I turned 36 years old today. I must say, though it is unavoidable, I am not the least bit happy about aging. As each year comes another passes and my efforts to hold on to time is as vain as grasping at the wind. Life is a vapor, vanishing right in front of my eyes. The temporal is so empty and always leaves me wanting. The loss of a more balanced perspective can leave me quite discouraged.
But, thanks be to God! He knows. He knows how dissatisfying life can be without purpose beyond our years. So, He gives us gifts, anoints and appoints His people to certain tasks or callings that give us the privilege and blessing of laboring for the eternal. We store up treasure that rust and moth cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. As we can see in Ephesians 4, we each have an equally important part in this work.
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...." - Ephesians 4:11-12
Today, though it could be even further discouraging, is a great reminder of what God has called me to do. You see, 6 years ago marked a landmark transitional moment in my life. In late 2008 I was traveling the country, speaking at churches, Christian events and more. I did my best to communicate my testimony and teach God’s word to the audience I was given, but in truth, I was a scripturally illiterate evangelist / teacher. I knew “stories” in the Bible, but I knew very little of Bible study and had a very immature view of the scriptures as a whole. Sure I believed the Bible, but I barely knew why and would have a very hard time defending said belief. Occasionally, I would be asked questions from those who heard me speak and, sadly, could not always give an adequate answer.
I remember feeling the need to broaden my knowledge of scripture, so I called my friend Pastor Scott Hunt of Calvary Chapel Pickens in South Carolina. I told him that I needed to learn the Bible and that I needed to learn it fast. He assured me that couldn’t be done, but told me, “There’s no better way to learn the Bible than to teach the Bible.” In the remainder of our discussion I decided to start a Tuesday night Bible study on the next Tuesday night I was in town. I immediately pulled out my calendar only to realize that my next available Tuesday night would be a couple months away and, to my amazement, it was December 23, 2008.....my 30th birthday!
Why was that amazing? I had wrestled with leaving my boxing career. I had wrestled with my purpose and the meaning of life, but on my 30th birthday God would show me exactly why I was put on this planet....to teach His word. As you may know, Jesus began His public ministry at about 30 years of age, as did John the Baptist, and it was required that a man be 30 years old to be a Rabbi. God put His stamp of approval on my calling, anointing and appointing on my 30th birthday and showed me my part of His rescue mission. So, 6 years ago today, I taught my first Bible study, beginning in the Gospel of John. I can only apologize to those in attendance, and thank God that He doesn’t disqualify us for our inadequacy or inability.
Today, as I wrestle with adding another year to my life and growing older, the Lord reminds me, yet again, that I am simply on a rescue mission to do a job. And, when my job is complete, I can go home. What’s my point? God has a plan. Get in it. There’s no better place to be than the will of God.
I am burdened for those who don't believe in God. I am struck with the question, "Is there really a choice?" How can we not believe in the existence of God? I can understand someone who refuses to place their trust in Him, because that position is met with all types of struggle, resistance and adversity (yet ends in eternal salvation). I cannot, however, understand how anyone could imagine, in their wildest dreams, that God somehow does not exist.
It seems a rather simple fact….creation is evidence for the creator. Planet Earth, spinning at some 24,000 mph, set at 93,000,000 miles from our sun at just the right tilt….it's design proves a designer. Our bodies, made up of millions of complex cells and DNA structure, full of complexity well beyond our most advanced technologies prove that we were created by a being far superior to us. There is no rational minded, intelligent person that would advocate Darwinian Evolution. Simply, there is no evidence for it and it contradicts proven scientific law (thermodynamics, iso-geneis). It requires far too much faith to believe Darwinian Evolution. The day I see a tornado hit Home Depot and produce a subdivision I will consider it, but not before.
Let's take a journey back….way back, to the beginning. What happened? A cosmic collision producing an explosion of massive proportions? Well, that's not the beginning now is it? What caused the collision? If there was a beginning, which there was, something had to be the first uncaused cause. What was that, if it was not God? If there was were no beginning, which there was, then you my friend have just entered into the spirit realm. Inorganic matter cannot exist independently of a living causing agent. Rocks and dirt do not produce themselves. They do not decide to exist.
So, is there a choice to believe in the existence of God? No. There is no choice for any sane, rational, intelligent person. God must exist. There is no other conclusion to the matter. Anything else is blind faith, myth and fables….fairy tales of eternal magnitude. In fact, anything else is a lie created by mankind's greatest enemy, the great deceiver. This deceiver is God's enemy and will do whatever it takes to blind you to truth, so as to disconnect you from God, eternally if possible. He hates you simply because God love you. You are the greatest part of all of creation, the apple of God's eye, His workmanship, His pride and joy.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:10
"So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12
Lately, I am reminded often that today could be my last. I am 35 years old, and the older I get I see more death around me. Family and friends die….pets die, everything I see will eventually. I should add that all of this is a result of mankind's rebellion against God. Nonetheless, apart from the eminent return of Christ, everyone of us will breathe our last breath. One day our existence on this earth will be no more. Each of us will come to an end….at least physically.
The reality is, we each live and exist in the midst of a rescue mission, in the midst of a cosmic war between God and His army, satan and his followers. What we call "life" and believe is reality is just a speck of existence (less than 7,000 years) with an eternity on either side. Every bit of this realm, all of creation, is in a war. As with most wars, there are some who live, some who die, a winner and a loser. Everyone is in the war, in fact, we born into it. We're not born in our home. We're born on a battle field. Either you are in the winning camp or the losing camp. Either way, when the war is over, we go home with our leader to spend eternity together.
My hope is that you are a follower of Christ and on the side of victory. He wins and His victory is ours, for those who follow Him. This is not our home. It's just a rescue mission.
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20)
This verse is most often used by a small group of people, sometimes only 2 or 3, to make the claim that God is there with them as they worship, pray and fellowship together. And they're right. He is there. Even though the statement is true, that is not what this verse means.
If that is what this verse means then what about the soldier on the battle field, college student or single mother who is all by themselves. Does this verse mean that there has to be 2 or more people gathered for the purposes of Christ in order for Him to be there? If no one else is there, does that mean God isn't either? Of course not. Not only does Jesus promise to never leave nor forsake us, the Holy Spirit actually indwells every believer and follower of Christ. Of course He's there….He's in you! Because of the shed blood of Christ, God's presence is made available to each of His followers at any time…all of the time.
Then, what does this verse mean? If you'll notice in the verses prior to this, Jesus is teaching us how to handle another believer that sins against us. He says…."If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
Jesus simply puts His stamp of approval on bringing faults among Christians to open discussion among witnesses. This is in strong contrast to the other option, which He hates, gossip and slander. This is a simple lesson, which needs to be learned and practiced. Too many today have missed this and, as a result, division enters the church, the Holy Spirit is grieved and the work of the Lord is hindered. So, while I appreciate and am so thankful for the fact that Jesus is always in our midsts, we should take this verse for what it actually means and practically apply it to our lives and walk.
Christianity: Just another religion?
Many would say yes, Christianity is just another religion. Many people believe Christianity is just like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, Mormonism, etc. These people would suggest that Christianity was another religious system developed by mankind in order to appease a "spiritual" desire, benefit their psyche, make them feel better or simply attempt to control the weaker more susceptible groups of people.
In many cases these critics support this view by making several false and very significantly errant claims. The first false claim is that Christianity isn't the oldest religion, therefore it can't be the "right" religion. While I agree with the logic, that purity is found at the source, they simply don't know their history. Secondly, many of these critics make the claim that since there are so many other belief systems, many of which have very similar claims to Christianity and the Bible (worldwide flood, virgin birth, death of an individual for mankind), that Christianity must just be another one of these manmade religions. Well, they couldn't be further from the truth, and I believe that anyone who looks at the facts with an open heart will see that Christianity isn't just another religion....it's Reality.
First, in addressing the age of Christianity, many will base its beginnings around 2,000 years ago in the days of Jesus Christ. After all, they would say, Jesus is the Christian's leader, right? Logically, it seems that Christianity couldn't begin before the birth of its leader, could it? Now, as a Christian I would immediately have to point out that Jesus birth wasn't His beginning. He actually has no beginning. He is eternal. He is God and was manifest in the flesh 2,000 years ago to shed His blood that the sin of mankind could be atoned for. As He said from the cross, "It is finished!" You don't have to agree with me, however, concerning the eternality of Jesus Christ to see that Christianity's beginning wasn't limited to the birth of Jesus.
Christians believe the Bible. You may not, but that doesn't change the facts. Not one word of the Bible has ever been proven incorrect by anyone....and it never will. You may not be aware, but the Bible would be incredibly easy to prove wrong if it was. After all, it discusses multitudes of subjects and issues with concrete certainty. These include, biology, geology, anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, phycology and many other subjects that are easily refutable and provable. If any of the Bible's nearly 1,000,000 million words were wrong, it would be easy to disprove.....but it's perfect.
How can it be perfect, you may ask? It's perfect because it was written by God. No it wasn't, yells Richard Dawkins from the back of the class. There is no God!! Ok, Mr. Dawkins, hear me out for a second. Let's take the facts, address them, and see what evidence there is to believe the Bible is not a work of man. It's 66 different books, penned by over 40 different men, over a span of about 1,500 years. Most of these men never met and wrote in three different languages from three different continents during a time period from 2,000 to 3,500 years ago and none of their writings have ever been altered. From Genesis to Revelation there are no contradictions, no discrepancies, no errors and all of them point mankind to one source of salvation, faith in Jesus Christ. So, you still think the Bible was authored by man?
I challenge you to find 6 books written by 4 different men in the same language, who all know each other that cover the diverse subjects of the Bible and agree. You simply can't. Take for instance the science text books used in our schools today. They are revised every few years to keep up to date. Few of the claims made by my atheist science teachers concerning origins in the 90's would be made or supported today. Why? Because they keep getting new information? No. That's just a nice way of saying because they were wrong. They were wrong then and they think they're right now, but in a few years what they think now will be wrong then.
Still not convinced that the Bible is really authored by God and perfect? Consider this. Although the scientific community believed the earth to be flat until 5 centuries ago, Isaiah 40:22, a book written 2,700 years ago, says, "God sits above the circle of the earth...." Who knew?....God did. Mankind didn't discover the hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, until the 1,700's, but Job 36:27-28 says, "For He draws up the drops of water, they distill His mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly." Here, God's word was 4,700 years ahead of science. Who knew?....God did. Until the 1,500's many believed that the earth sat on the back of a tortoise, but Job 26:7 says that, "God hangs the earth on nothing." Once again, God's word is way ahead of man's word. The book of Hebrews, written roughly 2,000 years ago reads, "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Here, a 2,000 year old "book" speaks concerning the molecular level. Who knew?....God did. There are endless examples.
Nonetheless, as I said earlier, Christians believe the Bible. Logical people believe the Bible. Seriously. There's only one source for correct information that's never been altered or improved concerning every aspect of life in the universe...the Bible. Like I said, it's logical to trust and believe. So, what does the Bible teach about the beginning of Christianity? Well, from God's perspective there's never been a beginning to Christianity. His plan of redemption for mankind has no beginning just as He has no beginning. It's not like God just decided to come up with a religion somewhere in infinity past. No, He's always known exactly what we were going to do to mess up paradise and what He was going to do to fix it.
From our perspective, however, Christianity began in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of human history roughly 6,000 years ago. It was there in the garden that Satan, the leading fallen angel, became jealous of man. Yes, jealous. First, Satan saw that mankind is the apple of God's eye, His pride and joy, His workmanship....not him. Secondly, Satan saw the intimacy that mankind had with God as they walked together in the cool breeze of the perfect paradise that had been created for them. Satan remembered how he once had intimacy with God, but how his rebellion had forever ended that. He knew what he had to do....entice and temp Adam and Eve in order that they too would sin and be cut off from fellowship and intimacy with God. That was his mission.
You may know the account. Adam and Eve fell into sin in rebellion against God. Death entered into our world. Everything changed instantly. Before Adam and Eve would have to leave the paradise that God had created, however, He would unfold His plan of redemption for Satan, Adam and Eve to hear. This was the plan of hope for the world. This was the only way to make right what had went so wrong. As God looked Satan in the eye He pointed to Eve and said, "Through her seed will be born a savior. He will fix what you have done. You may bruise His heal, but He is going to crush your head!" And that was it. That was the beginning of Christianity. At that moment Adam and Eve put their faith in the coming Savior, the messiah. They looked for Him to come quickly, but it would be some 4,000 years later that God would inhabit a human body, live and minister among us and fully atone for the sins of the world. Everyone before Jesus birth that placed their faith in the coming messiah was saved by faith. They were old testament Christians. Everyone since Jesus birth is likewise saved by faith in the messiah who came is to come again.
What is the oldest religion? Is it Scientology, beginning in 1953? Nope. Is it the Jahovah's Witness's, beginning in 1872? Nope. Was it the Mormans, beginning in 1830? Nope. Was it Islam, beginning in the 600's. Nope. Is it Confucianism or Buddhism, beginning roughly 2,500 years ago? Nope. What about Hinduism or Judaism, beginning roughly 4,000 years ago? Nope. Not even close. The oldest religion is Christianity. Christianity began some 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden, at the very beginning of human history.
What we should pay close attention to is how Christianity started...or how it didn't start really. Christianity didn't start in the mind of a man. Christianity wasn't a good idea Adam had after a brainstorming session with Eve. Christianity is God's. It is His eternal plan to redeem the love of HIs life....you and me. What a powerful though to ponder! For eternity past God has known what He would do to save us. He knew that it would cost Him everything and.....He did it anyway. Wow! There is no greater love than this, that one would lay down his life for another.
So, now that we understand that Christianity is not only the oldest religion, but the only God made religion, lets move on to our next subject. What about all of the other religions and belief systems that have come along the way since the fall in the garden? Are they possibly valid ways to salvation and eternal life? Can't those man made religions be right too? No. They can't. What did God say? "Through Eve's seed....her offspring, will come the Savior." Jesus, the Jewish messiah is, not only the only one who did save us, but the only one who can save us. Why? Because God has decreed that blood must be shed to atone for sin and only sinless blood will permanently wipe it away. Why? Because the wages of sin is death. You've sinned, I've sinned. We deserve death, but Jesus took our place. Buddha didn't. Muhammad didn't. Ron L. Hubbard didn't. Tom Cruise didn't. Joseph Smith didn't. Jesus shed sinless blood and died for you, atoning for your sin, and you can only inherit eternal life by believing that.
So, what are there so many other religions and belief systems? Put yourself in the serpent Satan's sandals for a second. Well, I guess he couldn't wear sandals, but you get the point. If you knew that a messiah, who was going to unite mankind with God again, reverse the curse of sin and crush your head, was coming through the offspring of Eve and ultimately the Jewish nation, there would only be one logical thing to do....well two. First logical thing to do....put an end to the Jewish nation. Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler and every antisemitic jerk throughout history proves Satan’s plight to end the Jewish people to be the gospel truth. There couldn’t be anything more obvious. Satan hates the Jewish people and will do anything he can to turn the world against them.
Second logical thing to do....deter people from the messiah, distract people from the messiah or disillusion them as to His true identity. Satan will do anything possible to get your eyes off of Jesus and one of the best ways to do that is to compel humans to invent other religions. Other religions, which have been made by man, distract us from the only religion that saves. It makes complete sense as well that Satan would weave similar stories through these false religions in order to further confuse the issue. Quite simply, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to Heaven except through faith in Him. I know it. Satan knows it. Do you? Open your heart to Him today and receive the free gift of eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” - John 3:16
A Counterfeit Christian?
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35
I see so many people claiming to be Christians and wearing the banner of Jesus. They even put Jesus post all over their Facebook pages and used to wear WWJD bracelets when that was cool. Here in the South, being a "Christian" is the culturally acceptable thing to do in most circles. I see lots of fish emblems on cars and crosses hanging on necks, but sadly, I don't see much love. I see indifference and pride. I see rudeness and unkindness. I see gossip and slander, but not much love.
Why is this the case? Are these people not Christians? Are they not saved? Are they condemned to Hell? No, certainly not. They're saved....but that's it. They're saved by God's grace and filled with the Spirit of God, but they are not Baptized in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit has in-dwelt them for salvation, but He must come upon them in power for service, sanctification and love.
So, what's my encouragement? If you're a Christian, ask God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, receive by faith and walk by faith....in love. Love your neighbor. Be a good witness to others. Be kind, patient and gentle. Well, just be....in the power of the Spirit. You won't be able to help loving others because love is the fruit of the Spirit. It's the natural byproduct....the result of being Baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:8 - "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Most people don't like to talk about dying. For many, death is a very scary subject and they choose not to discuss it. None, however, will escape the moment of their death, excluding the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ. Most, if not all of us, will breath our last breath at some point....near or far.
I am comforted, however, to know that the day of my death is not to be feared. In fact, it will be the greatest day of my life. It is on that day I will meet my loving creator face to face and enter into His presence forever. On that day I will truly begin to live, free of the flesh, sin and corruption. For the follower of Christ, there is no sting in death.
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Free will / choice?
I had an atheist recently post a picture on my Facebook page of God saying, "I gave you a free will. Now use it exactly as I command you to." Though he does not believe in God, he obviously has some problems with the commandments of God and seems to believe that they are in contest with our ability to choose and exercise free will. So, why did God give us a free will?
Well, lets start in the beginning. On the 6th literal day of creation, roughly 6,000 years ago, God gave Adam and Eve a choice. The choice was simple. Obey or disobey. Submit to God's authority or rebel against Him. Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or enjoy the splendor of the garden and the fruit of every other tree it had to offer. Well, you probably know how it went. They rebelled against God, just as each of us have rebelled against God. But, once again, why the choice? Why did God put the forbidden fruit in the garden?
I'll start with two reasons.
First, God loves us. He loves us and, consequently, desires that we love Him. He wants fellowship and intimacy with the greatest part of creation, His workmanship, the apple of His eye, you and me. The single greatest commandment and desire of our creator is to love Him with all of your being. Love, however, cannot be forced. Love cannot be insisted or pressured. Love is a choice that we each must make. We must each choose to love one another and, most importantly, choose to love God.
My daughter used to have a doll that had a string running out of its back. If you pulled the string it would say, "I love you." She pulled that string a million times until one day it just quit working. It was as if each pull left her more dissatisfied and wanting more. Why? Because the repeated "I love you" coming from that plastic doll wasn't sincere. It was forced. Molly had to say "I love you". She didn't have a choice.
You get the point. Love must be sincere. It must be chosen. Why should we love God, you may ask? Because He first loved us. In spite of our rebellion, which required and demanded that someone die, He became a man and took our place of punishment. He paid the price for you and for me. He took our sin upon His shoulders and gave us His righteousness in return. That's good news, and it demands a response. What response do I choose? I choose Love.
Secondly. In His sovereignty, God knew that our choice would be fatal. He knew that we would rebel against Him. So, once again, why give the choice if He knew it would be disastrous? Consider the angels for a second. Before Lucifer fell away they existed in a perfect environment. No flesh to contend with. No world to lure you in. Obviously, no Satanic pull. But, in their state of harmony with God, without the effects of sin, pride crept in. Pride crept in the heart of Lucifer and He rebelled, taking 1/3 of all the angels with him. He decided that he should be worshipped as God.
God knows the inclination of man. He knows our "lean". Like Lucifer, if there were no fall, we would believe we didn't need a savior. If there were no sickness, we would believe we don't need a healer. If there were no death, we would believe that we don't need a comforter. Without the fall, pride creeps in and we believe we are God. You get the point.
In His omniscience and sovereignty, God knew that without the fall and its disastrous results, rebellion would be our inclination. What's more? God knew that the result of rebellion is death eternally and separation from Him. Quite simply, God loves us too much to let that happen. So, what did He do? He became a man and shed His blood that we could be made right and justified before God the Father, in order that we could spend eternity with Him. Once again, that's good news, and it demands a response. What response do I choose? I choose Love.
Performance or worship?
There's nothing wrong with playing instruments and singing in worship really well. In fact, this should be our goal and we should do our best to do everything for the Lord in an excellent fashion. The same goes for preaching. Every pastor should be well studied in order to preach and teach the word of God, rightly interpreting the passage and feeding the people of God. The question of performance really isn't a question of how well you play your instrument, preach or teach. It's a question of who or what gets the attention during the time of worship and teaching. Sometimes the attention is taken off of the Lord and put on the lights, the visual effects, the song, the singer or the preacher. This should never be the case, although sometimes it may be difficult to avoid, depending upon the spiritual maturity of the individual. Church is church and should always remain church. Church should never become a concert, pep rally, motivational seminar or gathering of people flocking to idolize an individual.....unless of course that individual is Jesus. There's nothing wrong with concerts and pep rallies. We just need to know the difference. Our worship settings should simply point people to Jesus, as free of distraction as possible. After all, it's His church.
In closing, I can certainly understand the present dilemma and myriad of different viewpoints from pastors and worship leaders around the world. Lights or no lights? Smoke machine or not? Drum riser or not? Loud or soft? Hymns or Hillsong? Pews or chairs? The choices are endless. There is not a "best" way to conduct a worship service. There are many styles to worship God and teach His word that are a true reflection of His desire for His church. Scripture gives us guidelines that should always be honored for those things in the church that God wants to operate in a specific way. Outside of those very clear guidelines we can then take the liberty of being led by the Holy Spirit. Bottom line: Different people need to be and should be ministered to in different ways, depending upon their spiritual maturity and style preferences. Each pastor and worship leader must be led by the Lord and yield to His desires in ministering to the people the Lord has entrusted to them.
Back in October I was at a friend's apartment in Irvine, CA and went down to the pool while he and his wife ran some errands. While relaxing in the hot tub I met a woman that live there in the apartments. After talking for a while I found out that she was having some serious financial struggles, due largely in part to her being a single mother. Because of this, she was planning to enter back into the exotic dancing industry the next day. She felt as though she had no other option.
I shared the love of Christ with her and her need to make Jesus the all consuming focus of her life. Long story short, she surrendered her life to the Lord the next morning while my friends and I had coffee with her. Nearly 9 months later, she is connected with my friends and growing in the Lord.
Well, Saturday night I found myself back in the same hot tub. Initially the hot tub was full of people. One was a young guy covered in tattoos. As we talked he shared that his best friend had recently died of cancer, which opened a huge door to speak on a much more important subject....what happens after we die? He and I began talking quite openly about some very weighty issues, so the spa quickly emptied out. Within minutes it was just me, him, and my friends Korey, Krista, Ambar and Matt. Come to find out he had been attending a local Christian church and said he believed in God, Jesus and the Bible. In spite of this he admitted to using drugs and knew he wasn't walking as he should. This opened a great door to share from the book of James concerning Spiritual fruit, works and the need for sanctification.
About this time an Islamic man entered into the tub. Long story short and after about an hour of conversation, my tattooed friend is connected with Matt and Ambar and showed a real desire to grow more in his faith. The Islamic man, though he did not get saved, walked away knowing his theology did not add up. For the first time, he heard the gospel and he even admitted how practical and sensible it was.
So, what's my point to all of this? I spoke at 3 church services this weekend and saw many professions of faith, but God is not confined to the walls of a building. Some of the most exciting ministry happened, not at a planned event, but while hanging out in a hot tub. After all, I am not called to simply go to church. I'm called to be the church. God is ready, willing and able to use each of us in accomplishing the greatest rescue mission in history. We must simply yield to him, get out of the boat and open our mouths. The rest is up to Him.
Not everyone can be the world champion in multiple weight divisions. Not everyone can be a famous movie star. Not everyone can be the eleven figure CEO. Most won't accomplish worldly success and will fail in their efforts, but we are all completely able to accomplish the only success that matters. We are each part of an invitation, straight from God Himself, to represent Him and to work with Him in rescuing mankind from sin and death. He has given each of us everything we need to succeed in this. Forgiveness....given. Calling....given. Model....given. Instruction....given. Gifting's....given. Power....given. Sovereign protection....given.
We have everything we need to be eternally successful. In truth, worldly success doesn't mean anything anyway. It means nothing. It's temporary, dissatisfying, fleeting and deceitful. As Jesus said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" In John 6 He asked, "Why do you labor for that which perishes (presently)? Labor for that which lasts forever." Worldly riches don't last, but the Lord's reward to His servants is eternal and unimaginably awesome. The greatest things this world has to offer are merely a shadow of what is to come. I choose to lay down the things of this world and store up that which rust and moth cannot destroy and thieves cannot steal. This is not my home. I'm on a rescue mission.
CT Studd: "Only one life, twil' soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
Question: How could a God of love _____? (fill in the blank)
Answer: The God of love didn't. We did. We're the problem, not God.
- Mark Kirk (calvaryknoxville.org)
People who choose to ask the question, "How could a God of love allow children to starve, people to go without water, women to be raped, etc." have the wrong perspective, an errant view of God and radically skewed theology. In the beginning God created a paradise for man to live in, to be fruitful and to multiply. We were created to live forever in a world without death, pain or tragedy and to be intimately connected to our creator. This all changed when Adam sinned and chose to rebel against the commandments and will of God.
As you know, this rebellion was instigated by the temptation of Satan, who in a jealous, pride filled fit of rage sought to ruin God's intimacy with man and he knew rebellion against God would do that, since he had recently been banned from heaven due to his rebellion. Many would ask, "Why did God allow Satan in the garden to begin with?" God desires a loving relationship with each of us, so He had to give us a choice. He doesn't want robots. Do we freely love and trust Him or not? Love must always have a choice. For instance, I can't make my kids love me. I must let them choose to.
In addition to this, God knows our tendency. Just like the angels, mankind tends to drift away from God if we don't know we need him. When life is easy and everything goes our way, pride easily creeps in and disobedience soon follows. The angels were in paradise, yet Lucifer rebelled thinking he was as God and deserve to be worshipped. If we are not careful, we can do the same. Without difficulty, we will miss our need for God. If there was no fall, we wouldn't think we needed a savior. If there was no sickness, we wouldn't think we needed a healer. If there was no death, we wouldn't think we needed a comforter. God allowed Satan in the garden to give us a free will choice and the consequent fall, because it shows us our need for Him. Otherwise we would be separated from Him for eternity.
Each of us are the reason for everything evil in the world. There was no pain, tragedy or death before we allowed sin to enter in. But thanks be to God who had a foreordained plan to correct all that we have messed up. He will wipe away every tear shed and give everyone who knows Him everlasting life in paradise. God has paid our debt of sin and redeemed mankind. He didn't have to. He didn't redeem the fallen angels and they will never get a second chance to come back to Him. But, He redeemed us. He gave us another chance. Why? We are His workmanship. We are the apple of His eye. He loves us that much. How much? So much that He would give His own Son to die for me and for you.
In closing, please don't blame God for the world we live in. Trust God, place your faith in God, love God....but don't blame God. It's our fault.
As I get older, I see more and more landmark milestones in the lives of others. I see high school graduations, babies born and I even occasionally officiate weddings. I see my own kids growing uncontrollably. I'm no longer younger than most of my friends, but older. As time passes so quickly I try my best to hold on to it. I try to make much of it and to keep it somehow, but this is simply unobtainable. This life is fleeting. It's just a vapor. "Vanities of vanities," Solomon would say. "Grasping at the wind."
It's best that we acknowledge this now and rest in the fact that we are created for the eternal realm. Though our earthly bodies will not last long, on that awesome day of departure we will receive new bodies, incorruptible and glorified. I am completely convinced that I must live and labor for that which does not perish. This life is just too short, too dissatisfying, too temporary to live for.
This is exactly how our creator desires us to live. After feeding the multitudes in John 6 Jesus said, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life." In other words, don't look to and labor for things of this world. Focus on investing into the eternal realm...the everlasting.
I am reminded of Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel. After coming to the Lord at a young age he diligently and faithfully served for his entire life. Out of his ministry thousands of churches have been birthed. He loved the people of God, teaching the word of God up to the week that he went to be with the Lord at 86 years old. He ran the race to win the race. He finished well. He had eternal perspective.
This life is full of its blessings to be enjoyed, and God has been so good to me, but I've got to keep my eyes on Him. Though the rapture may not happen in my lifetime and I may live to be 90 years old, I can be certain the end is near. For each of us, the end is nearer than we think. May we each resolve to place our trust in Christ and live for His kingdom and His glory all the days of our life.
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." - Charles Thomas Studd (1860-1931)
ARE TATTOOS SINFUL?
You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord. - Leviticus 19:28
This is the only verse in the Bible that even mentions tattoos and, at first glance, it would appear that they are sinful. But is this the case? One must first understand that all old testament law was given to a specific group of people, for a specific time period and for a specific purpose. With that said, this law was given to Jewish people before the birth of the church for the purpose of keeping them separate from the rest of the world. This separation was for two purposes. First, to keep them from adopting the sinful practices and the pagan world and second, to keep the messianic bloodline pure and undefiled.
This law was not given to gentile, new testament believers. Secondly, the practice of cutting and marking one's body was connected to idol worship and pagan burial practice. God didn't want His people to be associated, in any way, with idolatrous practice, so He forbid this practice.
Thirdly, Jesus continually points us to the heart. He navigated around the outward, sinful actions that were known to be sin in His day and He made the thought as evil as the act. In Matthew 5, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Jesus always made the issue the heart. That's what He cares about. That's what He wants....our heart. You can get a tattoo with a bad heart and for you, it's sin. You can also get a tattoo with a good heart and glorify God.
Fourthly, let's not ignorantly pick and choose what old testament law we want to follow and what we want to disregard. If you eat seafood or pork, you've broken Levitical law. If you've cut the sides of your hair, you've broken Levitical law. If you've worn clothing made of more than one type of material, you've broken Levitical law. If you don't abstain from work on the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), you've broken the ten commandments. Remember, all old testament law was given to a specific group of people, for a specific time period and for a specific purpose. We now live in the new covenant. This covenant is marked by a new time period, a new purpose and a new group of people. The new time period is the church age. The new purpose is evangelism. The new group of people is the church.
Jesus calls us not to be separate from the world, but to be in the world (John 17). We are to be in the world, yet not of it. We can eat pork and seafood (Acts 10). We can wear many types of clothing and we can cut the sides of our hair. So, can you get a tattoo? Only if you are led to. Pray and obey God. Do what He tells you to do and obey His word. He may just lead you to get a full sleeve. Just remember, Jesus doesn't care what's on your arm. He cares what's in your heart.
I've heard a lot of people say they're looking for a "good" church lately. So, what's a "good" church anyway? Is it a church with contemporary worship and a coffee shop? How about one with casual dress and an exciting new series? What about one with a great light show and a fog machine?
While there are many things that contribute to a "good" church, there are also many things that don't matter and are simply preference based. Some things concern substance, while others only concern style. So, what really matters and what really makes a church good? I think we should look to Jesus to find out. After all, it's His church.
In the book of Revelation Jesus is speaking to seven churches in Asia that represent the actual churches there, the seven stages of church growth throughout the millennia and each individual believer. All but two of these churches receive rebuking. Of the two remaining churches, only one is deemed the faithful church and received strong commendation. This church is the church of Philadelphia or the church of brotherly love. So, what made this church so commendable to Jesus. It may surprise you.
In Revelation 3:8 Jesus says to this church, "....you have kept my word and have not denied my name." What makes a good church? Only two things...
1. Keeping His word: faithfully teaching the entirety of God's word and trusting it literally and completely, forsaking man's philosophy and wisdom.
2. Not denying His name: Holding a complete allegiance to the Biblical Jesus and living in a way that is faithful to His name and character.
So, if you're looking for a good church, this is what matters. If these two qualities are in place, everything else that matters will be as well.
Why do we not see the Holy Spirit moving as powerfully here in the "Bible belt" in 2014 as we do in the book of Acts some 2,000 years ago? While I think it can be argued that He is, the lack of miracles and true conversions would argue otherwise. Either way, what is it that hinders the work of the Holy Spirit? What is different about the church now than was in the early church? Many things, but I'll narrow it down to one for now. Unity.
The early church was unified. They shared everything. They loved one another. They cared about people more than possessions. They spent lots of time praying together too. Regretfully, the body of Christ is very divided today and this is extremely grievous to the Holy Spirit, hindering His work in the church today. Some of this division is caused by our own error. Church leaders are often driven by personal agenda and / or pride, which causes them to enter into the study of God's word with a biased presupposition, thus causing them to formulate un-Biblical doctrine. Too many times this has caused the church to divide, following one man or another, and even forming new denominations. I'm not against denominations. I'm against the division they cause.
Paul would say, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
Division was a problem within several decades of the birth of the church. Paul addressed this issue with passion and diligence because it is of upmost importance. Different theology, which shouldn't actually exist, is sometimes the culprit. We have one Bible, we should have one doctrine and lovingly work together to come to one agreement in the Lord.
Sometimes different styles of ministry due to the different age groups, cultures and personal preferences represented in the body of Christ causes division. These differences are ok. The division is not. We should understand that style and preference don't really matter. Give a little, take a little. Work together to maintain unity. Love one another and embrace our non-essential differences. The body of Christ is diverse and that excites me!
Lastly, gossip and slander probably cause more division than anything else in the church....and this is sad. It's incredibly sad because God's word goes to great length in warning us against these sins. Proverbs says, "These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him....one who sows discord among brethren." What is an abomination to God? Murder? Rape? Abuse? No. Causing discord among Christians. Gossip and slander cause discord and Matthew 18 tells us how to handle another Christian who sins against us.
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." Seems simple enough, right.
So, change needs to be made in the church today, but before anyone starts pointing fingers, remember....we are the church. Each Christian must implement change into their own lives first. Quit standing on man's tradition and agenda and stand on God's word. Quit making a big deal about things that don't matter. Quit forming clicks and start loving each other. Quit gossiping and slandering others. Build up one another in love. Then, we will see unity in the church and the Holy Spirit will have the freedom to move and work as He pleases.
Being a Christ follower is all about love. Jesus said loving God was the greatest commandment and loving people, which is like it, was the second. Tonight, my 10 year old asked me, "How do you know if you love someone?" I told her that love isn't a feeling, but rather a choice. I must make the choice to love people, because to be honest, much of the time I don't feel like it. I don't always feel like loving my kids, because they certainly have their unlovable moments. I don't always feel like loving my wife and I'm sure she doesn't always feel like loving me. We choose to love one another in spite of our unlovability, flaws and imperfections.
Not only are we to love our family and friends, but we are to love all people....even our enemies. Easier said than done, right? No. It is completely impossible, apart from a work of the Holy Spirit. With the baptism of the Holy Spirit, however, you are then empowered to love. Love, in fact, is the initial evidence or fruit of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.
When you are abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit, you will love people unconditionally, selflessly, sacrificially and practically. This will be the natural byproduct, or fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life. I have certainly found this to be the case in my life, which has motivated me to share the word of God with anyone I come in contact with. Withholding eternal truth from a lost world simply isn't loving, so I am compelled to share with anyone I can. In fact, the best way to show your love for others is to labor in leading them to Christ by word and deed. After all, loving others and willingly allowing them to perish eternally are completely contradictory and incompatible.
Jesus gave us the perfect model of love, sharing truth with others and ministering to them as He was led by His Father. I find it very revealing, however, that Jesus was also a man of many sorrows. He was burdened and afflicted with the weight of the world and grieved over the lost, who were heading for an eternity separate from God. You see, loving others costs us. Loving others is work and often goes unnoticed and unwanted. Loving others often leaves you brokenhearted and hurt, because loving others without being loved back hurts.
As I share the gospel and minister to others, I am often hurt by the unloving and sometimes hateful response I get. Many times it is the lack of response that hurts the most from those I care for the most. I am taught to guard my heart, but in loving others, my defense will sometimes wain. Sometimes I just feel a little beat up. Maybe you can relate? If so, rest in the Lord my friend. You are in good company. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners and we love Him because He first loved us. While we spit in His face in rebellion towards Him, He willingly gave Himself up to be crucified that we could be adopted into the family of God. Keep sharing. Keep preaching. Keep teaching. Keep loving. Abide in Him. You are not alone.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Jesus
In our modern, Christian culture it has become common to hear believers say, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace." While I uderstand the sentiment, we are not "all sinners". The scriptures refer to all believers as saints. All have sinned, but when one is born again, the old nature dies and they are made a new creation. We must abide in Christ, remain in the spirit and consistently remember who we are in Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, please don't believe the lies of the enemy. You are a child of God, set apart for His work.
1 John 1:8 says, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Having sin and being a sinner are two different things in God's economy. Our identity isn't determined by what we do. Our identity is determined by what He's already done! That's the good news man! If you view yourself as a sinner, you will sin....repeatedly and continually. Rest in your identity as a child of God and live up to the calling to which you have been called. Go saints!
"You can believe all day long and not see anything happen. Nothing happens until you speak. Instead of just believing, you’ve got to start declaring." - Joel Osteen
Please don't buy into false teachings and lies like this. There is power in the tongue to hurt or to build up (James 3:5), but only God can speak and make what He wants to happen, happen. We can speak all we want, but if it isn't according to God's sovereign, predestined will, it won't happen. That's what Jesus meant when He said ask anything "in my name" and it shall be done for you. Ask anything according to His will, His purposes and His character and it will be done. Instead of naming and claiming what we want, the Bible says to make your request known to God, be thankful and be content. Does the slave tell his master what to do? Just a little Biblical perspective.
I received this article via email this morning from an atheist. It basically says that since man and ape have such similar DNA, we obviously evolved from them.
Here was my response:
It doesn't surprise me a bit that we have similar DNA to that of an ape, which I actually already knew according to the scientific community. The "interrelatedness between organisms" makes perfect sense Biblically. Mankind, animals and plants are all made from the same same thing....earth.
Then God said, “Let the EARTH bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit treethat yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. - (Genesis 1:11)
Then God said, “Let the EARTH bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. - (Genesis 1:24)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground (EARTH).... - (Genesis 2:7)
Of course man, animals and plants have lots of similar genetic makeup. We're made from the same stuff. Why then are we so different?
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground....and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - (Genesis 2:7)
God has breathed the "breath of life," or "ruach" in the Hebrew language, into every man and woman. This word is most often used for the word "Spirit" in the scriptures. God breathed his Spirit into mankind, making us separate and superior to that of the animal kingdom. Animals have a body and a soul (personality & intellect), but only mankind has a body, soul and spirit. We are a triune being, like God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We have been created in the image of God.
Why were we created in the image of God?
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...." - (Genesis 1:26)
We were created in the image of God for a clear purpose....relationship. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, in their inter-trinitarian communication, said, "Let us make man in Our image." The "Trinity" desires relationship with their creation, but in order for this to be possible, they had to breath into us their Spirit....the Spirit of God.
Since we are all born separated from God by the Adamic (sin) nature, we are all born spiritually dead. This is why we must be born again (John 3), filled with the Spirit of God, to be reconciled to God and in relationship with Him. God bless you.
Calvinism or Arminianism?
Who is right?....Those who believe in the predestination of God for salvation or the free will of man to choose? You may think the answer is in the new testament, and it is, but I encourage you to go back a bit farther. Go back to Genesis 24, where we find one of the first symbolic, prophetic pictures of the Holy Spirit gathering a bride (the church) for Jesus.
In this passage Abraham (a picture of God the Father) sends his servant, Eliezer (a picture of the Holy Spirit) to his homeland to acquire a bride for his son Isaac (a picture of Jesus). When Eliezer arrives, God miraculously provides Rebekah to become Isaac's bride. Here we see a pre-arranged, foreordained marriage. This would seem to support Calvinism, however, this is not the end of the story. After spending the night Eliezer request to leave the next morning, but Rebekah's family objects, asking if she can stay longer. Eliezer insist that they quickly return to Abraham and we arrive at verse 57.
Genesis 24:57-58: So they said, "We will call the young woman and ask her personally." Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go."
Here, Rebekah (a picture of the church) accepts the invitation and chooses to leave everything she knows to go be wed with Isaac. This portion of our passage clearly supports our ability to choose Jesus or not....salvation or not (Arminianism).
So, which is right? This is the question. The answer? Both. Both are right until they become exclusive. Yes, God predestines and foreordains those who are saved. Yes, we have the freedom to choose salvation. You see, it's simple. God can predestine freewill. Do you want to be saved? Then choose Jesus and you'll see that He already foreordained your salvation. I rest knowing that God is too big for me to put in a man-made box. He will not fit in any man-made box, but He fits perfectly in His book.
Every Christian is Spirit filled. If you're not Spirit filled, you're not a Christian (John 3). Every Christian is not, however, Spirit empowered (Acts 1:8). The baptism of the Holy Spirit (empowering) is a separate occurrence than that of the indwelling Spirit of salvation (John 20:22). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a single experience, but rather an ongoing condition (Ephesians 5). The question isn't, "Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?", but "Are you baptized in the Holy Spirit?" In our current, inherently evil state, we leak the Holy Spirit and must be continually empowered.
So, how are we empowered by or baptized in the Holy Spirit? Simple. Ask and receive with faith (Luke 11). You don't have to beg. You don't have to wonder. All you have to do is ask and receive with faith. Then, walk in faith and power. You now have the power of the same spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead to walk and serve faithfully in.
What happens next? Well, as long as you are walking in the power of the Spirit, the first, initial, outward evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is love. You will supernaturally love others....even when they cut you off in traffic....even when they don't say hi....even when they treat you unfairly. Love is the initial evidence (or fruit) of being baptized in the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5).
Will you speak in tongues? Maybe. Will you prophesy, or perform miracles, or heal, or interpret tongues....or receive any other Spiritual gift? Yes. Seek the Spiritual gifs, but don't get all caught up in them. Don't make them your focus. The Holy Spirit will give what gift He wants to give, when He wants to give it, to whom He wants to give it to (1 Corinthians 12). Remember, they're gifts. So be ready to receive when He wants to give.
I hope this helps you understand the Holy Spirit better. Man likes to focus on the outward manifestation of the Spiritual gifts, especially the speaking of tongues. Please don't get caught up in this. Why do many? Well, because you can fake (or manifest in the flesh) tongues and because you can see immediate, numerable results. Don't be deceived. Everybody who is baptized in the Holy Spirit won't speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12). The steam in a locomotive can toot the horn, but its primary function is to power the train. The same is true concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Its primary function is to empower you, so that you will be a witness of Jesus Christ to all the world.
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” - Jesus (Acts 1:8)
In light of the growing debate between young earth creationist (myself included) and everyone else, the question will often arise. "Why does it matter if we believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and that God created the universe in six, literal 24 hour periods of time?" Many think that it doesn't make a difference what we believe. After all, it isn't a "non-negotiatible". Well, I disagree. It's very important. You can be saved no matter how old you believe the earth and creation is, but I believe something much deeper lies at the core of the issue. I believe that there are far lying, deep rooted ramifacations, which are separate from simply not believing God's word literally, if we begin to buy into an old earth view.
First, let me be clear. I'm confident that God didn't waste any of the Bible. He wasn't trying to meet some type of quota or word count when He wrote it either. Every word of the Bible is given with specific purpose and direct intent to communicate to mankind. Consequently, we must value God's word enough that we study and rightly interpret the text before us, instead of brushing off the passages that are difficult to understand or align with our preconceived ideas concerning that text. Paul wrote that, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." - (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
I've had people tell me, "The creation account isn't given to us so that we can know how long it took God to create, nor is it given to us so that we can know how long mankind has existed." Well, I couldn't disagree more. You see, if it wasn't intended to indicate a specific timeframe for creation and our existence, God wouldn't have indicated a specific timeframe for creation and our existence. Seems simple enough to me. Many choose to look at the Genesis 1 creation account as poetic or allegorical, but the book of Genesis, chapter 1 to 50, is clearly a book of history.
Nonetheless, with that said, why would God want us to know that the entire universe and everything in it has only existed for roughly 6,000 years? Why would that understanding be important to God? God wants us to be confident in a young earth and very brief history of creation for this reason: He doesn't want us to make a big deal of this life and our fallen existence. God wants us to view this life in correct perspective. He wants us to see it as it is....very temporary. It's not billions or even millions of years of history, it's only about 6,000 years. This temporal existence is a vapor....here one second and gone the next. Jesus half brother James wrote, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." It's very important that we view the fallen world in this way, otherwise we subconsciously begin to get attatched to it. We can begin to view it as substantial and enduring, yet God clearly wants us to view it as disposable and passing.
God doesn't want us to make much of this fallen existence, which is truly an immeasurable speck on the radar of eternity. He wants us to take the things of this world and this life very lightly. Jesus said, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." If we view this life with too much esteem, we will naturally tend to hold on to it and make more of it than it is. The Lord's desire is that we live with eternal perspective, as did Paul, when he wrote, "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Paul knew that he was just passing though this life, saved by Jesus and on journey towards home. Because of this understanding, he was able to stay focused on Jesus and keep eternal perspective.
So, what is this life? If it's not billions of years of existence, but only 6,000 years, what does that mean?....It's only a rescue mission. In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, mankind was taken captive by sin, death and Satan and God's foreordained plan of redemption and salvation hurled into effect. Just 6,000 years ago, in the "first gospel" (Genesis 3:15), God told Satan exactly what He was going to do.....rescue mankind and bring them back into relationship and intimacy with Him through the messiah (Jesus), who would pay the atoning price for the sins of the world. You see, it's only a recuse mission. It's important that we understand this. God created the universe and everything in it for man to subdue and rule over. Then, on the last day of creation (day 6), when everything was ready, God made man in His image and rested on day 7. Then, on an unknown number of days later (I'm guessing not many), in a jealous fit of rage, Satan would then disrupt the intimacy he saw between God and man. From that day on God has been on a rescue mission.
That's all this life is....nothing more. It's only a rescue mission. Rescue missions don't last long. They're quick....in and out. Don't make a big deal of this life. Don't make a big deal of your past failures, your failed dreams, your insufficient income, your ailing body, your lack of popularity, status or power....don't make a big deal of anything, except doing your part in God's rescue mission. You see, God has given us the great privilege of partnering with Him in the greatest rescue mission in the history of the universe. If you are a Christian you are on the most elite military squad ever....God's army. Keep you eyes on Jesus. Fulfill His will in your life. Keep eternal perspective. Why? Because it's only a rescue mission.
I taught John 3:1-8 at a local school this morning to the biggest FCA group of the year....about 130 kids. I shared with them the necessity of being "born again" to enter the kingdom of God....that going to church or intellectually believing in Jesus doesn't necessarily indicate that they are saved, but that they must be "born again". Nicodemus, a leading Jewish teacher, believed he was born into the kingdom of God, but Jesus would say, "No Nicodemus...you must be born again." Many here in the South believe that they are "grafted" in to heaven because they live in the Bible belt or because their family goes to church. Such is not the case, but one must be born again. Nicodemus nationality wouldn't save him, nor does our family heritage, church attendance or good works.
How do you know if you are born again? Jesus likened the new birth to that of the wind. You can't see the wind or air, but you can see the effects of it. You can see leaves blowing down the street, a kite flying in the air and million ton aircraft being lifted into the sky. In the same way, the born again experience is invisible to the eye, but it's effects are unmistakable. Paul wrote, "The fruit of the Spirit is love...." Love is a natural byproduct and effect of the new birth and it is shown through joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. A new birth will be evidenced by these qualities and characteristics. Quite simply, when you are born again, your life will change. The effects will be unmistakable.
So, how much has your Christianity changed you? Is it evidenced by church attendance or by practical, Christlike change? May we examine ourselves.
How old is Christianity?
Most people don't consider Christianity to be a very old world religion. Many believe Christianity began roughly 2,000 years ago, after the resurrection of Jesus. Logically, due to this thinking, there are many who conclude that Christianity must be just another man made religion and not completely accurate. Most who hold this view also believe Christianity is merely one of the many ways to go to Heaven or receive eternal life.
Historically, Hinduism is considered the oldest world religion, beginning around 5,000 BC, but this is far from accurate. Still others would say that Judaism is the oldest world religion, tracing its origin to Abraham at about 4,000 BC, but this is not the case. Without question, the oldest world "religion" is Christianity. Why would I say that when the first people called Christians lived in Antioch around 100 AD?
In my answer, I take you back 6,000 years to the Garden of Eden. At this time Adam and Eve were enjoying intimacy and fellowship with God, who had recently created the universe and everything in it from nothing in six, literal, 24 hour periods of time. Adam and Eve were the only part of creation created in God's image. They were the workmanship of God, the apple of His eye. They enjoyed friendship, fellowship and intimacy with God there in the beautiful splendor of the Garden. Lucifer, in a fit of jealously and rage, would rebel against God and 1/3 of the angels would follow to serve him. He wanted to be worshipped as God, but after being being rejected from his heavenly place, he quickly realized the impossibility of that. So, Lucifer (now referred to as Satan), would lash out in insecurity and pride, desiring to separate God from man and destroying the intimacy they enjoyed together.
There in the garden he began his sinister plot by questioning the word of God. After all, he had recently witnessed its' power in the creation of the universe. “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”, he said. Eve responded, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Well, Eve's response was legalistic and pessimistic, but that's for another discussion.
After questioning God's word, Satan would go on to question God's goodness by saying, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Well, you know the rest of the story...failure, blame shifting and making excuses. Sound familiar?
So, Satan accomplished his goal...partly. He had separated man and God. How'd he do that? Sin. Sin had cost Satan his relationship with God and he knew it would do the same to man. What he didn't know is that it wouldn't separate man and God forever. You see, although the Satan and his demons will be forever separate from God, God had a foreordained plan for redeeming mankind. Remember, we are the apple of His eye....His workmanship, His masterpiece. He would not give up on us.
In Genesis 3:14-15 God confronted Satan and said, "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
In this passage God laid out His plan of redemption for man in what is commonly called the protoevangelium or "first gospel". Here God refers to Eve's offspring as Eve's seed. This is interesting, because women don't have a "seed". Men have a seed, but Jesus would be "born" of no man. Mary, Eve's distant daughter, would conceive by Holy Spirit insemination. God would become flesh and reverse the curse of sin, thwarting the plans of Satan. After being kicked out of the garden, Adam and Eve would have one hope, found in the coming messiah. They knew that He would set right was had went so wrong. They didn't know when He would come, but they knew He would. Their hope and their faith was in Him.
So, when did Christianity begin? Was it on the day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago? Nope. Was it when God called Abraham from Ur nearly 4,000 years ago? Nope. Christianity began roughly 6,000 years ago, when Adam and Eve placed their faith in the coming messiah. So, as I said earlier, Christianity is the oldest world "religion". Christianity isn't a religion though is it? No, not really. Man's religion is just that, man's. Religion is man made. Christianity, however, was made by no man. Christianity was made by God.
Christianity....not religion, REALITY.
By now, many people are well on their way in their New Years resolutions made Tuesday night. Many have set out to turn over a new leaf for 2014 and get a new start in one way or another. Studies say that 41% of Americans make New Years resolutions every year, yet 81% will fail to follow through in the year to come. For many this may mean losing weight or having a healthier lifestyle. For some it may involve making more money and working harder. Some want less stress or a more active lifestyle.
Change is a common phrase heard during this time of year. Many hope in the change that can come from a new year ahead and those resolutions that might be made, yet I have a question. Is change what we really need? Many may think so, but I strongly disagree. You see, no change has ever satisfied me. No change, no matter how great, has ever been adequate to end my desire for more change. Quite simply, the man who wants change, never has enough. Although change is inevitable and continuously occuring, none of it ever seems to satisfy or fulfill.
So, if change isn't necessary, what is? My answer may be unexpected. You see, it's nothing new. It's actually really old....about 2,000 years or so. In the New Testament book of 1st Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Now there is great gain in Godliness with contentment...." In this short sentence, I believe lies the answer to the disatisfaction and unsettledness of most people. Though many may seek change, this is really what they need....Godliness with contentment.
Please notice that I did not say we need contentment, but rather, Godliness with contentment. I am aware of many people who seem to be content in Godlessness, yet that is eternally deadly. The words of Jesus come to mind...."What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose His soul?" What mankind needs is Godliness....with contentment. One can conclude then, that if there need be any change, may it be a change towards Godliness. This should be our goal. This should be our desire. This should be our resolution....Godliness.
Once we have surrendered ourselves to God and are yielded to His work in our lives, there is yet one last step to this process....contentment. We live in a world that is drowning is discontentment. We live in a culture continuously seeking and searching for the next fix, hoping that this longing for more will somehow stop. How can we satisfy our discontentment? Simple: Acknowledge that you are a child of God. You are His son or daughter. You are an intricate part of His sovereign, predestined, fore-ordained plan. He has sovereignly predetermined every detail of your life....where you live, your economic status, your social status, your physical stature, your children, your spouse, your job, etc. Although God does not control you and has given you a free will, you have never made a decision that caught God off guard. He knows the thoughts and actions made by everyone who will ever live before anyone ever did. He doesn't control, but He is in control....and, His word promises us that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
I hope that in this New Year you will rest in the certainty, assurance and contentment that only God can provide. Otherwise, you'll always be searching and seeking for something else to satisfy that great chasm in your soul. Jesus is the answer, so draw near to Him and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).