Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Waiting on God

One of the hardest aspects of the Christian life can be waiting on the Lord. We live in a culture that gets everything it wants immediately. We even complain if our fast food doesn’t come quickly enough, and we want the Lord to answer our prayers just as quickly.

But if we go back a few thousand years—long before instant grits and minute rice—we still see people who were impatient with God. Many times the men were guilty of taking matters into their own hands, while four women in particular stand out as being patient prayers. They were not perfect, but when it came down to it, they kept their trust in the Lord. They are Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah.

All four of these women had the same plight: bareness. In their culture it was humiliating for a woman to not be able to provide a child for her husband, and in any culture it is at the very least saddening. And so these women each continued to pray that God would send them a child, and the Lord eventually blessed them with children according to His timing.

To Sarah He sent Isaac, the child of promise who made Abraham the father of God’s people. To Rebekah He sent twins, Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name would be changed to Israel, and that name would stay with his descendants forever. To Rachel God sent Joseph, then Benjamin. Joseph became the second most powerful ruler in the world, and through him the world was saved from famine. And to Hannah the Lord sent Samuel, a prophet, the final judge, and the man who anointed David to be Israel’s king.

Listen to how Warren Wiersbe describes the conditions that preceded the birth of Samuel:

“As He often did in Israel’s history, God began to solve the problem by sending a baby. Babies are God’s announcements that He knows the need, cares about His people, and is at work on their behalf. The arrival of a baby ushers in new life and a new beginning; babies are signposts to the future, and their conception and birth is a miracle that only God can do (Be Successful, page 14).”

Maybe you have found yourself in the shoes of these women, waiting on the Lord. Perhaps, like them, it is bareness that bothers you the most. Or maybe you have been waiting on the right mate, job opportunity, or for that prodigal son to come home. Whatever it is you may be waiting for, remember that God’s timing is not ours.

Do you realize that we would have peace in the Middle East if Abraham had waited on the Lord for his son Isaac? Instead, he took another wife and had a son with her first, and their descendants have been at war ever since.

The providential timing of the birth of Isaac led to the providential timing of the birth of Isaac’s son Jacob, and to Jacob’s son Joseph. The timing of Joseph’s birth put him in a position to keep the world, including Israel, alive through a severe famine.

And the birth of Samuel during the time of the judges is also significant. God raised him up at the perfect time to revive Israel and anoint David to be their king.

In every situation God’s timing brings about what is best for His purpose. You might not see it right now while you are waiting, but you must trust that God has not forgotten you, and that He has a plan for your life.

“For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

(For more on this topic, read my book Asleep in Heaven's Nursery here)
Related blogs: The Age of Accountability and David's Two SonsRachel Dowd Book Sponsorship Program, and Asleep in Heaven's Nursery)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Music

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and that means that it is time for Christmas music. Most people love Christmas music. For many of us, we have heard the same songs over and over for years, and many of those songs, like the ones from Bing Crosby, have been around for generations. Some songs have been redone while others are timeless classics. I’ve never eaten a chestnut that roasted on an open fire, attended a Christmas party hop, or enjoyed a figgy pudding, but that has never stopped me from enjoying those songs. There is something about Christmas music that can put a smile on anyone’s face, even if it only comes from remembering the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

As much as I enjoy songs about the most wonderful time of the year, especially during a white Christmas, I still prefer songs about the first noel, the ones that sing about the birth of Christ. I wanted to share some of my favorite lesser known lyrics about the first Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
“From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came,
and unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same,
how that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh, tidings of comfort and joy!”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead nor doth He sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.’”

What Child is This?
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, come peasant, king, to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the Son of Mary.

We Three Kings of Orient Are
Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and sacrifice.
Alleluia! Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord.
Late in time, behold Him come, offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell—Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Mary Did You Know?
Mary did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
And this child that you delivered will soon deliver you…
Mary did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kissed your little baby you kissed the face of God.

Oh Holy Night
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O Come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

So as you are having yourself a merry little Christmas, I hope you enjoy Jingle Bells and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer. But if you really want to have a holly, jolly Christmas, remember to keep Jesus at the forefront of your mind, and don’t forget one of the best songs of all:

O Come Let Us Adore Him
O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas!

(Read Happy Holidays and Was Jesus Born on December 25th?)

Friday, October 22, 2010

What is a Curse Word?

I know. Stupid question, right?

But lately I have heard Christians begin to debate what actually makes a word a curse word. Since the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not say the ‘s’ word,” how do we know that a word is bad? Because of this I have heard Christians justify cursing.

The Bible gives a broad command for Christians to adhere to: let no corrupt word come out of your mouth (Ephesians 4:29). The word corrupt means rotten; therefore, we should never say a rotten word, whether it is on the list of curse words or not.

First, we have to realize that there are curse words. On the night of Jesus’ arrest Peter was found guilty of using one himself. Matthew 26:74 tells us that when Peter denied knowing Jesus that he began “to curse and to swear.” This verse shows that there are curse words, and that they are wrong to use.

I’m sure whatever words Peter said were not the same curse words that we have in our culture today. Here is the point: a curse word (or rotten word) is any word that culture deems inappropriate.

If our motion picture and TV ratings system can recognize a word as being rotten, then why can’t Christians? Our culture has a list of words that are simply considered to be inappropriate, and we all know what they are. If our culture decided that the expression “holy cow!” was offensive, then I would not say it. In the mean time, I will not say the words that culture really has deemed as being inappropriate.

If you are a Christian and you want to justify profanity so badly, I can’t help but wonder why. II Corinthians 6:17 tells Christians to come out from the world and be separate, and to not touch any unclean thing. Instead of wanting to talk like the world so badly, why not try to be separate from the world. Just like I say so many times, we don’t have anything to offer the world when we are just like them.

I Thessalonians 5:22 tells Christians to stay away from the very appearance of evil, so even if you think you have the right to curse, you should still abstain from it because of the appearance. Why do we have to borrow the world’s profanity?

If you realize now that you shouldn’t say bad words, then do you also realize that you shouldn’t watch or listen to them either?

According to Paul in Romans 1:32, all who take pleasure in watching people sin are as guilty as the ones who sin. In other words, enjoying a movie, show, or song that uses curse words is just as wrong as saying the curse words yourself.

I recently heard a Christian justify her use of a three letter word that referred to a person’s gluteus maximus by saying that the Bible uses that word (think "donkey" in KJV). This is an example of culture dictating what words are profane. A word that meant donkey for so long now has a profane definition. In fact, consider that the Bible goes to great lengths to not use profanity—when it said that Peter cursed, that is all it says. Notice that Matthew didn’t say, “And Peter said, ‘Oh @$#%!’”

So for Christians I believe this issue cannot be any clearer. If there is a word that is deemed as inappropriate, don’t say it. Don’t demand that you have a right to say it, because you are not abstaining from the appearance of evil, and don’t take pleasure in listening to others use profane language.

You have the right to disagree, but please watch your language.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Change of Heart

Have you ever met a woman named Bitter? Neither have I, but I have read about one. In the book of Ruth we see a lady named Naomi, which means “my delight,” but some hard times leave her anything but delightful. Following the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi blames her problems on God and tells people to call her Bitter instead of Delight.

But then she has a change of heart. After hearing that a godly man named Boaz was providing for the needs of her daughter-in-law Ruth, Naomi again realizes that God is good. Three things ultimately help Naomi have a change of heart.

First, Ruth was loyal. In the 16th verse of the book of Ruth, Ruth makes the most beautiful pledge to her mother-in-law. Instead of staying where she was comfortable in her homeland, Ruth decides to move with Naomi, even though she had no obligation to do so following the death of her husband. Listen to this promise Ruth makes:

“Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death shall separate us.”

Ruth showed loyalty to a woman who believed that God had mistreated her, and after they moved to Bethlehem, Ruth continued to be loyal. After long days working in the field gathering food, Ruth brought home enough to give Naomi as well.

Not only was Ruth loyal, but Boaz was loving. Boaz gave Ruth food and drink, ordered his men to protect her, and he took a financial loss by providing barley for her to make bread. This man could have ignored the needs of a foreign widow, but he chose instead to show her the love of Christ. I John 3:17 says that if we see someone has a need, and we are able to meet that need and refuse to, then the love of God is not in us.

Naomi had a change of heart because Ruth was loyal, Boaz was loving, but most importantly, because God was longsuffering (patient). Psalm 86:15 says that God is “full of compassion, gracious, and longsuffering.”

Because God is God, He would be perfectly justified in wiping us out when we sin. The first time Naomi criticized God, ZAP! No more Naomi. But God is patient, preferring us to learn a lesson over annihilating us. God’s patience is a blessing, but we had better not abuse it since we don’t know when it will run out.

For the person who is not a Christian, God is being patient, allowing you time to change your heart and give your life to Him. He could have destroyed you years ago, but He has sustained you, maybe even just to read this blog, to have one more opportunity to give your life to Him.

And Christians, do you know someone who has not been saved? If you are loyal, loving, and longsuffering, then you can help them change their heart.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Better Day

This week has been one of those weeks. Sometimes we have “one of those days” where everything that can go wrong does, but this has been one of those weeks.

We have made visits to hospitals, hospice, and homes.

We have had death and disease.

We have seen sentencing and suffering.

We have given counsel and received criticism.

And those are just unique circumstances. There are still the daily things that bring people down, like war, poverty, and a list of prayer requests a mile long.

I’m sure that all who are touched by these hard times want just one thing: a better day. If you lose a loved one today, tomorrow has to be a better day. If you are diagnosed today, tomorrow has to be a better day.

But these better days still do little to help when we have one of those days. Or weeks.

Ultimately, you and I are just pilgrims passing through this life on earth (I Peter 2:11). As long as we live here we can expect hard times to come our way. Hey, even Jesus Himself said that in John 16:33.

We can expect to keep having some of those days until that real better day comes. For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and have given our lives to Him, we will experience this in heaven.

Speaking to His disciples about heaven, Jesus said that where He is (heaven), we can be also (John 14:3). Paul added his two cents to that idea by saying, “So shall we ever be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:17).”

Christians, in this world we will have tribulation, but in the next world we will have Jesus.

If today has been one of those days, know that a better day is coming.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dogmatic Christians

The word dogmatic means to “arrogantly assert opinions,” and I know that many times Christians are called out by fellow Christians for being too dogmatic. I’ll be the first to admit that there are many arrogant things done in the name of Christianity—whether it is hosting a Koran burning, bombing abortion clinics, or protesting at funerals, these things are all wrong. And what I’ve tried to get people to see over and over is that 99 times out of 100, the people doing those things aren’t real Christians anyway.

Should there ever be dogma among Christians? Are we allowed to give our “two cents” or are we supposed to tolerate and accept all other views?

Always remember one thing: these other views send people to hell.

The real question should be, “Why would I ever not assert my opinion?” We don’t need to be arrogant, but neither should we be tolerant of this live and let live mindset that has crippled our evangelism.

Consider how Paul handled himself in Acts 17:16-18. While Paul was in Athens “his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. And some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,’-- because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.”

When Paul saw how many people were being deceived and worshipping false idols his spirit was provoked within him. He wasn’t tolerant, he wasn’t accepting, and he didn’t keep quiet. The problem is that too many Christians are no longer provoked by the world’s sin.

Paul went into the synagogue, which was their equivalent of church, and he began to reason with them, which means he was preaching “Jesus and the resurrection (v.18).”

The Stoics and Epicureans were religious leaders, yet they were also false teachers. They called Paul an idle babbler, which means they accused him of knit picking what they were teaching, and they said that the resurrected Jesus that he was preaching was a strange deity. How sad it is when leaders in the church think the resurrected Jesus was a strange deity!

But many people today think a God that is jealous and has wrath and hates sin is a strange deity. And if we preach those aspects of God, we get criticized by the modern day Stoics and Epicureans.

Notice that Paul was persistent. He boldly continued to preach day after day to these people because he knew what would happen if they died in their sin. And yet today so many of us don’t want to be annoying or look like religious fanatics, so we keep the gospel to ourselves, or maybe share it with a person one time. Let us continue to preach day after day until we see change.

Finally, notice what Paul preached. He didn’t tell the crowd to repeat a prayer. He didn’t tell them to walk an aisle or get baptized. He didn’t tell them that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He didn’t tell them to ask Jesus into their hearts. He didn’t tell them to just believe. He didn’t tell them that God loves everybody.

No, his message was the same as the message of Jesus, John the Baptist, and all the apostles. His message was “Repent! (v.30)” Some mocked Paul for his message, but others believed.

I don’t mind taking criticism for preaching repentance and the resurrected Christ. And if you think that I am being too dogmatic, just remember, your opinion shows that you are being dogmatic.

(Read Judgmental Christians here)
(Read Close-Minded Christians here)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Judgmental Christians

This one is going to make some people angry.

That is not the reason why I am writing it, though. Lately I have seen so many people getting bent out of shape and yelling that Christians can’t judge them. “Only God can judge me!”

By the way, if you are having to constantly make yourself feel better by saying that, you are probably doing something wrong.

Is this idea true? Can only God judge? Well, if you want to be technical, Jesus said that God has passed all judgment on to Him. But are Christians forbid from judging? Every time someone’s Facebook status is “Only God can judge me,” they usually follow it up with Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

Standing alone, that verse certainly seems like a universal command to not judge anybody. But the passage goes on to say that we will be judged back by others when we judge (I thought only God judges us!). The whole “get the log out your own eye before you judge the speck in mine” argument is really foolish. Jesus finishes that verse by saying to get the log out your eye, THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.

How do you know there is a speck in your brother’s eye? By making a judgment.

What Jesus is condemning is hypocritical judgments—those made by people living in sin themselves. This is like a man who looks at pornography or a woman who sleeps with her boyfriend judging a homosexual. You are in no position to make a judgment when you yourself are living in sin.

Judgment is also condemned when it is done for the purpose of trying to make the person feel bad, or to make you feel better about yourself. Jesus said to remove the speck in your brother’s eye; we do this to make them better.

Don’t pretend you never judge people. If you wake up at 2:00 AM to a noise outside your window, and you investigate the noise and see a man dressed all in black wearing a ski mask and holding a giant bag with a dollar sign on it, what would you do? You’d better not call the cops. After all, only God can judge him.

In John 7:24 Jesus said “Judge not according to the appearance of man, but judge righteous judgment.” What? A command to judge? From Jesus?

*For the record, the outward appearance here doesn’t refute the armed robber from the previous paragraph; Jesus is referring to judging a book by its cover and writing people off. By the way, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge it on its content.
The reason we prefer the “judge not” sermon over the actual command of Jesus is that the former frees us to live however we want to without conviction, while the latter puts the ball in our court to keep any logs out of our eyes. It also sets us up to be judged back.

Most people are familiar with the passage for church discipline found in Matthew 18:15-20; that is the passage that says we go to someone one on one, then with a few witnesses, then before the church. Verse 15 clearly says that if your brother sins against you, go to him privately about the matter. Yet whenever that happens today, all we hear about is, “You can’t judge me!”

Remember, we are not the judgment police, constantly on patrol to find someone to judge. I know we are constantly branded as being agents of hate who think we are perfect, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The only reason we “judge” is to make people better. If a professing Christian is doing something wrong, Galatians 6 tells us to help them get right.

When people lovingly show me an area where I need to get better, I may not like hearing it, but as a Christian I ultimately appreciate it and welcome the chance to become more like Christ. What Christian wouldn’t?

So if there is a log in your eye, remove it. And once you have, if you see a speck in your brother’s eye, lovingly help them remove it.

If a brother is lovingly helping you remove your own speck, don’t blast them (or use a Facebook status) about not being able to judge; they are just doing what Jesus commanded and trying to make you better.

If you plan on leaving a negative comment, please remember that only God can judge my blogs.

(Read Dogmatic Christians here)
(Read Close-Minded Christians here)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Closed-Minded Christians

One of the most common insults hurled at Christians these days is that they are closed-minded. Critics of Christianity label Christians as already having their minds made up, and therefore they will not consider the “facts.” By facts they are usually referring to pseudo-science or fraudulent inventions to promote evolution. “If only these Christians were more open-minded,” they lament, “then they would learn the truth.”

Despite the fact that there is a mountain of evidence which supports Creation, and the fact that there is not one verifiable fact that proves Darwinism, these atheists remain closed-minded to the possibility of Intelligent Design. But we expect to get criticized by the lost world; Jesus said that would happen. The thing that bothers me is when liberal Christians call other Christians closed-minded.

This new brand of “anything-goes” Christianity features no absolute truth. Each person is free to interpret the words of Jesus however he sees fit, and this open-mindedness is supposed to be appealing to the unchurched. They pride themselves on the fact that they respect each opinion and do not assume any one belief to be superior over another.

But there is a time to be open-minded.

The Bereans were in Acts 17:11. Luke wrote that they were “more noble” than the Thessalonians, and that they received the Word with “readiness of mind.” This would be like saying they were open-minded today. So was being open-minded a good thing? Absolutely! Read the next verse:

“Therefore, many of them believed.” Because they were open-minded they received the Word, believed it, and gave their lives to the Lord. But don’t miss this important truth.

They were not Christians when they were open-minded. They had not believed yet. And because their minds were opened Paul was able to present the gospel to a ready audience. So what should happen to their minds after they believe? They should be closed! I know that it is OK to keep an open mind to things that can change, like music and dress styles, but there are plenty of things that we should keep our minds closed to.

I am a closed-minded Christian when it comes to how to get to heaven. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He is the way, truth, and life, and that no one gets to the Father except through Him. If some liberal with a new idea or interpretation or hidden message finds a new way to the Father, my mind will remain closed.

I am closed-minded when it comes to the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, and that He lived a perfect life, suffered a vicarious death, was raised from the dead by God, and now is seated at God’s right hand.

I am closed-minded about salvation. It is a gift from God, not of works, that was settled before the foundation of the world, and yet still required my choice. Good works can not earn it, but good works will come from it. All who claim salvation for themselves must first deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow after Jesus with nothing less than 100% surrender.

There are many other things that my mind will remain closed to. God said it, and that settles it; my mind is closed.

Ephesians 4:14 warns of spiritual babies who get carried away with every wind of doctrine from the sleight of crafty men who lie in wait to deceive. When asked for a sign of the end of times, Jesus’ first response was not about war or weather, but about false doctrine that would be so strong that it would almost deceive the very elect of God. False prophets abound as wolves in sheep’s clothing, and if we keep our minds open to new and exciting religion, we might just end up following a wolf instead of the Good Shepherd.

In light of all this, whose idea do you think it was to encourage Christians to keep an open mind, Jesus’ or Satan’s?

I believe it was Satan’s, and I will remain closed-minded about that.

(Read Dogmatic Christians here)
(Read Judgmental Christians here)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Real Liberalism

Many times in my blogs and other writings I have referred to liberals or liberalism, and I feel that those terms need to be defined. When I have made comments like saying that militant recycling is a liberal idea, I have been criticized for trying to make something spiritual into a political debate (which is not true—liberal politicians beat me to it). But what I think most people do not realize is that being liberal is not necessarily a political label.

The word liberal just means to be “tolerant” and “not strict.” The opposite of being liberal is being conservative, which means “traditional” and “cautious.” Each person is either liberal, conservative, or somewhere in the middle, and politics is only one area in which this happens. In the realm of politics, when a person looks at the Constitution, he must decide for himself if he will interpret the document cautiously or with more tolerance. For example, when it comes to abortion, the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to life and makes no mention of being able to murder any unwanted baby. A person with a conservative view would be traditional in what the Constitution says and would be very cautious about ever giving anyone the right to kill a baby. On the other hand, someone with a liberal view would be more tolerant, and not being strict, he would allow for a new law that murders the unborn.

When it comes to science we must also decide if we will be conservative or liberal. With issues like evolution, embryonic stem cell research, and man-made global warming, the science shows us that evolution is laughable, embryonic stem cells won’t cure anything, and man is not responsible for destroying the planet. If someone is conservative and sticks to the evidence, he will come to accurate conclusions. A person would have to be quite liberal to look at the mountain of evidence against evolution and still think it could be true.

Being liberal is not always a bad thing. I even consider myself to be liberal in some areas. For instance, when it comes to dress code in the church, I take a more liberal approach than others. My grandparents’ generation believed that a man must always wear a suit and a lady must always wear a nice dress. A traditional conservative person would still hold to that belief today, but someone who is more tolerant has no problem relaxing the dress code (as long as it is still modest). Even though I usually wear a suit on Sunday morning, I do that because I like to, not because I believe there is something spiritual about it.

The Bible even says that God can be liberal. In James 1:5 we are told that if we lack wisdom then we only need to ask God for more. If we do, God will give us wisdom “liberally,” meaning that He is not strict with it. So in and of itself being liberal is not a bad thing.

But more often than not liberalism leads people away from what is right. When it comes to the Constitution, we are dealing with a completed document, so a cautious, traditional approach is usually best. The same is true with the Bible; God’s Word was completed 2,000 years ago, so we should also approach it with caution. A liberal tolerates new interpretations of its timeless passages, but a conservative would not. Let’s look at some of the teachings of Jesus.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”

“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).”

“If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).”

These are just a few of the commands of Jesus, and we haven’t even touched on the writings of Paul or the Ten Commandments. But when you look at these words from Jesus do you take a conservative or a liberal approach? Our lives would be much easier if we could interpret these teachings liberally, but our eternity will be better if we interpret them conservatively.

What gives people the right to think that they can take the words of Jesus and tolerate new interpretations to them? Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean that the words of Jesus can be redefined. If we love Jesus, we need to keep His commandments, no matter how hard that may be. And when our culture tells us to keep our faith to ourselves, we must stick to the command to teach all nations. Just because most professing Christians only act like Christians on Sundays, we still have a command to be the light of the world. Getting even and hating enemies is what comes naturally to us, but we must stick to the truth of Jesus to only show love. And when everyone’s favorite cop out is “no one is perfect,” that doesn’t give us the right to reinterpret the command from Jesus to strive for perfection.

As you live your life, are you working hard to rightly interpret God’s Word the way that God intended it, or are you taking the easier route and tolerating any new interpretation that comes down the pike?

Following Jesus requires denying yourself and giving Him your life (another command from Jesus in Matthew 6:24).

So feel free to give your life to Him liberally.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is the Bible True? Proving the credibility of the Word of God through archeology

I firmly believe that the Bible is the eternal, infallible, inspired word of God. I don’t believe that there is a single error contained on any of its pages, and as a Christian, this is a matter of faith. The Bible claims to be the very words of God (II Timothy 3:16), so I believe that it is.

But to say that I believe the Bible is true because the Bible says it is may sound like circular logic. This might seem like a politician saying that we can trust him because he has never lied to the people; it is ultimately still a matter of faith.

And that is a good thing. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God if we don’t have faith, and Jesus Himself said to Thomas, “You believe in the Resurrection because you have seen me, but blessed are the ones that have not seen me and still believe (paraphrase of John 20:29).”

So faith certainly plays a big role in our spiritual walk, but our faith only goes so far with an agnostic or a spiritual skeptic. What do we do when these people have genuine questions but are not yet prepared to put their faith in the Bible? If they ask us, for example, to prove that God created this world, and all we can tell them is that the Bible says He did, what do we do if they say, “How do you know the Bible is true?”

After all, when a scientist lists pages and pages of data about Carbon 14 dating, fossils, and missing links, we may sound a little naïve by only being able to say that the Bible says so.

So without downplaying the importance of faith, here are six simple findings from archeology that help to affirm the validity of the Bible.

#1. Noah’s Ark. Yes, the actual ark from the story of Noah (Genesis 6-8) has been reportedly discovered. In fact, all you have to do is go to Google images and type in “Noah’s ark found” and you will find thousands of images of the ark. Now there is still a little debate on this topic, as several people have found fragments of what appears to be wooden structures, but one, at the top of Mount Ararat, matches the biblical description in its dimensions. Oh yeah, the Bible also says that the ark came to a rest at the top of Mount Ararat. Check out this story: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/27/noahs-ark-found-turkey-ararat/

#2. The Hittites. Throughout the Old Testament the Hittites are listed with many of the other “ites.” They are mentioned as early as Genesis 15:20, and there are at least 21 other references to this people group. For years critics of the Bible have scoffed at these references since there is no known record of their existence. In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that there was ever a shred of evidence confirming their existence. A recent archeological dig has unearthed a tablet where Ramses the Great bragged about his army defeating the Hittites. This might not seem like a big deal, but if the Bible is wrong about the existence of these people, then doubt would be cast on all of its pages, especially the ones that contain the teachings of Jesus. Discover the Hittites for yourself here: http://www.prevailmagazine.org/how-archaeology-proves-the-bible/

#3. The city of Ur. The Bible records that Abraham was from the land of Ur, but just like with the Hittites, the city of Ur had long been unfounded by historians. That is until the discovery of not only a tablet mentioning the city’s name, but also the genealogy of Abraham was discovered. The genealogy matches the list recorded in Genesis 11:18-26. Read the story at this website: http://www.dawnbible.com/booklets/archeology.htm

#4. The Pool of Siloam. One of the most random and humorous accounts in the recorded life of Jesus takes place near the Pool of Siloam. In John 9:1-7 Jesus gives sight to the blind man by spitting in the dirt, making mud, and telling him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. As soon he did the blind man received his sight. The only problem with this story is that the Pool had continually evaded excavators. But a recent finding has uncovered this very Pool where this remarkable miracle occurred. Like with Noah’s ark, you can find pictures at Google images, and you can read it for yourself here: http://www.s8int.com/page34.html

#5. The Library of Nineveh. The city of Nineveh is mentioned several times in the Bible, but it is most famous for being one of the chief cities in the life of Jonah. In that story Jonah finally agrees to go preach the message of salvation there, and the entire city comes to know God. But many critics have accused this of just being a biblical fish tale because there is no record of the existence of that old city. They are singing a different tune now after the discovery of the Library of Nineveh. This is not a library with selves of books, but rather a collection of tablets that all deal with the city of Nineveh. Among the chronicles in this library is a tablet that refers to the city’s founder as Nimrod. Aside from being an awesome name, biblical scholars know that Genesis 10:10-11 cite Nimrod’s family as settling Nineveh. Don’t take my word for it, read it here: http://www.dawnbible.com/booklets/archeology.htm

#6. The Walls of Jericho. Someone recently told me that there was no way I could prove the Bible; he said, “How can anyone ever prove the walls of Jericho?” That seemingly random challenge was a quick backfire. The walls of Jericho refers to the large walls that surrounded the ancient city, and that were utterly destroyed by the rag tag bunch of Israelite soldiers. God told them to march around the wall, then blow their trumpets, and the walls would fall. They were then to take the city, but the spoil belonged to the Lord. That was a significant command because in those days a soldier’s pay was the spoil; he would take clothes, food, money, or anything else he wanted after they took the city.

Archeology has revealed that the large walls that once surrounded the city did fall inward all the way around, as if an earthquake caused them to all fall at once, but that is not the best part. Other discoveries have shown that the city was relatively well preserved; money has been discovered there, as well as sealed jars that once contained grain, and there are remnants of other types of valuables. If there were an earthquake or if any army invaded, everything would have been taken. Unless, of course, that the God of the army told them not to take the spoil (Joshua 6). Look up pictures on Google images and read about the discoveries at http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v21/i2/jericho.asp

These have only been six simple findings to help prove the validity of the Bible. There are scores of other things that can be listed, like goblets with King David’s name inscribed, for example. The Bible contains literally thousands of names, dates, cities, rulers, and genealogies that could be used to discredit it, but instead, they continually affirm what the Bible says. There still has not been a single one of these things ever proven to be false, which certainly cannot be said of the Koran, which contains more errors than my 9th grade algebra homework.

All of these validated cities and names aid in giving the Bible credibility. If the Bible is wrong about the existence of the city of Ur, then the crucifixion account may be wrong. But if it is right about thousands of details, while batting 1.000, then it is much easier for a skeptic to believe the account of the crucifixion.

Archeology has helped us confirm many of the claims of the Bible, including the Bible’s own claim to be true.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Can We Be Americans And Christians? (Tony Campolo Exposed)

This past weekend our nation celebrated the anniversary of her independence. The 4th of July is always a day with with fireworks, cooking out, and patriotism with the red, white, and blue. But this year on Independence Day I came across some writings that troubled me. I was doing some research for a future blog (which I decided to put off until next time) when I came across some things written by Tony Campolo.

If you are not familiar with Campolo, he claims to be a Christian, and yet he is in favor of keeping abortion legal, gay rights, and he does not believe in the Genesis creation account. In his book Red Letter Christians he blasts the “moral majority” for trying to influence Christians to vote based on their morality, and in turn, he urges Christians to vote based on his warped version of Christianity. In his book Partly Right he goes on a diatribe about how all people are divine from birth, but aside from teaching Christians to vote based on unchristian principles and teaching that we are all gods, Campolo has also made a name for himself with his teachings about God’s Kingdom.

He believes that we are presently living in Jesus’ Kingdom. Since that belief shapes part of his worldview, it is easy to see how that has led him down the road to putting an over-emphasis on his social agenda. Living presently in God’s Kingdom has become a major part of his speaking and writing.

Specifically, in his book The Kingdom of God is a Party, he states that we are all living in God’s Kingdom, and God’s main objectives are having a ball and taking care of creation. This is why the followers of Campolo’s theology put all of their time and resources into fighting poverty and saving the planet.

Before I go any further, I want to clarify that some green initiatives are okay, as long as we don’t go off the deep end and make it a religion, as too many have done. Also, helping the poor is both good and biblical. However, these two things were not found in the Great Commission; instead, we are told to evangelize and to pull as many as we can out of the fire. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us (Mark 14:7), so we need to realize that we won’t end poverty. We should help those whom we can, but our higher calling is to reach the lost (Matthew 28:19-20).

On pages 43-44 of The Kingdom of God is a Party, Compolo makes the case that some people can’t enjoy this kingdom and have a party if they are poor inner city children, Palestinians who were kicked out of “their” land, or Catholics who are oppressed by a Protestant majority.

First of all, that paragraph is in keeping with his elevation of Catholics (which has been a part of his ministry for a quarter century) and his ant-Semitism.

But secondly, it shows that he is missing the point. Jesus didn’t come die on a cross so that we can party on earth; we are strangers and pilgrims passing through this land, and as Christians, we have heaven to look forward to. Campolo says we need to do whatever we can do to give those who are oppressed something to party about. You want them to celebrate? Teach them about Jesus and show them how they can be saved!

This life is not a party; Jesus didn’t call us to happiness, but to holiness.

Campolo further shows his poor Bible study tactics by committing an entire chapter to showing that God wants us to give a tenth of our money to partying. He cites Deuteronomy 14:22-29, and then he applies that Old Covenant ceremony to us today. He continues this Bible study method by quoting Jesus out of context: “The kingdom of heaven is a wedding feast.” Jesus was actually beginning a parable about heaven, and Campolo failed to realize that Jesus was making a larger point than saying that heaven or earth is a big party.

When Jesus spoke about the kingdom, He was not telling people to denounce their citizenship and join His kingdom. Campolo fails to understand the difference between a physical and a spiritual kingdom. It is possible to be part of the spiritual kingdom of God and still maintain one’s own citizenship. Consider how Paul appealed to Caesar by invoking his own Roman citizenship (Acts 25:11).

The disciples of Jesus made the same mistake that Campolo made when it came to the kingdom. They, too, thought that Jesus was coming to establish a kingdom right then, and that is what led to all of their problems. The Old Testament contains prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and about the second coming of the Messiah, and the disciples merged those into one event. Therefore, when Jesus came claiming to be the Messiah, they thought He was coming to establish a physical kingdom and free them from the oppression of the Roman government.

Because Jesus didn’t start a kingdom, many Jews rejected Him.

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will start a kingdom on earth when He returns. But until that day comes, the kingdom of God is spiritual, something we understand in our minds and hearts. According to Bibleworks, an eminent Greek and Hebrew software, the word kingdom in the New Testament is “not to be confused with a literal kingdom (version 7.0).”

This is not the only time we do this in Christianity. We say that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we know that we are not referring to a biological kinship.

Therefore, it is entirely possible for a person to be both Christian and American; that is, their heart and life belong to Christ while they are citizens of a country. To cease to be of nationality because we join the kingdom of God would be like saying “I am no longer Caucasian” or “I am no longer African-American.” It is a part of who we are, not something we must give up or deny.

I Peter 2:17 tells Christians to “honor the king,” while Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 to obey Caesar. There is a biblical precedent to maintain one’s own nationality with respect, even while our hearts belong to God’s Kingdom. One day, in the Millennial Kingdom, we will live in God’s Kingdom.

I also find it ironic that Campolo leads people into his “kingdom now” theology while telling people to vote for his social agenda. If he is part of another kingdom, then he has no business voting in this kingdom. Honestly, I wish he would stop voting in this country anyway; that would be one less vote for abortion/homosexual rights.

I chose to write this blog because it was the 4th of July and I was bothered by the fact that he has led people to stop calling themselves Americans. But his false views about the kingdom are the least of Campolo’s problems. For anyone who buys into the Red Letter Christians concept or the kingdom now concept pushed by Campolo, consider all of these other beliefs that he holds. I believe a person’s ideas should be rejected if they show a pattern of flawed thinking (i.e. Sigmund Freud).

Campolo described his salvation experience in his book Letters to a Young Evangelical. He said that he never had a “conversion experience” like his mother, but instead, he became close to God by reciting Catholic prayers and repeating the name of Jesus as a mantra. Jesus warned against those vain repeated prayers (Matthew 6:7), and Jesus said we must be “born again (John 3:3)." Being born again is a conversion, not a long path of chanting prayers. Is Campolo even saved? Not by his own salvation testimony; so should we really embrace his theology?

Campolo also rejects the idea that the Bible is inerrant. This means that he believes there may be errors in the Bible. In an interview with Shane Claiborne, Campolo described an evangelical this way: “An evangelical is someone who believes the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed. That outlines exactly what we believe in detail. Secondly, an evangelical has a very high view of scripture, though not necessarily inerrancy (“On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation,” Crosscurrents, Spring 2005, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_1_55/ai_n13798048).”

In Partly Right, page 99, Campolo indicates that personal experience supersedes what the Bible teaches.

He also believes that a person does not have to be a Christian to go to heaven. In an August 9th, 1999 article in the National Liberty Journal, Campolo said “there may be people who enter the kingdom who did not call themselves Christians.” He made that claim after saying that the “work of Christ on the cross may be broader than some of us think.” On the Charlie Rose Show on October 1st, 1999, Campolo reaffirmed his position by saying “I am not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.”

In a January 27th 2007 article in the Edmonton Journal, Campolo was asked if non-Christians can go to heaven, and after dancing around for a minute, concluded by saying that “we have no way of knowing to whom the grace of God is extended.”

On MSNBC, Campolo told Bill Moyers “I learn about Jesus from other religions. They speak to me as well.” That was his defense on his position of not trying to convert Jews to Christianity (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4117713232348817752).

Then, in a very disturbing interview with Shane Claiborne in 2005, Campolo said these words: “I’ve got to believe that Jesus is the only Savior but being a Christian is not the only way to be saved... Now Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross, but…I do think we have to say is that the grace of God extends way beyond the limitations of my religious group. Our Muslim brothers and sisters can say Islam is the only true faith but we are not convinced that only Muslims enjoy salvation. I contend that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, but I am not convinced that the grace of God does not go further than the Christian community.”

Claiborne later said that instead of trying to convert Muslims, we should “stop talking with our mouths and cross the chasm between us with our lives. Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit as Francis [of Assisi] did.” This confirms my theory that Claiborne is just as nutty in his theology as Campolo is.

Campolo then responded by saying “It seems to me that when we listen to the Muslim mystics as they talk about Jesus and their love for Jesus, I must say, it’s a lot closer to New Testament Christianity than a lot of the Christians that I hear. In other words, if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree? Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?” He made similar claims on pages 149-150 of his book Speaking My Mind.

In his book The God of Intimacy and Action, Campolo says that we should emulate the supersaints of Roman Catholicism (page 9-10). And an article in the Baptist Press from June 27th, 2003, quoted Campolo as branding those of us who agree with the Bible about only men being pastors as being “instruments of the devil.”

Obviously I could go on and on with outrageous beliefs and statements, like when he said that the Harry Potter series was good for children to read, but that pastors needed to preach out against the Left Behind series, but I think that the point has been made. Tony Campolo is a dangerous false prophet.

What are the odds of him being wrong about so many things of theology, and then being right about his kingdom now belief? If he is so wrong about so much, then his minority view about the kingdom should also be rejected. Whenever a pastor claims to have some new insight that people have missed for 2,000 years, beware. Especially if that person has a track record like Campolo’s.

If you still want to believe in Campolo’s theology, that is your right as an American…I mean, as a Kingdom citizen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why Satan Recycles

Recently I have taken some heat by suggesting that perhaps the sole power to destroy this planet does not rest in our hands (or our aerosol cans). I was even called arrogant for saying that, which is funny, because I believe that real arrogance is believing that I can destroy the planet. So when I celebrated Earth Day by finally getting to that pesky burn pile in the back yard, I viewed it as a sign of my humility. Nevertheless, I felt like this would be a good chance for me to clarify my position.

Obvious point #1: Jesus will destroy this planet, not us. Read Revelation. People try to rebut this by saying that we should still preserve it. That is arrogance! Who are we to think that we can in any way affect God’s sovereign timetable?

Obvious point #2: God created this planet with a protective water canopy that covered the earth and filtered out the harmful UV rays. This caused people to live longer and be healthier, and it also made the planet ideal for plant and animal life. However, because of the gross sin of mankind, God destroyed most of the earth’s inhabitants with a flood; this was not natural rain, but God pouring the water canopy onto the earth (Genesis 6). This brought punishment to that population, but its effects are still felt today. That is the reason we are in this mess, and it has nothing to do with SUVs.

So the new Christian battle cry has become, “Stewardship!” We must be good stewards because God loves this planet. Over the past few months people have continually told me that God loves this planet and told us to preserve its beauty. That sounds nice, except it isn’t biblical.

In the first two chapters of the Bible God repeatedly calls His creation either good or very good, but then Adam sinned, God cursed the planet, and He never calls it good again. He never calls it beautiful. He never told man to preserve it. In fact, he told man to have dominion over it.

Now let me be very clear. I think that stewardship is a great thing, and I love this planet. I am thankful for this planet, and there is nothing wrong with doing things to help make it an even better place. I also have no problem with recycling. Neither does Satan.

See, for thousands of years Satan has employed different means to distract God’s people, and more often than not, the things that he uses are not sinful. When I was a student in Bible college I was always sad to watch as many of the young men around became distracted by video games. Halo was popular when I lived in the dorms, and guys would pull all-nighters playing it. They stopped doing their work and they started sleeping through their classes. One by one these guys who were studying to be pastors began to flunk out of school.

There is nothing wrong with most video games, but Satan can use them to be a distraction. I’m convinced that Satan loves Halo more than those guys did.

Satan also uses religious things as a distraction. He sits back and laughs when he gets churches to split over drums, dress code, and denominations.

He also causes distractions by making people focus on the wrong thing. A person can live an ungodly or immoral lifestyle, but they feel OK at the end of the day because they gave their tithe or they taught a class. Now Satan is doing the same thing with recycling.

I’ve noticed over the last few months how many Christians have become militant earth-savers, and they are quick to criticize anyone who doesn’t have their same passion. Here is the point: Satan has gotten us to care more about saving the planet than about saving souls.

Just like with the person who pats himself on his immoral back because he tithed or taught a class, I am finding that recycling has replaced Christian service. How many people did you tell about Jesus today? None, but I recycled!

Jesus left all of His disciples with the commission to make disciples of all nations, but the Great Commission of the church today has become, “Go and conserve water and recycle all materials.”

Don’t misunderstand me: I will be the first to recycle. In fact, I already have today. But let’s not fall into Satan’s deception and believe that recycling somehow replaces holiness and evangelism. You can recycle all you want to, but if you are not living a holy life, you will still go to hell.

Let’s focus on the things Jesus actually said to do, like showing love and forgiving others, and let’s stop inventing fake commands from Jesus, like recycling and carpooling.

If you want to recycle, have at it! But that doesn’t make you any better in God’s eyes than a person who doesn’t recycle. Satan wants you to think that it does. His new goal is to make you feel so spiritual because of your recycling that you don’t feel the need to pray, study God’s Word, or tell people about Jesus.

And this plan is working. Churches gather today in the name of being Green and not Godly. They emphasize recycling but not redemption. They preach conservation, but not Christ-likeness.

And here is the irony. These Church goers that feel right with God because of their planet saving stewardship will be the very first to criticize a real child of God who is trying to live right. “You don’t watch movies with cursing? You’re a legalist!” “You wear a tie to church? You’re a traditionalist!” “You still believe God created the world? Simple minded!” “You knock on doors and tell people about Jesus? Only because you think that makes God love you more!”

Recycling has become the new legalism. I firmly believe that if the Pharisees of the 1st Century were our religious leaders today, they would have us all recycling for admittance into heaven.

I don’t care if you wear a tie, wear flip flops, play the drums or just a piano. If you love Jesus and live for Him then we are on the same team, and I won’t let Satan use something petty to be a distraction. Let’s focus on the things that really matter, and in the minor areas, let’s live and let live.

Oh, and by the way, if you print this blog out, be sure to recycle it when you’re finished.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Who is God? part 2

God is wise. That sounds like an obvious statement, and it really is, but God’s wisdom must be looked at. Many people are wise, but our wisdom either comes because we have been taught, or it comes through trial and error. God’s wisdom did not come about by either of these means, which is why God’s wisdom is unique. In God’s sovereignty He possesses total knowledge, and wisdom is simply the application of that knowledge. Therefore, we can conclude that God is totally wise.

God acts in wisdom for His glory and for our good. I Corinthians 1:25 teaches that no one will ever compare to the glory of God, which brings Him glory, and He puts that wisdom into place for our good. Jeremiah 29:11 shows that God is so much wiser than us that we cannot even figure Him out sometimes. God also gives His wisdom to us, and James 1:5 says that if we lack wisdom we simply need to ask God for more. To see what this godly wisdom looks like, read James 3:17.

God is eternal and immutable. God’s eternality is clearly stated in Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 1:8. Exodus 3:14 shows the same idea. But God is also immutable, which means that He cannot change or vary. This idea is demonstrated in James 1:17 and Malachi 3:6.

God’s word won’t change: Psalm 119:89
God’s love won’t change: Jeremiah 31:3
God’s mercy and truth won’t change: Psalm 100:5
God’s rewards won’t change: I Thessalonians 4:17
God’s punishments won’t change: Ezekiel 8:18

God is jealous. This sounds like such a nasty attribute of God; in fact, it even caused Oprah Winfrey to walk away from Christianity when her Baptist pastor in Mississippi preached on God’s jealousy. But there are actually three ways to define jealousy.

The first meaning is “feeling of resentment against someone because of that person’s rivalry, success, or advantages.” An example would be he is jealous of his rich brother. A second meaning of the word is “suspicion of rivalry or unfaithfulness, as in love. An example of this would be he is a jealous husband. The third definition is “vigilant in maintaining or guarding something.” An example of this kind would be the American people are jealous of their liberty.

Only the second two meanings can apply to God, for He has no rival, but He is a jealous husband, and He is vigilant to maintain His holy name.

God’s jealousy is caused by our sin. When we choose to love someone or something else more than God we make Him jealous, and when we sin and lower His reputation, we make Him jealous.
This is not an attribute to be ashamed or to leave the church the over. It simply shows that God hates sin. Grab a concordance and look up the multitude of verses that show God’s jealousy, and if you understand it, then thank God for it. If you are making Him jealous, then repent of the sin and get right with God.

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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jesus Did Not Condemn the World

According to John 3:17, God did not send His Son Jesus into the world to condemn the world. This verse has led many people to develop a theology that says that Jesus is not a condemning God, and this belief is used to help build their case that Jesus is all love and no judgment.

The problem with this theology is that the reason Jesus was not sent to condemn the world is that world ALREADY was condemned. John 3:18 continues and says, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already.”

Ever since the first sin in the Garden of Eden mankind has been condemned because of our sin nature. We are all condemned from birth, so Jesus did not come to condemn mankind, but to redeem us!

Jesus’ own mission statement says that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).” He did not come to condemn, but to save us from our own condemnation. This is great news.

This means that all of us who claim to follow Jesus should be picking up where Jesus left off on earth: seeking the lost, and leading them to Jesus. Why? Because the way they are they are already condemned.

So if we take John 3:17 to simply mean that Jesus did not come to condemn anybody, it can come across as if there is no need to worry about being condemned. This is very wrong. People may call you judgmental, but that is a small price to pay to potentially bring a person who is condemned into a relationship with Jesus.

Even though Jesus did not condemn the world, He will judge the world, and many will be sent to hell after He judges them because they condemned themselves with their unbelief. Let’s tell them before it is too late. If we don’t, we are assisting in their condemnation.

Jesus did not condemn the world. Are you condemning it?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Balancing Act

A tightrope walker only has one necessary skill: balance. Move an inch to the left, or overcompensate two inches to the right, and he is finished for sure. Recently it has occurred to me just how much of a balancing act Christians need as well.

I am not talking about walking right down the middle. Absolutely not. We need to stand up for what we believe in, no matter how politically incorrect we might be. The last thing we need to worry about is being people pleasers.

The balance that we need as Christian is to avoid going to extremes on most issues. Now, if something is black and white in Scripture, than do no make it gray. But other things require good balance.

For example, take prayer. The Bible is full of verses that tell us that we will receive what we ask for if we do it with enough faith, or in the name of Jesus. But there are also verses that say to ask for God’s will to be done instead of our own. This has caused some Christian groups to believe that God will answer “Yes” to every single prayer, and if He doesn’t, you didn’t have enough faith. Other groups will never “let their requests be made unto God” because they don’t want to pray for their will to be done. We need a balancing act. We cannot take one verse of Scripture about prayer and ignore all the others. Find that balance between asking in faith while yielding to God’s will.

Another example is one that has led 21st Century Christians groups to each have their own Jesus. One group has the Jesus of love and the other has the Jesus of wrath. Jesus is not all love and no wrath, but neither is He all wrath and no love. Guess what? He is actually found right in the middle, doing His own balancing act. In His sovereignty, God will never tip the scale one way or the other. God is love, and His love requires Him to exercise His wrath. God is 100% love and 100% wrath at the same time.

One final example. In John 15 Jesus said that He called His disciples, not servants, but friends. What a great thought! But in John’s Revelation, Jesus spoke His own name and John fell down like he was dead. My grandparents’ generation seemed to have been more on the side of John, while this new generation prefers to focus on John 15. This has led one group to go overboard and, in a blasphemous manner, announce that Jesus is their homeboy. The other group is guilty of making Jesus a million mile away God. What do we do? We find a balance. Remember, the apostle John recorded both occasions, so he certainly knew where the balance was.

So how do we find the balance? We ask God for help. The closer we get to God the more we will know Him. As we get to know God more we will know where to find that balance. It is not an arrogant statement to say that we know God. We should get closer to Him each day. Here is how:

1. Diligently seek Him. God will reward that. (Hebrews 11:6)
2. Draw close to God. God will draw close to you. (James 4:8)
3. Ask for wisdom. God will pour it out. (James 1:5)

The truth of God is not up for debate or left up to us to make Him who we want Him to be. We must properly know who God is.

Don’t go overboard, and don’t lose your balance!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Witnessing Tips from a Thief

In honor of the Easter season I thought it would be a good idea to look at the thief on the cross next to Jesus at the Crucifixion. Jesus gave His disciples, and us today, the charge to tell people about Him (which we call “witnessing”), and I believe we can learn a thing or two from this thief.

First, we see that Jesus had two converts while He was dying. One of the Roman solders who was working the executions that day was forced to conclude that “truly this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39).” And then there is the thief who was crucified next to Jesus. We see his prayer of salvation: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:43).” While Jesus was dying he had more converts to Christianity than most Christians will have in their lives. This is a great reminder to us as Christians that we should always be mindful of the unsaved people around us, and their eternal destination if we do not tell them about Jesus.

Another thing we can learn is the importance of planting a seed. This is not gardening talk, but more Christian terminology. We might tell somebody about Jesus, only to have them reject the message, but this is not a total loss. It plants a seed that might be cultivated over time and still lead to that person’s changed life.

That thief on the cross next to Jesus clearly had a seed planted in his heart before he was crucified. How else could he have come to his conclusion about who Jesus was when Jesus barely spoke that day? The thief obviously knew the Scriptures, and that there were prophecies that the Son of God would come to take away the sins of the world, and then later establish a kingdom. He knew the Scriptures, and had most likely rejected the idea that this carpenter was the one prophesied about. But that seed that had been planted continued to grow in his heart, and he is in heaven today because of it. Christians, even if you do share your faith but don’t see converts, keep your chin up. You are planting seeds.

We can also learn that, while Bible knowledge is important, that is not what brings salvation. The thief did not ask to go to paradise with Jesus, but that is where he went that day. He thought he would immediately become part of some new kingdom on earth, but that kingdom will not become literal until after the Great Tribulation. The point is this: you might not know the ends and outs of the book of Revelation, you might be totally confused on issues of free will or election, and you might have no clue what “propitiation” or “substitutionary atonement” are, and that’s OK. While those things are good to know, they are not requirements for your salvation. What are the requirements? Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and allow that belief to change your life so that you live for Jesus as the Lord of your life.

Finally, we can learn that we can learn from a thief. Yes, this convicted career criminal can teach us sanctified believers a few things. Even though he never told another person that he found the one the Scriptures prophesied about, his final recorded sentence has testified for two thousand years.

May we do the same.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Checklist Ministries, which was created by our 18 year-old friend Will Scott before he passed away from cancer last May, hosted a rally called Invasion last Saturday. I had the honor and privilege of presenting the Gospel at the rally.

We did this in such a way as to enable teens to share their faith in Jesus. We wanted to give them the opportunity to stop what they were doing and text at least one person with the message of the gospel, which means “good news.”

I believe the three most common reasons people don’t share their faith are they are hypocrites, they get nervous face to face, and they don’t know what to say. If you live one way at church and another way at school, you know you can’t witness because your life doesn’t back up the message. If that is you, remove that sin from your life and become a witness for God.

And the other two excuses are easy to overcome. By texting, emailing, or using Facebook, you can tell someone about Christ without being face to face, and they will not feel like they have been put on the spot. And by following this GOSPEL pattern, you won’t have to worry too much about what to say. So here is the GOSPEL that we presented at Invasion, as adapted from Dare 2 Share Ministries.

G od created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)
O ur sins separate us from God. (Genesis 3)
S ins cannot be removed by good deeds. (Genesis 4 - Malachi 4)
P aying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew)
E veryone who trusts in Him alone can have eternal life. (John)
L ife with Jesus starts now and lasts forever. (Acts - Revelation)

Now, please don’t feel like you have to text this like it appears. That won’t make much sense; this is just designed to help you memorize it. Look how easy it is to use this method in a 15 second explanation: “When God created us, His desire was for us to have a relationship with Him, but our sin separates us from God. Just like how Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, so our sin separates us from God. Our sin cannot be erased, no matter how many good things we do—we need a Savior. So Jesus died on the cross to make that transaction between God and us, allowing God to punish the sin and let the sinner go free. Because of this, everyone who puts their faith in Jesus alone, and who lives for Jesus alone, can enter back into a relationship with God. This new life starts now, and goes on forever.”

The Great Commission of Jesus still applies to us, to teach all nations that Jesus is Lord. What are you doing to fulfill this command? Who is the last person you told about Jesus?

I heard of one young lady that used this method and led her friend to Christ through texting. I want to hear other stories. If you use this method, leave a comment and tell us what happened.

"For I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes…" Romans 1:16

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All Things To All Men

One of our favorite verses to use in our evangelism methods is where Paul said that he “becomes all things to all men” so that he might “by all means save some (I Corinthians 9:22).” This is certainly a good idea if we keep it in its proper context and application.

For example, I remember a time in high school where I knew a kid that loved skateboarding. Being the chicken that I am, I was never a skateboarder. All he would talk about was skating, and I knew none of his lingo. But to help develop a relationship with him (he was new to our church and didn’t know many people), I brushed up on my skating lingo so I could ask if he had done any sick ollies lately (impressed?). This would be like Paul saying “to the skateboarder, I became a skateboarder.” This is effective and necessary.

But then there are the people that use this verse to justify doing sinful things in the name of evangelism. The first one that comes to mind is about drinking. Some people will go into the bars to evangelize, which is a great idea, but then they order a round for themselves. If any sanctified Christian dares to oppose them on this practice, they will proudly cite their anthem: I’m becoming all things to all men.

Let’s step back and survey the damage that is done here. These pub evangelists have just given every lost person a license to continue in their very sin! “If he believes in Jesus and does the same things I’m doing, I must be OK.”

The same point was recently made to me in trying to defend a movie that used profanity. Someone told me that the profanity in this movie is being all things to all men. With that logic the same damage is done as with the pub evangelist. If this is the new justification in evangelism, where will we draw the line: Will we become porn stars to reach porn stars? Will we become drug dealers to reach our clients? Come on! This is ridiculous. Let’s stop taking the Bible out of context in order to excuse our sin.

Paul’s quote in I Corinthians 9 is being dangerously misapplied. His original point had nothing to do with giving himself extra liberty, but was all about denying himself the liberty that he already had! Look at his examples. To the weak he became weak, and though he was free, he made himself a servant. It is not that he fed his sinful appetite, but that he denied himself to reach some. We know for a fact that Paul denied himself the right to eat certain meat (which he had the right to eat) in order to keep the opportunity to reach others (read the previous chapter).

Do you really want to reach somebody for Christ? Then find a way to reach one by denying yourself, not by compromising your standards or beliefs. When we compromise, no one is actually reached for Christ, so we miss our goal. We are constantly reaching people by confronting them with their need for change. How many are being reached by drinking, swearing Christians?

Let’s be all things to all men so that we can reach some.