Calling Out Sin

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February is the month we honor presidents, among other things. But the recent batch of presidents we’ve been witness to has been a bit lacking. When you read about the early men who held this post, you wonder where men like that have gone to. Where are the honorable men who sough to defend the honor of this country and the sacredness of freedom? When you think about it, those men began to disappear when we stopped talking about sin.

We turn to look at the sins that we commit, and how we can deal with them as Christians. God did not leave us orphans. He intends to be with us every step of the way.

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  (Heb 13:5)

So it’s time for a personal inventory. Sin is the very power of Satan over our lives. As long as we resist confessing sin, we resist the will of God in our lives.

  • Check your worship
    • Does God have your attention when you worship?
    • Does your prayer life and Bible study reflect God’s hold on your life?
    • Does your church attendance reflect your commitment to the Kingdom?
    • Are there any areas of your worship you need to improve?

     

  • Check your witness
    • Does your walk match your talk?
    • Does anyone else know you are a Christian?
    • Do God’s values show clearly in your conversation and friendships?
    • Do you have strong Christian friends that help hold you accountable to your Christian commitment?

These questions are designed merely to get you thinking more in depth about your faith in Christ. I want to encourage you to find a deeper path this month as we learn how to put aside the sins that so easily entangle us (Heb 12:1) and learn to take a closer walk with Christ.

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The Solution to Overcoming Radical Islam

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The news has been filled with stories and articles about ISIS (ISIL) and its treatment of Christians. I saw the video where Coptic Christians were beheaded on a beach in Libya, just because they were Christians. My friends, the fight against radical Islamists isn’t won through guns and bombs, because the war isn’t decided through soldiers, tanks and planes. This is a war for the soul of the Arabic peoples, who have been suckered into this religion Muhammed invented 1500 years ago.

But it’s not just people of Arabic descent, for now many Americans are starting to turn to Islam as a source of truth. Several Americans recently were arrested for trying to go overseas and join ISIS (Islamic State) and fight for Allah. As American Christians we may feel that this war is somewhere else, but I would imagine everyone in this church has encountered Muslim people, whether out shopping, standing in line at the Post Office, or receiving medical care.

Muslims are a large fraction of our medical providers in Morehead, and I know we are just a rural hospital. We are encountering Muslims more and more every year in our social fabric.

Now do all Muslims believe as ISIS does? Are all Muslims “radicalized” and want to hurt you in the name of Allah? We know they aren’t, just as most Christians are not rabidly Christian. But make no mistake, the war against ISIS will never be won simply by sending in troops. We need to send missionaries.

It’s a simplistic solution, I know. But Islam is a religion based on a false idea of God. God is not Allah, nor is Allah God. Do not believe the lie that Allah is just another name for God, nor fall under the presumption that Muslims worship the same deity. We need men and women who are willing to confront the claims of Islam head-on, even on the front lines, to combat the notion that Allah is God. Allah through the Koran denies that Jesus is the Son of God, even to vehemently denounce such an idea. Yet the Christian Bible makes this the central point.

My hope and prayer for you this month is to examine the claims of Christianity and Islam side by side and see for yourself why Islam falls short of true and authentic religion. I don’t intend to bash Muslims, for I believe they are lost souls who need the love of Jesus, but their truth claims need to come under close scrutiny. They need to be convinced to examine their faith, just as closely as we do. They need to examine the truth claims of Mohammed and the Koran. They need to see the evidence, with just as much scrutiny as our enemies demand of Jesus. This will not be an easy task, but remember that it is God’s will to save any many as possible, and He will send laborers into the field.

Please pray for a Muslim friend. Pray for hearts to be changed. It’s time for He that is in you to overcome he that is in the world.

Are You Sure?

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Though salvation may not be at the top of everyone’s list, everyone has an opinion about salvation.

First, there are those that dismiss the importance of salvation. “If there is no God,” they repeat, “why do I need to be saved?” Yet behind the atheistic agenda of many in this camp, there is a pious heritage against which they rebel. There is a Christian grandmother who died from cancer, and they blame a God who would let it happen. There is an overbearing Christian father who forced them to go to church every Sunday. A Christian mother who endured a violent marriage, and so on. These folks need our prayers, and our sympathy, not our fear or judgment.

Second, there are those who assume they are saved today because of a distant act in the past, like getting baptized when they were an infant, or raising their hand and praying the sinner’s prayer in front of the TV. These are folks that may be getting only part of the story, and need like an Apollos (Acts 18:26) a teaching more comprehensive of the way of salvation.

Third, there are those who assume that their “salvation” years ago and their name put into a church ledger is all that is required for entrance into heaven, like they passed a spelling test when they were in first grade and can tackle the National Spelling Bee today. Being baptized into Christ is great and effective, justifying us before God in heaven, but there is that element of maturity (sanctification) we still need to perfect.

Fourth, there is still another group who have been saved in the traditional sense, but even today don’t know if they are going to heaven, because their understanding of grace and works is lacking. They worry constantly that their salvation is in constant jeopardy because they still commit sin. Didn’t Jesus die for all your sins, or just the ones you committed before you were baptized?

Of course the point of this series is simple: You can be sure if you are saved. God did not deliver us from sin to live in constant worry and anxiety about our status with Him. God’s word makes it clear for all who have properly applied their faith to salvation, both before and after baptism.

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 8:1-2, HCSB)

The Promised Bride

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Though the wife and I married in April, our first plan was to marry in December. We made this decision at the end of the year. We had imagined another full year of preparation and planning, but then we came to our senses and realized 12 months was 8 months too long. As it is, I’ve always wondered about the connection between Christmas and weddings.

There is a sense of gift-giving in the marriage ceremony. The father of the bride gives her away to her groom. The bride and groom make promises to “have and to hold from this day forward.” The reception too involves a great many gifts and well-wishes for the bride and groom. In the marriage, the bride and groom, ideally, give of themselves completely for the mutual encouragement and companionship of the other. It isn’t so much a partnership but a sacrificial gift of each to the other. Each gives of himself or herself wholly to the other.

That’s why as we turn to the Christmas season, I remind you of the old adage, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” God promised centuries ago that One promised “from the foundation of the world” would one day come to shepherd his people Israel. “Something blue” reflects Joseph, who struggles with questions of love and justice for his bride to be. “Something borrowed” refers to Mary’s womb, which she willingly offered to the Lord as His servant. But all of this leads to “something new”, something no one had ever seen, the foundation of our faith.

God had divorced ancient Israel for all her abominations and idolatries. When we go through her kings, we discover a gradual slide to her exile and punishment. He had written a bill of divorcement so she would be no longer called “my people.” He extends his hand through His Son Jesus Christ to the bride of Christ. Why did Jesus come, to preach, heal others and die? That was just the beginning. All of this was so that His bride might be born (Ephesians 5:25-27) and made ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) and the consummation of the ages at the last time, and He receives us unto Himself. Will you be ready when He is revealed, and we see Him as He is, when our veil lifted?

Don’t Judge Me!

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Daily we are marginalized in this culture because we hold certain views on certain subjects, like life and death, right and wrong, good and evil. When we take a stand on certain issues, we are wrong, because now it is wrong to judge. Some folks take their cue from Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, lest ye be judged.” But as the Spaniard of the Princess Bride is fond of saying, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

What does it mean to judge? And is it as wrong as its implied? As human beings we practice judgment all the time, from picking a movie we want to see, a car we want to buy, to people we want to know. There are necessary relationships, like work and service relationships. You don’t really pick the person who works the cash register, but you develop a relationship with them, even if it only lasts until you walk out of the shop. These kinds of relationships we don’t have much say in. But then there are the people you would invite into your home. For these you might practice a bit more judgment, having spent more time with them. What about the person you are married to. You surely didn’t just pick them out of a lineup and agree to marriage. We all practice judgment in human relationships in order to achieve the best possible results, like a lifetime of happy marriage.

But the cry of “don’t judge me!” often comes from an assumption that you, not them, are going to pass a negative judgment on their behavior. And so they head off that judgment by implying you have no right to judge them.

If Jesus Christ will sit on the great white throne at the end of time and judge all humanity, and if the basis for that judgment will be their acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ freely offered forgiveness, and if we, as the body of Christ, are tasked with telling people about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, do we not have a right to tell people about Jesus? And does that right extend to be watchmen to our culture, to tell them the Enemy is approaching? Or to warn our culture of sins and evils that must be avoided if they give themselves up to Jesus?

Do we have a right to evangelize? And are there better ways to do that that others, better times, and better places? I believe there are. And like the sons of Issachar, we ought to be aware of the right times and the right places, that we may spread the gospel in the best way possible.

Summer of Love

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“Summer is for Lovers” or so the saying goes. I first met my wife during the summer. Maybe it was the humidity, or maybe it was the sweat stinging my eyes, we managed to fall in love that summer long ago. The summer romance is a staple of movies and media that try to capitalize on the season and desires of young people to get together.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1Jn 4:7-8)

We know that “God is love” and that all true love must begin with God. If it is truly love, then it is from God. This love comes from a specific Greek word, “agapae”, which closely defined means “sacrificial love” or love which freely sacrifices itself for the  sake of another without expecting reciprocation. This is the kind of love encouraged throughout the New Testament, and echoes the kind of Love which God expresses in the Old Testament, “hesed” or as it is often translated, “loving-kindness”. This should make us wonder if some of the things we “love” are truly worth the word we apply.

Some people love chocolate. I like to add peanut butter to that list. But neither chocolate, nor any food, can provide the kind of response required in love. Some love certain media figures or celebrities, though they will have no chance of ever meeting them or having those feelings reciprocated. We may adore and elevate nearly anything, but if there is no real response, can it really be love?

We must be careful to distinguish real love with its evil opposite, lust. Lust translates the Greek word “epithumia” and is often translated as “evil desire” or “covet”. Lust sees and wants. Love sees and desires a relationship. Lust takes for itself what it wants, without thinking about the other. Love gives and gives before the other gives back. Lust uses up and throws away when it is done, making even people disposable. Love values and upholds others, making them indispensable, even if no one else values them.

Lust is the beady eyes hovering over the computer screen downloading and viewing, demanding even new images of pornography to fill the eyes with pictures and the mind with fantasies without consequence.

Love is the elderly couple who long after the wrinkles and age has set in, still hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes. Love is sitting at the bedside, seeing past the brokenness, the sickness and the age, and still being passionate for your mate. Love is watching your children slip into bad decisions, but still welcoming them home when their world has caved in. Love is still giving them enough room to work things out for themselves, being patient with them.

Love is in the God who sends His own Son, though all on earth are His enemies, and hate Him, to live and die for them, dying for their sins so that after His death, burial and resurrection, some would respond in faith.

God made us to love. He made us to look outside ourselves and to work to please others, especially God, in a self-sacrificial way. Jesus tells us:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (Joh 15:12-14)

Who do you truly love? Who is indispensable to you?