Yesterday I came across a discussion thread in a group I belong to on Facebook. The poster asked if we thought mankind was becoming more peaceful as our technological knowledge increased and we gain an abundance of material wealth. I do not believe this to be the case and said so. I do not believe this to be the case because human society as a whole is bent on replacing God with technology. I am reminded of Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things that are not fitting:”
So-called “modern society” does not want to retain a knowledge of God. It actively seeks to push God out of any and all public venues and to silence those of us who desire to speak of Him. At least, to speak truth of Him. Those who are willing to promote a god that will save everyone regardless of their deeds; they may speak. But their god is not the God of the Bible. Not the creator of the universe, not the God who will sit with Jesus in judgment of mankind. Their god is an idol they have created to serve their needs and desires, because they do not want to retain the knowledge of the true God.
Believers are sometimes asked by God to do things that are uncomfortable. A few have been asked to do things that are mind-numbingly dangerous for the good of the gospel. Old testament prophets have gone toe-to-toe with hundreds of prophets of Baal in a contest of “my God is bigger than your god” (and won decisively, by the way), been swallowed alive by a great fish (and sustained inside it for days) before deciding to comply with the directive to preach repentance to a huge and hostile city/state, strode, uninvited, into the chambers of a king (that alone, earning them an instant death penalty) then proceeding to tell the King what God has ordered the King to do. The list goes on.
The most striking example of this in the New Testament is the Apostle Paul. He sets out on three missionary journeys, traveling all around the Mediterranean rim, telling the inhabitants of Jesus and the salvation He offers. To the Jewish leaders, this was an unpopular message and they tried several time to kill Paul. They chased him out of cities, they even charged him with sedition before the Roman governor in hopes of having Paul put to death. Continue reading “For the Good of the Gospel”
Originally written February 20, 2016, this article has been lounging around in a folder while I gathered the courage to publish it. I guess it’s time.
Imagine a room: it’s a comfortable room with big windows that allow in light. But because the windows are tinted to keep out the summer heat, opening the windows makes the room brighter. And the fresh air invigorates the room with the scent of flowers and pine trees.
About three weeks ago a window opened up in my being and allowed the full sunshine and scented air to come in, and I became exceptionally happy. Not that I’m grumpy, but now I was feeling an extra something that caused me to be humming or whistling a lot: which annoyed the dogs but gave me a brighter outlook on everything.
Three days into this improved outlook I was fixing breakfast and preparing the little cups for our daily pills. I picked up a bottle that I’ve picked up every morning for over 20 years, and as I reached to unscrew the cap, the Holy Spirit within me said, “You don’t need that; put it away.” Continue reading “The Window”
The Bible makes many references to God’s wisdom. Some compare it to the wisdom of mankind. Ours tends to come up looking like foolishness in this comparison. Sometimes, as in 1 Corinthians 1:21, the wording is confusing: but that just makes it all the more fun to tease out the meaning.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
If someone accepts Christ but their lifestyle shows no change, what does that mean and what can we do?
To answer this question briefly we must assume several points:
That we knew this person before and after conversion well enough to have seen whether their life changes. If this is someone we only see at church, it is nearly impossible to judge their actual life. If this is someone we have known only after they have claimed to be Christian for 10 years, we may have no idea what they were like before.
That this person is in need of a drastic lifestyle change. Someone who was raised in church, never developed bad habits or speech, and talked frequently of God and Jesus – just had not made the commitment – would be difficult to assess as being in need of guidance.
We are in a position where this person knows and trusts us enough to listen if we try to help them. And we ourselves must be living a surrendered life so we can’t be shown hypocritical by accusing another of hypocrisy.
Imagine, if you will, a pair of 10 or 12 year old boys happen upon an old rowboat washed up on the shore of a river. There are no oars, but the boys decide to push it out into the river and go for a ride. While drifting along they joke around and tell each other tales of adventure as riverboat captains, or pirates, or brave explorers. After a while they begin to hear a sound; faint at first, growing louder. Their eyes grow wide when they recognize it: THE RAPIDS! If the decrepit old boat goes into those, it will surely break up and they could drown. They paddle frantically with their hands and manage to get the boat close enough to shore to jump out into water shallow enough to walk safely to shore. They watch from the shore as the boat is tossed by the white water, beaten against the boulders and smashed to bits. What started out as pure fun nearly ended in disaster. This story serves as a metaphor for life. Continue reading “Drifting Through Life”
There are a great many people in the world that lay claim to the title, “Christian”, yet know little or nothing about The Bible. They know what they know about Jesus, about God, about His promises and requirements from listening to someone else. Some of those teaching preach solid, biblical lessons – some preach lessons designed to comfort their audience. They pick and choose passages from The Holy Word, taking them out of context and making them mean what they want them to mean to promote their own views of life, Jesus, and God.
This is not new. It was going on in the first century church. Paul cautioned several of the first churches not to be mislead by those preaching a bastardized theology mixing The Way with The Law. Those acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God, and that salvation came through Him: but they also wanted to adhere to parts of the Mosaic law. They wanted an integrated theology that clung to the sacrifices and festivals of the old law yet claimed Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. To many of the day: Jews by birth, raised in the Jewish traditions, this version of the gospel of Jesus felt familiar, comfortable, acceptable. But it was wrong. Continue reading “Bastardized Theology”
In the early days of the movement known as The Way, this congregation swelled rapidly from 120 members to around 5,000 members. Because the Sanhedrin hated Jesus and his followers, any Jew who converted to following Jesus was ejected from the Jewish temple and ordered to be shunned by all devout Jews. This had a major impact on the economy of any Jewish family who became followers of Jesus.
To help these people, as well as the lame and widows who joined them, the “church” took up collections and dispersed goods and funds to those in need. These collections were not forced, but rather the followers of Jesus gave freely out of a generous heart. Acts 4:32 says, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own but they had all things in common.”
This was not a new concept, I Chronicles 29:14-16 states that possessions come from God, belong to God, and should therefore be offered back to God when there is need. It is said that a hand opened in giving is ready to receive as well. A hand closed in greed cannot receive anything.
As followers began selling possessions to supply the need; there was, no doubt, some recognition of these gifts by the Apostles.
When Jesus walked the earth and taught about the kingdom of God and what would come to be known as Christianity, he frequently spoke against the temple model of worship. Briefly, that is: holy places (usually buildings) where holy men interpret holy writings and tell the devout what to think, how to live, and what their god demands of them. The church that Jesus built through his apostles was not this way. Acts chapter two clearly describes what the original Christian church looked like:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
This original, pure “Christian” church (they did not call themselves Christian for some time. Originally this church was called The Way. “Christian” was a derogatory tag hung on them by Roman soldiers at Antioch, which the followers of Jesus picked up and wore with pride) broke the temple model, but it did not last long. Continue reading “A Snapshot of True Christianity”
Before Jesus came on the scene, religious activity always followed the temple model. In a nut shell, the temple model is having one or more holy places, where the holy writs are kept, and holy men stay. These holy men interpret the holy writs and deliver to the faithful decrees about how they will live and behave and what sacrifices their god demands. If these holy men feel a follower is not living up to their decrees, that follower can be punished or killed in accordance to their writ. Continue reading “Toppling the Temple Model”