a bitter person or a robot. He also desires our affection).


Thought question: So what is the choice that I have to make? How do I choose God? How can I have peace & be reconciled to my Creator? What must I do to be saved?

Check this out

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If God is good, then why is there so much suffering?


Illustration- Hebrews 11:32-38
ESV Hebrews 11:32- And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-- 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated-- 38 of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.


Why would God allow these terrible things to happen? Especially to His people?

1. John 16:33- Jesus came to give us proper perspective
The tragedy of the prosperity gospel is that it sets people up for sorrow & discouragement. It teaches us to have faith, be positive, God wants you to be happy. But this is very different than what Jesus taught.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."


Thoughts-
A. Why did Jesus tell them these things? So that they may have peace. A proper perspective brings peace to the believer. So that when bad things happen, we can say, "Oh yes, Jesus did say this was normal." Instead of, "But I thought I was suppose to have things go my way..."

Illustration- CS Lewis
"Christ said it was difficult for 'the rich' to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, referring, no doubt, to 'riches' in the ordinary sense. But I think it really covers riches in every sense-good fortune, health, popularity and all the things one wants to have. All these things tend-just as money tends- to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life. You don't want to turn away to anything more, and so you try to rest in a shadowy happiness as if it could last for ever.
But God wants to give you a real and eternal happiness. Consequently He may have to take all these 'riches' away from you; if He doesn't , you will go on relying on them. It sounds cruel, doesn't it? But I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a 'cruel' doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were 'punishments.' But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a 'punishment,' it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it's not so bad.
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic." -CS Lewis, "Answers to Questions on Christianity" in Timeless at Heart


B. Some people struggle much with suffering because they have a false understanding of reality. They think that God made it so we would be happy down here. And He most certainly did. However, this creation, this Garden of Eden, was given to frustration because of the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12) & if it were not for his sin, it would of most definitely been ours that did it in.

C. Romans 8:20-23
NAU 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.


1) Because of Adam's sin, God placed creation under futility & slavery to corruption, in hope that it would one day be set free, & it will be set free one day- when the adoption, revealing & redemption of the sons of God takes place (spiritual sons).
2) We suffer because we live in a fallen world. We, together, groan. Both believer & nonbeliever. None are exempt from this groaning.
3) Hope- But for the believer Jesus tells us to, "take heart" because He has overcome the world & has given us hope. The nonbeliever has this same hope, but the benefit of this hope will never be enjoyed unless they receive the promise.

D. We often project our mind, our ideas of the way things ought to be into reality. This can cause great frustration & undue suffering. Consider this passage-
Isaiah 55:9 "As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

E. Romans 3:23- Much suffering is the result of fallen man.
With this in mind, think of how evil, disastrous this world would be if God didn't choose, out of compassion, passion, & love choose to save us (Romans 5:8). God took the initiative to start the redemption process & every day thousands of people are being redeemed, born again, renewed through faith in Jesus Christ. So God is, has been, and will continue to "save" people from the corruption that comes with fallen humanity.

F. John 10:10- Satan is allowed temporary rule on this earth, and his mission is clear.
NAU John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."


2. The advantage of suffering?
A. For the believer- James 1:2-4
NLT James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

It is to help us to grow in endurance & in character. So when we suffer, we can experience joy & peace through it, knowing that it is God who is working in us (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 12:7) and that it is normal.
Jesus is a carpenter of stone. He takes blocks of raw stone & makes something beautiful out of it (Philippians 1:6).

So, when you suffer with the right perspective, you may say, "Man this is rough, but I know this is a part of my development. God thank you for loving me, even to pieces at times."
If you have the wrong perspective, you may say, "God, why do bad things always happen to me? Do you hate me?" or "Maybe God doesn't exist after all...because why would He ever want me to be unhappy down here?".

B. For the nonbeliever- To lift up Christ
God loves you too much to just allow you to live your life & then to face judgment with failure. He is constantly working in and around you to draw you to Christ. So that you would receive Christ as your savior & lord, so that you may have forgiveness & enjoy the depths of adoption in the family of God.

Consider the following-
1) John 12:32 "As for me, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
2) 1 Timothy 2:4 "He wants all humanity to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth."
3) John 16:8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged."


C. Only an evil being would allow someone to believe that everything was okay if it isn't. The fact is that the human race is under the penalty of sin, being lawbreakers. Therefore, we will be found guilty. Because of God's goodness, He often makes things miserable in the hopes that we will cry out to Him for His ever-ready help.

D. Also, one reason why some people suffer at a seemingly young age is because God wants to remind us of the brevity of life. Another, God has His purposes for people (Psalm 139:16). We all, redeemed & unredeemed are the actors in a grand play.


E. When you suffer, it is not "God judging" you. He reserves this judgment for another day.

Closing thought from a righteous man who suffered grievously-
Job's wife told him to give in. To, "Curse God and die." Because life had become miserable to the point of silence. Here is his response-
Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.


Suffering is hard for all of us. But with the proper perspective, we may become privileged enough to be able to stand firm as the people did in Hebrews 11, thus becoming people whom the world was not worthy of.

Closing song
This world is not my home, I'm just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley
© 1965 - Albert E. Brumley & Sons


In this world, you will have trouble, but Christian take heart, Jesus has overcome the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cultural Study: God as "Father". Difference between Judeo-Christian God & other gods


One Greek word-splagchinizomi- compassion, to be moved in the bowels.
Context: Luke 15:11-32
In this culture, if a son would have said to his father, "You are dead to me. Give me my share of the inheritance and I am outta here." the father would have written his son off as dead. He would have held both hands out against his son.

HOWEVER, the father in this story can be none other that the Father. In fact, this is the only description that we can put onto God, as a father-figure. His fatherhood is, unlike others, splagchinizo- he is moved with compassion, moved in the bowels when he sees someone come to Him. No matter how brutal the offender was, God will NOT resist a repentant person. There is no sin that God is not willing to forgive. If a person comes to Him, through His door, the Father will gladly receive Him.

So in your studies of other gods; Islam's Allah, many Hindi gods, many tribal gods, remember that the God of the Judeo-Christian faith is the God who is moved in the bowels. Not only compassionate in practice, but also in heart. And even desiring, from His heart, that men come to Him. In fact, He does EVERYTHING to draw people to Him except make them believe.

Example- Allah Raman- Allah is compassionate. He is compassionate toward the faithful & the unfaithful, inasmuch as he is said to provide for both. One of the main teachings of Islam is to be compassionate to animals & people. Many Muslims do a great job of being kind. However, their god (Allah) also teaches to kill unfaithful "wherever you find them".
Whereas, the God of the Bible (the Lord), teaches to have compassion ALWAYS & never to kill people who are unfaithful or infidels. We are to love, even those who would destroy us, where the Muslim god teaches that we are allowed to retaliate & even to go a step further & go after people who mistreat us, once again killing them wherever you may find them.
The perfect example of this is Jesus, while hanging on the cross, prayed FOR the people who were unjustly killing him. He asked God to forgive them because of their ignorance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Satan's Plan for Your Life


Ephesians 6: 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Some observations from this passage-
1. Our struggle is not against flesh & blood. It is not against people. People are not the enemy.
2. Our struggle is against rulers, powers, world forces, spiritual forces. These things are set up by Satan, to direct our lives. To work against the cause of Christ. To steal, kill, and destroy us!

Question: If you were Satan, what would you do to keep people from joining the cause of Christ?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Being graceful in speech

NAU- Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

1. What not to say
"unwholesome"- (adv. sapros)- rotten, worthless, unwholesome, bad
Don't let any of this come out of your mouth!
Keep it to yourself & deal with it privately with God...even though you are bursting to say something like this.
If you are like me, sometimes I get so angry at someone that I FEEL I have to say something or burst. Well, this morning I was once again convicted to keep this to myself & if I have a bone with someone, then take it to the Lord in prayer. If I have to spill my angry beans, spill them in private with God.

2. What to say
"edification"-(noun, oikodome)- building words according to the need of the moment.
We are to speak words that are building, not rotten.
Neil Anderson once wrote, "Be a part of God's construction crew, not Satan's wrecking crew."

3. The advantage of speaking this way-
"Grace" (noun, charis)- it will give grace, kindness to those who hear.

Summary- God has called us to two simple things: Love God. Love people.
In order to love people, we can be people who never speak rotten (of others, or through being complainers, whiner babies ;-p ) but speak in such a way that we help people grow in grace.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Bigger Interrupter Than Kanye


From Dare 2 Share-

"A Bigger Interrupter Than Kanye

Under the category of “Did that just happen???,” I’m sure by now you’ve heard about or seen Kanye West’s wildly inappropriate outburst at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Of course this is not what you would call a great career move to say the least, but I guess the silver lining for Kanye is his honorable mention in the Urban Dictionary:

Imma let you finish [eye-ma-let-yoo-fin-ish]:

1. Obnoxious way to interrupt someone and steal their moment, while wrylymocking that media train wreck that is Kanye West.

Based on West's instantly infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video with his insane microphone-stealing shout out to Beyonce.

Bob: Thank you Mr. Brown for having us in to give this sales presentation. We'd like to talk to you today about...

Alfred: Yo, Bob, I'm really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but I just got to say our product is one of the best products there is!

I guess West did let Taylor finish…sort of. But the cool part was the moment Beyonce recognized Swift and gave her a chance to have her moment of glory.

Have you ever been completely and rudely interrupted? I’m thinking the majority of us can relate - but how about interrupted during an extremely important moment by someone who obviously doesn’t care about you or your mission at that moment?

OK, let’s take it one step further. The VMA disaster was a physical interruption and as I watched it play out, a thought occurred to me that I’d like to share. No seriously, Imma let you finish, but first consider this:

Are there ever spiritual interruptions that are as rude and inconsiderate as Kanye’s? I sure believe so, and there’s a very well defined plan behind them.

Think about it…have you ever stopped to take some time to pray, and suddenly your thoughts are bombarded with worry or unpleasant memories? Or have you planned out a quiet time to read the Bible, and suddenly the phone rings, or you remember something you have to take care of first?

Or worst of all, have you ever tried to share the gospel with someone and out of nowhere, people cut into the conversation or something sidetracks the person away from the most amazing message on earth?

Not a coincidence folks…Satan and his army of demons are completely dedicated to preventing and halting any efforts on your part to connect with God through prayer and reading the Bible. And they are literally hell-bent on halting even a single word about Jesus Christ from escaping your lips.

Just check out a few descriptions of this from God’s Word:

Satan, who leads the whole world astray… (Revelation 12:9).

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

See what I mean? Satan just sits back and waits until you try to take the stage for Jesus Christ, then he jumps in and steals your microphone and your chance to glorify God.

Oh - and he doesn’t let you finish.

Here’s the great news though. If you can see an interruption coming, you can usually prevent it or ignore it. And now that you know spiritual disturbances are headed your way whenever you try to connect with God or share the gospel of Jesus Christ, you can be more prepared.
How?

First, recognize the interruption and take it to God. That way, what Satan meant for evil will actually focus your thoughts more on your Heavenly Father! Pray something like: “Father, I know that what’s happening right now is an attempt to keep me from connecting with you. Please help me keep my thoughts and spiritual eyes focused only on You.”

Second, resist Satan, and you can be sure of this promise:

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you (James 4:7-8).

Here’s the way The Message version of the Bible puts it:

Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time.

Finally, refuse to give up. When you stop praying, you miss out on God’s peace and blessing. When you stop reading the Bible, you lose out on God’s truth and strength. And when you stop sharing the gospel, you trash the opportunity to lead someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Bottom line: stay the course in connecting with God, reading His word, and sharing your faith. Refuse to be interrupted and never give up. On Judgment Day, God will call you back on stage and you’ll hear the words from Jesus that are more valuable than any earthly praise:

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Now that is how you should finish."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jewish Eschatology


Here is an interesting link on Jewish Eschatology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_eschatology

I find it interesting because it would agree with our eschatology...only they missed their Messiah the first time. Hopefully they will submit to Him before they die & then have to face Him as a "goat" or one who will be condemned for rejecting God's great salvation!

I asked a friend, our tour guide in Israel, who is not a follower of Jesus, about Zechariah 12 & what he thought about the phrase,

"so that they will look on Me whom they have (b)pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one (c)mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11 "In that day there will be great a)mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the (1)plain of 2)Megiddo. 12 "The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves."
I told him that I believed that this one who was pierced was Jesus. I said, "What if the Messiah really is Jesus?"
Ronny kindly replied, "Then when he returns I will follow him."
I asked him another question, "But what if you die before that happens and it is too late?"
We got interrupted.

Anyhow, I thought the Jewish eschatological parallel with Christian escatology was interesting.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is God Just: What about those who haven't heard?


So back to the question that I wanted to discuss with Abigail D. about a month ago.

Is God Just: What about those who haven't heard? Would God send them to Hell without at least a chance?

Abigail, you said that this was THE issue that turned you off to Christianity. And I have to agree that I struggled with this question. It had been gnawing at me for years, because how can you call God just when he will judge people who haven't even had the opportunity to reject Him? Well, here is what I see in Scripture regarding this-

1. Jesus is the door to salvation, anyone can enter God's presence, but only through faith in Him.
John 3:16-21; John 14:6; John 10:9; Acts 4:12; Luke 8:12; Acts 16:30-31

2. God uses everything to draw people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

"who (God) desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
-1 Timothy 2:4

External witness- Nature (Romans 1:20)
Internal witness- The Holy Spirit (Romans 1:19; Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 16:8-11)
Relational witness- People & Jesus (Luke 11:47; John 12:32)
Prophetic witness- The Bible, prophecies (Matt. 12:39; 2 Timothy 3:16)
So you see, God uses everything to make himself known. For those in obscure parts of the world, the have at least both an external & internal witness, which is sufficient.

3. God wants people to go into all the world and tell people about Jesus.
This is the great commission to the Church- Matthew 28:18-20, which is what the Church is doing. In fact, today every area of the earth has been reached, there are just certain tribal groups that have not.
Romans 10:12-17

4. Jesus will not judge the world until every people group is reached.
Matthew 24:14; Romans 11:25

5. If someone seeks after God, God will reveal more of Himself to that person.
My favorite example of this playing out- Acts 8:25-40
This man was trying to understand, so God told Philip to go to the man and tell him.

Objections
1. What if there is none who are willing or able to go, say before we had good transportation?
Well, I have heard several reports from missionaries who explain that when they reached a tribe, there was either a Christ-type, or even crosses present in the tribe & they already understood. So I believe that God can use this external, internal witness & possibly even angels.

I have an interview from a former Shaman who says he knew exactly who Jesus was before any missionaries came. However, the spirits within him told him that this being in white, Jesus was an enemy. If you want to hear it, I have a copy I can send you.

Also, I think that God is able to sustain someone who has not heard & is seeking until they come to faith. But I have no proof for this.

So Christians, this is why it is important to hit the mission field. Not to get people to join your religion, but to tell people about Jesus and give them an opportunity.

2. If people could be saved apart from faith in Jesus, then it would be better to NEVER tell anyone about Jesus. However, this goes against all biblical teaching.

3. What about infants or those who are mentally unable to make decisions? I would appeal to God's mercy in these cases, but not for those who could volitionally decide to either reject or accept the revelation that they have received.


In conclusion-
If you could be saved apart from Jesus, then God would still be a brutal savage & the cross would be emptied of all value; it would be meaningless.

God wants all men to be saved & come to a knowledge of the truth. Only those who accept Jesus as lord & savior can be forgiven & stand before God. God uses EVERYTHING to reveal himself to people. People who respond favorably to this revelation will receive further revelation. People who reject or ignore this revelation will not be given more (Mark 4:24-25).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fear Itself


FDR, in his first Inaugural Address said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
In the context of that day I am sure that it was a good speech & necessary with the times our nation was facing.

I want to look deeper at the issue of fear, primarily one of my favorite verses on fear- Proverbs 3:25
"Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught."
I don't know about you, but I am not afraid of dying and facing God, I am afraid of getting to the point of losing control. Of control dropping out from under me.

So let's look at this verse-
"Do not be YARE (afraid, revere) of PITHOM (sudden, lit. to open the eyes & see, fig. a storm that comes up suddenly) PACHAD (dread)."

In other words, do not be afraid of fears that quickly form. Do not be afraid of a sudden storm in life that comes upon and would threaten to overwhelm you. The godly do not need to fear sudden fear or of the onslaught of the wicked. the godly are the only ones who can truly have SHALOM (peace) because the lord is our confidence & will keep us from being destroyed. He is sovereign, loves us, & is working out things for our good.

So, we need not fear fear itself. If we are believers, instead, we can walk confidently into the storms knowing that we are cared for & that everything is completely under control.

Romans 8:28
Ephesians 1:11

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peace & Conflict


So I have been thinking a lot about peace lately. Probably because I just had a conflict with someone, that went badly & am doing some "searching" to see what happened.
I want to be realistic about peace. I don't want to be one of those guys who thinks that he is always right & is never to blame for things, but I also don't want to be the guy who always feels in the wrong. I want to be realistic.

So regarding peace, the Bible teaches, "as far as it concerns you, live at peace with all men." -Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14.

So what does the word "peace" mean?
1. It comes from the Greek word eirene, which comes from the words eiro, which means "to join". In Hebrews it implies looking out for the welfare of another, in Romans it implies more of bringing peace.
2. In Hebrew, peace describes a state of completeness, soundness, well-being of the complete person.
3. Also often in the New Testament, it has to do with tranquility, hope, trust & quiet of the soul & mind, brought about by a reconciliation to God (Luke 2:14; Matthew 5:9; John 14:27).

Another passage that comes to mind on peace is Jeremiah 6:14-15.

"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down," says the LORD."

So, going further. Is the Christian called to live at peace by:
a. Being a peace-keeper. By not bringing up an issue.
b. Being a peace-maker. Not searching for conflict, but if there is a conflict, dealing with it.

I prefer a. That way, I can ignore people who are off the mark, struggling, or hurting themselves. Dealing with people who are messed up is often very hard & often they bite back. It would be wonderful to sweep problems under the mat & ignore them. It would be wonderful to just let people make their own choices & just worry about my choices. If someone wants to screw up their lives living in bitterness, or using drugs, or cheating on a spouse, then have at it! We are called to peace.
However, I have a hard time submitting to a. Inside of me there is a gnawing. And in the Bible there seems to be a calling for us to sometimes not pretend everything is okay. Sometimes we need to warmly, patiently, gently, kindly confront people who are being destructive. The hard part is that often things blow up & there is all out war from the one who is confronted (especially in today's day and age where people are hyper-sensitive, neurotic, easily wounded, irreconcilable...aka 2 Timothy 3).
Then again, maybe option c. may be best. "C. Both A & B". There are times where we need to keep the peace, but there are times where we need to get into the mess of making peace (by the way, people who are following after Jesus often are very open to b. when they are the ones being confronted. This is something I have experienced & have been in awe from).

Regardless, I love the Greek word, how it implies "to join" & to watch out for the welfare, for what is the best for others. If confrontation is best then do it. If it is best, at that time to just have harmony, then do it. And regarding how to know when situation calls for what, maybe that is why God has called us to ask Him for help & to walk in the Spirit.

Peace,

Jeff

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breaking the Cycle of Sin

The story of Hamartia

One day a scruffy, graying, ruddy man was sitting at a table. At noon he looked up and saw a dusy bottle of Hamartia sitting across from him. The man looked back at his paper & pretended to read. However, inside the craving for this drink started to overwhelm him. At first it was just a thought, but by three o'clock the man could no longer resist the overwhelming craving for a drink. He forcefully threw down his paper & grabbed the bottle by the throat, threw off the cap & all at once began to drink deeply of the Hamartia.
The feelings that the man had were overwhelming. The taste was sweet upon his tongue & went down smoothly. His insides warmed from the amber flow of the drink.
Soon the bottle was emptied & the one who placed the drink there now placed on the man a heavy weight. The weight was heavy upon the man & made his chest tight. On the weight was written one word, which was chisled into the weight, "regret".
Convicted of what the man had done, he struggled to move the weight from his body, ran from the table & fell on his knees; angry, broken & heavy with guilt. He agreed with God that it was wrong & that he would strive to never sip from that bottle again.
Months past & several times he saw other bottle of Hamartia. However, he never even gave them a second glance as he remembered his resolve.
Then one day he found himself at his familiar place again, reading the morning paper, when he heard the sound of a sliding bottle, roughly moving across the table...

How can this man keep from sipping this drink again?
1. Temptations come, the bottles will always be around.
2. He shouldn't go to places that serve that drink, just as we should set up boundaries so that we don't get into tempting situations.
3. Radical amputation. If there is some kind of temptation that easily overwhelms you, you may need to remove any source from your life.
4. Run to God & Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
5. Don't allow the decision to reach a boiling point. Before the heat of temptation turns up, make a decision to break the cycle & flee. Kill temptation while it is still in it's infancy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Peace of Christ in Dealing With Difficult People


Colossians 3:15 "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."
1. The context of this verse is in relationships with the body (Church), particularly your local body.
2. Rule- act as arbiter, the decision maker. Literally let the peace of Christ be the deciding factor in your heart.

What does this mean?
1. We decide what to do based on what would bring peace with Christ.
2. We decide what to do based on what would promote peace with Christ.
3. We strive to live at peace with all people.
4. We deal with necessary conflict in a way that would promote peace & harmony.
5. We make decisions that promote a feeling of peace between you and God.

What this doesn't necessarily mean-
That we sweep necessary conflict under the rug.

So in dealing with difficult people, we ask ourselves, "Would this action, attitude, word bring the peace of Christ to this situation or would it bring conflict, strife, division, death?" Then we chose whether we will let this peace rule in us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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