The Tragic Loss of the Gospel

One of the biggest questions we need to answer to find the true meaning of the Gospel is, “Why did Jesus come into the world?” Ultimately, we know that He came to die and to be raised again because that was God’s eternal plan.  But we also see from Jesus’ own words that He came to call sinners to repentance.  John MacArthur sums it up well in his book The Gospel According to Jesus:  “Why did Jesus come into the world?  To call sinners – those who know they have a terminal disease, those who are hopeless and desperate, those who are hurting, those who are hungry and thirsty, those who are weak and weary, those who are broken, those whose lives are shattered – sinners who know they are unworthy yet long to be forgiven.”

Sadly, many have lost sight of this, and sometimes, this can result in incredibly disturbing, angering, sickening, heartbreaking and tragic results like in this video.

 

This “pastor” shows a disdain for God and His Word and for the people that are involved, and, ultimately for the Gospel itself.  He was willing to allow this church to die in order to please a few people rather than upholding the Truths of God’s Word.  He shows an incredible immaturity by swearing from the pulpit, and shows an extreme lack of Biblical knowledge and understanding, and an extreme lack of understanding of the Gospel.  And my heart breaks for him and for those he has short-changed.  MacArthur continues the idea of why Jesus came into the world:

“The truth is that unless people realize they have a sin problem, they will not come to Christ for a solution.  People do not come for healing unless they know they have a disease; they do not come for live unless they are conscious that they are under the penalty of death; they do not come for salvation unless they are weary of the bondage of sin.

Thus Jesus came to expose us all as sinners.  That is why His message was so penetrating, so forceful.  It tore our self-righteousness away and exposed our evil hearts, so that we might see ourselves as sinners.

…those who think they are good enough – those who do not understand the seriousness of sin – cannot respond to the Gospel.  They cannot be saved, for the Gospel is a call to sinners to repent and be forgiven.

No one who neglects to call sinners to repentance is preaching the Gospel according to Jesus.  Our Lord came to save sinners.  But to those who are unwilling to admit their sin, He has nothing to say – except to pronounce judgment.”

 

Sadly, this pastor doesn’t seem to have a grasp on this.  Instead, he essentially asks like a skeptic why he should listen to a 2,000 year old book to tell him how to love others (sounds like he’s been listening too much to Rob Bell).  Fortunately, it seems that many in this congregation were more wise to the Truths of Scripture than their pastor, and, “after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him” (Titus 3:10).  What this pastor did reeks of the Enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He stole the Truth of the Gospel from his congregation, killed the faith of some of them and ultimately, destroyed that church.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident.  Many are giving up the authority of God’s Word, which has been questioned from the beginning by the Enemy.  “Did God really say…” is behind each challenge to Scripture and the question continues to come up in the same ways it has throughout the history of God’s Word.  The Word of God has withstood every test thrown at it.  The trends have come and gone and this one will be no different.  But the Word of God and the Truths of Scripture will remain the same and will stand firm just as they always have.  It’s time we got back to preaching the Gospel according to Jesus!  But, as always, we must do so in an attitude of humility, thankfulness, love and compassion.  Many don’t understand that to truly love someone is to warn them of God’s coming judgment on those who refuse to repent.  They instead think the loving thing to do is to affirm people in their sin and encourage them to live as they please, but nothing could be further from the truth.

My point in saying all of this is not to bash anyone.  My heart truly breaks for those who question God’s Word and lead others astray because of it.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.” So if we truly love Jesus and others, it will drastically change our lives so that we will not be able to help but want to obey Him.  Will we stumble?  Sure, all the time.  But we will never live in a constant state of rebellion against what He has clearly laid out in His Word.

Much love in the Truth!

 

 

Reflections on 2020: Reblog of “Can We Have a Faith that Makes Jesus Marvel?”

This year has been interesting to say the least. It’s been really difficult in many ways, and to be honest, has left me feeling pretty useless, since we did not get to have our summer Camps, and thus I did not actually get to physically “do” the same amount of ministry that I normally do. Unfortunately, I do not naturally see the bright side of things, and tend to dwell on the negative, a sin that I would love to give up. It takes a lot more intentional effort on my part to stay positive, but thankfully, I have some help from my awesome and patient wife, even though there are many moments where I do not crave her advice, or constructive criticism (sorry Jen!). But in spite of the difficulties and challenges this year has presented, there have been some good things that have come of it.

Ultimately, it has been a year of rest for us at Camp. We have been able to get many major projects done, and were able to spend more quality time with our interns that is normally never possible.

As a huge fan of Silver Dollar City, it has been nice to be able to go and not have the huge crowds that sometimes dampen the experience (see pics below).

We’ve also enjoyed the time we have been able to spend with family more, because there was a short time (although it felt like forever) when we couldn’t.

The following is a blog (click the link to view the original, and to see some of the other blogs from that time) that I wrote about 8 years ago when we were nearing the end of our World Race journey. Reading this again humbled me because it made me realize that just like the Israelites during Moses’ time, I so easily forget the things I’ve learned, and the amazing things that God has done for me. For us. It also made me realize that sometimes, even though it’s unintentional, I tend to think back on my time on the Race as my most effective for the Kingdom of God, the time when I was doing “REAL” ministry, and that what I am doing now (parenting included) is somehow lesser, especially this year with us not having Camp. This, of course is a HUGE lie from the Enemy, and I need to confront it and call it what it is! God has brought us on such an amazing journey over these last several years, and when I really get to stop and think about it, it has been an incredible journey that is a continuation of and an addition to the one God called us to and took us on 8 years ago. And I wouldn’t change it for anything!

“Can We Have a Faith that Makes Jesus Marvel?” from 5/25/2013

I realize that I don’t write a lot.  It’s usually because I don’t feel like what I have is quite ready.  It’s not perfectly packaged, my thoughts might be too scattered, etc.  I’ve been learning that that is not a very good excuse.  For all those same reasons, I used to refrain from speaking (adding to conversations), teaching or preaching.  I shared that with my team back in Kenya during a team time and was quite surprised by what everyone had to say.

Many said that I had a great way of bringing the Word of God to life and making it easier to understand. They also said that I have a deep knowledge and wisdom about the Scriptures and that I should definitely speak up a lot more and seriously consider discipling people and preaching when we return to the States.  I realize this goes for blogs too.  I don’t need to wait to write about the profound new things I’ve learned or anything, but share my side of this incredible story that we’re living.  

This month hasn’t really been my best.  I’ve experienced a lot of physical and emotional burnout.  There were a couple of days where I just had an incredibly bad attitude about our work, or some of the situations that arose.  I realized that a lot of the attitude stemmed from worries.  Worries about the future and about money.  I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do when we get back and I don’t know how our finances are going to work either.  I’m ok with this now, but I realized that I needed to take a couple of days off to fast and just listen to God.

On the 2nd day, I was reading in Matthew 15 about the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed.  Jesus initially ignored her, then told her that He had come only for the Jews and that it wasn’t right for Him to “take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Her answer was, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  At this, it says that Jesus was astonished, or marveled as some translations say.  I thought to myself, “Man, I know that I don’t have a faith that could make Jesus “marvel.”  But then I heard God clearly say, “Yes you do.”  Then He reminded me of our journey to get here on the Race.

He reminded me that even though we had several setbacks and struggles, we didn’t give up on fundraising and getting to training camp.  We didn’t give up when we almost didn’t make it to launch.  And then He reminded me that I had enough faith to believe His promise that we were going to stay on the entire Race, even when our plane tickets to go home had been bought and it looked impossible for us to be able to raise the money to finish.  He told me that it is a faith like Abraham’s.  

It’s crazy how easily we can forget what kind of faith we have, or how quickly we forget what God has done for us.  He gives us good gifts, He gives us faith and most importantly, He has given us eternal life and has made us righteous in His sight even though we did nothing to get there on our own.  As for me, I will do my best to remember His greatness and walk in the Truth that He has given me a great faith.

The True American Idol… Or Tom Brady Doesn’t Deserve Any Super Bowl Rings (But Neither Does Anyone Else)

I am of the admittedly not so humble opinion that Tom Brady does not deserve most, if any of the Super Bowl rings he possesses.  Whether this is due to cheating or to sheer dumb luck, I am just not a fan of the man or of his gloating fans who foolishly call him a goat, which I just discovered means greatest of all time (scoffs and barfs).  However, as I was thinking (or rather, stewing) on these things, the Lord gently brought me back to reality.  It’s true that Tom Brady doesn’t deserve to win the Superbowl, but neither does Aaron Rodgers (I am a Packers fan!), or Brett Farve, or Bart Starr, or Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees, or John Elway, Patrick Mahomes, or…the list could go on and on.

It also made me realize that sports, especially the NFL, is truly an idol for many Americans, myself included.

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The Truth is, no one deserves anything good.  James 1:17 says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Jesus says in Matthew 5:45, that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

We all start out as God’s enemies.  We reject His Truths, and try to live our own way.  So why does God do this?  Why does God give good gifts to those who are His enemies, as well as to His children?  Obviously, He gives good gifts to His children because they are His, and He loves them and wishes to bless them, so that they, in turn can bless others.  So why is He also generous to those who aren’t His children, to those who are His enemies?

God’s kindness to His enemies is meant to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4).  God’s enemies have no excuse for hating Him and for not coming to Him in genuine saving faith because not only has He been kind to them by giving them life, sunshine, rain, breath, food, water, and every other good and pleasurable thing in life, but He has also given them abundant evidence of His presence and of the truthfulness and trustworthiness of His Word, the Bible.  He showed His love by putting on human flesh, perfectly abiding by His own laws, since we could never do that, enduring abuse and rejection from the very ones He came to save, dying a most brutal, but necessary sacrificial death on a cross, and rising from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins, and eternal life to all who come to Him in repentance and saving faith.

God always brings my thoughts back to the Gospel.  So, as much as I am not a fan of Tom Brady, and as much as I can’t stand people calling him a goat, I feel sorry for him. He is at this moment, truly a goat. Not in the sense that he’s the greatest of all time, because that is only an opinion, which I strongly disagree with, but in the sense that Jesus meant it in Matthew 25:31-46. And if that doesn’t change, he will suffer the eternal wrath of God, which I do not wish on my worst enemy, imagined or not. I also feel sorry for the fact that he has nothing to live for but football and Super Bowl rings, and I pray that he will one day see these as good, undeserved gifts from God, and turn to Him in repentance and saving faith, to no longer be a goat, but to become one of Christ’s sheep.  Same goes for any of the above mentioned NFL players or anyone else who may not know Jesus Christ.  Same goes for anyone reading this who may not know or truly love Jesus Christ!

This world and this life is temporary, and football games, seasons, players and teams are all temporary. We as Christians should never boast in them or be arrogant about them since we are called only to boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. Yet we can’t ever seem get enough of them, and of winning, and it’s because these things are passing away quickly, and can never really satisfy. The best it can do is give you an extremely temporary high, but leave you feeling empty and wanting more and more. I’m not saying we should stop watching football or other sports, but we should definitely stop putting so much stock in them and letting them affect our moods and feelings, myself included. If that means giving them up, then we should be willing to obey Christ and do just that. Many NFL players and fans are incredibly boastful and arrogant, and I really hate boasting and arrogance, because God hates them, but admittedly because it also hurts my sinful pride. But Jesus does not boast and is not arrogant, even though He has every right to! So we should love and follow Him, because He is forever, and is the only way to have eternal life and be saved from the eternal wrath of God!

Grace, Love, and Peace!

Non-Toxic Masculinity Part 2 (We Should Submit to Our Wives and Children?!)

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and outdoor, text that says 'The ultimate purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to glorify God. God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss'

If you haven’t yet, check out the first post, as it lays the foundation for why I’m saying what I’m saying.

The next four ‘Real men’ headings tie in so closely together, that I’m dealing with them all at once.

Real Men:  Lead with Courage, Love their Wives, Shepherd their Families, and Work Hard:  You may have noticed that in the title it says, “We should submit to our wives and children?!  You’re probably thinking, “I’m pretty sure the Bible says that wives are to submit to their husbands, and that children are to obey their parents.” Yes, it does, but we need the proper context to understand what these things really mean.

The main passage that deals with how we are to relate to each other is Ephesians 5:21-33.  Many are quite familiar with verses 22-24, which talk about the wife submitting to her husband.  And that is important, but that’s not all there is to it.  The rest of the chapter (verses 25-33, a much bigger portion) deals with how the husband is to treat the wife.  Verse 21 gives us the key to understanding the next several verses, even going into chapter 6.  It says that we are to “submit (or be subject) to one another in the fear (or reverence) of Christ,” then gives us practical ways in which to do that, especially within the family.  Commenting on this section of Scripture, John MacArthur says,

 “Christian marriages and families are to be radically different from those of the world.  The relationships between husbands and wives and parents and children is to be so bathed in humility, love, and mutual submission that the authority of husbands and parents, though exercised when necessary, becomes almost invisible and the submission of wives and children is no more than acting in the spirit of gracious love.”

The biggest problem is that we all want our own way, and “When self insists on its own rights, opinions, and goals, harmony and peace are precluded.” On the other hand,

 “Every obedient, Spirit-filled Christian is a submitting Christian.  The husband who demands his wife’s submission to him but does not recognize his own obligation to submit to her distorts God’s standard for the marriage relationship and cannot rightly function as a godly husband.  Parents who demand obedience from their children but do not recognize their own obligation to submit in loving sacrifice to meet their children’s needs are themselves disobedient to their heavenly Father and cannot rightly function as godly parents.”

I don’t know about you, but this was kind of new to me.  But it really makes sense when you look at Jesus.  He is equal with the Father, yet He perfectly submitted to the Father’s will in coming to Earth, living a perfect life, and dying on the cross.  And the Father gave Jesus everything He needed to do what He had asked Him to do.  So yes, wives are to submit themselves to their husbands, and children are to obey their parents; but husbands are to submit to their wives, to love them and take care of their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs by leading, shepherding and working, and parents are to do the same for their children.

Not only that, but husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves His Church.  This is not just with a phileo love, which will love only as love is given; but it is to be an agape love, which is self-giving, and is the kind of love with which Christ loves the Church, and gave His life for her.  It is a selfless love that loves for the sake of giving, and is not based on what it gets.

“The blessed marriage is the marriage in which the husband loves his wife with unlimited caring.  Something is basically wrong if she is looked at only as a cook, housekeeper, occasional companion, and sex partner.  She is a God-given treasure to be loved, cared for, nourished, and cherished.”

This is definitely hard work, and again, goes completely against human nature, but isn’t that the way it is with God?  And yes, we will be looked down on by the world, but we need to be light for the world and to lovingly submit to one another.

Love their Enemies:  A Christian should never make enemies with any person.  Satan and sin are our true enemies that we share in common with all of humanity.  It’s just that a large portion of humanity does not realize that Satan and sin are their real enemy.  They are enemies of God and everything and everyone that represents Him, but that’s really on them.  If we are to become like Christ, we are to love our enemies.  This again, goes against human nature, and can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit residing in a person.  Loving our enemies first and foremost concerns letting people know of their spiritual condition and giving them the Gospel.  MacArthur put it this way, “Love that does not openly expose and oppose sin is not biblical love.  Love not only ‘does not act unbecomingly’ itself but it ‘does not rejoice in unrighteousness’ wherever it might be found (1 Cor. 13:5-6).” The best thing we can do for our enemies, is pray for them, and share the Gospel with them, and to return good for evil (be nice when they aren’t).  Who knows?  You may perhaps end up finding a lifelong friend and brother/sister in that person, or in those people.

Share the Gospel:  The Apostles and the early Church gave their lives, and were severely persecuted for sharing the Gospel, and many still are today.  Unfortunately, in much of Western culture, it has become more or less optional; saved for the “more spiritual” Christians.  The problem is, there aren’t “more spiritual” or “less spiritual” Christians.  Either Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of your life, or he is neither.  If He is, then you have a mandate to share the Gospel with those around you.

Love the Church:  Many professed Christians don’t truly love the Church because they say it’s full of hypocrites.  Of course it is!  You’re one of them!  But the Church is the body of Christ, and you are a part of it, if you truly are a Christian!  Christ loves the Church because it is His body, and those who are part of that body must necessarily love the Church.  It wouldn’t make sense to do otherwise.  Paul had great anxiety because of his love and care for the Church (2 Cor. 11:26).  He went through trials of all kinds on account of the Church and for the spread of the Gospel.  His letters were mostly to churches to correct, strengthen and encourage them.  We should have no less zeal for the Church.

Pursue Purity:  In this final section of the book, Bill Shannon, its author, gives 5 warnings and 5 action steps in dealing with purity.

1.) Beware lest you fall.  Satan is always looking for a way to bring us down.

2.) Lust is a serious sin.  It’s not just a “secret sin” and it most certainly isn’t harmless.  Jesus warned us that, “whoever looks at someone with lust for them has already committed adultery (or sexual sin) with them in their heart” (Matt. 5:28).

3.) The Lord is the Avenger.  God knows our hearts and has called us away from impurity and to godliness.  We will suffer the consequences for sexual sin.

4.) Sexual sin destroys its victims.  Sexual sin is not only against God, it is also against our own bodies and the body of the one with whom we commit sexual sin.  It is never without consequences.

5.) Moral perversion degrades and enslaves.  Once you dabble in sexual sin, even if it seems “harmless,” it is very hard to get away from.  It causes you to look at others with a perverted mind all the time, and it really does enslave you to that mindset and to those actions.

Action steps (these are all self-explanatory):

1.)  Admit your sin and take full responsibility

2.)  Acknowledge that lust is a lie

3.)  Alter your lifestyle to avoid temptation

4.)  Anchor your heart in the Word of God

5.)  Ask others to hold you accountable

We cannot do any of these things outside of the grace of God, and without keeping ourselves grounded in Him through His Word, through prayer, and through the encouragement of other believers.  And even then, we will stumble and fall often.  But let us not become weary in doing what is good (Galatians 6:9), but keep fighting the good fight of faith!

Grace, love and peace!

Non-Toxic Masculinity: Not Just about Men

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I loosely hold the opinion that there is no such thing as ‘Toxic Masculinity.’ The reason for this, is that I believe that much of what has traditionally been labeled in our society as ‘masculine,’ in particular, the bad things, the root of most of those things being dominance over everyone and in everything (particularly over women, children, and relationships), and getting even with people who have wronged them; have nothing to do with being a man at all.  If you want to know more about what I think those things are, just ask me.

My main purpose here, is to show what true Masculinity, or manhood really is.  And, of course, this kind of thing can only come from the true Source of all Truth, and all good things, God Himself, and what He has revealed to us through Scripture.  Many may want to just stop here, whether because of pre-conceived ideas of what the Bible says about manhood, or because you just don’t care what the Bible has to say about anything.  In either case, I would encourage you to keep reading, because there are likely many things that will surprise you.  I know they did me, though they shouldn’t have, as they’ve been there all along.  I write these words with conviction, as these are the things that God is teaching me right now.

Along with a recent study of Ephesians, I also read a book called Men of the Word, written by several different authors, edited by Nathan Busenitz.  This book gives several keys to becoming a godly man and gives practical ways in which we are to live out each of these things by showing the manifestation of this quality in the life of someone in the Bible.

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Each chapter is a heading that reads: Real men: Walk with God, Live by faith, find satisfaction in God, treasure God’s Word, pray with boldness, love to worship, flee temptation, repent from sin, refuse to compromise, lead with courage, love their wives, shepherd their families, work hard, love their enemies, share the Gospel, love the Church, and pursue purity.

That’s a long list of things, so I won’t cover each specifically in great detail, but just give a basic idea of what it looks like.  I’ll probably cover half in this post, and half in the next.

The only way that anyone, man or woman, can live this way is to be a true Christian.  A person needs to believe that they are completely hopeless and in rebellion against God, but believe that God send Jesus to live the perfect life that no one else could, to die the sacrificial death that no one else could, but that they deserve to die, and that all the sacrificed in the Old Testament combined could not cover for their rebellion against God; and most importantly that Jesus rose from the dead and offers that same resurrection to all who put their faith and hope in Him, and that they are now free to live their lives to God in thankfulness for what He has done.

And how could we do otherwise?  As John MacArthur says in his commentary on Ephesians (from which I will get several quotes): “The only reliable evidence of a person’s being saved is not a past experience of receiving Christ but a present life that reflects Christ. ‘The one who says, “I have come to know Him” and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’ (1 John 2:4).  New creatures act like new creatures.”

Walk with God:  Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  This really covers and opens up the rest of the headings, because walking with God involves every one of them.  Noah, Enoch, David, and Moses are some primary examples of men who walked with God.

Live by Faith:  Hebrews 11:1 says it best: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Ultimately, to live by faith means to trust God’s promises, and that He will give you what you need because He knows your needs.  It is also to remember the salvation that is yours in Jesus Christ, and to hold tightly to that in every situation in life.  Easier said than done.  Abraham is a great example here.  God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him as a test of Abraham’s faith.  God had promised that Isaac would be his descendant through whom He would bless all the nations, so Abraham held to that promise, even as he had the knife poised above his head.  Hebrews tells us that “(Abraham) considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hold on to God’s promises!  He has never broken one before, and He never will!

Find Satisfaction in God:  This really ties back in to trusting God’s promises to take care of our needs.  As John Piper always says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” The Biblical example given here is how not to do it.  Solomon was King David’s son and was the wisest and richest king of Israel.  Unfortunately, he did not use that wisdom well for a good portion of his life, and reflected on how vain it was to pursue things like riches, women, fame, and even hard work for recognition, in the book of Ecclesiastes.  It’s not that those things are necessarily bad in and of themselves, but when we pursue them and forget about God in the process, we make these things an idol and we will never be truly happy or satisfied with them, because they cannot fill the need that only God can fill.

Treasure God’s Word:  Scripture truly is a treasure.  God has borne His heart to us through it, and has perfectly preserved it so that we can still know it today.  The Word is how we can know the heart of God and grow to love Him more and more and become more like Him, which is our aim in life.  It is inerrant, infallible, and authoritative to give us everything we need to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

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Pray with Boldness:  The example given here is of Elijah, who prayed for a widow’s son to come back to life; who prayed for there to be no rain in Israel because of how wicked they had become; who prayed for fire from God to consume a sacrifice that he had soaked in water; and who prayed for rain to return to Israel after 3.5 years!  This isn’t out of our league, because right after the challenge to Baal’s prophets, and the rain coming, he ran from a woman who threatened to kill him!  He had a nature just like ours (James 5:17), so he was no superhuman.  He had to be reminded of God’s promises just like we do, even after seeing God’s amazing power on display!

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Love to worship:  Worship is more than just singing.  It is a way of life.  Whatever we do, we should do it with God in mind.  That is worship, plain and simple!

Flee Temptation:  Andrew Gutierrez, the author of this chapter, gives four ways to flee temptation: 1.) Request help from God, 2.) Remember the Gospel, 3.)Run with the Godly (other strong believers), 4.)Resist (Fight) Temptation.  God always gives us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13, but there are some temptations (especially sexual temptations) from which we must run rather than fight.  But if we try to do it on our own, we will fail.  And when we do, we must:

Repent from Sin:  King David, a man after God’s own heart, fell into temptation by being where he wasn’t supposed to be, and abusing his power.  He committed sexual sin and murder for which he was confronted by a prophet.  Most men in this day and age would get upset at being confronted with sin, but David wrote an entire Psalm (Psalm 51) begging for God’s forgiveness and repenting of the wicked things he had done.  When God’s Word or a faithful friend or family member confronts you with sin, turn away from it and ask for God’s forgiveness.

Refuse to Compromise:  …on the Truths of Scripture.  This shouldn’t be taken to mean refuse to compromise on our own selfish desires.  It means to refuse to compromise the Truth of the Gospel even in the face of danger.  Daniel was threatened with being thrown in a Lion’s Den, the Apostles were threatened with prison, beatings and death, and many Christians today (China, Syria, the middle east) are threatened with imprisonment and death for being Christians.  Even here in the USA we are threatened socially for upholding Biblical standards, being called intolerant, bigoted, and made fun of as outdated.  But in the face of any of these things, we are to hold to the promises of God that He will reward those who persevere to the end, and who do not distort or compromise His Truth that He has given us through His Word.

To be continued…

Grace, love and peace!

 

Was the Old Testament God Really That Angry?

The Old Testament seems to really stump a lot of folks, mostly, I fear, because they don’t know it that well, and don’t understand it, because they don’t really take the time to actually read it. The problem is, you can’t really truly appreciate the New Testament without knowing and understanding the Old. The New Testament fulfills and explains the Old. The biggest way being that all sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s ultimate and final sacrifice. But more on that another time.

The Old Testament talks a lot about God’s judgement, wrath, and justice to be sure; but so does the New Testament. But the Old Testament also has just as much to say about God’s love, mercy and grace as the New Testament does, if not even more. Even from the very beginning in Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned for the first time, God graciously covered them with the skin of an animal instead of giving them the death they deserved, and which He had promised to them if they disobeyed.

The remainder of the Old Testament shows a constant struggle between God and His people in which they turn away from Him, shake their fists at Him, commit unspeakable atrocities against Him, and worship anything and everything but Him; and God often times punishing them, but then restoring them. God often speaks kindly to His incredibly wayward people, offering them unlimited grace and forgiveness in spite of their sin. He begs them to return to Him and to seek Him, as He still does for us today.

God’s people are often compared to an incredibly unfaithful wife who sells herself to others as a prostitute. No one would ever take back a wife like that, but God has done this on multiple occasions. Hosea is all about this concept, and Isaiah also has a lot to say about it, as do many other Old Testament books.

The main passages that have inspired this particular post are Isaiah 52-56. This passage is rich in God’s promises of love and mercy and grace. It shows us the lengths God was willing to go to, to redeem people of all nations to Himself. Hundreds of years before it even happened, this passage includes detailed accounts of what would happen to Jesus, God in the flesh, as He came to earth to live a perfect life, yet die a horrific death and a final sacrifice to obliterate the sins of God’s people (52:13-53:12 This is the Gospel according to God)! It shows us God’s amazing plan for His people, for those who do come to Him in repentance; how they will be forgiven and given unlimited peace, how God will have unlimited compassion on them, even though for a while He did turn His face from them and allowed them to go though terrible trials (54:7-8). He invites all people to come and eat and drink from Him without price (55:1-2)! He begs the wicked to forsake their evil ways and thoughts and return to Him (55:3-7)!

Chapter 56 begins by reminding us not to be afraid of God separating those of us who are not Israelites, but who who have come to Him in repentance from His people Israel, but at the same time reminds us not to be arrogant in thinking that we are better than God’s people Israel, since we are now grafted in to the promises of God. Paul covers this in more detail in Romans 11:16-36.

God has never changed. There is no difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. He remains the same, even today. He offers His unlimited kindness and grace to all people now, and asks us to do the same, because there will come a day, when time will run out, and God will have to deal justly with those who refuse to come to Him. He will judge them by the law, as they desire, instead of by His righteousness which He offers through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God tells us that we cannot be righteous on our own all throughout the Bible, and offers to give us His righteousness, but many people still think they are good enough on their own; that they can be judged by God based on His law of perfection, and still come out clean. But, as the saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect!” The Bible clearly confirms this fact in places like Psalm 53:1-3 and Romans 3:12.

Therefore, I implore you, along with the amazing and great God whom I serve, who, although He is just, and holy, righteous, and full of wrath against sin, offers unlimited peace and forgiveness of sins through the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; I implore you to return to God; forsake yourself and your own ways, because they aren’t good enough (as definitely neither are mine!), and give yourself completely to God! This is the only way to be saved from His wrath that is to come! This is my prayer for you, as well as all who do not love God and keep His commandments! After all, it’s God’s kindness toward us now, that should lead us to repentance!

May God’s grace and peace be with you!

The Authority of the Bible and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I am quite thankful to be able to read about a man who held to such great faith and to the Truths of the Bible amid the challenges that Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced. He grew up in with parents of prestige, especially his father, who was a scientist. He also grew up in an intellectual neighborhood and studied under some great minds. He had great respect for his father and his teachers, even though he disagreed with their conclusions in their theology. He was able to think for himself and come to some great theological and biblical conclusions that truly shaped his life and the way he lived it.

He also faced some great social and political turmoil, much similar to what the Church faces today. Preaching the true Gospel was not popular socially, and, in spite of Germany’s rich theological past, became politically incorrect as well, and eventually got him put in jail, then into a concentration camp, and eventually killed.

In spite of all of these things, Bonhoeffer unapologetically preached the absolute authority, and thus the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, and from that, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also encouraged his students to “feel at one with the doubter; …he did not indulge in cheap apologetics which from their lofty base fire upon the battlements of natural science. We must think with the doubter, …even doubt with him.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I was particularly inspired by the following letter he wrote to a brother-in-law who was said to be “as theologically liberal as he was conservative.”

First of all I will confess quite simply-I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply readthe Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. Only if we expect from it the ultimate answer, shall we receive it. That is because in the Bible God speaks to us. And one cannot simply think about God in one’s own strength, one has to enquire of him. Only if we seek him, will he answer us. Of course it is also possible to read the Bible like any other book, that is to say from the point of view of textual criticism, etc.; ther is nothing to be said against that. Only that that is not the method which will reveal to us the heart of the Bible, but only the surface, just as we do not grasp the words of someone we love by taking them to bits, but by simply receiving them, so that for days they go on lingering in our minds, simply because they are the words of a person we love; and just as these words reveal more and more of the person who said them as we go on, like Mary, “pondering them in her heart,” so it will be with the words of the Bible. Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does not will to leave us along with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible….

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament.

And I would like to tell you now quite personally: since I have leart to read the Bible in this way-and this has not been for so very long-it becomes every day more wonderful to me. I read it in the morning and evening, often during the day as well, and every day I consider a text which I have chosen for the whole week, and try to sink deeply into it, so as really to hear what it is saying. I know that without this I could not live properly any longer.

I find this particularly inspiring because, although I had much less education, I too went through theological training in 5 years of Bible College, but it wasn’t until after that that I came to truly love and appreciate the Bible in the way Bonhoeffer described above. His words are far more eloquent than mine, but what he shared in that letter are my thoughts exactly.

I wanted to share this to encourage some and for others, to help them better understand why I think and believe the way I do.

Thanks for reading! Grace, love and peace!

*all quotes taken from ‘Bonheffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy’ by Eric Metaxas

Jesus was Exclusive

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything.  I usually write to process something, share something exciting or write about something that is weighing heavy on my heart.

Right now, what is weighing most heavy on my heart, and what I feel God prompting me to say something about is, in a sense, idolatry.  We can make idols of many things, but one of the most dangerous yet most subtle things we do is make false versions of God.  So many people interpret Scripture based on how they feel.  When we do that, we deny, twist and misinterpret certain aspects of Scripture, and consequently God’s character.  Scripture warns us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Beware2

What should be happening is we should be allowing Scripture to change the way we feel about ourselves and about God.  Instead of reading into Scripture who we think God should be and our own pre-conceived notions, we should be seeking to know God for who He really is as He has revealed Himself in His Word, and humbly accepting and embracing the Truth and allowing it to change our lives as we stand in awe of who God really is.  The only way to be able to do that is to know and embrace Jesus Christ as the Sovereign God of all creation and the only Savior for the world, and thus of your life.  And this cannot leave you unchanged.

Blog Obeying Christ

Unfortunately, the Jesus that many embrace today is a soft-spoken, all inclusive guy who would never tell anyone how to live, who wants to bless everyone who says his name with health and wealth and would certainly never tell anyone that they are going to Hell if they don’t embrace Him as Lord.  It is true that Jesus called all kinds of people to be His disciples, and still does today.  He calls people from all kinds of races, ethnicities and backgrounds.  But He changes people’s lives to be conformed to His image!  He takes them as they are if they come broken before Him, and molds them and makes them into who He wants them to be.  They can’t do it on their own and they have to realize that.  All are invited to “‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life” (Revelation 22:17), but not all will accept that invitation.  Jesus was really clear about what will happen to those who don’t accept His invitation.  He clearly explains that at the end of time, they will be gathered and thrown into a fiery furnace (the Lake of Fire) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:36-42, 47-50).

David Platt

Sadly, many even within the Church believe that if you live a good enough life, Jesus will accept you.  But the Jesus of Scripture was actually very selective about the kinds of people who could follow Him.  He said things like “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30), and “…then I will declare to them (those who call Him Lord, but don’t obey Him), ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’”(Matt.7:23).  Elsewhere in Scripture, there are several passages which proclaim the exclusivity of Jesus’ message; among which is Acts 4:12: “And there is Salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we MUST be saved” (emphasis mine).

The Old Testament even refutes the idea that any amount of works can save us with passages like Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” In other words, every “good” thing we do is tainted by some sort of selfish motive.  And, of course, passages that tell us that we aren’t even good at all, like: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, Psalm 14:3 and 53:3 all carry the same idea).

Blog Costly Discipleship

The Jesus of Scripture told would be followers that if they loved their families more than Him, they couldn’t be His disciples.  He spoke out against sin, turned over tables in the temple of a false religion (it became false because of the fact that it lost sight of the intent of the Law), claimed to be THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life and that no one could come to the Father except through Him and, most importantly, He claimed to be God!  The Jesus of Scripture spoke a ton about Hell and judgement, and will one day return to judge unrepentant sinners.

I don’t think the Jesus of Scripture would be very well received if He Himself were on earth today preaching the same message He preached then.  He wasn’t well received in His own day.  I think He would be crucified all over again.  He would be called “narrow-minded,” “crazy” and even “Satan” just like He was then.  He told His disciples that they would be called the same names He was called, be treated the way He was treated, and that some of them would even be killed for speaking His Truth, and many still are today.  He said that when you mistreat one of His followers, you are mistreating Him (Matthew 25:41-46, John 15:18-25).

The Gospel of Jesus is exclusive, yet there are an alarming number of professing Christians who are beginning to buy into the lie that all religions lead to God.  Even more alarming is that there are many leaders within the Church that are questioning the Word of God now the way the Serpent did in the Garden.  “Are we really to believe that the only way for people to get into Heaven is by holding to a certain set of beliefs about God, and that people spend eternity in Hell because they didn’t make a right decision with a small amount of time they had on earth?” is the line of thinking.  And to an extent, they are right.  It’s so much more than just holding to a certain set of beliefs.  Belief is essential for salvation, but that belief must be genuine, from the heart; and it must change your life!

Beware

Jesus warns everyone to “Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” and that “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).  But He does tell us what it takes to be His disciple.  One of the best passages for this is the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.

First, we have to become “Poor in spirit.” This means that we must come to an understanding that we have nothing to offer God and are completely dependent on His Grace to be able to be made right with Him.  This will lead to “mourning” over our sin and the ways in which we have offended God.  That should “humble” us and cause us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

We have to be “merciful” because we have been shown great mercy.  The one who shows no mercy will receive none (James 2:13).  All of these things will help us to become “pure in heart” because, as God works in our lives, our thoughts become more conformed to His and He is able to overcome our deceitful hearts more and more.

Being a “peacemaker” should then characterize our lives.  Paul says in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In the end, that comes down to repaying evil with good, and not avenging ourselves.  But at the same time, Jesus warned us that people would persecute us because they did it to Him.  He even went as far as to say: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).  When we speak Christ’s message, it is naturally going to cause people to hate us because they resent the fact that there is only one way to God.  And, as Jesus warned later in that passage, it may even mean that our own family members turn against us.  Our response should be to continue to show them love and, even more importantly, to pray for them to come to Christ!

Beware of Coexist

I hope that as you have read this post, it has been encouraging, and yet convicting.  It certainly has been for me as I’ve written it.  My biggest prayer is that we as believers will take Scripture seriously and as it is.  It takes a lot of discipline on our part, but it also takes the Grace of God to help us to see the Truth for what it is.  That is my prayer for myself, and it is my prayer for you as well!

Grace, love and peace in the Truth!