Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Mainstream Media, Tolerance in American culture, and Christ-like Humility




“In the 1950s kids lost their innocence.
They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term ---the generation gap.

In the 1960s, kids lost their authority.
It was a decade of protest---church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.

In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self.
Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion....It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.

In the 1980s, kids lost their hope.
Stripped of innocence, authority and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.

In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.

In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.”
― Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder


You start to wonder, looking at the current state of our nation, the United States, just what happened to bring us here?  It feels like a stacked deck sometimes, like an internal enemy rotted the nation so incredibly effectively to leave it now in utter shambles spiritually.  

Systematically faith in God, Christianity has been ejected from the country.  In every arena it fell under attack.  I woke up, having been saved by the love of Jesus Christ, to a shocking scene.  All about the cities and suburbs it's at hand and it's utterly astonishing.  Yet oh so terrifying, as well.  

They ejected it from the government buildings and from the schools.  They called it separation of church and state, but they were always separate in the USA.  Freedom of religion became freedom from religion.  

The schools cannot teach morals, even basic ones, because they don't want to offend anyone.  And would any school teach morals, some family would quickly get sue happy, no doubt.  The result is children with no direction, cruel to one another and full of all kinds of sin and evil desires.

The media explores depravity of all kinds with stunning regularity and extreme pushing of the limits.  This in my view is the most powerful weapon that slashes at hundreds of millions day and night, pouring in depravity through magazines, radio, music, the internet, and most powerfully, the television.  This is the key it seems, with the media so incredibly depraved, feeding children, teens, adults and so on a constant diet of temptation, temptation, want, want, want, buy, buy, buy, sex, drugs, alcohol, food, etc there is just such a small chance of even a well formed, united, and powerfully lead church to make any kind of meaningful impact.  With all the negative input, how does 1 hour a week come to challenge that kind of onslaught?  It's like a propaganda campaign.

When I first became a Christian, I had to alter my inputs heavily.  The Holy Spirit helped a lot in that work.  The first thing that went off was the television.  As far as the internet, I filled my news feeds and email, and so on with everything Jesus and Bible.  I found Bible movies, Bible apps, and Bible everything to begin to break the false messaging system blasting my head with lies and temptation.  

We as Christians really need to understand the culture we live in and realize it is not Christian.  It's not even near Christian.  It has been systematically assaulted step by step, by Satan, by those who serve him, whoever, and it has become an atheist hedonist paradise.  

Yet people still long for truth and for causes to believe in.  They long to be righteous heroes.  Maybe that's why so many young men are playing video games where they get to fight epic battles and defeat the evil forces of darkness.  We still want to have adventures it seems, and fight for righteous causes, but we do vicariously through the television or video game console.  

In the area of love, well, there is a lot of pre-marital sex and lots of pornography addiction and lots of record divorce rates and in general lonely unhappiness.  I guess sexual compatibility isn't everything when it comes to a lasting relationship.  Funny how sometimes we think, well, maybe God is wrong about this one issue.  Maybe we should try it out, since it makes sense, you've gotta be sexually compatible right?  But oh my, in the results, God was absolutely right again!  So I want to obey him, and stop trying to find a better way.

There is a lot of confusion, and it's hard to tell what people can agree on anymore about such issues.  But there is one thing this culture does still agree on, and it's tolerance.  Well, sort of.  

I don't know if you've been watching the news lately, but the owner of the Clippers NBA basketball team was caught on audio making racist remarks.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/29/us/clippers-sterling-scandal/

The outcry was astonishing.  Racism is one of those few no-nos in the United States today.  Sex, depravity, all manner of evil is just fine, but get caught making a racist comment, oh you're in trouble.  Or if you won't step forward and publicly endorse gay marriage, you are in serious hot water.  That isn't really tolerance though.  Not at all.  That's one group of people forcing their beliefs on another group of people, and publicly attacking them and punishing them if they don't step into line.  Of course racism is an awful thing.  Of course I personally disagree with racism.  So does the Bible.  But banned for life, forced to sell his team, and fined 2.5 million dollars?  That's pretty intense.  

I'm not sure what to make of it really.  The internet has granted "the mob" an interesting power to force change.  Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be useful change.  It's just getting people fired who won't agree with certain principles.  Like when the CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign for supporting traditional marriage.  It's strange.  The mob, the people, whatever you want to call it.. they won't step forward to stop wars in the middle east.  They won't step forward and say certain principles are important and we need to teach our children morals.  They won't do any of that.  But what they will do is go after anyone who is racist, sexist, or against gay marriage.  

It seems to be the natural pull.  People want to play the victim of certain things, and we want to applaud them for doing so. It's a constant liberation from this, liberation from, liberation from rules, liberation from God.  Guess who spearheads these efforts?  Once again, the primary media outlets.  The mainstream media has this country by a strangle hold.  With the mainstream media carefully controlling what ideas get out there, what events and news receive primary coverage.. Jesus Christ will be carefully ignored and generalizations and stereotypes will be used to drive people away from the message of eternal life.  Think I'm wrong?  When is the last time you saw a news piece that portrayed Christianity in a positive light?

Inevitably though, very little has changed.  Christianity has always been marginalized and persecuted.  Since the very beginning of the church in the book of Acts, they faced constant persecution.  We've always been on the knife edge of destruction and we will be again before Jesus Christ returns.  We know that from scripture.  So very little has changed and we are called to be what the Bible calls us to be: Humble, loving, and caring servants of Jesus Christ in the world.

I'll leave you with Philippians 2:1-11 some of my favorite words regarding mimicking Christ in the world today.  Fear not my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what the culture does, no matter how depraved it becomes, we are powerful because we have the Holy Spirit working through us.  And we can pray on these issues, pray day and night to see things change for the better in our home country.  Be watchful, be wise in your decisions, and pray for the truth to shine through the blanket of lies our children and friends drown in today.  

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)


Imitating Christ’s Humility

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.


12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

(bold added for emphasis)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I love science


“We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends.”
Aldous Huxley

Science and God are not at odds.  They never have been.  In fact they fit together quite well.  One could say, they fit together perfectly.  It's the leaders of the science community who pull away from any hint of religious thought and religious leaders who pull away from any hint of scientific truth that create these kinds of divides and polarities.  Just like when nations war, or political parties have it out with each other, or mega-corporations fight for best product at the lowest price. 

Francis Collins, co-founder of the human genome project responsible for mapping the human genome wrote along similar lines in his book The Language of God. 

“Will we turn our backs on science because it is perceived as a threat to God, abandoning all the promise of advancing our understanding of nature and applying that to the alleviation of suffering and the betterment of humankind? Alternatively, will we turn our backs on faith, concluding that science has rendered the spiritual life no longer necessary, and that traditional religious symbols can now be replaced by engravings of the double helix on our alters?

Both of these choices are profoundly dangerous. Both deny truth. Both will diminish the nobility of humankind. Both will be devastating to our future. And both are unnecessary. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshipped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic, awesome, intricate and beautiful - and it cannot be at war with itself. Only we imperfect humans can start such battles. And only we can end them.”
Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Well, he's getting old you know.  There is a great deal of respect that comes from an atheistic worldview in the realm of the science community.  Often if a scientist is willing to come out as Christian, they will be laughed out of the science community.  And then the New atheists write about them, like Sam Harris' in his piece "The Strange Case of Francis Collins."  As if Francis Collins is somehow so confused and old and weary that he's softened to the idea of religious thought, and so on.

In the same way, the religious community responded to science with hostility and rejection.  What could have been welcomed was turned away.  An unnecessary divide was built between science and faith.  Now we live in the results of that divide.  As science grew, flowered, blossomed, cured diseases, prevented illnesses, religion looked more and more hokey and backwards.  That never had to happen, but it did, and here we are.

But I would like to step out, on behalf of modern Christianity and say to all the scientists out there: I'm sorry.  I'd like to say I'm sorry.  I love your science.  It's awesome.  Religious leaders of the past shunned you and wronged you, put you death, set you on fire and so forth, and I'd just like to say I'm sorry.  I love science.  I love God.  I love both.  I tend to agree with Francis Collins view on God when he said, "God is an excellent mathematician and physicist."


Friday, April 25, 2014

Pain/Suffering in the Christian Life & the Solution




Pain and suffering is part of the Christian life. It's in times when the pain is high that confusion follows, and from there it can lead to questioning some of the fundamental beliefs we have as Christians:

Is God really morally perfect?  Does He really care?  Is he really there?  Does he really love me?  Is it all really true?

Pain, depression, anxiety, long-suffering.  They have the ability to call into question some of the very tenets of the faith.  I'm good at this one.  When things get tough, I start to question.  But usually there is something very fundamental as to why I'm upset in the first place. 

Guess what it is?  Yep.  You guessed it.  I'm usually trying to play god.  Sometimes I forget that I don't control the universe.  So I start trying to control everything, and make things happen just the way I want them to.  And then when they don't go how I want them to, and people don't stick to the script I'm thinking in my head, I get pissed off.  I start to romp and stomp and spiral into a bitter morass of self pity and angry depression. 

I'm not God.  More specifically, God isn't my humble servant.  He doesn't exist to give me a better life and get me a new car, better job, or perfect spouse.  I'm his humble servant.  He is God.  He has an awesome, perfect plan for not just my life, but for the life of every single person that belongs to him.  My part in all of this, is searching out God's will for me, and God's will for the world, and then finding out how to get on-board with that plan, and serve him faithfully, helping out whenever I can.

Really that's a wonderful revelation.  I don't enjoy playing god because it never works out.  I just end up angry, annoyed, and upset. So I've got prayers for times like these, the first one goes like this:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen."

or 

"God, grant me the serenity to love their best and never fear their worst. Amen."

or 

"God, help me to understand that I can't change people, places or things.  Help me to accept my situation as being just as it should be at this moment.  Nothing happens in your world by mistake, what needs to be changed is my attitude, not the situation. Amen."

 It's hard though isn't it?  When we fall into pain and suffering.  We don't always stop the process before we get very low.  And sometimes the pain is just entirely overwhelming, like when a long relationship ends or a family member passes away.  For me, often as an active addict I spent time in jails or mental hospitals.  The pain was always very powerful in jail, and I'd often read from the book of Job while within those institutions.  Bible reading does help during those times though, doesn't it?

Job 30:17 (ESV) The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. 

Romans 8:18 (ESV) says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."  

The things that we go through, that I've gone through and that I go through today are temporary.  80 or 90 years on this broken fallen sin planet will seem like the blink of an eye as we spend eternity with the Lord, face to face.  After say, 10,000 years of peace and incredible joy with God the Father, we'll probably think back on those 80 or 90 years that we had, and be so very thankful that someone told us about Jesus.  We'll probably be so incredibly thankful that our hearts were softened to the message of eternal life.  We'll be so thankful that we chose to plant seeds for eternity.  

And after 10,000 years of life in eternal torment, those who failed to receive the message of eternal life, as they were offered it time and time again in their 80 or 90 years, will probably desperately wish they had just one more day on Earth, just one more day, to drop to their knees and call on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, and the redemption of their souls.  But that memory will be their only consolation, as they endure pain, for all time.  

It will be right that they endure such, because I have seen the folly of the wicked and it is truly terrible.  They lead Christians into sin, they work night and day to confuse and shipwreck the faith of the elect.  They make play things out of vulnerable women and entrap vulnerable men to serve them.  In the meantime they are offered the gospel time and again, welcomed to this church, shown this verse, cared for in their hospital bed, handed a Bible by a stranger, but still they mock and ridicule those who tried to help them, and the people who tried to help them then struggle in the future to help others, because they're afraid of the same lash-out they received from the wicked.  So I'm telling you the truth, that God's judgment is right, true, and just.  He was just and right to offer them mercy, forgiveness, and grace many times throughout their life.  God is so very wonderfully patient, but after so many refusals of his loving mercy, his patience runs out, and so does their time.  

That is the way of things.  People lash out at the idea of hell, eternal torment, and so on.  They talk about it like an average person is just standing their, minding their own business, being good, loving others, but never met Jesus, and then God angrily tosses them into hell.  That's not the way of it.  These people are not innocent.  They are wicked.  And they've made sport of hurting others their entire lives.  They then receive the just deserves for their actions.  Punishment.  

We can't stand the idea of that today, discipline.  Yet it's how our government functions.  We applaud when a pedophile is sent to prison, or when a murderer is caught.  We applaud and cheer when animal abusers are caught and punished.  But somehow that should be different for God?  He needs to be unconditionally loving us no matter what we do.  Can you imagine if your parents were that way with you?  Never disciplined you once?  I've seen kids like that.  They're pretty scary. 

The point here is, there is a solution to the problem of pain.  Especially while in the midst of pain, the solution can seem so very far away.  But the solution is found in 1 Peter 4:19.  It says "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."

The solution is to reaffirm, in a powerful manner, utter reliance on God the Creator.  Reaffirm total trust in God, his ways, his plan, his Son, and his book!  Last night in an utterly depressed mood I did this, with prompting from God, by yelling my reliance on him at the sealing.  Loudly.  

Coupled with complete trust, is doing good.  In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, "When all else fails work with another alcoholic."  Why does this tactic so effectively help the alcoholic to stay sober?  Because it gets the alcoholic out of himself.  When you're helping someone else you don't have time to think about how miserable and sad you are.  In addition, when helping someone else you gain a valuable truth perspective on your own suffering.  Most importantly perhaps, you identify and understand you aren't alone.

Psalm 131 (NIV)

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.


 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jars of Clay, Gay Marriage, Atheism culture, How do we respond?


The world we live in is currently facing some of the most trying dilemmas it has ever faced.  We live in the bloodiest times of humanity, yet often in the United States, in the west we end up feeling like we live in a bubble...  In a place where such backwards things as warfare are far behind us.

Of course that isn't true.  But sometimes our leaders like to pretend we've become superior to our corporate history as humans.  Have we?

One of the things that I've come to deeply appreciate about Christianity is it's uncanny ability to pinpoint the truth.  And it's the very unpopular truth.  Let me tell you a secret: I love being on the side of the undesired truth.  I've always gravitated towards that, whether it was being a libertarian, a political activist, or even an investigative truth seeker.

It reminds me of Steve Turner's poem called "The Modern Thinker's Creed."  Have a look:

We believe in Marx, Freud,and Darwin We believe everything is OK as long as you don’t hurt anyone to the best of your definition of hurt, and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage. We believe in the therapy of sin. We believe that adultery is fun. We believe that sodomy’s OK. We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything’s getting better despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes UFO’s and bent spoons. Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Muhammed, and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher though we think His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing. If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its compulsory heaven for all excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
We believe in Masters and Johnson What’s selected is average. What’s average is normal. What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament. We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed. Americans should beat their guns into tractors. And the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good. It’s only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of society. Society is the fault of conditions. Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly. The universe will readjust. History will alter. We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds, And the flowering of individual thought.
If chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and when you hear
State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten! Troops on Rampage! Whites go Looting! Bomb Blasts School! It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.

You can read through something like that and think yeah, that is how our culture tends to think.  "Man is essentially good, it's just his behavior that lets him down" and that's just how it is.  

Looking back at how I felt, how I thought living in that materialistic psycho-therapeutic materialistic mindset, I realize how oppressive it was.  Everything they were telling me about filling out resumes, working a high paying job, coping mechanisms, anti-depressant medications, as I dealt with increasing depression in my early teens.. everything they were telling me well defined the material American society I lived in.  The oppressiveness was that something utterly and completely essential was missing, there was a giant vaccum in the middle of all of it.  None of the lines were colored in.  There was no way to describe what was missing to them, the doctor, the therapist, the student counselor, or family members.  They had very well placed the various areas and ideas on the consumer man and it all fit together so well, yet it was crumbling and just beneath the surface was the lies, the dead bodies, the suicide attempts, the drug addict world, and the child sex slave industry.  Quietly and conveniently ignored when discussing the essential good of man.

So let's step into today, United States, April 24th 2014.  I read recently that Stone Cold Steve Austin has come out saying gay marriage is ok, because stone cold says so.  The culture applauds, on their feet, cheering.  No surprise there.  The front-man of a Christian band called Jars of Clay has come forward now in support of gay marriage.  No doubt the country will welcome him with record sales and open arms.

Once again hardly anything of interest.  I don't even want to talk about gay marriage.  I really don't.  I mean look at the incredible challenges facing our world.  Entire continents of people starving.  We've got the middle-east on the brink of explosion in the divide between the Arab nations and Israel and her allies.  The sex slave industry, poverty, unemployment, drone wars, the European economies collapsing and we want to talk about tolerance and gay marriage? 

No, we Christians want to talk about how awesome Jesus is.  But they hit us with the question in the mainstream media, time and again, "What do you think about gay marriage?"  And why?  Because once we stand by the conviction of believing the Bible, they've pigeon-holed us as intolerant.  So for the rest of the interview no one can hear anything about how wonderful Jesus is, because they've tainted us first off.

It's important for another reason though.  If culture, people, opinion, even scientists or sociologists can prove that gay marriage is good and right, they've just proved that God, the Bibles, Christians no longer have the moral high ground.  Our ancestors have proven that personally Christians are sinners, but we always point back to our teaching, the Bible, and it's perfection.  They will continue to attack it.  

Ricky Gervais has taken to teaming up with Richard Dawkins to hatefully bash the Bible, and point out that the Bible is full of intolerance, hatred, bigotry, sexism, and misogyny.  I actually feel personally responsible for this one.  I had taken an interest in Ricky Gervais, and I took to tweeting to his twitter account about Jesus Christ, and finding faith, and how it might help him and so forth.  Then I see a month later he's teamed up with Richard Dawkins and the new atheists.  I have no idea if it's just a coincidence, or what, but in any case there it is.  

As many of you know I'm a conservative leaning Libertarian, and so I occasionally check in on the developments as far as civil liberties and government go.  Of interest, Princeton University recently released a study indicating that the United States of America is no longer officially a democracy, but now more closely resembles an oligarchy.  An oligarchy is where an elite group of influential individuals controls the course of the nation.  In our case it's generally bankers, mega-corporation CEOs, industry leaders, and so on.  If you'd like to read the full story click here.   

So Christians friends, seekers and brothers and sisters, that is where we are at in developments today.  What are your thoughts?  How should we respond as Christians in a rapidly atheistic nation?  

Do we fight to reclaim Christendom?  Or is it gone for good?  Should we redefine ourselves or flee the changes?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Resurrection Sunday: Living a life of Worship

Colossians 3:14-17 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 


Hi everyone :)  How are you all doing?  I hope you're spending some time with family and enjoying a life in constant fellowship with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  For this resurrection sunday sermon there are several thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to explain the roots of easter, their pagan connections and so on and so forth.  I'm not going to give an angry cry for the return to Jesus Christ in the foundation of the holiday.  I'm also not going to teach regarding any doctrines or traditions regarding Good Friday or Resurrection Sunday, or any of that.  What I am going to do, is teach on how awesome and cool Jesus is, and how great it is to worship and love him.  Sound good?

Awesome.

Hebrews 13:15 ESV Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 


What is worship?  Is it singing on Sunday at church?  Is it bowing before God on our knees before bed?  Those are definitely examples of personal corporate worship and personal worship in it's simplest form.  But included are many other forms of worship.  In Hebrews 13:15, acknowledge his name.

What does that mean?  Talk about Jesus!  If you don't know what to say about Jesus, read about Jesus.  The Bible, or some good commentaries or some good books on the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There are many.

1 Peter 2:5 ESV You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.


 Do you ever read 1 Peter in star-struck awe?  I do.  I love Paul's writings in a different way, but in Peter's work you can just sense a powerful clarity of interpretation of the grace of God.  1 Peter is a powerhouse book, it just blows me away every time I read it.  Romans chapter two and three, same thing, Paul knocks me flat off the chair every time.

But truly, it's not Peter or Paul is it, it is certainly their styles of writing, their understandings of God that speak through the word, but it is the Holy Spirit that is upon me, given to me by Jesus when he saved me, that allows my mind to flower in understanding of the scriptures.

Before Jesus saved me, did I give a crap about the Bible?  Nope.  Some old book?  Why would I?  But once I was saved, I could not put it down.  I was reading, listening, learning, studying, and it's still the same.. I can't put it down.  It's such truth.  It shines like a beacon above the din of lies, consumerism and foolishness that clouds the culture.

Psalm 77:13 ESV Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 


The Psalms are just wonderful aren't they?  I like to listen to Max recite them before bed, on my phone.  By Max I mean the audio NIV Bible.  It's quite well read.  I love the Psalms, and if you read through them you'll notice references to Jesus Christ, all over the place!  Just right here in Psalm 77:13, David writes your way is holy.  What is Jesus referred to as in John?  The way, the truth, and the life.  How does Luke refer to faith in Jesus in the book of Acts?  He calls it "The Way."

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 


Isn't it wonderful to know, totally know that God is with all of us right at this moment?  He's as much with me as I write this, as he is with you as you're reading these words.  He is with the persecuted Christians in Pakistan.  He is with the starving Christians in Gambia.  He is with the luke-warm Christians in Europe.  He is with the backsliding Christians in the United States.  He is with us.  Always with us.  He is not limited by space or time, with you he has all the time in the world, he's not rushing off to deal with something else, he is able to both rush off to deal with something else, and patiently and attentively minister to your heart, your mind, your intellect, and your very soul.

In Zephaniah it was prophesied, "a mighty one who will save."  Well now we may say with certainty and rock-solid assurance, "a mighty on who did save."  Who has saved me.  And you.  And if you don't know him, if you can't seem to muster interest in scriptures or old books, don't worry.  The interest comes after you make your commitment to Jesus.

And in Zephaniah 3:17 we see a good picture of how God ministers to us.  When we know him, he rejoices over us with gladness.  When we please him, which is conditional on loving his son Jesus, he is well pleased in us.  Because he is well pleased by his son Jesus.  And so we are adopted family.  But more than adopted, we are blood family.  We are made new.  Our old selves are dead.

God rejoices over us with gladness.

God quiets us with his love, when we want to cry out in pain.

And God exalts us with singing.

1 Chronicles 16:29 ESV Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;


So knowing that God is full of love and expresses it and actively gives it daily, how will we respond?

We ought to respond in worship.  Not because we're suppose to, but because we want to.  Worship is transformative in that way.  When I pray for a few minutes, read the Bible, attend studies, and go to church, my interest and wisdom grows.  As a result I've sown good seeds, and a garden blooms in my heart.  Let the garden bloom in your heart.  Plant seeds, a year later, shorter, longer, see them grow.

God can and will use you, if you know and follow.  A year and a half ago I received the Savior and started this blog.  Today it's reached over 20,000 views worldwide.  That's a blessing.  When I first received Jesus Christ, I had no car, no work, I wasn't in college, I didn't have any friends, and I was bankrupt.  I didn't attend church, or Bible study, I didn't attend support groups, see a counselor, I didn't serve or help those around me.

Today God is doing a work in my life.  Today I write a blog.  Today I have a vehicle.  Today I attend counseling and support groups regularly.  Today I tell people about Jesus.  Today I have a job at a Salvation Army homeless shelter in town.  Today I'm a baptized member of a church, serving on three ministries in the church.  Today I attend Liberty University with a 3.85 grade point average.  Today I have friends.  Today I attend Bible studies.  And today I'm clean and sober from drugs and alcohol.  These are works of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit he gives.  I can take no credit, only that followed directions and found myself with the Holy Spirit within, and new motivations to love wisdom, love holiness, and love helping those around me.  That is the testimony, the rock solid, concrete scientific data that cannot be ignored.  Empirical evidence shows, that a doomed drug addict has new life today.  How can it be..

I was talking with a young man and he compared faith to Jesus Christ in believing in Leprechauns.  I don't know any leprechauns who are worshiped by two billions Christians worldwide.  And I don't know any Leprechauns that can cure hopeless drug addicts and turn them into serving, adoring Christians of powerful faith.

Psalm 103:1-4 ESV Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy



My point here is that Jesus Christ can do the impossible in lives.  For that reason and for so many others, he is deserving of our worship.  Our worship is not simply singing or praising or prostrating before him.  No.  Our worship is a daily song, and it's sung by acts of worship.  You volunteer at a food pantry, you sing before God.  When you share the gospel with a friend, you sing before God. When you play with your kids, you sing before God.  When you give food to a homeless man you sing before God.  When you smile to a stranger.. when you give a hug.. when you share a Bible verse.. when you help those in need.. It's all daily song, throughout the week to your loving Maker. 

Psalm 147:1 ESV Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.


 So as we go out and enjoy the holiday, and attend church on Resurrection Sunday, let's remember to have an attitude of daily worship in action and thought to God Almighty. Recall what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  And believe and know that he rose from death, by the power of God, and now sits, alive and well at the right hand of God the Father.

I'll leave you with this powerful description of the life of Jesus Christ to close out today:

"He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men. Yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms.

His presence at the innocent joy of a village wedding, was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees, how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell.

He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of us self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save.

There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality."

James Stewart, Scottish theologian

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Sinful Heart of Man & Jesus Christ



Regarding Christian Counseling:
Tim Clinton defines Christian counseling as, "a triadic healing encounter with the living Christ, facilitated by a helper who assists this redemptive, healing process, helping another get unstuck and moving forward on the path to spiritual maturity and psycho-social-emotional health." Unfortunately perfection is not attainable for human beings in this life. As much as we'd all love to be perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, it just isn't possible. However there are many issues that can be cured of people within the church. It's very difficult in secular therapy to get rid of issues that just won't disappear. But in Christian counseling, the miraculous power of Jesus Christ is at work and can remove all kinds of addictions and difficult problems. I can attest to this truth personally. I was an active drug addict and alcoholic for twelve years. I tried to quit once on my own power and stayed sober for a year, but then relapsed. After calling out to the risen Lord Jesus, I've been clean and sober sixteen months. Jesus really makes the impossible suddenly possible. It's not mystical, magical, or theoretical, it's real. I was near death, and now I'm alive and bearing fruit in the lives of others.

According to Hebrews 10:14 (NIV) "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." That is the great hope of Christianity and the powerful changing power of Christian counseling. The helper is not the changer, Jesus is. Biblical sanctification is one of my favorite topics. I write about it a lot on my blog. It's important that day by day I become more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will point to an area of my life where there is a problem. I'll feel the shame of it, and decide it must be removed. Then I go to Father God in prayer and ask him to remove the defect. Often through the Holy Spirit he'll guide me to a book I need to read, or a support group I can attend. Step by step my crooked places become straight. Issues can be cured, that's sanctification. It's also true that it's important to be caring, because some trials never end. Through Jesus and effective caring and curing, much progress can be made in the lives of the lost and in my own life personally.
Regarding the Heart of Man:
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) says "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  It's clear from scripture that the very nature of every single man or woman born on the planet Earth is to sin.  The only man who didn't have a sin nature was Jesus Christ, the God-man.  Yet even Jesus was tempted, but did not fall to that temptation.  It seems to me that scripture uses the idea of the heart to describe the wicked desires (sin) inherent in all people.   

I never wanted to know Jesus or anything about God.  I wanted to make up my own gods, or play spiritualism all the while sinning.  And it took a very broken heart for things to change in my life.  Psalm 34:18 (ESV) says "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

It seems like often God will wait until someone is truly brokenhearted, and perhaps that is the time that one will be willing to receive a new heart of flesh, to replace the heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 ESV).  Scripture also tells many times that God is able to see the true intentions of the human heart, and he will "test" the heart (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). 

One we have received the savior, the Lord Jesus we can then draw near God.  Hebrews 10:22 (ESV) says" Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."  So once we know Jesus, it's important to have faith in him.  Proverbs 3:5 (ESV) says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."  Once we know God, two essentials are trust and faith, these are responses within the renewed heart.  

In conclusion, apart from God my heart is wicked.  Upon receiving the savior Christ Jesus, I am then able to slowly be sanctified through my life.  Inevitably though I will continue to sin, my heart is being changed, but it is not completed in this life.  In fact, it has already been completed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  My heart has compassion and it grows better now, but the completed work is Jesus Christ.  I received the gift of a coat of righteousness from him, so that Matthew 5:8 (ESV) is now true for me when it says: "“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

References

Clinton, T. E., Hart, A. D., & Ohlschlager, G. W. (2005). Caring for people God's way: personal and emotional issues, addictions, grief, and trauma. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recipes for the Babylonian Captivity: Guarding against Temptation in a Consumer Society



The question I'd like to ask is this: How do we go about living in the highly consumeristic society within the United States, and western culture overall?  It's a challenging question and the answer might not be as obvious as we might think.  

There are ugly little truths that hide just beneath the surface of our suburban paradise.  Our material prosperity has lead many to walk away from God, hate God, mock God, and deny God's very exist.  The result has been secular humanism, the idea of the superiority and flourishing of man, fueled by science, inherently quite useful, turned into a religion and worldview unto itself.  The result of materialism and the glorification of man in his career and sexual prowess has *ding* you guessed it, led to spiritual bankruptcy, addiction, depression, and depravity of all kinds.  

Let's go even further, because our country's surface has a great way of convincing one that it's all for the good.  That's the surface view, the average modern American in the suburbs, the city, and so on.  The picture is of school buses, green lawns, super stores, cherry pubs, and shadow lit marble top restaurants.  We've even got culturally bent churches, come once a week, play holy-time and head off for another week of sin.  

Now here we are, actual Christians, who actually believe and know Jesus is alive and well in heaven at the right hand of Father God.  We know everything around us is temporary, we know for a fact that soon all things will be made new, and we will literally enjoy a new world where God has made all things new.  We're saved from the fate of this backwards little smoke in mirrors society of the US of A.  We are no longer consumers, we are Christians, servants of the Lord God, by the work of Jesus Christ.  

When considering recipes for the modern Babylonian captivity one must ask: Are we captives?  We are stuck in the flesh until this world ends and our bodies are renewed for membership in the eternal city, on the eternal planet designed and built by the Author of life, the eternal Lord God of Heaven and Earth.  We are not living in a Holy nation, despite what some conservatives might say, or what optimistic liberals might claim.  This is not the Israel of old.  I'm not saying the United States is the Babylon of Revelation, though it could be, but it certainly does resemble the Babylon of old, the nation King Nebuchadnezzar ruled over. 

Daniel 1:3-7 (NET) The king commanded Ashpenaz, who was in charge of his court officials, to choose some of the Israelites who were of royal and noble descent— young men in whom there was no physical defect and who were handsome, well versed in all kinds of wisdom, well educated and having keen insight, and who were capable of entering the king’s royal service—and to teach them the literature and language of the Babylonians. So the king assigned them a daily ration from his royal delicacies and from the wine he himself drank. They were to be trained for the next three years. At the end of that time they were to enter the king’s service. As it turned out, among these young men were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But the overseer of the court officials renamed them. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar, Hananiah he named Shadrach, Mishael he named Meshach, and Azariah he named Abednego.


In the book of Daniel we see that the nation of Israel had been judged by God.  God allowed the Babylonians to invade and take captive Israel, and they were forced to live in exile in the foreign nation of Babylon.  When they were brought to Babylon, certain Israelites were selected to be brought up in the courts of Babylon.  It's interesting what they tried to do, first they gave them new names, and then they tried to acclimate them to Babylonian depravity, by feeding them fine foods and giving them fine clothing.  Daniel was very wise in his response.  He refused the food tactfully, by requesting vegetables from the guards arguing politely that he would grow stronger by eating vegetables instead of all the fine foods of Babylon.  He also did not keep the name he was given, but continued to use the name Daniel.  

Daniel 1:8 (NIV) says "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way."


There are two important lessons here, first Daniel separated himself from the luxuries of the culture.  He mindfully and tactfully refused to indulge.  We can do the same.  The small compromises we choose to make can very easily lead to larger compromises in the future.  We can eat simple foods, wear simple clothing, and be careful stewards of our possessions and money.  The second lesson, notice Daniel did not consider himself to be Belteshazzar.  He knew his name was Daniel.  We are not consumers.  We are not employees.  We are not evolved apes.  We're children of God.  Know your identity, as Daniel knew his in a foreign land.  Daniel was careful regarding sins inherent in the culture of Babylon.

We need to be careful regarding sin.  A lot of the sins in our society are just beneath the surface.  Some of these things aren't even sins, it's just best to avoid these areas.  So I'm going to walk through a list.  I'm going to list a truth, followed by what our response can be as Christians in exile:

Truth: Many of the Super stores we shop at employ barbaric business practices.  The most notable of these is Wal Mart.  Wal Mart in no small way, treats their employees very poorly, and worse they use near slave labor practices in foreign countries to create their products.  Learn more by viewing this documentary called: "Walmart: The High cost of Low Price"

In general many manufacturers, and super store companies will use products made in foreign countries, so it's a hard thing to avoid.  But as Christians, we ought to be mindful of such compromises.  There are many other companies that engage in ugly business practices, such as Apple, as well as others. 
  Response: Shop consignment when possible. Without even realizing it I found myself shopping at places like Goodwill, where almost all the products are donated, reused.  I shop at consignment.  Or I purchase from Salvation Army thift shops or Lutheran thrift stores.  That can be a small way of standing against human slavery.  I tend to shop at Aldi's for my food.  I'll go to second hand stores and dollar stores for my daily needs.  And it's hard to be perfect in this area, but we can be intentional about learning to get by with less.  Not only do we support reusing products, we also stand against human slavery, as well as train ourselves to be humble in our property and appearance.  Not to mention it just feels good to do it this way.  I can't explain exactly why, but it just does.  So give it a try.  

Truth: The music you listen to is communicating messages to your subconscious.  Symbolism, lyrics, messages.  Artists like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and so on contain lyrics that will impact your mind negatively.  You'd be surprised how many people, a lot of them Christians will miss this entirely.  The culture is communicating demonic images, symbols, lyrics and messages via music.  It just is.  In fact it's becoming more and more obvious in it's presentation of such.  Just watch a few minutes of MTV or VH1 (if you dare).  It's scary.  Watch a Miley Cyrus music video, or Jay-Z.  I see even a glimpse and I'm aghast.  Can't people see the blatantly obvious?  So be careful what you're listening to.  This actually happened to me recently, I was listening to Death Cab for Cutie, an indie rock band that I've enjoyed over the years.  Soon I realized I was listening to lyrics that were quite atheistic.  Same thing with another of my favorite bands, Dismemberment Plan.  It's everywhere.  Just as God works through us, the enemy will communicate his messages through non-believers.  

Response: Just be careful.  I'm not saying you have to, have to, have to switch to all Gospel rock all the time.  Not at all.  Just be cautious.  Pray, and use discernment.  It's not rocket science, if Eminem is making a horn symbol with his hands on his forehead, don't listen to that music!  If Miley Cyrus is half naked twerking on a guy in a demon outfit, turn that music off!  What are you people stupid?  A blind moron could tell that this is use of depravity and demonic imagery to impact children.  "Oh shes just expressing herself" wow, what are you a hollywood apologist?  Get real.  Its intentional, and it's wicked, back away Christian brother.

Truth: Movies are also communicating messages to your subconscious.  Sex, sex, sex.  It sells.  Of course it does.  Violence, blood, gore.  Some people want to dress up like zombies, some people want to dress up like survivors.  It is making an impact on your mind.  We all have certain desires to be part of epic adventures, to be a righteous hero against evil. Those desires are God given, and we can use them in our efforts at being powerhouse Christians in the world.  But what if the movies we watch are our attempts to meet those internal desires?  What if we're vicariously living through the adventures of superheroes like Batman and Luke Skywalker?  Maybe we need to start being aware of how much of our healthy desire to make a difference are being gulped up by thrilling movies.

Response: We can still enjoy movies to a certain extent.  Just don't go overboard, where it's becoming an addiction to television or media.  If you're starting to care more about the latest releases then about Jesus, *ding* red flag.  Total abstinence is possible, if you'd like, or just have healthy boundaries and limits on how much you'll watch.  Gather your healthy desire to make a difference, and sign some online petitions.  Post on social media regarding Jesus.  Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food pantry.  Start a prayer group or Bible study.  Start a blog even.  Eventually I got rid of my television.  But then I spent more time on my computer.  I'm a work in progress, but I don't watch as many movies today.  I live instead.

Truth: Television commercials are designed to successfully tempt you into indulgence.  Of course they are.  That's how money is made.  Here look at this ice cream sunday.  Don't you deserve it?  Here look at this beautiful half naked woman, if you drink this kind of vodka you'll have her for sure.  You need this kind of insurance, look at this brutal car accident, that could be you, see how much you need it?  Diabetes testing supplies, kitchen supplies, furniture, books, music, clothing, fad products like Iphones.  Look at this majestic valley, and oh my, look at this shiny new car.  We affirm your individuality, if you buy this car you're a true outdoorsy rebel.  You wouldn't want to be left behind would you?  You need this product.  

Response: It's a barrage of enticement and temptation.  Learn to shut off the television.  Angle your furniture so it's not all facing the television.  Better yet, put the TV in storage.  Invest in a book case.  Cancel the cable, limit yourself to basic channels.  Or get rid of all channels, and limit yourself to occasional movie rentals only.  However far you wanna go with it, it's your choice.  Just consider the larger implications. 

Truth: Being a sports fan can lead to idolatry.  Sports are fun, sports are awesome, sports are great to watch.  No sin in any of that.  But when you've got tens of thousands all dressed up, drunk, screaming and shouting, surrounding a field where sports are being played, you've got something that would look a lot like congregational worship.  Is our internal desire to worship being gulped up by following sports?  Is our internal, God given desire to follow and be a part of something special... being drank up by our allegiance to certain sports teams? 

Response: Enjoy in moderation.  Consider wearing a sweatshirt with scripture on it, instead of a Green Bay Packers logo.  Get a Jesus saves bumper sticker, instead of that New York Giants emblem.  Redirect your passion to the support and propagation of the Kingdom of God.  That's the best team to be on, it's the best team to root for, I'm 100% on that one.  Plus it really means something and it really matters, forever. 

Truth: Time is very important.  Consider how your time is being spent.  Are you having to work more often, and spend less time with your family because of unhealthy spending?  The culture says "time is money."  Well they're wrong.  The truth is, money costs time.  Time is infinitely more important than money.  The enemy, the evil one, when you've got lots of good things happening in your life, will try to squeeze you by claiming time.  It'll appear quite innocent at first, take some extra overtime at work, spend more time refining the bills to save every possible penny.  Pretty soon prayer time is squeezed out of the schedule, so is Bible study, and eventually the television is spending more time with the kids then you are.  Not good at all!

Response: Budget responsibly, learn to exist on less, and then allow yourself to work less.  50 hours a week is ridiculous.  In my view, 40 hours a week is too much as well.  Shoot for 30-38 hours a week.  Spend more time with your kids.  They need it so much, they really do.  Television is tempting them left and right, media is exposing them to sex at very young ages, their media role models are druggy sex addicted psychos like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, public school pushes scientific evolution as complete fact always all the time, and the doctor wants to force feed them amphetamines and anti-depressants.  They really really really need you mom and dad.  They really do.  Make time, and make even more time to teach them, instruct them, guide them up in all truth of the Bible and Jesus Christ.  Please, I'm begging you, gather the time.  

Truth: Prescriptions medications (like anti-depressants, ADD meds, anxiety pills) are screwing with your head.  Believe it.  The number of recalls alone should trigger bells and whistles.  In my considerable experience, of being addicted to medications like Adderall, Clonazepam, and Ambien, Doctors downplay consistently how addictive and mind-altering these chemicals are.  It's just scary.  Anti-depressants are just as bad.  I've been on Prozac, Lexapro, Cymbalta, and many others.  These medications are hard to get off of, and the true impact they make on the human brain is still largely a mystery to medical professionals.  

Response: Regard the Babylonian medication industry with severe skepticism.  Medications can be a wonderful thing, for diseases as well as some mental concerns.  However, we've taken it too far.  Giving such young children amphetamines is not just a bad idea, it's downright wicked.  Of course there are exceptions.  But many of our children are not those exceptions.  In addition, research birth control options to make sure what you're using isn't an abortifacient.  Don't ever take any bio implants.  It's not science fiction.  They already regularly "chip" household pets.  And now they're starting on children.  "In case they get lost."  Of course.  Be careful.  Recall the book of Revelation.  "The mark of the beast" in the right hand or forehead.  This stuff is real folks, it's in the Bible, get on board with it.

Truth: Processed foods, and genetically modified foods are making you sick.  There is a reason you have so little energy.  The FDA is very lax on how they monitor GMO foods (Maybe because a former Monsanto lawyer is the current head of the FDA).  In fact they aren't even required to be labeled.  You can thank Monsanto for that one.  Chances are almost all the foods you eat are both processed and genetically modified.  This was really eye opening for me.  If you'd like to learn more, a good documentary on the food industry is called Food Inc.  Click to view it. Also here is the trailer for a documentary called "Fat, Sick, and nearly Dead."  It discusses GMO foods and suggests juicing as a healthy alternative.  Consider renting it.

Response: Obviously switching to an organic food diet is the solution, but unfortunately I'm not able.  Because organic foods are so ridiculously expensive.  I'm too poor to eat all organic, so I definitely understand that this is a tough one.  But I try to at least be eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, even if they are genetically messed with garbage that's polluting my body.  Oh well, it's a goal for the future when I'm not quite as broke. 

Do you see how almost none of these issues of truth are readily apparent in our society?  Our media and television are very good at quietly avoiding the truth behind so many of our cultural practices as Americans.  Why?  Because media relies on advertisers for funding.  Advertisers of course want to make sure consumption is encouraged... you get the idea.

As Christians we don't have the luxury of ignoring these issues.  We know we'll all be called to account one day.  Thankfully Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to evade judgment and eternal damnation.  But while I'm on Earth, I want to please my heavenly Father whenever possible.  So I want to be considering these issues.  

I know it's a lot.  Make small adjustments over time.  Pray to the Holy Spirit for help discerning these issues.  We all have grace enough for all our failings.  For me, I want to be the best Christian I can be.  That means going against the stream when needed.  Remember what Daniel did?  He made up his mind, and stood his ground.

Daniel 1:8-21 (NET)But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the royal delicacies or the royal wine. He therefore asked the overseer of the court officials for permission not to defile himself. Then God made the overseer of the court officials sympathetic to Daniel. 10 But he responded to Daniel, “I fear my master the king. He is the one who has decided your food and drink. What would happen if he saw that you looked malnourished in comparison to the other young men your age? If that happened, you would endanger my life with the king!” 11 Daniel then spoke to the warden whom the overseer of the court officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 “Please test your servants for ten days by providing us with some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who are eating the royal delicacies; deal with us in light of what you see.” 14 So the warden agreed to their proposal and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days their appearance was better and their bodies were healthier than all the young men who had been eating the royal delicacies. 16 So the warden removed the delicacies and the wine from their diet and gave them a diet of vegetables instead. 17 Now as for these four young men, God endowed them with knowledge and skill in all sorts of literature and wisdom—and Daniel had insight into all kinds of visions and dreams.
18 When the time appointed by the king arrived, the overseer of the court officials brought them into Nebuchadnezzar’s presence. 19 When the king spoke with them, he did not find among the entire group anyone like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, or Azariah. So they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and insight the king asked them about, he found them to be ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers that were in his entire empire. 21 Now Daniel lived on until the first year of Cyrus the king.

Daniel didn't flee for the hills to become an Amish.  He didn't start a hippie colony on the fringes of society.  He stayed where he was, but resisted temptation.  He drew lines in the sand against indulgence and compromise.  Meanwhile he remained in the society to engage it, and God blessed him for doing so.  
 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A bit of encouragement for my friends

John 3:17 (ESV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

My brothers and sisters in covenant with the God who is real,

Blessings be upon you, blessings upon blessings as we serve out our remaining time on the planet earth.  Our God is love and he is power and he is mighty in strength!  He stands in power over all things, who can explain him?  Who can see his boundaries, or stand in judgment over his decisions?  

Yet the Earth is a spinning ball of trouble.  What sin has yet to be committed?  What sorrow have we spared ourselves?  Sometimes I'm so discouraged by the incredible problems facing our generation, but I take heart, for our savior has overcome the world. 

Conspiracy upon conspiracy, corruption on wall street, criminal governments, international banking scams, satanic imagery in the media, marxist atheism prevailing on college campuses, and the abortion genocide, just to name a few of these issues, and the task seems quite daunting at times.  I look puzzlingly at Christians who seem to mesh into the culture and embrace it, but it's not for me to judge their actions. 

Day in and day out I find myself faced with new situations where I may represent a bit of God's grace and mercy.  Mercy is forgiveness we have of our sins at the cross of Jesus Christ.  Grace is the redemptive work the Holy Spirit does in our lives on a daily basis.  

We are richly blessed to know and be in communion with the author of life.  

1 John 3:2 (ESV) Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 

 Is your heart directed by God?  Draw near to him not in word only, but also in your emotions, your feelings.  Surrender yourself to him on a daily basis, give yourself over obediently to his direction and loving guidance.

Give yourself a nudge to the homeless and the helpless.  When you consider walking away, or driving off, instead, fight through the fear and awkwardness, and serve those who have nowhere to stay, and suffer all manner of affliction.  This is pleasing to God.

Isaiah 58:10-11 (ESV) If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 
I'm honored and humbled to be here to encourage you: Don't give up the race.  Don't grow weary in doing good.  Keep the faith, day in and day out.  When your start getting tired of loving and helping others, go to God and confess your confusion and sadness to him.  He is not offended at words spoke in emotion, in fact he prefers our genuine tears to any false religious ceremonialism.  

Our God laid the foundations of the Earth.  He wove galaxies and nebula between his fingers, with no effort at all.  He rested for pleasure not necessity.  His thoughts planted the burning centers of stars in the far corners of space-time.  His whims sent rocks hurtling between solar systems.  His righteousness and curiosity set humanity on the Earth.  His justice saw the results of sin in the human heart pervert the creation into futility, but his mercy and grace sent the savior Jesus Christ into the world, and as such, all things will one day be made new.

Revelation 22:1-5 ESV / Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

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