Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who is God?

For several weeks in our youth services we have gone through a series I called Who is God? This was designed to not only teach our students more of who God is, but to help equip them to tell their friends who God is. In a world where there are so many gods for people to choose from, what makes our God so special?

First of all, God is sovereign. Sovereign means “supreme in rank or authority” so God is absolutely in control of this universe at any given second. We don’t always know why God does the things that He does, but we must trust that God is working. At the end of the word sovereign is the word reign, and that is exactly what God does. Consider Isaiah 45:5-7: I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

God is sovereign in creation—Genesis 1:1/John 1
God is sovereign in salvation—I John 4:19
God is sovereign in redemption—I Peter 2:24
God is sovereign in sanctification—James 4:8

Next, God is love. I John 4:16 says that “God is love.” This means that the words God (Elohim) and love (agape) and synonyms. God does not simply show love, He is love. His love is not a romantic love (eros); His love is not a lustful love (porneo); His love is not a brotherly love (phileo), but it is a special, godly, unconditional love (agape), and God loves the whole world.

What God’s love did—Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8)
What God’s love does—Jesus disciplines us (Hebrews 12:6)
When God’s love dies—Never (Jeremiah 31:3)
What God’s love doesn’t do—Save us (Proverbs 11:4)

Remember, it is not the ones that God loves that go to heaven, it is the ones that love God back. And who loves God? Jesus said that if we love Him then we would keep His commandments. Is that you?

Also, God is wrath. Most people ignore this topic in an effort to make God seem more appealing. Fortunately, God doesn’t need us to work on His PR; the idea of a Creator and Redeemer that loved us while we were sinners is an amazing thought, but if you think about it, so is the thought of God being a God of wrath.

God’s wrath is an extension of His love. Consider the words of Max Lucado: “God loves you just the way that you are, but He refuses to keep you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus (Just Like Jesus).” How does God make us just like Jesus? Through His wrath.

Anyone that has ever disciplined a child or trained a dog knows that the only way to make the student learn is through the rod of correction. Just smiling and saying I love you rarely does the trick. The Bible says “Whom the Lord loves he corrects, even as a father in the son of whom he delights (Proverbs 3:12)” and the oft misquoted “He that spareth his rod hateth his son (v.24).”

When we sin we are not acting like Jesus, so God graciously exercises His wrath in discipline to make us more like Jesus. The Bible demonstrates God’s wrath in three settings.

The wrath of God on the lost—John 3:36
The wrath of God on the saved—Romans 1:18
The wrath of God in the future—Revelation 15:1

For an example of how the Lord was provoked to exercise His wrath, which yielded a positive change in the people, read Psalm 78:31-35 (a psalm about Israel complaining about God’s goodness).

This blog will be continued next week…
*Who is God? books 1 and 2 are available at www.tommymannministries.com 

(Read blogs about my other books All the Law and Asleep in Heaven's Nursery)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Let's Go To Church


A recent trend that I have observed in some churches has been over the issue of going to church. There is a movement that has stopped going to church. Now, right away I realize that we do not GO to church because we ARE the church (church means “called out ones,” not a building with a steeple), but that is not what I am referring to.

This new movement set its sights on the New Testament church, which did not own a building yet met together daily, and had all things common by selling what they owned and pooling their recourses. Some have wondered if we as American Christians are missing the mark by not doing church this way.

But there are several things that we must consider here before we put a for sale up sign in the foyer. First, it is important to remember that there are some things that the Bible contains, and there are other things that the Bible commands. For example, the Bible contains the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah, but it certainly does not command that we mirror those actions; it is simply recorded history. Next, consider where this record of the early church is written: the book of Acts (or “The Acts of the Apostles” according to the Septuagint). The book of Acts is a New Testament history book of the first days of the church and the apostles, just like Exodus is an Old Testament history book of the exodus of Israel. The book of Acts contains stories, but never commands this way of life. If, for example, this information were brought up in the epistles, which were the letters to the church, this would be a different story. But there is no record of Paul writing to the churches to tell them to have all things common or to stay away from building ownership, or to meet on a daily basis. This would be a command.

Next, we must also remember the context of the first church. Jesus’ Resurrection and the empty tomb caused a big problem for the enemies of Jesus, namely the religious leaders and those in government. This led to torture, imprisonment, and execution of the church. Stephen was stoned, Paul was whipped, Peter was jailed, and that list could be typed out a mile long. These people were not able to gather together in public to do anything, so they met secretly in houses. Christians today in many countries secretly meet in houses or underground in countries where they choose Christ at the risk of losing their lives.

We must also take history into account. It is not as if God hated buildings, or even elaborate buildings. God is not even opposed to His people assembling in public together. To go back to the Exodus we see that God set up a tabernacle, which was not permanent and was easily moveable for His people who were on the go. But once they were settled God commanded the establishment of a temple. King David gathered all the supplies, but God told David that his son Solomon would be the one to build it. And what a temple it was! No expense was spared, even down to the golden candlesticks. This temple was eventually destroyed, another was erected, and in AD 70 that temple was destroyed. That brings us back to the early church, whose temple had been destroyed. If a tornado came through this week and destroyed our sanctuary, we would meet in houses or a stadium or anything else we had to do until our building would be repaired. That was state of the first church.

Also, we see accounts of both Jesus and Paul preaching in synagogues (the Bible says that Jesus stood in the synagogue, which is a funny verse to use when an emergent lead pastor sits on a bar stool to give his talk and he says that Jesus sat down every time He preached), and we never see them condemn the use of a building.

And the early church did have all things in common, but this bit of information is contained, not commanded. Again, remember the situation. People were hiding out to save their lives against the brutal hand on the government, soldiers, and religious leaders. This put the church in a unique situation where they were doing all they could to make it, even selling all that they had to pool their resources for food. If we know of people who are in need today we do have a command to help them, but not a command to sell all that we have and equally divide everything up. I’m not trying to downplay loving our neighbors and being need meeters, but sometimes being good stewards means not giving away everything all at once, but giving away smaller amounts over a period of time. Don’t create a command out of something the Bible never commanded.

And the fact that the church met together daily is not a command for us to do the same. In II Corinthians 2:16-17 and Acts 2:20 we see Paul referring to their gatherings as being on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. Most Bible scholars agree that the early church quickly moved their church services to Sunday, which was the day of the Resurrection. This was especially true of the Gentile church that Paul wrote to, since they knew nothing of observing the Sabbath.

Many liberal Protestants have taken this information the opposite way and come to the conclusion that they don’t need to attend a church service, citing that the apostles had church in their homes so they can too. True, some people do have home churches, but these still contain fellowship with other people, preaching, and usually singing. This should not be a cop out for someone who wants to stay at home and watch a sermon on TV. The writer of Hebrews said we should not forsake meeting together (10:25), and if a person really loves Jesus he would want to be at a place where Jesus is praised.

I hope to see you at church on Sunday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

True Love Waits

For those of you who were unable to attend our True Love Waits Rally, here is a recap of what you missed. By the way, this is normally a Valentine’s message, but our county-wide rally was postponed due to last February’s snow.

I have seen too many people waste time trying to beg teens to stay sexually pure until marriage by using statistics about pregnancy or scary images of STDs. These methods don’t work, and they shouldn’t have to. For teens who believe in Jesus Christ and live their lives for Him, they don’t have to worry about pregnancy or disease. Here is an easy 4-step method that every person must realize.

First, there had to be a Creator. The Bible tells us there is one in Genesis 1 and John 1, but even if a person does not believe in the Bible, common sense also tells us there is a Creator. Every building has a builder and every painting has a painter, so creation must have a Creator. Look around at the complexity of this universe, then try to accept the liberal teachings of evolution; it just doesn’t add up. Humanity cannot have been random chance any more than the planet we live on. Just imagine if we went to the runway of an airport, and as we were looking at all of the planes, I told you how these planes came to be: billions of years ago this runway was a garbage dump, and then a tornado came through. After the tornado spun for billions of years, this runway full of 747s was left! You would call me crazy, and rightfully so, yet such is the teaching of the big bang theory. And yet it is the Christians that are accused of hating science!

If there had to be a Creator, He has to be God. It is only natural. No random person could just speak this planet into existence; only a god can. But not just a god, but The God. Exodus 15:11-12 says, “Who is like thee O Lord among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.” Anyone who created this world has to be God.

But if He is God, He has to be Lord. It is not enough to simply believe in God, for even the demons believe in God and tremble with fear (James 2:19). “God” appears 4,444 times in the Bible, and “Lord” appears almost twice as many times; it is not enough to just believe in God, but we must worship Him as Lord. The word lord means “the owner or controller of something.” We must live for God, not just as our owner, but in submission to Him as our controller. And what does our Lord say about premarital sex? He says it is a sin, and in I Corinthians 6:18 the Bible says, “Flee fornication.” Verse 9 of that same chapter says that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord is clear: don’t do it.

And we shouldn’t, because if He is Lord, He must be the Judge. Abraham referred to God as the “Judge of all the earth” who would do what is right (Genesis 18:25), and the Bible also tells us that we have an appointment with death, and afterwards is the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So we will all die and then stand before the Judge, our Lord God and Creator. What will He say to you? Hebrews 10:31 says that it is a scary thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Some might be thinking that this is too harsh, or that teens are just going to do it anyway. But this method worked for me because I love my Lord for all that He did for me. And even if it is harsh, I care enough about you to risk upsetting you.

True love does not just wait until marriage, it also warns.