Saturday, July 26, 2014

The church is the problem, not the solution

It's been over three months since I last posted. Life has simply gotten in the way and I haven't disciplined myself sufficiently to carve out time to write.

As an update to the last post, our friends have now moved to North Carolina and Kent has received his last chemotherapy treatment and all is well at this juncture. He is a walking miracle and God is now preparing to do the very hard things in Kent and Julie and D.J.'s lives that only he can accomplish.

The title of the blog may upset some folks, but I really don't care. I do care about what happens next.  During the past three and a half  months we have lost one set of boarders and gained another. It seems God is using us and this home to minister to folks in ways we had never anticipated. Our current boarder suffers from alcoholism and depression but the healing is progressing. God is good.

During this time I have had the opportunity to observe others I work with, people with whom I do business, neighbors and others around me. In short, people's lives are a general mess and most do not have a clue what to do about it. When I tell them the solutions to your problems are found in the pages of the Bible and through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the solution is politely dismissed.  Why is that?

One of the banks I deal with has several young tellers who are professing church-going Christians who are living with their boyfriends. They say they are active in their church but are not least bit embarrassed about their living arrangements despite what the written word of God says.  One young lady told me her mother encouraged the arrangement so the boyfriend would marry her. That was nearly four years ago.

Another one attends a "prosperity church" where it is all about feeling good about yourself  and being a "champion". She has two children out of wedlock and is living with the baby's daddy and attends church regularly. These women have been taught by society this is ok. Television celebrates non-married relationships, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, psychotherapy and anything with real Christian values is virtually non-existent. It isn't what people want to hear. It makes them uncomfortable. 

My question is, what is the church at large teaching?  Perhaps the better question is what isn't the church teaching?

As I view on-line church services in the area and around the country, talk to folks on discussion forums and visit with folks of my generation (60 plus), the results are the same. The church is trying to stay "relevant" in society and part of staying relevant is presenting a watered down gospel of easy believeism  where repentance and sin are rarely ever mentioned. That makes people uncomfortable. It is more about what God will do for you in your life and what you should do for others. The focus is on the created being instead of on the Creator. It is the classic Ephesian church model of Revelation chapter 2. This is what the scripture says:

 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:  2 "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;  3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.  4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.  6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'
(Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV)

Success in the modern day church is no longer measured by spiritual depth of the congregation and its service to others or doctrinal fidelity to the written word of God but by how many "butts in the seats" they can get. It is a numbers game. The biggest churches in the country  send their speakers out to conferences to teach others how they, too, can have a "successful" large congregation. When the messages stray from biblical fidelity and balanced doctrine and "watchman sites"  point out the errors of doctrine and practice, information from those sites is discounted and irrelevant. I had one ordained cleric tell me . "I don't really put any stock in those sites." 

Why do these churches grow numerically but not with real spiritual depth?. Be seeker friendly and don't talk about sin and repentance. Love them into the kingdom of God and get them involved. The rest will sort itself out. Worship has degenerated to the three songs about what the created beings need (generally), an offering and a short 20 to 30 minute teaching talk of how life can be better. Jesus will be mentioned as the solution but those attending the service won't hear of repentance, conversion and sin and what Jesus did to wipe away that sin.

 And they won't hear any messages in the vast majority of the modern churches of the Lord's second coming despite the biblical signs all around them. At Christmas this past year, I listened to several recorded messages from various churches. One didn't even mention the Incarnation or why Jesus needed to become a man. It was more of a feel good service.

And forget about the Holy Spirit, especially in the modern "Pentecostal" style churches. I saw a couple of messages where Pentecost wasn't even mention on Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church. I wonder what is with these "leaders".

So the modern church, instead of being a haven of hope and truth for those hurting in society, has become the biggest problem in failing to deliver the truth of the gospel message. Churches have lost their first love, which is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that is preceded by confession of sin, repentance and then acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is where it all starts. Look at what the apostle Paul says to Timothy:

 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
(1 Timothy 1:15-20 NKJV)
The seeker-friendly/emergent churches are at least reaching out to a generation that has been failed by the traditional churches. That is great and restoring an imbalance that has existed for too long. However, without preaching sin, repentance, godly behavior first, they are getting the cart before the horse.
And that is the problem. 
How do the biblically faithful remedy it? Contact you elders and pastors when you see this pattern.  Demand biblical fidelity and the pattern of preaching and teaching shown in the New Testament. It's not about "butts in the seats" but the relationship of the heart of those attending services to God through Jesus Christ. And don't be surprised if you are met with resistance. The classic line of preachers and pastors is "we are anointed." .
They will generally understand that as God has given them direction and this is what they are going to do. If you don't like it you can leave. They don't want to have any strife and any thing perceived as other than what they want, especially from the congregants, is not accepted. I saw this line of reasoning on a watchman site where a video of an east coast seeker-friendly pastor railed against those who held a view contrary to his. Just remember, Saul, too was anointed and look what happened to him.
Time for members of the church to pray very hard for their pastors and leaders to adhere to the basics of the Gospel. As scripture says:

 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12 NKJV)
Scripture also says God's word when preached will not return void. It will have effect. The Gospel doesn't need to be soft-pedaled to anyone. It is because of this soft-pedaling that the Church has become weak and afraid to stand up for what is right.
I pray that God would cause these pastors and leaders to re-examine their methods and teaching and to repent of these errors and return to biblical fidelity with a balanced gospel that does not tell people what they want to hear but what they need to know. If not, I pray God would allow the church to be persecuted and purified as Smyrna and become a church like Philadelphia of "little strength" in and of itself and rely upon God alone. These two churches were not criticized by Jesus. They remained faithful.
How is your church doing?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Real Life Miracles

Miracles still happen. I'm talking about the in your face reality of something that just shouldn't be that is. One was sitting in my living room this morning. Here's the story.

For the past three months two of our friends have walked through multiple miracles. Married just 14 months, the Lord called Kent and Julie to job changes and a move from the west coast to the east coast. Everything fell into place. Julie moved and Kent stayed behind to pack some boxes and do the last minute details before the house sold.

Then he got sick. When the doctor calls you at home the day after you have seen him and says "get to the hospital now, we have a room waiting for you" instinctively you know it isn't good news. I drove him to the hospital and Kent was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Physicians started  chemotherapy two days later.

Following four weeks at the local hospital, multiple blood transfusions and platelet donations, Kent developed a fast-moving type of gangrene. His leg was to be amputated but because of the fast-moving nature of the gangrene, he was to be airlifted to a major trauma center in Seattle. The nurses and doctors at the local hospital didn't expect him to make it out of the room alive let alone survive the helicopter flight. His eyes were rolling back in his head and breathing was thread.

Saints began to pray.

 God intervened.

We drove the 60 miles to the trauma center not knowing whether Kent would be alive or dead but simply trusted that God honors prayers and calls those things which are not as though they are. We prayed for health and restoration.

Julie was en route from the east coast  and the hospital called us just as we got to the hospital exit to ask how to notify relatives. That generally isn't good news but we continued to pray and said we had his cell phone. We were met at the emergency room and told that he was in surgery which would last about four to five hours.

God intervened once again.

 Ninety minutes later we saw on the update screen that surgery was finished. That was long ways from four to five hours. We continued to pray and believe. The surgeon then came, knelt down in front of us and explained that if there were 10 extremely healthy 18-year old men who had what Kent had, only two would leave the hospital alive. He reminded us that our friend was critically ill. His leg was amputated at the hip.  My wife reminded the doctor that the God we serve is a miracle working God and we trusted Him to pull our friend through.

God intervened again.

 Kent's family and wife all arrived several hours later. He was hanging on as the saints continued to pray, believe and stand on the promises in the word of God. Three days later surgeons conducted a 14  plus hour surgery in what should have been only four hours. Vascular surgeons couldn't get blood flowing to the open wound area. Julie was beside herself and was literally crying to the Lord. She reached a place of total submission and trust. God had a different plan for the miraculous healing and to teach us how to trust Him.

God then did two miracles. When treating leukemia with chemotherapy, the body's immune system is basically destroyed, leaving the person open to infection. With an open wound Kent was highly susceptible to infection. Without chemo, the cancer could take over. The prayer was for God to provide a shield against infection and elimination of the cancer. Only God could accomplish what needed to happen.

God intervened yet again.

 The leukemia was in remission. The bone was granulating. There was light at the end of the tunnel. Over the next three weeks, to the absolute amazement of the doctors, the bone began a budding or granulation process at such a rate they couldn't explain it. The granulation was necessary before a skin graft could occur.

In the interim, God used Julie to share Jesus with a gunshot wound victim who shared a room with Kent while Kent was having the 14 hour surgery. She led this man with a Roman Catholic background to saving faith in Jesus. When the man asked why she wasn't downstairs with her husband, Julie said God was in control and God told me to share with you.

We shared  with others in the a waiting rooms on the Intensive Care Unit (sleeping on the floor at night because there were no available beds). The doctors and nursing staff experienced the quiet confidence and trust in the power of the risen Jesus Christ working through His people.  They were moved. Doctors and nurses cried when Julie told them how much she and Kent appreciated them for what they do. They don't hear that very often.  Life lesson: be thankful and express that thanks to others.

The  healing progressed so rapidly that they transferred Kent to the University of Washington Medical  Center for one round of chemo. The man who was considered all but dead by the health professionals was one of the 20 percent to make it out of the trauma center. This was a God thing. He is the only explanation for He is an awesome God. Praise His name for ever!

Kent was expected to be at the UW for several weeks.

Again, God intervened.

Monday at 8:30 p.m. PDT, Kent Andrus crossed the threshold of our home using a two-wheel walker. Pretty good for a "dead man".  He will continue to have blood tests and medical appointments but on May 1, he and his wife will board an airplane and fly to North Carolina where they will start a new chapter of life and ministry.

It is an amazing story orchestrated by an amazing and awesome God and we have the privilege of serving Him. It is also a story of body ministry that we find through the book of Ephesians. That book happens to be what our weekly small group Bible study has been studying for the past year. Life lesson: whenever you study something, expect God to allow you to apply it.

God places people in position to minister to others. The only requirement is to be willing and then to act when he says to go. One member of the church's pastoral staff said what my wife and I did is highly unusual. We don't think it should be viewed that was but simply as part of the normal Christian life.

If taking care of those in need is not considered normal, my question is "Why isn't it normal?"  There were many people who played an integral part in this continuing miraculous story especially the individual and collective prayer groups not only here in western Washington but also throughout the United States and Canada.  Nameless and faceless people we may never meet this side of heaven  were obedient to God's call really did the heavy lifting in prayer. It is how a body works. Each cell and organ has a job. Most we never see yet are vitally important. So it was and is in this case. 

God has been showing us that we often slack off on prayer when thing are apparently going great. When times get tough we seem to buckle down. God has shown us He wants that intensity of prayer every day. God is up to something major. I can't articulate it but my spirit-- quickened by His Spirit-- knows God is doing something major and that prayer will be vitally needed to discern His will in the days to come. we are n for some very difficult days.

The Bible says we can know God personally. He sent His son, Jesus-- God in the flesh-- to save us from ourselves and our sins. If we repent of our way of doing things, acknowledge Him as God and confess Him with our mouth as the word of God says, we will be saved and become a new creation in Christ. we may look the same and even talk and behave the  same for a while but the word of God says our spirit has been made alive and we are new in Christ. God sees us as holy and righteous  because of our faith in Jesus. Our walks may stink but God sees us in a different way.

Just as God  showed us Kent live when the doctors and nurses said he was as good as dead so does God say we are new creatures in Christ when others say it is not possible.

God calls those things which are not as though they are.

Believe in Jesus. Live for Him and experience the miraculous life changing power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Kent and Julie. March 24, 2014. Outside the trauma center in Seattle Washington.

We serve an awesome God.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Born Again losing significance

I have been conversing with Roman Catholics on a Christian apologetics web site regarding whether a person needs to be "born again".  The term is used in two different ways by Christians depending on whether the church is liturgical (Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.) or non-liturgical (Baptist, non-denominational, Pentecostal).

Jesus, when talking to Nicodemus in the gospel of John, said it was necessary to be born again.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"
10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.  12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(John 3:3-18 NKJV)

I already know the Roman Catholic sacramental position. One is born again when he/she is baptized. That includes babies. This position is at odds with scripture that says a person must repent of sin, acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10) and then live as a changed person. It is not an easy decision if made correctly.

My Catholic friends and folks I debate with do not see it that way. In the sacramental understanding, one can be baptized as an infant and be regarded as a Christian. I was that way and believed I was a Christian according to what my church taught. However, I was nothing more than a baptized pagan. There was no evidence I was a biblical born again Christian who had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My life certainly didn't reflect it, but I thought I was in the club of believers. My church said I was.

I could have easily walked into a garage and announced I was a BMW and that would have been as true and accurate as proclaiming I was a Christian.

Now we come to the non-liturgical church positions, primarily in the evangelical and Pentecostal persuasions. I can honestly say in the church I have attended,  I have not heard the phrase "you must be born again" and an exposition of that phrase from the pulpit in years.  Churches like I have attended are becoming more and more "seeker friendly". The terms "born again", "sin" , "repentance", "conversion" and "holiness" are rarely mentioned. Churches don't want to offend and so we get a Gospel lite approach.

Church preachers ask a question if someone wants a better life or to have Jesus work in them and to raise their hands. It is easy believeism. Fire insurance if you will.  No repentance required.  And it is not scriptural.

The church universal  needs to get back to  preaching the born again Gospel and living a changed life.
That will produce real fruit in the individual. It is not an easy road. Jesus said:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
(Matthew 7:14 KJV)

Jesus also promised:

 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
(Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)

These people called Him Lord, yet were not approved. Jesus did not know them although they professed to know Jesus.

We need to pay attention and  get back to Gospel fundamentals.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl. Eschatology and Catholic Educators

I've been mulling a couple of different topics and decided to incorporate two  into a singular post.

This Sunday will pit the Seattle Seahawks of my state against the Denver Broncos in a match of number one offenses, defenses and conference seeds vying for professional football's biggest prize. The hype is larger than life with over 6,000 reporters gathers in New York and New Jersey to cover the 48th annual event. Fans of both teams are passionate about their teams. I don't know about Denver, but here in the Northwest, Seahawks teal and blue and 12th man flags and house decorations are giving Christmas a run for its money.

There is a nervousness and an expectancy and people can't wait for the kickoff.  I am one of those eagerly watching and waiting.

However, I am also eagerly anticipating, and waiting for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe we are living in the very last of the last days that Peter spoke of in Acts 2 and that Jesus Himself spoke of in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. The apostle Paul also wrote of the last time events in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. 

The early church was  expecting Jesus to come back at any time. Of course we know that God's economy of time differs from our own but still the church is admonished to watch and wait. One parable Jesus used was of 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Five didn't have enough oil and when they went to buy some, the bridegroom came and they were left out.

What I see in the church today is almost no teaching or mention of the Second Coming of Jesus, yet Biblical prophecy and the critical sign of the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 shows we are in that time frame. The church is simply not being prepared for the Lord's return. Teaching that prepares the saints for the return of Jesus should result in stronger faith, more dedicated service to fellow believers and the larger non-believing community. If the church had as much eagerness and excitement preparing for the Lord's return as its members do for a 60-minute football game, our communities would be radically different.

We should be eagerly  anticipating the Lord's return because He is coming back for believers. Unlike the Super Bowl where the outcome has yet to be decided, the word of God contained in the Bible already tells us that believers in Jesus have already won and inherit the prize of eternal life.  We will dwell with God forever. It is the written word that tells us what is sure and solid and what can be believed and accepted as truth.

That brings me to educators, parents, students and administrators at an east Seattle area  Catholic High school. School officials fired its male vice-principal for marrying  his gay lover. The vice-principal violated church teaching and school policy to which he agreed. All have acknowledged how great a teacher and administrator he was.

The disturbing part is  the parents and  the students who took to making signs  and protesting the termination have basically said the prevailing culture should determine what the church teaches instead of the church determining how the culture should be formed.


Well, the Catholic teachers, parents  and students of today are just as biblically ignorant of the sacred scriptures as the Catholic teachers, parents and  students of the 1950s, 60s and 70s when I attended classes.  God left us his written word that we might have a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). It is the word that tells us what God's plan is for us, why we need to repent,  how we can be saved by faith and how we are to live a moral and clean life.

It's all about God's word, not the culture of the day. Confusion reigns in that church because of biblical ignorance. The Bible is given lip service. A majority of Catholic  parishioners couldn't tell you if the books Philemon or Ezra  were in the Old or New testaments. Former Catholics who have become biblically born-again know and understand the biblical ignorance  and grieve for those caught up in a religious system where the flock is totally dependent upon the clergy to educate them in spiritual matters.

It is important that Catholic educational culture changes, because Jesus is coming back for His bride very soon. Those left behind to live out the final seven years of hell on earth before Jesus returns with all His saints and sets foot on the Mount of Olives are now being slowly brainwashed to accept more and more unbiblical ideas and teachings.  While the Bible says no man knows the day nor the hour, Jesus did say we could discern the signs of the times. Those times are upon us. It is imminent.

Catholic educators are failing in their task and ministerial focus. Repentance, a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ faith alone and clear teaching from the written Word of God contained in the Bible-- the final authority in matters of  faith and morals-- is the cure.

The party the Bride of Christ will have when Jesus comes back for believers in the Rapture that precedes the final seven years of Daniels 70 weeks of years prophecy will be bigger and better than any Super Bowl party past, present or future.

If you want to be involved in that celebration, turn your life over to Jesus, ask Him to forgive you your sins and begin to see what great things God has for you today!

God bless.

PS:  Go Seahawks!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Small groups, Sharing and Christmas

I have belonged to an amazing and dynamic small group for the past six years. The participants change from time to time, but group remains alive and well and centered on the written Word of God and prayer.

Last night we moved into what I hope will be a new phase of our group as we try to model 1 Cor. 14:26-27 where Paul writes:

 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:26-27 NKJV)
We shared a meal where everybody brought something. This portion won't happen on a regular basis because of work schedules but the second and third phases of our gathering may. Instead of us just studying the planned questions of Ephesians where all of us are guided by a leader but still freely share perceptions and understandings,  last night each of us brought something unique that God wanted us to hear. We then concluded with communion.
One woman shared how her non-Christian father is now willing to attend a Christmas Eve service. He's never been to one. It decision came not as the result of  reading the actual Bible, but having scripture cards available that he decided he would read and place on his forehead every night before bed. He hasn't cracked his large print Bible, but uses the scripture cards. His heart has softened and the idea came from another woman in our small group. God's leading brings results.
Another lady shared how she changed up her scripture reading routine and instead celebrated the eight days of Hanukkah. The celebration and customs of the Jewish festival gave her additional meaning as we move closer to what Christians celebrate at Christians. She also tied in the light and oil used in the Menorah to the Ephesian study on spiritual gifts we have been working through. It was a fantastic tie-in.
My wife shared a simple word God gave her in Psalm 46:10. It is: 

 Be still, and know that I am God
God  told her that people are rushing around attending parties here and there, taking kids to see Santa Claus (the Jesus substitute), buying gifts for friends and families and focused on anything and everything but Him and the real reason for the Christmas season-- Jesus. God said we need to tune out the noise of our surroundings and become more focused on Him for this season.
So simple and relevant. No seminary degree needed. She was just open to what God said and could back it up with the scripture. God can and does anoint every one of us by His grace.
All the previous sharing tied into what God had showed me earlier. My background is former Roman Catholic. It is a liturgical church and big on ceremonies and seasons. Non-denominational Protestant churches hardly do anything with liturgical seasons except Christmas and Easter. Advent and Lent are ignored as are feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost.  I find that terribly sad. I make up for that lack by having my own Advent celebration and preparation time before Christmas.
It is my personal tradition and custom to read the prophet Isaiah during the four weeks of Advent.  Isaiah presents the entirety of the Gospel for it gives us the two portraits of the Messiah-- the Suffering Servant and the Soon Coming King. The portions I shared were from the end of chapter 52 and the entirety of chapter 53.
Those sections are not pretty, feel-good sections of scripture. They don't really fit the "be positive/ don't be offensive/ focus on peace love and grace/ and don't mention the word sin" direction of most of the Christian churches that are in the seeker sensitive genre. The plan is to attenuate the "good" news and downplay the "bad" news. The problem is without knowing the bad news, the good news means very little.
I can say this. If you don't know the bad news of sin,  death and eternal damnation by living a life without God, then the good news of Jesus who came to save you from all of that will mean nothing. Without Jesus, you positively will go to hell. Not real touchy-feely warm and fuzzy is it?
The portions of Isaiah are exactly why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, became an actual man. He is called Emmanuel or "God with us".  The sections of Isaiah show us his purpose, which was to be beaten beyond recognition, whipped for our sins so that we are healed of all spiritual, physical and emotional diseases,  and offered upon a cross to die in our place that we might have relationship and fellowship with the Father.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation of God becoming man so that he might do what Isaiah 52 and 53 speaks of for us. Jesus is the gift God gives to us. John writes in his gospel:

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(John 3:16-19 NKJV)
Jesus is the Christmas gift we can each open every single day.  He is the Reason For the Season. Be still and know who He is and what He has for you this Christmas season.
When the sharing and short teaching was done, we concluded by sharing communion, the visible sign of God with us in a sacrament Jesus instituted at that last Passover meal before He died.
Is God with you and living within you? If not, this is the perfect time to become a Christian. Repent of doing things your way, confess with our mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus died for all of your sins and the penalties of death associated with them and begin to realize that you are now God's very own temple as Paul writes in Corinthians.  That is the Good News.
Merry Christmas.
God bless.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Absolutes, Science and God's Word

My wife and I attended a neighborhood Christmas party last night. There was plenty of great food and beverages but best of all were the conversations amongst neighbors sharing snippets of their lives and families.

One of my neighbors is a fellow author of children's books. He is a retired school teacher and he was conversing with my neighbor directly across the street about retirement, writing and what he enjoys doing. My neighbor across the street is in the medical profession and when not attending to health needs he and his lovely wife are forever working on their various properties and attending to various needs of the neighborhood.  My neighbor across the street is also an atheist. Science explains everything or at least tries to.

The subject turned to writing and somehow drifted to quantum physics. I am way out of element so I nod and smile. He expressed  amazement that things in the universe just don't fly apart and that there are a couple of scientific explanations dealing with matter that help explain it. My answer is that while I do not know what the scientific explanation may be, I do know what God's word says about the issue. It is found in Colossians 1:17 where Paul writes:

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Col. 1:15-18 ESV)
The New King James translates the same Greek texts as  by Him all things consist.
God's written word has an explanation for everything we need in life, for in it we have the full revelation of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Chapter 2 of the same book, Paul writes:

9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.  (Col. 2:9-10 NKJV)
Jesus said in John 14:6 He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Not "a" way but "The Way, The Truth and The Life". When he was transfigured on the mountain and Moses and Elijah were with Him, the Father spoke to Peter, James and John and said  "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him." Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets wrote of.  
The prophet Isaiah in a traditional reading we hear during this Advent season prophesied of Jesus:

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. ( Isaiah 7:14-15 NKJV)
Matthew writes in the New Testament quoting and explaining Isaiah: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."  (Matt. 1:23 NKJV)
We are told to hear what Jesus says for He is God in the flesh, someone we can see, and understand, and who went through every situation we as humans encounter. He knows our  pain and suffering, our life difficulties and shows us how to live through His written word which testifies about Him.
Well, what about the skeptics who claim there are no absolutes and that the Bible is just a collection of stories and words penned  by people thousands of years ago?  God's word says it is true because Jesus Himself is true. He is absolute truth. How can we know absolute truth?
One of my great musician friends and I were talking last Sunday and it is really quite simple. For those  who claim there are no absolutes, just look at a piece of sheet music. There is a time signature, a  key signature, staff or clef by which the notes are interpreted as to speed, tone and duration. The key can change so it is not an absolute. The tempo can change for it is not an absolute.
However, the value of each note on the page is an absolute. A quarter note remains a quarter note regardless of key signature,  tempo or whether it is  played in the bass clef or treble clef. The note doesn't care for it is an absolute in that piece of music. It's value remains the same every time.  That is an absolute.
God's word is also an absolute. You can bank on it for it is all about Jesus, God with us.   God's written word tells us:

 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  (Heb. 4:12-13 NKJV)
Jesus is the living word and it is He who reveals to us in the written word not only where we fail and what out real motives are, but how we can change to become more like Jesus.  It starts with repentance from doing things our way and to do things God's way. It begins with asking Jesus, the Immanuel, to forgive us of our sins and then accept by faith we are forgiven.  The Godhead then resides within us for the word says in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians:

 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  (1 Cor. 3:16 NKJV).  

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:19-20 NKJV)
Make this Christmas season a memorable one. Come to know the maker of the universe who holds everything together. If your life is coming apart at the seams, come to Jesus and let Him love you and help you in only the ways that He can. He knows you better than you know yourself for He made you.
May you have a blessed second week of Advent as we await the celebration of Christmas, remembering that God Himself came to us in a form to which we can relate and understand.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Traditions, Transitions and Seasons

This morning as I sat down to read my Bible, I took a hard look at the shelves in the family room. My wife loves to decorate and the items on the family room shelves change at least three times a year.

The shelves are bare as of this writing. By the end of the week the fall/harvest/Thanksgiving decorations and nick-knacks will be replaced by Christmas decorations of which she has sufficient supply to decorate the entire neighborhood. I am putting up the exterior lights and will finish that job sometime Saturday. I refuse to turn on the lights until December 1. That is my own personal tradition.

My pet peeve is those who have fully decorated homes and the lights turned on over two weeks BEFORE Thanksgiving. In the race to have the "feel good" times of Christmas come earlier and earlier (notice that Black Friday started a week earlier in some stores while other start the sales today) we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Today it is Thanksgiving. Christmas is the next holiday up.

Why do we do what we do at this time of year?  For us it is tradition and some traditions help us mark the seasonal changes of the year and also help us reflect on how we make transitions in our life as we progress from one season to the next. Changes and transitions are generally gradual just as are the seasons of the year.

 One of the traditions I sorely miss in the church I attend is the lack of religious tradition when it comes to marking the liturgical seasons. Yes, we celebrate Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Sunday to be correct). We do not celebrate the season of Advent or Lent and certainly don't take notice of Pentecost Sunday which I think is very odd for a Pentecostal church. It is neither wrong nor right, but a preference. However, it is a preference that leaves out rich tradition and history in my view.

Traditions, especially Christian traditions, remind us of who we are and tell us of the Gospel story throughout the year. This Sunday marks the start of the new church year. It is the first Sunday of Advent. It is a Latin name which means "coming".  During this time we reflect on the promises God made beginning in Genesis to send us a savior, the Emmanuel or God with us which culminates in the Christmas story with the birth of Jesus.

Advent for me also is a time to remember that Jesus is also coming a second time and will bring his saints with Him when he defeats his enemies who rebel against His rightful authority and then sets up his millennial kingdom at Jerusalem. My personal tradition is to read the book of the prophet Isaiah during the four weeks of Advent. In that book the first and second comings of Jesus are specifically laid out.

Traditions have gotten bad rap throughout church history because of how they were abused. Jesus slammed the scribes and Pharisees for holding onto the traditions of men rather than the real traditions (teachings actually) of how man is supposed to worship  God and love and honor one's neighbor. There are good and bad traditions. Keep what is good and throw out the rest. Don't miss the point behind the traditions.

Now today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. One tradition we will celebrate is having dinner with members of the family. My wife and I will be at my sister's home to enjoy food, drink, conversation and a little football. We catch up on the big and little things in life with members of our family. Sometimes that is uncomfortable.

For me the seasonal changes and liturgical calendar changes give me time to pause and reflect of where I am going and what I am doing. I have been through ministerial changes the past two years. That is likely to continue as my wife and I wait to see what new direction God may be taking us.  We know God has something different is store for us. Patti heard from God 18 months ago that  changes were coming and he was going to move us. What "move" means we don't know. We're pretty sure it is not a physical move from jobs and our home. We will wait to see what God has in store but whatever it is, we are 18 months closer to the final transition than we were before.

God bless all you who have read this blog today. May you give the Father thanks in all things through our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). He has made us new creations in Christ Jesus and part of His eternal family by faith in Jesus. He gives it to us freely by repenting from dead works and accepting the gift of eternal life found only in Jesus Christ by faith. 

Walking into a church building doesn't make you a member of God's family any more than walking into a garage makes you a car. Becoming a biblical born-again believer in Jesus makes you a member of God's family. It is personal which results in receiving God's DNA into our spirit. That is how we become new creatures in Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving! God is good!