Saturday, April 30, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
So what now? The death and resurrection of Jesus has been marked and pondered and celebrated. What now?
Now is when we continue to walk with Jesus. We spend even more time with Him in prayer and in His Word and in obedience to his Holy Spirit than before. In short, we continue to grow in our personal relationship with Him. If you do not yet know Jesus, John 14:7-11 tells us that going forward, you can. The best place to start to get to know Jesus is in the entire book of John.
Now, there are some folks in the Christian press and church (who consider themselves to be especially relevant and current) that have taken a low view of a personal relationship with Christ. They have conjured an opinion that it is somehow selfish, too inward-looking or not concerned enough with the environment or social justice. Yet Philippians 2:5 tells us our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” How can we know the attitude of Christ if we do not know Christ personally? Everything begins with a personal relationship with Christ because only He is good and only He can produce regeneration and right motives.
Philippians 2:13 reminds us that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating a personal Jesus in the sense that Jesus becomes who we want Him to be, or becomes a creation of our own imagination. The personal Jesus I’m talking about is the Jesus of the Bible that we can approach one-to-one. The fear of the Lord is not about being afraid. It’s about a loving God wanting us to respect Him enough to come to Him and trust Him like He asks us to and very much wants us to. But He desires we come to Him through Jesus Christ…not an image, fantasy or self-made secular humanist construction of Him. Acts 17:29 says, “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill.”
God wants us to come to Him based on who He is: the God of the Bible. It is on that foundation only on which He does the work of building personal relationship.
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27
“Come to me, all 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. John 10:14-18
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.'” John 14:6-7
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Tuesday I had the privilege of driving home from the airport in a slush storm (many of you may have been out in similar stuff). I hadn’t gotten more than a few minutes from the airport when the lights of a police car flashed a warning ahead. As I got closer, the cop car was sticking into the road at an angle, trying to protect a car jutting into the right lane after having spun out. As I moved over into the far left lane, a huge pickup truck was riding my tail, so as soon as I safely could, I pulled back into the right lane. The pickup floored the gas and flew past me, only to be surprised by another car that had spun out on the left side of the highway and was now jutting into the left lane. The pickup veered into my lane just ahead of me to avoid the car.
I proceeded to count one more accident and four more spinouts between the airport and home. Perhaps folks think that, because it’s April, the timeframe for spinning out on roadways has expired. But freezing precipitation is the same in April as it is in January. Going too fast in it garners the same results in April as it does in February. And although some who drove precariously did escape the ditch and tow truck, I believe that if they continue to disregard the law of physics, their day of wishing they had Triple A will arrive.
The same is true of sin. Regardless of the time of year, or whom we are with, or against whom we sin--whether a sin of omission or commission--sin will eventually throw us off God’s course. And unless sin is repented of, it does not have an expiration date. Sins we are aware that we have committed remain with us until we repent of them. God doesn’t “cut us a break” because that sin we committed four years ago happened four years ago. We may wonder, “Why bother to even bring that old sin up with God?” Well, maybe because we only became aware recently that what we did four years ago is a sin. Or maybe we’ve known all along it is a sin but out of shame, embarrassment or pain have avoided bringing it to the throne of God. It’s never too late to deal with past sin through repentance.
The Bible mentions in several places, including here in Psalm 103:8, that “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” His timing regarding our transgressions is unique for each of us. Some of us will go along, speeding in the freezing rain of sin seemingly unscathed for months or years. For others, God will put the brake on particular sin immediately, bringing us to an abrupt reality check the moment we try to outwit Him. It isn’t for us to say, “That’s not fair” or to bristle at God’s wisdom.
God is God and we’re not and if we’re smart, we’ll get with His program regarding sin, because those freebie joyrides down icy roads won’t last forever! Sooner or later, we’re bound to spin out.
“I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.” Ezekiel 20:11
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’” Hebrews 12:4-6
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Many of us are not only aware that we need to keep progressing in our knowledge of Scripture, but also sincerely desire to.
One way of doing this is to take an online Bible class, or even earn a Bible certificate or degree. I’ve been going back and forth on this very thing, one day thinking formal Bible training is essential and the next thinking it’s not. Maybe you’re experiencing the same.
But a question from my 7-year-old lunch buddy brought my indecision on the matter to a halt. Last week, as we were constructing a pretty sweet skate park with Legos, my lunch buddy asked, “How did God create the earth if he’s dead?”
I was caught completely off guard and unprepared and didn’t know what to say! The Trinity came to mind, but I wasn't going to try to explain that in the ten minutes we had left. I managed to eke out an answer, which seemed to satisfy him--but not me!
Fast forward to this week where I spent yet another afternoon revisiting some of the same online Christian learning websites I’ve been on before, trying to pin down the program best suited for me. The difference this time is that I had my lunch buddy to keep in mind as I examined course offerings.
I want what I learn to benefit people like my lunch buddy, as well as myself. Which means the program can’t be too theological, philosophical or abstract, nor too superficial. It can’t get bogged down in the intricacies of hermeneutics and exegesis (I still don’t understand these terms but there’s lots of college credit hours devoted to them)! Some people love nothing more than to debate Calvinism and Arminianism, while others get into theology merely as a form of pop psychology or so they can conform Jesus to the culture (as opposed to conforming the culture to Jesus). It’s amazing how many courses there are that do all of the above and more!
The point is, since all of us are exhorted to continue with the renewing of our mind, we most likely want to do that while at the same time apply what we learn on a day-to-day basis. I’m not interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, like I was 30 years ago. It would be nice to be able to use what I learn in the 40 or so years I have left (Lord willing)!
In short, what most of us, I believe, could benefit from and would most enjoy is a course of study that teaches a right handling of Scripture by going deep enough into history, context, interpretation, and the like while not losing the essentials of the faith or the point of the essentials.
As I told my son recently, after he shared what he’s learning in his college theology class, “I don’t know much about Eastern Orthodoxy or heterodoxy or even neo-orthodoxy, but I do know this: I was in bondage, in a dark place, and now I’m free, through Jesus Christ--the one and only Way.” The minute a seminary, church, Christian college or any of us ever forgets that--the minute we lose sight of that--all the Biblical knowledge in the world won’t make much difference.
I hope to get back to my lunch buddy with a sound Biblical answer to his question. I know now what I need to do.
“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.” Psalm 119:66
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Thursday, April 7, 2011
As Christians, we have a decision to make that is going to determine whether we possess--or are bereft of--genuine faith in Jesus Christ. And that is this: Do we, as my pastor so succinctly put it, believe the Bible as it is written? If not, then we will be easily deceived.
For new Christians who have just begun the journey and for young Christian college students especially, endless man-made and man-directed theories and opinions about the Bible abound. Some of these theories wear the banner of Christ. Some are purely secular. Some are a combination of both with other stuff thrown in. And if people think Christian colleges are safe places to study the Bible, think again. It is often in these very places where the Bible meets its worst enemy: human pride and the resultant metaphoricalization (a word I invented to refer to the turning of things in the Bible into metaphor that aren't) and mysticizing of God's very Word.
So I was thrilled to come across pastor and author John MacArthur's brief summary of four ways we can discern deception, be it in the supposedly legit Christian books we are reading, churches we are attending or professors we are admiring.
(For the record, in the past I've fallen into the first and second categories listed below. Before I became a Christian I was a church-goer who would never have identified myself as a Christian. I wouldn't have even known what being a Christian meant. I would have said I was a Presbyterian, in the same way that someone says they are a Girl Scout or Elk's Club member. Later, as a very new Christian, it took me a while to stop letting feelings and sentimentality rule my reality and instead allow Jesus, His Word and the Holy Spirit to counsel me into all Truth.)
Here are MacArthur's words on deception:
"Now how does a deceived person know he's deceived? How can we spot such a person? Let me give you some keys, and I want you to think these through. Now not everybody in these keys that I'm going to give you is really deceived but these are good indicators that someone might be deceived. If you want to spot someone who's deceived look first of all for someone who's seeking feelings, blessings, experiences, healings, angels, miracles, why? Chances are they're more interested in the by‑products of the faith than they are the faith itself. They're more interested in what they can get than the glory God can get, they're more interested in themselves than in the exaltation of Christ.
Secondly, if you're looking to see who might be deceived look for people who are more committed to the denomination, the church, the organization than to the Word of God. Their kind of Christianity may be purely social. I'm a Presbyterian, well I've been a Baptist all my life, I'm a Lutheran, I belong to the whatever. More committed to the organization than they are to the Lord and His Word.
Thirdly, look for people who are involved in theology as an academic interest. And you'll find them all over the colleges and seminaries of our land. People who study theology, write books on theology, absolutely void of the righteousness of Christ. Theology for them is intellectual activity.
Fourthly, look for people who always seem stuck on one over-emphasized point of theology. This is the person who bangs the proverbial drum for his own little area, some crazy quirk. And it usually is not some great divine insight; they'd like you to think that they are so close to God they have a great divine insight no one else has, the fact of the matter is they're seeking a platform for the feeding of their ego. Watch for people with a lack of balance." John MacArthur
"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." 1 Timothy 6:20-21
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Last week, I took two vehicles to the Department of Transportation Emission Test Station. As you know, an employee there takes a cord that is connected to a computer, plugs it into the vehicle, and revs the car engine. A computer reads the results and spits them out onto a printed copy, which we then take home.
It got me thinking, what would happen if Christians had to every so often physically plug themselves in to God? What would the printout reveal about our inner selves?
Even though we don’t get a hard-copy “Inspection Report” from God, He does know our inner condition at all times, and He wants to reveal that condition to us. When we are in the Word daily, talking to God, and seeking to allow Him to serve through us, we will get a pretty clear picture from God of the state of our hearts.
The question is, are we willing to “plug in” daily with God to get this report, and all it reveals?
“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;” Psalm 26:2