Saturday, April 30, 2011

Samaritan's Purse - Pleasant Grove, Alabama - Tornado Relief

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Personal Jesus

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

You're Beautiful -Phil Wickham {HD}

"'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 15:55-57

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why me, Lord?

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:21-26

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday... But Sunday's a Coming

"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:1-12

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sin Knows No Season

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

Don't Know Much About Theology

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

How To Discern Deception

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 byproducts 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

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and 'Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.'" 2 Timothy 2:15-19

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

"...and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Plugging In To God

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