Serving Jesus through discipleship

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

The Sinful Nature of Man

It’s everywhere! This weekend we heard of a devout Christian businessman, Dan Cathey, honestly proclaim the truth of the Bible; that God‘s idea of marriage, and his, is one man and one woman. For this proclamation of the truth, Dan has been at the center of a firestorm of controversy.


Chick-fil-A (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you probably know, Dan id the founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A. It is not secret that Chick-fil-a is run according to Christian principles. The politicians that started this controversy, apparently cannot stand that someone who lives by a set of immutable principles is a success in America. The mayors of several cities are threatening not allow Chick-fil-a to operate in their cities because of Mr. Cathey’s view. These politicians are declaring sin to be good and God’s best to be evil. I think even more they want to take over the church. That’s what politicians do when they can’t pervert God’s law from without; they attack it from within.

We see that God’s word has been undermined in at least 4 major denominations that have ordained homosexual clergy. It occurs to me that the laity of these congregations more than likely don’t read the Bible and if they do, don’t understand it. I maintain that if you are a Christian and don’t KNOW the word of God; do not feed on the word of God daily, you may be letting the enemy in through that gaping chasm. Why else would king David have said, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.”

Contemplate the words of Isaiah, “The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die! The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: ‘Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,’ says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”

We have a choice! Be a slave to sin or be a slave to God. Which do you choose?


Peter Pan Christians

Today I heard a new Term on the radio. The term? Peter Pan Christians!

This is also the name of the Sermon of Dr. David Jeremiah which I heard on his program Turning Point. The summary for this broadcast is listed below:

Have you matured from adolescence to adulthood? Or would you characterize yourself as having the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” refusing to grow up? Dr. David Jeremiah warns that the Peter Pan Syndrome can also reach into our spiritual lives as immaturity and lethargy keep us from growing in our Christian faith. As David continues his series from the book of Hebrews, he challenges us to mature in our Christian faith.

This message references: Hebrews 5:11-14

Are you a Peter Pan Christian? Find out by listening!

Burger King Christianity

What is happening to the Church that Jesus started nearly two thousand years ago? Would He recognize it as the institution whose members would live like He lived, bringing honor and glory to the Father who is in heaven? That same church today tells us that Jesus died for our sins; taking the punishment that we deserve, in order that God‘s perfect justice would be satisfied. What we don’t hear so much is that He also was an example to us of how to live a life that glorified God and that we are supposed to follow that example.

Three distinguishing marks of Jesus and the early church were: separation from the world, unconditional love and childlike obedience. Jesus was obedient to the Father and the early church was obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Separation From The World

“No one can serve two masters,” declared Jesus to his disciples (Matt. 6:24). However, Christians have spent the greater portion of the past two millenniums apparently trying to prove Jesus wrong. We have told ourselves that we can indeed have both-the things of God and the things of this world. Many of us live our lives no differently than do conservative non-Christians, except for the fact that we attend church regularly each week. We watch the same entertainment. We share the same concerns about the problems of this world. And we are frequently just as involved in the world’s commercial and materialistic pursuits. Often, our being “not of this world” exists in theory more than in practice.

But the church was not originally like that. The first Christians lived under a completely different set of principles and values than the rest of mankind. They rejected the world’s entertainment, honors, and riches. They were already citizens of another kingdom, and they listened to the voice of a different Master. This was as true of the second century church as it was of the first.

The Letter to Diognetus, the work of an unknown author, written in about 130, describes Christians to the Romans as follows: “They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners…. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified…. And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.” The Letter to Diognetus can be found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

A Love Without Condition

Christian symbol: This symbol was used primari...

Christian symbol: This symbol was used primarily amongst Christians in early church history (1st and 2nd century A.D.) etc etc… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”

Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”

Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”

A Childlike Trust in God

To the early Christian, trusting God meant more than a teary-eyed testimony about “the time I came to trust the Lord.” It meant believing that even if obedience to God entailed great suffering, God was trustworthy to bring a person through it.

“A person who does not do what God has commanded shows he really does not believe God,” Clement declared. To the early Christians, to claim to trust God while refusing to obey Him was a contradiction (1 John 2:4). Their Christianity was more than verbal. As one early Christian expressed it, “We don’t speak great things—we live them!”

One distinguishing mark of the early Christians was their childlike, literal obedience to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. They didn’t feel they had to understand the reason for a commandment before they would obey it. They just trusted that God’s way was always the best way. Clement asked, “Who then is so irreverent as to disbelieve God, and to demand explanations from God as from men?”

They trusted God because they lived in awe of His majesty and wisdom. Felix, a Christian lawyer in Rome and a contemporary of Tertullian, put it this way: “God is greater than all our perceptions—He is infinite, immense. Only He truly understands His true greatness; our hearts are too limited to really understand Him. We are making a worthy estimation of Him when we say that He is beyond estimation…. Anyone who thinks he knows the magnitude of God, diminishes His greatness.”

The Church Today

Have it Your Way

Have it Your Way...

Have it Your Way… (Photo credit: Richard Elzey)

The church in America today is firmly planted in the world. Church members are only required to invest 1 to 3 hours a week “serving God”. Most church members that the work of the church should be done by the clergy and that the laity job is only to financially support that work. This attitude has become so prevalent that even the pastorate, for the most part, has bought into it.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in
common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) If this command relayed to us by the Apostle Paul would be obeyed, we would see a stronger community of faith. As it is, the children of “Christian” parents are no more sin resistant than the children of atheist parents. More than likely, these families are Christian in name only! So their children date, and eventually marry, someone that doesn’t share their faith. As a result the faith that they have ends up becoming compromised or even abandoned.

This may be the cause of the divorce rate in the church being the same as the divorce rate in the country at large. The world says that life is ‘all about me’; what makes ‘me’ happy. The world says that if you are a Christian you should tolerate sinners, including the sin. The church is believing them. The world says that we should tolerate homosexuality. In our tolerating what God says is an abomination, the world’s agenda is to encourage this abomination. It has even gotten to the point that several major mainstream denominations have ordained homosexual clergy.

Christ taught love the sinner and hate the sin. It appears to me that we have turned it around. We hate the sinner and love the sin. If we loved the sinner we would lovingly encourage him to repent of his sin and be reconciled to God. By accepting the sinner and his sin, we are allowing the person to remain at enmity with God and damning his soul to hell.

With the plethora of denominations and several churches in each community competing for the same membership, it is no wander that there seems to be no objective standard of Christian behavior. If your behavior is incompatible with the teachings of one congregation, the congregation down the street will be more than happy to accommodate. Christ meant for His church to help reconcile people to His Father. Much of the church in America today is quite happy to allow you to be damned and will help you feel good about it; therefore beware!

In the “Sermon On The Mount”, Jesus gave us a stern warning. “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Belonging to the right church will not get you into heaven! Being born in the right family will not either. There is only one way to enjoy a favorable outcome in eternity; follow Jesus!

The Faith of Elisha

Starting with 2 Kings 2, the book is pretty much about Elisha the prophet and his ministry until chapter 8 when it returns to the kings of Israel and Judah. That is not to say that isn’t mentioned in 2 Kings after chapter 8 because he is. Elisha is active prophesying and performing miracles until the book records his death in chapter 13. Below is a list of the miracles that Elisha performed and are listed in chapters four through seven of 2 Kings:

  • Miracle of the Increase of the Widows Oil (2 Kings 4:1-7)
  • Miracle of the Shunamite’s Son (2 Kings 4:8-37)
  • Miracle of the Deadly Stew (2 Kings 4:38 – 41)
  • Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves (2 Kings 4:42 – 44)
  • Miracle of the healing of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1 – 27)
  • Miracle of the Floating Axe Head (2 Kings 6:1 – 7)
  • Miracles During the First Aramean Attack (2 Kings 6:8 – 23)
  • Miracles During the Second Aramean Attack (2 Kings 6:24 – 7:20)

God‘s faithful know that in reality Elisha did not perform any miracles: God performed the miracles through Elisha. It was Elisha’s faith in the LORD his God that allowed God to work His wonders through Elisha. Elisha was available and trusted that God would work through him. The Christian today is taught to make himself available, but God does not seem to work through us as He did through Elisha and the prophets of old. Could it be that we lack the faith and/or the availability? We do after all live in a self centered culture!

In my reading today, I found the Miracle of the Shunamite’s Son to be particularly interesting. When Elisha first found out that the boy had died, he sent his servant with his staff to revive the boy by laying his staff across the boys face. This did not work! The boy still lay cold and dead. Not to be undone, Elisha went personally to revive the boy. He prayed to the LORD and lay on the boy and placed his mouth on the boy’s mouth, his eyes on the boys eyes and his hands on the boys hands. The child became warm but still was not revived.

English: Elisha raising the Shunammites Son

English: Elisha raising the Shunammites Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was serious! Was God not listening to Elisha’s prayer? Was Elisha’s faith faltering or was God simply testing Elisha’s faith. We know that the author of life would have no trouble restoring life to a dead boy. The text says that Elisha returned to the main room in the house and walked in the house back and forth. Was he praying? Was he casting out evil spirits? Was he gathering his faith? We don’t know!

He then returned to the boy and stretched himself on him again and this time the lad was revived. The questions about this story just don’t stop coming. Did he really expect his servant to revive the boy? Did his faith start start to falter when that did not happen? How did he know that it was God’s will that he restore the lad? The final question, How would I have reacted in that situation? Would my faith have held? Would yours?

The Many, The Proud, The Edomites

You have heard it said that pride comes before a fall. And so it is. The Old Testament chronicles that over and over again. Just what is it about pride that brings the destruction. Let’s see what the dictionary says about pride. There are several definitions half of which are bad and the rest good. I will only deal with the definitions that I think apply here: 1. inordinate self esteem2. proud or disdainful behavior or treatment 3. ostentatious display 4. a showy or impressive group (i.e., a pride of dancers).

Self Esteem Shop in Royal Oak, MI http://www.s...

Self Esteem Shop in Royal Oak, MI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we think of the phrase “pride comes before a fall” I believe the first definition is what we are thinking of; inordinate self esteem. Why do we always think of ourselves more highly than we ought? I am this or I have done that; making sure that someone is envious of you because of your accomplishments or position. We forget that apart from God we can do nothing. God is always the cause of our position and accomplishments. We would do well to remember it!

The second definition describes some of us. I think it definitely describes our country, at least in the eyes of the rest of the world. That is why the people of so many countries hate us. We, as a nation, have accomplished a lot. We enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. The poorest in America, would be considered rich in many underdeveloped countries in the world. Yet we don’t share our wealth (that’s a whole ‘nuther topic) Our poor complain about how bad they have it while people in other countries are envious.

Our lifestyle is an ostentatious display. Big cars, big houses, big bank accounts, these are the things that the rest of the world is deprived of. I have seen people living in corrugated tin and cardboard shacks. Even with our wealth, we are not satisfied. it is no wonder that we have enemies!

The book of Obadiah describes how God will destroy the Edomites (the descendants of Esau). “You are greatly despised” says Obadiah 1:2 of the Edomites. Verse three sort of explains why they are despised. They forgot that apart from God, they can do nothing. They gave themselves the credit for their lofty position instead of giving it to God who put them there. Now. they are about to suffer the consequences of their sin. God always judges sin! Read for yourself about God’s judgment of Edom.

I fear for the U.S. Is our day of judgment coming soon?

It Takes Faith? Really?

I just read another unbelievable story in the Old Testament! Ok, maybe the events really happened as the Bible says, but give those events to a modern reporter and the you’ll have quite a different story.

Cover of "The Battle Is Not Yours"

Cover of The Battle Is Not Yours

Supposedly, during the rule of King Jehoshaphat, the Moabites, Ammonites and some of the Meunites came to make war against Jehoshaphat. This had Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah worried because they knew they were not powerful enough to vanquish such a large army. So the only thing that they could do was to gather together and pray to their God for protection from their enemies. During the assembly Jahaziel spoke a message to the assembly from the Lord. “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” There was more that he spoke (2 Chronicles 20:16-17), but I’ll let you read it for yourself.

The story says that the Army of Judah went out to the battlefield but instead of fighting sang praises to the LORD. Here’s the unbelievable part. God confused the three armies and they destroyed each other. Judah was because there was no one left alive to fight. Do you believe it?

I wonder how many of the people that were there believed it. In the same chapter of 2 Chronicles the text describes how Jehoshaphat sinned because he did not trust God (vs.35 -37). Really? After witnessing a miraculous victory, the king did not trust God? Was the historian who wrote this story really naïve enough to believe it? Or did God really intervene in a hopeless situation? You have your choice, with God or without God. Either way the story is incredible to say the least.

Every day we are face with miracles! The miracle of birth; the miracle of the interdependence of the ecosystem and the flora and fauna. God surrounds us with miracles every day. They are so common that we take them for granted and attribute them to other forces that are more incredible than God’s intervention. So is God the sustainer of the universe? You get to decide! Decide right and the Bible says you are destined for everlasting glory. Decide wrong and its everlasting torment.

Oh, here is one last thought; “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

Is There Sin in Heaven?

When was the last time you read Genesis chapter 3? If you are familiar with the chapter, you know that Eve sinned because the serpent deceived her. Let me make a quick point here. The way Eve was deceived was that \the serpent asked, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” So Satan started by misquoting God. He was successful partly because Eve really didn’t know what God said either. Are we like that Do we really know our scripture? If you don’t, I believe that you have opened yourself up to be deceived. If you look, you can find other instances where Satan tempts by misquoting God!

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagonist of John Milton’s Paradise Lost c. 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The reason I asked the question is, the passage I read today, 1 Kings 22:19 – 23, speaks of a deception that originates at the throne of God. God asks the Heavenly host, “Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” There was one spirit that volunteered to be a deceiving spirit and entice Ahab. God basically said sounds like a good plan to me. So the deceit of Ahab started at the throne of God! Does this mean that God is the source of the deception?

I don’t think so! God did however, allow the deception to take place. The deceiver (Satan?) was before the throne of God when this plan was hatched. The deception was not God’s idea, but it does prove that God will use sin to accomplish His perfect plan.

So the question remains: Is there sin in heaven? Not for long!

Prove It

How many times has someone told you to “prove it” when you were telling a story of amazing events? I’ll bet it is not a few. Imagine this conversation:

1st person: “I aced my math test!”

2nd person: “You probably cheated!”

1st person: “No I didn’t!”

2nd person: “Prove it!

It doesn’t matter if you have proof or not. The doubting person in all likelihood will not believe you anyway because he doesn’t want to believe you!

I have often wondered why the Israelites continually disobeyed God. When you consider the miracles of the scriptures like the exodus, the battle of Jericho, Gideon’s battle with the Midianites, David and Goliath, etc, it would be a stretch to believe that those things happened and still rebel against God. In the case of the exodus, the people watched the miracles happen and still did not trust God. To not believe has to be an act of the will.

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son a...

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still God did not abstain from showing His power to the nation Israel. During the rule of Ahab (1 Kings 16:29 through 1 Kings 22:40), Ahab (and Israel) engaged in idolatry to the extent that God performed several miracles. In one of the miracles, God prompted Elijah to prove to Ahab and the Israelites that God was worthy to be worshiped. The BAAL worshippers were to set up an alter to Baal and Elijah was to set up an alter to the God of Israel. The deity that consumed the sacrifice on the alter would be proven to be worthy. The prophets of Baal called on their god all day to consume the sacrifice to no avail. Elijah called on the God of Israel once, at the time of the evening sacrifice, to consume the offering. Not only did God consume the sacrifice with fire but consumed the altar that it was on as well as the stones of the altar, the ashes under the altar and the water that surrounded the altar. Sounds to me like God was saying, “I’ll show you!” At this point, Jezebel, Ahab’s significant other, vowed to kill Elijah because he discredited (and killed) the prophets of her god.

Ahab? You will have to read the rest of the story for yourself and it will become clear that Ahab did not fear the Lord God of Israel.

Does God perform miracles today? I say, “Yes!” You don’t hear about them and the few people that do hear about them don’t believe them. What good would it do? If we don’t believe that the miracles of the Scriptures happened, why would we believe God is active today?

Do you believe your Bible stories?

I Don’t Understand

Map showing the Kingdoms of Israel (blue) and ...

Map showing the Kingdoms of Israel (blue) and Judah (orange), ancient levant borders and ancient cities such as Urmomium and Jerash. The map shows the region in the 9th century BCE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book of 1 Kings tells that in the days of Baasha, third king of the northern kingdom of Israel, the king made the people of that kingdom sin and provoked God to anger with their sins. The sin which provoked God so badly of course was the sin of idolatry (I believe that all sin is idolatry, but more on that later). So the LORD came to Jehu, son of Hanani, (a prophet) against Baasha saying, “Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, behold I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone of basha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

What I don’t understand is why having dogs and birds eat your dead relatives is such a punishment. I don’t think the punishment is so bad in itself but I think the cultural implications make this a psychological punishment for both the king and his subjects. Can anyone offer any clarity on this?

Can We hear the Voice of God? (Part 8)

Can I Trust That My Bible is God’s Word

If you have a good modern translation of the Bible, the you have almost exact what the ancient authors wrote. It is amazing that people try to argue that we cannot trust the Bible because we do not have the original copies. It would never occur to those people to question the writings of Plato, Sophocles, Homer or Caesar Augustus, when we only have fewer than ten copies of each book, and those copies were made at least one thousand years after the author wrote the original.

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah

English: A scroll of the Book of Isaiah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until the middle of the twentieth century, the situation was similar with the Hebrew Old Testament. Our oldest copies dated from about AD 900. We knew the extreme care the rabbis used to copy the sacred text before they destroyed the worn one. But still the copies we had were historically distant from the original (called autographa). But then in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran. Suddenly we had copies of the Old Testament that were more than a thousand years older than the previous oldest copies.

A comparison of the Qumran manuscript of the Book of Isaiah with the Masoretic text from AD 900 showed the most minor variations, mostly spelling (like the American honor and the British honour) or stylistic changes like adding a conjunction. After comparing the texts that were a thousand years old and finding no significant differences, scholars came to the conclusion that the Old Testament books that we have are basically the same as the original manuscript.

In the case of the New Testament, we have 14,000 ancient copies, with fragments written no later than one hundred years after the original books and letters. This is so amazing because the books were copied onto such fragile materials as papyrus and those copies were not stored anywhere that would protect them from the elements, but in God’s providence they still survived.

Finally, Jesus Himself used copies and translations. He trusted them, so we should too. Because we have so many copies of scripture that are virtually the same, we have no reason not to trust that the texts we have are the same text that was originally authored.

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