Pastor's Corner

This is some blog description about this site

Brains in your head and feet in your shoes

b2ap3_thumbnail_you-have-brains-and-feet---Dr-Seuss.jpg

All of us on a regular basis encounter awkward or uncomfortable situations. Whether it is on the job or in our social circles, we find ourselves wishing we were not there because of a particular person or the situation. And then complicating all of this further is our own failure to do what is necessary or right in any given situation. We have our unhealthy social and relationship skills, or our bad coping skills; so we end up saying or doing something we wish we had not done or said. Some days, are just bad… right?

Making the choice to recognize and not lean on our old bad habits is the first step away from these types of days. The next step is to not let ourselves overcomplicate situations and relationships, sometimes, they are just what they are. Some relationships are simply destructive, no matter how you approach them, you are going to get hurt.

John 2:23-25 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

While we imagine that Jesus welcomed everyone, there were some folks He maintained healthy boundaries with. He did not let them in, He kept them at a safe distance emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. While they needed Him, He knew they only wanted what they could get from Him and not Him. There is nothing wrong with maintaining healthy boundaries around people you know are not capable of healthy relationships. You must use your head and not just your heart in relationships; be realistic and rational about who you let in close and how you deal with each individual. Don’t be in a hurry to rush into close relationships because you are afraid of being alone. Take your time and avoid destructive relationships.

And you know, sometimes you have to admit Dr. Seuss has some good advice. “You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself anyway you choose.” Sometimes there is nothing spiritual or deep involved, you need to just use your head and walk away. No you cannot just walk away permanently if you are married, you have to work out your problems. But you can walk away and wait until you can both come back with calmer heads and are able to work on your problems. Every day we are constantly encountering situations which require us to use those brains in our heads, and on occasion, require us to use our feet also. 

Continue reading
612 Hits

Hold Nothing Back

b2ap3_thumbnail_hold-nothing-back.jpg

Paul tells us a critical fact about the redemption we have received in Christ. Not as permission to sin, but a reality to grasp.

Romans 5:6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Jesus did not wait until you had it all together before He chose to come and die for you, He came at just the right time, while we were all still worthless human beings. He went to the cross knowing just how bad you would be; and this includes before and after you were drawn to Him. He knew about the hatred in your heart, not just the violence of your hands. He knew about the sexual sins you were going to commit, as well as the lust in your heart. He knew about the greed and the lifestyle you would pick which is contrary to Him and His will for you. He knew, and it is exactly because He knew that He came. We needed Him, even before we knew we did.

So today, whatever you are struggling with, He knows. There is no secret, there is no mystery, God knows all of it. And despite that, He continues to love you undiminished. His love is unconditional, His love is everlasting and God is faithful to His people. Yes, your sin can grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). But He will not abandon you despite you breaking His heart with your sin. You can only grieve someone who cares, someone who does not care is unaffected by what you do to hurt yourself. He is still holding on to you, don’t hold anything back.

And if you have not yet recognized or understood the reality of your sin and sinfulness, still Jesus’ sacrifice is there for you. But in the face of true love, and overwhelming compassion for you as a sinner, how can you not realize that someone will be held accountable for your sins? Either you will pay for those sins, and you can’t, or you can receive Jesus’ offer of redemption and what He has done on the cross can account for your sins and sinfulness along with countless others who have turned to Him. To the last, God holds out His love to an ungodly world. Yes you, the ungodly!

Continue reading
1010 Hits

Veteran's Day 2014

b2ap3_thumbnail_vets-remembering-all-who-served.jpg

Lord God, I thank you for those whose hearts You have inspired to serve as a part of a volunteer military force to protect our way of life and values from those who would seek to harm us. Since 1776, there have been millions who have offered themselves for the sake of others, thank You. I pray they would know the gratefulness of a nation for their service. And for those who are still actively serving, God I pray you will keep them, protect them, and help them sense your presence in their lives. Draw them close to You, especially in the darkest hours when danger lurks, and show them Your grace. Amen.

Continue reading
732 Hits

Smuggling the Truth

b2ap3_thumbnail_Bible-smuggler-Hebrews_13-small.jpg

Mihai was used to coming to the border crossings and having guards stop him and ask questions. They would order him out of his car, and sternly ask him about who he was and why he was entering their country. “Are you coming here to see someone?”, “Who are you going to see?”, are questions they would ask as they checked his paperwork. And as one guard asked questions looking at Mihai for signs of something suspicious, the other guard was looking around in his car for anything worth taking a second look at, especially guns. It was always nerve racking, but Mihai knew the process and patiently worked through it.

Mihai had been doing this for years now, it was a way of life for him as he traveled back and forth out of Communist countries smuggling Bibles and other Christian literature. Ever since his surgery which cost him both legs to amputation nearly to his hips, he had struggled to get around, but he was committed to getting God’s word into these countries. He would stuff literature in his car anywhere he thought the guards would not find it, and he would also stuff literature into the hollow of his legs to increase the amount of literature he was bringing across the border.

1 Corinthians 15:58Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

We all have our reasons for why we are not actively engaged in some type of ministry. We all struggle with commitments to many different projects, responsibilities, and pastimes we are involved with. In fact, most of us are committed to things on our calendars that we did not want on our calendars, but because of our commitments to our jobs or family they end up on our calendars. In today’s active lifestyle, we are often just glad to go home and relax if at all possible before the next calendar event surfaces.

But how many of those things have any lasting or eternal value? Are there any events scheduled on your calendar that could be dropped for something that does have eternal value? Or perhaps you really cannot go, you cannot make any changes right now. Could you welcome foreigners into your world so you can share the gospel of Christ with them? Could you take the time to learn about others and step into their world to share the gospel? Or perhaps you could support someone who is going? Support them in prayer and financially to ensure they are able to go? Mihai used his “disadvantages” for the work of the gospel. Literature in the hollow of his legs would have made it more difficult to simply walk, but he was committed to bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Be honest with yourself, all of us have more down-time than we are willing to admit. Taking the gospel to others does not have to be a full-time missionary position, it can be fit into those small areas of life we occupy with TV, games, or whatever else is filling time in our lives.

What will you commit to? Are you willing to do for the Truth of Christ what others are willing to do for a lie? Pray, and then look for open doors that God is bringing into your life because He will bring opportunities. You just have to look. 

Continue reading
560 Hits

God's Unstoppable Team

b2ap3_thumbnail_unstoppable-God-team.jpg

There is a sword that cuts two ways within modern Christianity in America. That sword is marketing. A few years back, pastors and church leaders discovered commercial marketing and began using it in incredible new ways. The result was smart, professional, and tremendously effective commercialism that was bringing people into their churches better than ever. As a commercial artist, I was and still am, impressed by the modern advertising campaigns used by churches all over the U.S. While some pastors and churches have in more recent years begun utilizing crass and gimmicky marketing, most churches are satisfied with being effective in communicating who they are and what they are about. This was a great boost to churches who could afford the use of such marketing in terms of communication and advertising.

But then there is the other side of the sword’s cut. This venture into commercialism has brought with the marketing, a consumer mentality about church like never before. Folks look at all of the marketing campaigns, seek out a church that will meet all of their personal needs, and begin attending. If that church does not meet their needs in a satisfactory way or there is something new and cool happening in town, they will leave that church and find another that “really does it for them.” While most pastors dislike the consumer mentality by which many people approach church searching and choices, unfortunately they have been a major contributor to the formation and existence of this mentality.

A further problem that has resulted in these advertising and marketing campaigns is seeing the consumer mentality leading to a tremendous individualistic view of church life and Christian living. Chuck Colson saw this years ago.

Many Christians have been infected with the most virulent virus of modern American life, what sociologist Robert Bellah calls "radical individualism." They concentrate on personal obedience to Christ as if all that matters is "Jesus and me," but in doing so, miss the point altogether. For Christianity is not a solitary belief system. Any genuine resurgence of Christianity, as history demonstrates, depends on a reawakening and renewal of that which is the essence of the faith—that is, the people of God, the new society, the body of Christ, which is made manifest in the world—the church.” – Chuck Colson, The Body (Word, 1992), p.32

Many churches experience this radical individualism, and struggle to find single members and families who are willing to commit to a local church. They struggle with folks who will not choose somewhere to attend which they see as a place to use their spiritual gifts for the good of the body of Christ, a place where they are committed to the rest of the members in real and very personal ways, and somewhere they can raise their families as a part of a larger community of believers. Some churches are returning to advocating membership, and others discipleship as a means of gaining more committed members. But these concepts do not work with many folks who are locked into consumerism. What is needed is a new way of seeing the world, a new way of seeing their lives as members of the unstoppable God’s team.

Romans 12:4-5For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

When we were redeemed back to God, we were also redeemed into the body of Christ. We are no longer individuals, we are members of one another as Paul describes it. We were never meant to live the Christian life alone, we were meant to live it in tandem with every other person who has been redeemed by Christ. Our lives are forever fundamentally joined with one another and until we come to this, we will never know God in the way He intended. No, this is not easy, people can be a real pain at times… I know this. In fact, God knows this better than we do, and still He calls us to live in community with all of our faults and foibles. And further, you must recognize that it is only in being in community that we will discover God in far more real and intimate ways.

Ephesians 3:17-19so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Together, says Paul, together we discover God and comprehend His great love. And as members of the household of God, we are members of His team to reach and change the world. I would encourage you to stop thinking “me” and start thinking “we” and yourself as a part of something far bigger and more powerful. Commit yourself to a local church with all of its faults and crazy people; offer yourself personally, financially, with your time and abilities, and with the gifts that God has given you for the whole church. You will be amazed at how much more real and intimate your relationship with others and with God will grow. God is an unstoppable force, and He has brought us onto His team.

Continue reading
1581 Hits

What About Doubt

b2ap3_thumbnail_what-about-doubt-small.jpg

You can end up doubting everything… God, the love of your spouse, the security of your position at your place of employment, everything. Doubt is not an isolated feeling that is exclusive to religion and faith, it finds expression in many different areas of life. What does it mean to doubt? To doubt means to be uncertain about something; consider it questionable or unlikely; to hesitate to believe.

And doubts can arise for a large number of reasons. Tragedies that happen in our lives can cause doubts, stress and burn-out can cause doubts, and circumstances can cause us to hesitate over the validity of something. Because God is unseen and life doesn’t always go the way we plan, it is easy to fall into doubts about God.

There is a certain amount of fear related to doubts as a person who follows Christ, we fear there is something wrong, that we should not have doubts. And worse, some people from the pulpit create or aggravate those fears by telling folks they should never have doubts. As a pastor, I want to encourage you to not fear. Everyone has doubts before coming to faith in Christ, and after you have come to faith there will be times when there is a nagging question that just doesn’t seem to be getting answered about life or living. It’s alright, God is not afraid of your doubts and you should not be either. When Jesus was talking with a desperate father crying out for his son to be healed, Jesus told him to believe.

Mark 9:23-24And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Jesus was not offended at the lack of faith in the father’s heart, nor was He offended by his statement, “Help my unbelief.” God knows our struggles and the way circumstances can weigh on us creating doubts.

Doubt is something almost every person experiences at some point, yet something that the church does not always handle well.  I’m an advocate of doubt, because that’s why I became a Christian in the first place.  I started doubting some of the crazy things my church taught me when I was growing up!  (This was a most unhealthy church, I must say.) I’m also impressed that the Bible includes so many examples of doubt.  Evidently God has more tolerance of doubt than most churches.” – Philip Yancey, author

I agree with Yancey, doubts can be useful if handled correctly. Doubts, if we face them, take the time to explore the answers, then embrace the answers, doubts can enable us to move on toward greater faith. But there is a danger with doubts as well. Doubts, if we let them linger, don’t search for genuine answers, never embrace the answers, we can find ourselves with unreasonable and destructive doubts. For example, after the resurrection, Thomas doubted.

John 20:26-28After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

                                                       

Even facing the answers to his doubts, Thomas refused to believe. So Jesus, came to him and showed him the reality of things to match his doubts and dispel them. But Thomas had already begun to move into a settled position of doubt so Jesus says, “… do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Jesus tells Thomas to step away from his settled heart of doubt and embrace the answers Jesus was providing him. I have encountered folks like that, people who have moved into a place of settled doubts. They are no longer looking for answers, they no longer believe there is any sufficient answer for them. They call themselves agnostics, but they are practical atheists. You never arrive at this place by facing your doubts, you only arrive here by not facing them.

Don’t be afraid of your doubts, face them, and go looking for answers because there are answers and Jesus will meet you there and provide them for you. If you are someone who has moved to a settled heart condition of unbelief, I would encourage you to not give up, God will meet you as well. The answers are out there, but you must be willing to embrace them. “do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 

Continue reading
892 Hits

Just one last post about Jesus and homosexuality

b2ap3_thumbnail_just-one-last-post-about-Jesus-and-about-homosexuality-small.jpg

I wanted to post just one more time on this subject and be done. There are just a few more thoughts I want to be clear about.

This is not about hating anyone. Despite the bad behavior of some in our community of Christ-followers, well-intentioned or not, the Church of Jesus Christ is about loving others – our neighbors, as ourselves. In the culture warring, all of us have had our days of bad behavior and ill-will toward our opponents, and no one can deny this. Bad behavior aside, those who follow Christ are not about hating anyone. This is what Jesus displayed in His earthly ministry and this is the example we seek to also pursue. Nevertheless, when confronted with a destructive lifestyle and something which is damaging to humanity, Christ-followers are compelled to engage on behalf of humanity. We throw up warning signs of impending problems. Some have held our traditional principles too high as an ideology, but this is a mistake which all believers are trying to deal with. As redeemed sinners, we know the destructiveness of sin and everything within us is compelled to stand in the gap and try to prevent others from destroying themselves.

This is not about refusing love to anyone. Nor is this about rejecting one love relationship for another based upon our own preferences. Believers who understand the LGBT community, understand love exists, sometimes even deep affection for people of the same sex. While some deny this being a reality, this is not a rejected concept overall among the Evangelical community. Far from denying love to anyone, our hope is to introduce all homosexuals to the one true love that is available to all of humanity. To introduce all men and women to the God who loves us enough to sacrifice Himself in order to redeem us back to Himself. The one who is Love, its very source and fountainhead, offers Himself to us.

So why do Christ-followers oppose same-sex unions? Why are Christians taking the fight through the political process? Why do Christians stand in opposition?

The whole of our opposition is based in the sacredness of marriage and the sacredness of sex. With purpose and with design, God has created and blessed these as a part of human existence. They are ordained by God and not something of the designs of man, nor are they for the purposes of man’s determination to pervert or alter their value and meaning. You can debate this all day long if you have chosen to be an atheist, this is your right. But we believe this to be the truth about sex and marriage, God’s intended design from the beginning of creation, and reiterated by Jesus himself.

Matthew 19:3-6 “{Some} Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful {for a man} to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created {them} from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? 6 "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

So we will love with all our hearts, everyone, no matter what their favorite sin is. But we love God more, and are committed to His word the Bible and will not turn from either for the sake of convenience or for the sake of relevance or compliance to shifting cultural norms. Accuse us of hatred, but the truth is, Christians are here for the very ones who hate us and reject the God we represent… even if we represent Him in a less than perfect way. God help us to love. 

Continue reading
555 Hits

More about Jesus and Homosexuality

b2ap3_thumbnail_more-about-Jesus-and-about-homosexuality-small.jpg

As I mentioned in one of the comments in yesterday’s post about what Jesus said about homosexuality, it is impossible in this Facebook format and space to present all of the issues and arguments. Yesterday’s post was only addressing the problems with notable leaders in the Christian community not representing the truth about Christ or what God has clearly said about homosexuality. The following is a little long because I wanted to address a few issues. I hope you will indulge me.

In my fifty plus years of living, I have never seen an issue so deliberately manipulated upon the American public. The result of this is an issue that is virtually impossible for the average person to lightly look at and be able to understand the various positions regarding homosexuality. Because this is the case, I am going to be blunt and clear about what I write. Please hear me.

I have engaged homosexuals in conversation and debate, I have been reading books and articles written by homosexuals and lesbians, and I have labored all along the way to discover what is true and what is not. I want to understand, I want to know. What is abundantly clear to me about this subject more than anything else at this point, is that the mass majority of people in America hold views and opinions about this subject that are too often almost wholly based upon emotion rather than facts and reality. This is where many Americans are, especially the newest two generations we are looking at, the Millennials and the ones following behind them.

I am going to agree with some of you about how badly the Church in America has handled this subject because I have seen it first hand and have studied it consistently for a number of years. You see, I saw this issue begin as a movement socially and politically when I was in college a number of years (the 80s) ago. The media talks about how this issue has risen so fast, but it hasn’t. The LGBT political lobby, and movers and shakers within the homosexual lobby have been working on this for decades. Using media, social campaigns, and the public school system, they have managed to turn social values. It is only recently that their efforts under Obama have paid off. But all along the way, the American Church and its leaders have not realized what they are dealing with. Nor have they understood how they were being manipulated.

One of the areas where the Church went wrong was in not maintaining some sense of who and what they were dealing with. Understanding this is pivotal to knowing what to do. You are not looking at one cohesive front when you are looking at the homosexual community. There are a variety of people involved in this lifestyle, and with many different reasons for being there. So when you are dealing the political arm of the LGBT community, you are not dealing with the folks who are being used by the political arm, and are confused, hurting, and do not want to stay in the lifestyle. But they are pressured into doing so, harassed in fact. You really have to know who you are talking to. This takes time and you must build some level of relationship. The political folks trying to force social change in America on this issue quite honestly will not listen to you unless you are agreeing with them. No matter how nice you are, this is the reality. And on the other end of the spectrum, the hurting ones looking for real answers are afraid of turning to the Church because Evangelicals have been so ugly through the years, but I try.

The other thing you will have to wade through is the ocean of lies surrounding this issue. Facts and reality have literally been buried under a mountain of lies that many Americans, including some Christians have bought into. To be fair, Christians have been lying as well. Shame on us for using the same techniques as those we oppose. One example of a lie that has been bought wholesale in America is the idea that homosexuals were born that way. There is absolutely no evidence that this is at all a reality. This lie has been said so many times at this point, people have heard it so abundantly they think it is true.

All of the research stands against the very idea of this being the way someone is born. In fact, if anyone is honest about this, they will have to admit that human sexuality is incredibly complicated. There is a legion of reasons for someone’s sexual orientation, to imagine pinning this on one single factor is ridiculous. Never mind the fact there is no research, none, zilch, nada to prove the idea of being born this way. And to the Christian who holds to this idea, consider this; if God created someone this way, as some have been saying lately, then the God you believe in is not only fickle, he is cruel. Why would God create someone homosexual and then condemn the lifestyle? This makes no sense. That is not the God I believe in. The God I believe in is consistent, rational, and coherent in His thinking and approach. The God of the Bible would not create you male and then condemn being male.

Still with me?

As some of you have said, we must consider our intentions when entering into relationships. I totally agree. I think the Christian who treats people like projects is missing the call to love our neighbor as ourselves. But this is another area where Christians must be more aware as well. Christians have become extremely hesitant to say anything contrary for fear of looking like a bigot or homophobe, or being labeled as such. The apostles were unafraid of how they would be perceived, and they were unafraid to point out sin. Just look at the book of Acts, the first two sermons to the public called out sin and called for repentance. Jesus called out sin in public and called for repentance in the gospels. Here is where kindness and discretion are needed, and gentleness and respect when we are engaged in various relationships and conversations. As I said in yesterday’s post; we need to directly address the LGBT community and sexuality issues in the public square, instead of hiding and doing nothing. But this must be done in a kind and gentle manner (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:25) and not in a combative manner, but it must be done. For the sake of the souls of those who are resisting God, it must be done.

So, you must understand who you are talking to, and this takes time. You must be a person who can be trusted and is safe to talk to. You must be someone who is compassionate and prepared to demonstrate genuine care and concern for the people you are ministering to. You must understand that we are all sinners and none of us is better than another person because we believe our sin is not as bad as theirs. You must be in prayer for them and for yourself, this is a tremendously complicated subject to discuss. The love God displays is one that will sacrifice all for us, but will also leave us to our choices, even if they destroy us. The love God displays embraces us even when we hate ourselves, but can be grieved by our sin. We should all demonstrate the love that Jesus demonstrated, not in some emotional and sloppy way, but genuinely love them enough to even say what is not easy to say. No, I would not lead with this, but if I never tell you about your sin, I love myself too much and fear losing a relationship more than seeing you lose your soul. But then, this is how we should treat anyone, no matter what their favorite sin is.

– I have more to say, but I will stop here. Thanks for reading. 

Continue reading
626 Hits

What did Jesus say about homosexuality?

b2ap3_thumbnail_what-did-Jesus-say-about-homosexuality-Bible-small.jpg

What did Jesus say and not say? And more specifically, what did He say about homosexuality? Because of recent comments made by some notable church leaders, I feel there is a need for clarity about what Jesus said and did not say. First, what did the apostles say?

1 Cor. 6:9-10 – “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

Rom. 1:26-28 – “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper."

Suffice it to say, the apostle Paul, more than once addressed the issue of homosexuality in a negative manner. There is no way around this without disregarding context, butchering these passages, and ignoring their obvious meaning. So where is the problem? The problems arise from comments we are facing from recent interviews such as this:

"Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent, and I'm still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won't find it because he never did."

This argument from silence regarding what Jesus said, and did not say, is dishonest whether intentional or unintentional. Certainly Jesus did not directly address homosexuality during His earthly ministry, this is true. But Jesus did not address a lot of modern issues. In fact, John tells us there was not enough time or books to fill, if we were to tell all that Jesus did. (John 21:25) But, to imply Jesus accepted it or believed it to be an acceptable lifestyle based upon silence, is quite honestly, contrary to the rest of scripture.  

Jesus came to reveal the Father, (Matthew 11:27; John 1:18) and often in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to the crowd, “You have heard it said, but I tell you…” Those truths from the word of God that were distorted and corrupted by the religious leaders, Jesus constantly clarified. But, for those issues which were not distorted, Jesus had no need to address them. Homosexuality though present in the first century, was not viewed as an acceptable lifestyle among the people of God despite any acceptance among the pagan world. Jesus is God come in human flesh, He is the author of the scriptures, the very “Word of God” according to John 1:1. So, in the truest sense, Jesus did address homosexuality, and there is still not a positive view of it to discover. Jesus did not need to address homosexuality in His earthly ministry because God’s disapproval was already declared in the Old Testament, and this lifestyle was continuing to be rejected in the first century among God’s people.

Lev. 18:22 – “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination."

Lev. 20:13 – “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them."

So while public executions have been dropped for centuries, God’s view of homosexuality has not changed and this is why Paul made his statements about it so negatively. God has extended a hand of grace to all people, no matter what their sin is, instead of public executions. And though we all deserve to die for our sins, Jesus instead died for us, taking the shame of the cross upon Himself to redeem humanity back to God. But sin is still sin and God still holds humanity accountable for it. And, God still finds homosexuality an ugly thing.

I am going to believe the best about my brothers and sisters who have chosen to make such statements as were illustrated earlier. I am going to believe they have been motivated by genuine compassion for the LGBT community. We need to directly address the LGBT community and sexuality issues in the public square, instead of hiding and doing nothing. This must be done in a kind and gentle manner (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:25) and not in a combative manner, but it must be done. For the sake of the souls of those who are resisting God, it must be done.

But ultimately, what God says is offensive to the sinner, and there is no way to get around this when it comes to homosexuality. Pray for them, be kind to them, reach out a hand of compassion to them, and show them who the real Jesus is. Tell them what Jesus really said. 

Continue reading
1674 Hits

Remaining a Free People

b2ap3_thumbnail_I-dont-think-we-are-in-democracy-anymore-small.jpg

When it began, Christianity was despised by some, considered suspicious by others, and embraced by a few. So how do you deal with social issues when you live under a dictator? What do you do about social issues when there is no voice for the people, especially for those who are slaves?

1 Corinthians 7:20-22Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. 21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave…”

Paul encouraged believing slaves to not resist their position. If there was an opportunity to be free though, they should take it. Have you ever considered this passage in light of where you live, and the life available to you as a citizen of the United States? I have been considering it lately. The apostle Paul did not choose to wage war on slavery and the Roman Empire, instead he admonished believers who were slaves to live in that condition. Coupled with this is Paul’s admonition to serve your master well in his letter to the Ephesians. (Ephesians 6:5-9) But we live in a different form of government.

As free people in America, we are able to serve God with far less persecution than many other believers in the world. The freedoms we enjoy under the type of government the Founding Fathers created, a Republic, rise from a government formed for the good of the people who were concerned for the overall good of the nation. This is something they believed was worth fighting for. In the last few generations though, many people take freedom for granted. Our tendency is to imagine they will always be there, untouched. And quite often, I hear many Christians declare “they don’t get into politics.” And others I hear from tell me they don’t vote… they are sick of the whole thing.

Today, Americans think we live in a participatory democracy, and as long as this remains the case, the active majority rules. This is the deal with a democracy instead of a republic, the majority rules even if what they want is wrong or destructive to the nation. This is how it goes when living in a participatory democracy, if you don’t participate, you lose your freedoms to those who do. These folks become the majority simply because the majority does nothing.

You are free, and I believe that even as the apostle admonished slaves to seek their freedom if they could gain it, he would admonish free people to do what they needed to do in order to stay free. This has nothing to do with some American view of things. Nationalism is a dangerous thing and can be utilized to destroy freedom, just take a close look at what Hitler did in Germany. So, no, this is not about nationalism. This is about what the apostles instructed us to do. As free people, to lose our freedoms simply because of our own laziness or apathy would be inexcusable. Yes, very direct and to the point… I know. Nevertheless, American Christians must stand up and take a position to maintain our freedoms, or we will lose them.
- Pray
- Vote

- Make your opinions known publicly

- Make the case with rational and logical conversation, not ugly statements

- Remember, this is about freedom as a Christian, not fighting for Americanism.

If we lose our freedoms, lose our sanity as a nation, it will not be those terrible people out there who did this to us. It will be us, doing nothing. The freedom we have in Christ cannot be lost, but losing your freedoms as an American citizen is not only possible, it is inevitable at the current rate of decay in our nation. So unless God is turning His back on our nation and we will lose our freedoms anyway, it is in our hands to labor to remain free people. 

Continue reading
599 Hits

Help is on the Way

b2ap3_thumbnail_ethiopia-medical-missions.jpg

With all of the talk about Ebola in the news, it can be difficult to know and understand the problems involved. But one thing is for sure, this incident with the Samaritan’s Purse medical team contracting Ebola was not a blip on the screen to be ignored. Well, at least it shouldn’t be, but for other reasons than panicking over one more threat.

You see, the Ebola problem was not an isolated incident when the two Americans contracted it. They were in that region for a reason. Many diseases we have under control here in America, are thriving in other parts of the world. Complicating the problem is the fact that many countries such as are found in Africa have little or no medical systems in place. Their governments have no money to fund such things and many are corrupt. In the larger and wealthier cities, medical treatment is available, but there is little or nothing available anywhere else. And this is true in many parts of the world, so contracting a debilitating or killer disease is only one flight away. In Richard Stearns book, “The Hole in Our Gospel” he tells about his teenage son traveling with him to remote parts of the world one summer to do mission work. His son contracted Tuberculosis while traveling with his dad. This is the reality of disease. While our medical systems have their problems, Americans have no idea just how good they have it.

The Samaritan’s Purse team is part of a growing number of medical professionals who are entering into medical missions. In fact, the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) has over 700 missionaries right now and more medical students from many fields are signing up to join the work globally. (CT – Oct 2014, pg 17) Right now in Africa, up to 70% of African health care is provided by these faith-based medical mission teams. Many of these missionaries are aware they are entering into dangerous regions when they volunteer to go, these are incredible people who are risking their lives to save others. They are choosing to follow in the steps of Jesus, and lay their lives on the line for the people of the world.

Christians have always been in the forefront of helping others who needed help, even at the cost of their lives. In the early centuries of the Church, Roman authorities were always amazed at how the Christians would stay in cities where disease had broken out to help those who needed them, while the rest of the population left the cities. The Black Death in Europe (1348-1350) is estimated to have killed 30% – 60% of Europe's population, and it took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The only people who were willing to help the folks suffering from the plague were the Dominican monks. (They were by the way, a great contrast to the rest of the Roman Church at the time.) The result was that over 90% of the Dominican monks died during this time of the plague. This is the heritage of Christians.

John 15:13Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

This is what Jesus did, and this is what these medical missionaries are willing to do as well. God has called them to take an active part in reducing the pain and anguish in the world. So while others are panicking about Ebola and a whole host of other threatening diseases, these brothers and sisters of mine are walking right in with medical supplies in hand. So the next time you hear a report about something like Ebola, remember this article, and pray knowing there is likely a Christian risking their life to save others there. What are you willing to do?

Continue reading
628 Hits

Best of Friends

b2ap3_thumbnail_secrets_to_a_strong_happy_marriage.jpg

When God created the first man, all of the creation was good. All but one thing, the man was alone. God said this was “not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) So God paraded all of the creatures he had formed before the man to name them, but among all of the creatures there was none with whom Adam could be a companion.

God then set out to form the woman out of the man. Pulling from the DNA strands and the molecular framework He already had in place, God formed the woman. Sex would follow, and so would procreation, but the primary reason for the union was companionship.

“When God brought the first man his spouse, he brought him not just a lover but the friend his heart had been seeking. Proverbs 2:17 speaks of one's spouse as your "'allup," a unique word that the lexicons define as your "special confidant" or "best friend." In an age where women were often seen as the husband's property, and marriages were mainly business deals and transactions seeking to increase the family's social status and security, it was startling for the Bible to describe a spouse in this way. But in today's society, with its emphasis on romance and sex, it is just as radical to insist that your spouse should be your best friend, though for a different reason. In tribal societies, romance doesn't matter as much as social status, and in individualistic Western societies, romance and great sex matter far more than anything else. The Bible, however, without ignoring the importance of romance, puts great emphasis on marriage as companionship.” ― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Keller’s point is critical. So desperate for what our hearts long for, people get married for all sorts of reasons, many very far removed from what God intended. I have seen men marry women because they wanted sex and needed something to quiet the out of control drive within them, instead of learning how to control the drive. I have seen women get married just because they feared never marrying, and other women who married to provide themselves a comfortable life. The list could grow exponentially, a legion of wrong reasons to marry, all of which are only guaranteed to hurt everyone involved.

Becoming companions takes a long time, a lifetime in fact. Take an honest assessment of your marriage and see if you are companions or are seeking to be. Becoming best friends, companions, takes time and it takes work. You, not your partner must become someone who is a worthy friend. There must be:

  •  - A deeply rooted love for the other person for who they are, not who you want them to be.
  •  - Time spent enjoying something together.
  •  - Time spent working on something together.
  •  - Continually finding yourselves in situations where you must rely upon each other.
  •  - Continually being prepared to support each other, and supporting each other.
  •  - Selfless acts of kindness and affection given to each other with no demand for it in return, or with an agenda for something else.
  •  - A focus on the needs of your spouse and not your own first.
  •  - Working through very difficult times together, including very painful ones which have a way of either bonding people or tearing them apart, and coming out on the other side still friends.

I recognize the last item on that list is something no one wants to sign up for. But these things and more, make for “good friends” in marriage, and they are a good starting point. Oh, and “a friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) Seeking to live in God’s purposes will always bring us great joy, He made us and knows what we need more than we do. Today, commit with your husband or wife to turn your focus on becoming companions, if you have not already. You will discover all of that other stuff you imagined marriage was, will either be better, or it will be gone because it has nothing to do with marriage. 

Continue reading
623 Hits

People are:

b2ap3_thumbnail_hand-with-stone-heart-small02.jpg

I sat listening as the man was telling me about someone he had been “working on” (his words), and mulled over what he was saying. The more he spoke, I was reminded of how I had, in the past, treated people. Everyone was a target and when I was able to start to engage in regular conversations with them, then they became projects, something to fix. I see husbands and wives treat each other this way, parents as well treating their children this way. Now, at this point in my life, I see this and I no longer want to treat people that way, well… it is my diligent toil to not do this.

And the reason is this, “People are not projects, they are people.”

But in all of our cultural fighting and social strategizing, we tend to see people as the opposition and something to fix. We want to restore a lost society to how we believe it ought to be. Albeit with the gospel we claim, but more often than not, we are trying to get them to come into compliance with our view and not the gospel. Too often I see a certain level of arrogance as folks try and get other folks to see the world their way. I watch them enforcing a lifestyle as they see it ought to be, and not the gospel. Now I say, “I see this,” but it is because it is all too familiar to me since I have been there and done that.

Some folks, with a combative attitude, engage in conversations with other people in order to win the argument and not the person. The people who go at others like they are projects are in a similar place, their motivation is not from love, there is a pride problem connected to their behavior. It is hard to see because you believe that what you are telling them is going to be best for them, but the tendency is to be more focused on their compliance rather than the person.

What is necessary is to move in love (Mark 12:31), and the apostles also gave us some very clear direction as to how we are to interact with others regarding the gospel.

1 Peter 3:15but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect;”

Peter tells us there should be a readiness of heart and mind to provide answers to those who want to know, but he adds that this must be done with “gentleness and respect.”

2 Timothy 2:24-26The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

Here in this passage we see the word “gentleness” used, only this time by the apostle Paul. This word is often translated as “meekness” which means “power under control.” It was a term used in connection to a horse that was able to take a bit and harness; with all of its strength, it was controllable. But with Paul, and here is the key; we approach people with the truth in love and with the hope that God would bring them to repentance, that God would change them. It is not in our hands, it is a work of God. People are not our projects, we share the truth with them and wait to see what God will do. If you treat people like they are projects, love will always fail and you will not be treating them with respect.

I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” – Henri Nouwen

Continue reading
619 Hits

What is Love

b2ap3_thumbnail_what-is-love.jpg

Oddly enough, the most asked question by those doing searches on Google is “What is love?” Apparently there were a couple of reasons for this including some movie and the words to a song, but, this question was asked twice as much as the next question on the top ten. Crazy huh?

Perhaps it is because there are so many wrong ideas promoted in the media and in social media with deep emotionalism. People buy the stuff because of how the statement makes them feel rather than really thinking about what was said and considering whether it is true or not. For example, in 1970 a film came out titled, “Love Story.” It was in its day the chick flick to end all chick flicks. But in the film, after the male character in the story had done something wrong he came back to apologize and the female character says, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” And through their tears, people were saying, “Yeah, that’s right…” After years as a pastor and counselor, I can tell you love means you better be saying you are sorry… a lot! In the real world, you do something to hurt someone emotionally, an apology must follow. In 1996 the film, “Jerry McGuire” brought another statement that moved a generation, “You complete me…” which also had people in tears saying “Yeah, that’s right.” But, unlike the film, the truth is you should be complete as a person, or you will likely ruin whatever relationship you are in. But these are the types of wrong ideas that have created a slush of views on what love is.

When you were born you experienced love from your parents, and for most children, that helped set the first concepts of love in your heart and mind. If you had siblings, this was another type of love you experienced and still know today. While I know there are some exceptions to this, there are always exceptions, these types of love created a bond between you and your parents and your siblings that is like no other. The depth of feeling in these relationships is powerful.

As you grew older you experienced your first crush on someone, your heart was all “twitter pated” as a wise owl once stated. You could not think of anyone else, they were the most beautiful or the most handsome creature on the face of the earth and they could do no wrong. But you soon got over that emotion and came back to earth… until the next one. During this time, along the way you developed friends, some of whom stayed friends for years. These were people whom you loved deeply as well, but it was different. Again, an emotional bond was formed that altered your lives for a lifetime, a bond which changed you both.

Then one day, you met someone. Someone who seemed to really fit, someone you not only felt emotionally stirred by, but someone you could imagine spending your life with. They were someone you were willing to make a real commitment with, someone you could imagine being married to and having children with. You could see they were not perfect, but they were great anyway. So you embarked upon a love that all humanity longs for. But, if you did this right, you discovered later in life and marriage that you never imagined you could love like this. You discovered that the love you thought you felt for your mate was nothing like the love you feel twenty or more years later. Then you had children and a whole new type of love exploded into your world. Oh, and grandchildren, well that is a powerful love.

And through the years, if you did not completely drown out the knowledge and sense of it with life and too much activity, and sin… there was one more love you discovered. God’s love. Love enough to send His only Son to die for your sins, love enough to sacrifice everything to have you back with Him. This is a love unlike any other, incomparable love because He is love (1 John 4:8). The apostle Paul even provides us with a description of God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13. His love was showered your way despite everything you have done to try and ruin the relationship God desires with you. His love attributes worth to you no matter who you are and what you have done. This is a love you do not want to miss. Call out to God (Romans 10:9-10), He is waiting for you and longing to shower you even more with His great love. What is love? God is love.

Continue reading
602 Hits

Tolerance and Intolerance

b2ap3_thumbnail_intolerance-will-not-be-tolerated.jpg

When I was a kid growing up, in school there were kids I had to tolerate. They were loud and abusive, always giving someone else trouble. It was like they did not know how to go through a day without making someone else’s life a bit more miserable. They were bullies now that I think about it, but every generation has their own version of those. You know the type, they want to make everything go their way, even if it means pushing you around to have it that way.

But back then, to tolerate meant: accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with restraint. You put up with them; you didn’t have to like them or it, but you put up with it because everyone is a little different and you make room for that. Today “tolerance” is no longer simply a word which defines enduring a difficult person or situation, it is a social and political ideology. And further, the bullies are back, and they are using this ideology to push people around and make everyone comply.

But, this is what the bullies are doing. The fact they are doing this does not mean we are to respond in kind.

Titus 3:1-3Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”

We do not live in a Christian nation. Today we live in what is better termed a “pluralistic society” which means there are many varieties of competing ideologies in our society. Many of these ideologies are intolerant, but because of the automatic knee-jerk reaction to Christianity on the whole in our society, we are generally the only ones branded as “intolerant.” Oddly enough, the group which has surfaced as the most intolerant are those who are shouting the loudest for tolerance. As Christ-followers, we must rise above this.

Learning to live in a pluralistic society is a constant challenge… I am constantly speaking in a situation where there are diverse views, some of which are quite contrasting to mine, and to hold discussions with honest questions and without hate, without rancor, to do so in a civilized way, and to not have that bitterness that often times disagreements can spawn… Let’s ask ourselves one fundamental question, “What is the ultimate goal in a civilized society?” Is it really that we will all agree with each other? I doubt it, that is really to pursue the impossible. But what is possible, is that even in the midst of our disagreement, we will learn to live in a civil way as deep as those differences might be.” – Dr. Ravi Zacharias, speaking at Dartmouth University.

The apostle Paul did not call us to tolerance, he said we should be peaceable people, showing every consideration for all men. This is far more than tolerance, it is demonstrating respect and kindness to everyone, no matter what they believe. And in this place of being peaceable and considerate of others, this is where we take our stand and speak the truth in love. We are the people of the living God, we do not stand alone. So here I am reminding you, we can and must stand confident and speak the truth, peaceably. 

Continue reading
550 Hits

Living in the Seasons

b2ap3_thumbnail_four-seasons-H2O.jpg

I can still remember the times as a teen I was going through the battle with pimples, can you? I can remember my first crush, and my first date, ever… and graduating from high school and heading into the workforce. Getting married was quite a celebration also, a milestone in life they say, but for Jonnie and me it was only the beginning. Here we are 35 years later, four children later, a granddaughter and a grandson on the way. All of our children grown and out living life reaching for their own goals and callings from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

This is it, seasons in life. We have seen many of them, and you and I are in the midst of one right now. Just like we are watching as the beautiful Fall colors transition us into the Winter season, every season of life transitions us into the next. For the mother with babies, it is only a season where you will find life difficult because of diapers, baby spit-up, and not being able to safely go out in public as a family. But it is during that season you are privileged with the wonderful opportunity to give love and direction to a life which is unmatched by any other season. For the person still longing for a mate, still asking God every time you encounter someone new if that is the one, it is only a season. In this season you are forming you, don’t waste it consumed with looking for Mr. or Miss Right, spend it taking advantage of your time to draw closer to God and becoming a better, more mature and spiritual you. For the person who is struggling with a troubled marriage, it is only a season, work through it and you will discover another season on the other side that holds a better marriage that comes from fixing the troubled one you are in. There is even a season for death (v.2), it is also a natural process of life we need not fear. As a believer, death holds no power over us because Jesus defeated death in His death and resurrection.

We are all in one season of life or another. Every season holds something unique and wonderful if you will just accept each one and live your life accordingly. If it is a difficult season, allow God to form you through the hard times. If it is a wonderful time in life, enjoy it, celebrate it, and give thanks to God for it. 

Continue reading
631 Hits

Get Real Faith

b2ap3_thumbnail_authentic-faith-jeans.jpg

I have heard an idea lately among non-believers that goes something like this:

Well, you were born in America, of course you are a Christian. If you had been born in India, you would have been Hindu, or if you were born in the Middle East you would have been a Muslim. You really had no choice in that, it is where you were born that dictates what you believe.

This concept builds the defense against religion by saying that it is as common as the clothes you wear or the language you speak because of where you were born. In essence they are saying that you are not a believer because of your choice, you are a believer because of heritage and random chance because of where you were given birth to.

I would concede that there are many people who follow their family’s religion of choice in the early years of their development. In fact, I tell parents that they need to be aware of this because their children are learning from them what faith looks like. But there comes a point in every person’s life when they must make their faith their own. Everyone eventually has to make a choice about what it is they believe. In fact, these folks making the claim, are living examples of how their argument is not a reality since they are in denial of the Christian faith, while they stand in America making that claim. They have opted out of what should have been their religion of choice growing up in America, which was their choice.

I met a young man on the campus of Yale University while walking around talking with students. I asked him a few questions and it was obvious he had grown up in a Christian family home. I asked how his faith had impacted his life while attending Yale. His response was, “It didn’t.” He talked about never really making time for any of that during his first three years at Yale, in fact, he had lived quite the opposite of his parent’s faith. So I asked where he was now in his senior year. He told me he had “recently came to the realization that his parents were not there to make him go to church, not there to make him read his Bible or pray, so if there was going to be any faith in his life, it was going to have to be his own.” So I said, “You have made it your own faith then, it is no longer your parent’s faith?” and he replied, “Yes.”

Acts 2:37-42  “Now when they heard {this,} they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Peter {said} to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

This is the reality. You may find that many people live out what is a traditional religion where they live, but it has nothing to do with faith until they come to this point. Until their faith is their own, there is no genuine faith, no matter where you live. Like these Jews who heard Peter’s sermon, who realized their spiritual condition and desired to make their faith authentic, everyone must come to authentic faith. “Pierced to the heart” with the truth of where they were spiritually and realizing what Jesus had done for them, they sought to make their faith their own. Where is your faith?

Continue reading
583 Hits

Grace Abounds More

b2ap3_thumbnail_more-grace-in-Christ-than-sin-in-us-small.jpg

Perhaps I should address only those who are struggling with or against sin, but that should be all of us right? This is for those who struggle, strain against, and sometimes fail against sin… but hate it when you do. Who have anguished over their sin, and have hated yourself because you fell again. This is not for those who have become accustomed to their sin, or those who long ago comfortably settled in with their sin. But, perhaps you can find something of interest here as well.

Romans 5:18 – 6:7 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be {in the likeness} of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with {Him,} in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.”

When sin entered the world through Adam, all of humanity bore the tragedy of that moment in human history. All of us were plunged into the darkness and horror of sin and its consequences even unto this day. But as horrible as that sin grew among humanity with murder, lust, greed, and a whole legion of other sins… GRACE abounded all the more! Despite all that we had done, grace and mercy extended His hand to us in Jesus Christ. So as Paul says, sin and death entered into the world through one man, but forgiveness and life entered in through one man, the man Jesus the Christ. Where ever sin is, grace extends, however sinful we are, grace abounds beyond that to offer us redemption through Jesus Christ! Bring your life to Christ and leave it all with Him, abandon yourself and receive Him instead.

This is not to make allowance for us to continue to sin, “May it never be!” says the apostle. Everyone who has come to Christ and found forgiveness, cleansing, and redemption has been delivered from sin’s grip. We can walk in newness of life! And we should. So there is no permission to continue to sin once we come to Christ; there is freedom to live for Christ like we never could before.

If you are struggling today, fighting and losing the war against sin in your life, take heart. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Take comfort beloved, there is more grace in Christ than there is sin in us.

Continue reading
1281 Hits

Sacred and Reliable

b2ap3_thumbnail_bible-old-worn-small.jpg

Every religion claims to have some sacred scripture, scriptures, or writings. All of them are felt to be inspiring to those who hold to that particular religious system, and they turn to these inspiring writings for direction and strength in daily living. Some of these ancient writings are older than others because the religion is older, and some are quite honestly, not reliable in relation to anything outside of that faith system. But the followers of those faith systems tend to not really be concerned about such things, so long as the religion they follow continues to inspire them.

What I believe in my heart, must make sense in my mind.” – Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Like Dr. Zacharias, I embrace inspiration, but it must make sense in my mind, there must be a reason behind it. I know some would say, “What does it matter, so long as people are happy?” or “All religions are the same, so what difference does it make?” I give you another reasoned response from Dr. Zacharias,

Truth, by definition excludes.” – Dr. Ravi Zacharias

All truth is not the same, every religion has an element of exclusivity to it, all religions promote the idea they alone have the truth. This claim is not something only Christianity makes, all religions say this. But, if it were true, all religions are the same and all religions were worshipping the same God, then they would have some core beliefs that remain constant. But the belief of Buddhism holds there is essentially no God, while Hinduism holds to literally thousands of deities, and Christianity holds to only one God. If everyone were truly holding to one belief, this one element would not be so divergent. (Oh, and the elephant argument doesn’t work, but there is no room here.)

When it comes to sacred writings, I am especially concerned that what I have is truth; not what is true for today, but enduring and all-encompassing truth. So I need something that is inspiring, but which also has reasonable evidence that truth is contained in its pages. Why should I believe that one sacred writing is more reliable than another? What evidence is there to make a case? Again, I know there are some who do not consider their faith in such perspectives, but for me, how can I hold to anything especially if it has already been demonstrated to be either a lie or nothing you can rely upon outside of that faith system and inspiration? Christianity is not a faith that is about “blind faith,” God even calls to us and says, “Come, let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18)

Consider the evidence:

The number of writings, or manuscript copies from which we can determine the reliability of the text, the meaning of the text, and the truth of the text:

  • Caesar: what we know about Caesar comes from 10 manuscripts.
  • Plato’s “Tetralogies” are contained in 7 manuscripts.
  • Tacitus, is considered the most reliable ancient historian, and much of what we know about ancient Rome comes from Tacitus. And while we know some of the books he wrote are entirely lost, we have 20 manuscripts of his writings.
  • The nearest contender to the New Testament would be Homer’s Iliad which 1757 portions or fragments of manuscript copies.

So, how about the New Testament? The most recent number for the New Testament is 23,000 copies of whole portions and fragments of the original manuscripts.

We have more and earlier manuscript evidence about the person of Jesus Christ than we do about anyone else in the ancient world including Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.” – Dan Wallace, Textual Critic of the New Testament writings

From the perspective of scholarly research, the Bible stands alone. No other ancient writing compares to the weight of evidence found for the New Testament text.

  • The reliability of the Bible has been continually reinforced year after year by archaeological research.
  • The reliability of the Bible has been continually reinforced year after year by anthropological research.
  • The reliability of the Bible has been continually reinforced year after year by the sciences as well. (No science has not disproven the Bible, it has continually reinforced the message.)

However you would put the Bible to the test, if you approach it honestly without bias, it stands the test. It is truth that is inspiring, but also with reasonable proof of being something I can rely upon to view reality from because it relates to reality, it does not pound against it. “What’s that in your wallet?” as the ad says.

Continue reading
637 Hits

Relationship tip # 1507

b2ap3_thumbnail_Danger-Landmines_01.jpg

In any relationship there are rules, some are open and apparent to most people, others are unknown and hidden rules. These unknown and hidden rules arise from our own personal experiences, our culture, our parents and the manner of how they parented us, and a whole host of other sources known only to the one who carries them. We all have these in our lives, no one is excluded. These rules all have triggering devices, we just don’t recognize we have laid them out where others can trip over them.

In the military there is a bomb known as a claymore which is a directional anti-personnel mine. Unlike a conventional land mine, the Claymore is command-detonated and directional, meaning it is fired by remote-control and shoots a pattern of metal balls into the kill zone like a shotgun. It can be rigged to explode by a trip wire so the enemy unknowingly steps into the trip wire and kills themselves. These unknown and hidden rules we have in our lives, and bring into relationships with us, they are similar to the claymore.

At times, these rules are so hidden, we do not consider them for the most part, unless someone breaks a rule. Once someone breaks one of these hidden rules, we are upset and hurt by the fact that the other person has hurt us. Unfortunately, we hold people accountable for rules we did not make clear in the relationship ahead of time. And even more unfortunate is the fact that sometimes we do not even know exactly what they did, or what rule was broken ourselves. We just know we were offended. Something hurt about it, something may have even hurt deeply, but we are unsure about what it was.

Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Are you a friend? Are you someone who is friend worthy? A friend loves at all times Proverbs tells us, can you say this is true about you?

Relationships are always important to all of us, this is how God made us. But relationships require work, some more work than others. In each relationship there are complications you must be willing to work through in order to understand each other, this is a part of what love does.  I hear people talk about how they have this relationship that was just so easy, so natural the way it all came together and I think, “Give it time.” Eventually, every relationship hits a wall of some sort and you are going to comprehend the value of that relationship and begin the work of repair.

In every relationship you bring rules with you into it, some known and some unknown. You must be aware that you can offend someone and not know you have done so, because you did not understand one of those hidden and unknown rules. And if you have been hurt in a relationship, to be fair, you really should do some self-examination and determine if you laid a landmine that you did not inform the other person of, and of how they should be cautious around it. Back up, take a good look. It may be a legitimate wound. But if the other person did not know they would offend you with it, you cannot hold it against them. Legitimate or not, unknown and hidden rules in relationships are landmines, unseen and lethal. You cannot assume they should know, that is the nature of the unseen, you step on it innocently and suddenly there is an explosion. Try to understand the issue that hurt you, talk with the person you have been hurt by, and work out the problems so the relationship can be restored. 

Continue reading
612 Hits