Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Monday, November 17, 2014

Good Observation But Wrong Answer

   I am continually seeing posts on Facebook about exposing false teachings and heretics. While I agree, we have to protect the truth and defend it with out lives, somehow I feel like we are missing the boat when we come up with our solutions to problems in the church with false teachers.

   Of course, this problem is not only limited to false teachers and teachings, it is related to other aspects of the Christian life as well. For example, many Christians just give up and fall apart when they see how bad the world is getting. Some of my friends have actually gone into hiding because they want to protect their families from the impending danger that appears to be coming our way in the future not too far away.

   I'm not against protecting our families or recognizing the signs of the times, but, there are those who are taking a defeatist attitude and just giving up, as if God has already designated their fate to be harmed, while they try to run to shelter somewhere. They throw the baby out with the bath water when they say that all politicians are evil. Do you think there is any such thing as a non evil politician? Is that a reason to run away and hide? Perhaps we should revisit this later on.

    Today I am seeing, as usual, the posts containing the exposure or false teachers/heretics. If someone is actually teaching a false doctrine, we have every right and responsibility to pick the teaching apart and bring it into the light. But that isn't what I see people doing. Many are out there complaining because of the heretics or because the church has compromised. We get on this bandwagon and we all go for a heretic hayride. Or we complain because we think the church is not doing enough to expose false teachers and heretics.

   If you are one who loves to expose all the false teachers you can find, please, I ask you to check your own heart on this. Do you love it when people fall? The Bible says not to rejoice when your enemy falls. Do you relish it when a Christian singer comes out of the closet? Do you find it enjoyable to now be able to call that person a heretic and destroy them? Again, I would ask you to look at your own heart. I would ask you to look at the Cross. I would ask you to look realistically at who you are and what you are capable of doing when it comes to sin.

   We think its ok to criticize another person who falls, or who we disagree with, because we think we are right. We might be right. We might not be right. Many who have held a high standard for others to reach, have fallen into sin themselves.

   Anyway, this is not what i intended to write in the first place. I was thinking of this scenario a little while ago: Someone writes about a problem, usually one caused by the irresponsibility by those in the government, or, a problem caused by the apathy of the church. Here's the crux of the matter: There's a lot of complaining or even just bringing up the problem and blaming whomever. Yes, there are people to blame, and people who are being irresponsible. Yes, the church has faltered and is continuing to falter as she either slumbers or engages in activities of the world instead of fighting the good fight of faith. We recognize the problems and the source correctly. But that is NOT going to solve the problem. Blaming the church's apathy for the world's problems around us today is probably a pretty good assessment of why we have the problem, but it is not the means to the solution.

   What I struggle with today, is that we don't go any further than that. We criticize the church and then just resolve our thinking to a defeatist attitude. NO. STOP. This is why we should get on our knees (or whatever position we pray in) and pray. Why in the world do we not think to pray? I read posts all the time that people post who state that this is just an indication of the end of the world. Well, maybe it is, but are you just going to sit there and let the Enemy of our souls run over us? Even if Jesus comes back tomorrow, or World War 3 breaks out today, we are supposed to be responsible citizens of the kingdom of God who are passing through a very dark, broken world that the Enemy wants to keep in darkness. Do you really want your children and loved ones to be left out? Do you not want to become everything God wants you to become so you can minister affectively to them and watch them come into the kingdom of God, or, do you just want to sit there and complain about how bad the world is going, and how much worse it will be 10 years from now?

   Sure, we are not going to convert every single person on earth today. It is just not going to happen, but if you look in the Bible, when the Gospel first spread, people were saying that the first disciples were turning the world upside down. Do you realize that the same Power who lived in them, lives in us today? God's power did not peter out when the Apostles died. God is just as powerful today as He was on the day he created the heavens and the earth. God is just as powerful today as when Jesus rose from the dead. God is just as powerful today, as He will be in the future when He judges the world.

   When we come to Christ, God calls us to become instruments of reconciliation. God reconciles us back to Himself, and now we have this message to give to others. They can be saved. They can be set free and delivered (I know that only people who have had rough backgrounds really get this). Our churches should be discipling others. Everything needs to be done in grace with love.

    Bottom line: Everyone who comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord needs discipleship, and in turn needs to be teaching others. Those who know the Lord need to be evangelizing. Churches need to regard the 10 Commandments and God's laws, not to hold them over our heads, but to help us understand that we cannot help ourselves when it comes to our need for salvation. We need to be saved because we have broken the rules and will continue to break them until we are rescued from our sins by a Redeemer.

   The answer is not to dig deeper to find all the false teachers so we can expose them. The answer is to learn the truth, know the truth, and promote the truth wherever we go. Every generation since the beginning of the church has had an opponent and someone to challenge him, such as Augustine and Pelagius. Today, it should be the same, but what I see is something similar to when the Israelites were entering the Promised Land and saw the giants in the land. The giants were too hard for them to deal with, and instead of turning to God for help with their unbelief, they just gave up. We do that too. We see how false teachers are out there doing their thing. Can we challenge them in a mature, God honoring way and by doing so, expose their evil deeds, or, are we going to continue to slander them and destroy them by posting posts on Facebook about how evil they are.

    The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That is exactly what we in the church are doing. We aren't doing nothing necessarily, but what we are doing amounts to nothing. Talking evil about people is not constructive, nor is it exposing false teachings. In debate circles, you learn certain tactics. One of them is to not attack the person. Even if the person is wrong, you don't attack him or her. You go for what the person is teaching or stating. That is what you are challenging, not the person himself or herself.

   I watched a couple of debates that were very good. One of them was between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Sousa. If you watched closely, you could see Christopher Hitchens attack Dinesh. It wasn't overly obvious but it was there. Hitchens was not following the rules for debating. He was using, at times, ad hominem, which is attacking the person, not what the person is saying. As Christians, we don't have to attack our opponent, but we do have to attack heresy. Yes, there are times to warn people about someone. We had that happen in our church years ago. One time, a guy was 'borrowing' large, expensive items from people and not returning them. We were warned to not lend anything to this man. Another time, many people were drawn to something called, 'Tree of Life' which was a church started in the home of a man who was an attorney. Our leaders listened to this man's teachings and he was obviously into antinomianism. He believed in total grace and that was all. Our church gave out the warning of this man's teachings. It was necessary to do that. No one had to smear this man personally. There was no need for that. But we can pray for God to have mercy on this man so he might be able to repent and come to Christ. That is what we should be doing, unless, of course, we think a person like that is too hard for God to save.

  So, are we going to see these problems and just be in awe of them (Been there. Done that)?. Or, are we going to pick up the spiritual weapons God supplies for us and fight the good fight of faith? Are we going to go to Disney or would we rather go to a prayer meeting? What does our hearts want to do? Would we rather go to a party or the beach, or, would we rather go out evangelizing?

   "But Be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." James 1:22

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The New Standard? But Is It Really New?

   I am always amazed at what some professing Christians actually believe is true and from God. For example, we have some who would allow for men and women to sleep together outside of a marriage relationship, or recommend divorce if a person isn't happy in the marriage. Some are led to believe that God actually creates some people with a sexual orientation having same-sex attractions. Still others believe that if there is a conflict between Scripture and what the culture says, the culture has the final say. And there are also those who believe that a woman has a 'right' to her own body. But what is wrong with this picture?

   This picture ignores the God of the Bible and replaces the Scriptures with a twisted version of the Scriptures, or a rendition of the Scriptures that doesn't even exist. For example, when I was talking with a group of young professing Christians, they told me it was wrong to be doing evangelism. They said evangelism would turn people away from the Gospel. One even said that Jesus wouldn't want people to do evangelism. What? Where is that in the Bible? Oh yeah, this same young woman also said that the Scriptures must bow to the culture when there is a conflict.

   Does a woman have a right to her own body? Where in the world did this idea come up anyway? Biblically speaking, we don't have 'rights' to do whatever we want to do. Our bodies belong to God and we will give account to Him on how we used our bodies. "You are not your own. You have been bought with a price." says the Scriptures.

   Whenever we are selfish, someone else gets hurt. When we think we can have a sexual relationship outside of marriage, then get pregnant and have the baby killed, who do we think we are fooling? God is not mocked and He knows what is going on. Just because He didn't send a lightning bolt to kill the offender doesn't mean that God is weak. He is full of mercy and wants the offending person to repent before it is too late.

   Why do we think we can have a sexual relationship outside of marriage? Who gave us permission to do this? The Bible has a lot to say about this, and the sin is called, 'immorality'. In the end, unless it is repented of, it will be punished most severely.

   There are other ideas out there as well. They contradict Scripture when Scripture clearly says that we should or shouldn't do a particular thing. God's standard will never go away. It will last throughout eternity and it applies to every single person who has been born on this planet.

  So, when you hear someone explaining how so and so should get a divorce because it is better for them to get a divorce than to stay in a marriage that they are not happy in, please go back to the Standard. God has said many, many things to us in His word, yet we think He is just sitting up there like a Genie in a bottle trying to make us happy. No wonder we don't fear Him today. We think of Him as someone we can manipulate and someone whom we can twist His arm if we try hard enough.

   * Hebrews 13:4 - Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

   * Hebrews 4:13 - And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

  * Matthew 5:28 (Jesus speaking) But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

   * 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 - Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

    * Exodus 20:14 - You shall not commit adultery.

    * Exodus 20:13 - You shall not murder.

    * Revelation 21:8 - But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

    * Leviticus 20:10 - If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

  * Romans 13:13, 14 - Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

  * 1 Corinthians 6:18 - Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

  * Ephesians 5:3 - But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

  * Ephesians 5:5 - For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (an idolator) has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

  * 1 Thessalonians 4:3 - For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

   * 1 Timothy 1:9-11  -  Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their mothers and fathers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance to the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

   * Revelation 22:15 - Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolators, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

(All Scriptures are from the ESV).

These verses are only some of them which show God's hatred toward sexual immorality as well as other sins such as idolatry, which is basically selfishness and greed.

   Who are you going to believe? Will you believe God and what He says in His word, or will you believe the 99% of the people in the culture who say its ok to sleep around and live in homosexual relationships? Who will you face on Judgment Day: The culture you live in or God Almighty?

   For more information on the Gospel message, how to have a relationship with the True and Living God, and how to be able to escape the Judgment of God over sin, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can A Christian Be A Deist?

Is is possible for a person who is a believer in Jesus Christ to also, at the same time, be a deist? Let's look at the definition of the word 'deist' to help us answer our question.

Definition of deism (www.dictionary.reference.com)
1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ).
2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

The reason this is concerning is that God is a God of power and might. He has many names in the Bible to describe who He is. Some of our current beliefs indicate that we only believe some of those descriptions. Some have trouble trying to make some of God's character traits to harmonize with who He is. So we only present part of the picture when we present the Gospel to people or when we try to minister to those in the body of Christ.

  A couple of years ago, one of our pastors gave a message from the book of Acts on the Holy Spirit. A person who was there became angry at the message and accused the pastor of preaching an idolatrous type of god. From what I could tell from the writings of this person, it looks like he does not believe God shows His power today in any form. 

  There are those I respect as Bible teachers and ministers of the word, but, some of the things I have heard more recently have been somewhat disturbing, and relate to this concern about the possibility of Christians actually being deists. 

   Without trying to make fun of anyone or put anyone down, I will try to give some of the thinking of these Christians, mainly for us to evaluate whether we are leaning toward deism in our belief systems. 

   One person, who takes his expressions of his beliefs by using songs that Christian singers sing today, used this example: a song by Phillips, Craig, and Dean called, 'I am a friend of God'. This person disdained this song for a reason that I still do not understand. Even if PCD were not true believers in Jesus Christ, the song is still valid and has great truth for believers in Jesus. It is an honor to be called, 'friend' by God, and it is Scriptural as well. 

   Being called a 'friend of God' does not mean we can manipulate God or think of Him as some kind of Genie in a bottle. I we love God, we will keep His commands. If we keep His commands, He will call us His 'friend'. (See John 15:13-15) 

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

   Another example of what this person has said was from a song sung by Big Daddy Weave. Again, I am baffled and trying to understand why someone would have this difficulty with a song with these words and what they mean. 

"Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never want to leave
I want to stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true
That You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

Are we to think that we shouldn't be close to God? But there are two aspects to this problem. One is that God is distant, even though we are good at reasoning from the Scriptures about God's existence and His creative attributes. The other is that God is powerless, or appears to be powerless. (I doubt that anyone would actually say that God is powerless, but in the way they express their understanding of God, that is what is revealed). 

   Both problems are probably a reaction to those who embrace the spiritual gifts but do not acknowledge the Giver in an honorable way. Many today are like the Corinthian church. How did Paul respond to the Corinthian church? He corrected them and told them what they were doing wrong, and why they needed to change. He didn't excommunicate the Corinthians, nor did he send a report out that they were false converts. They were genuine Christians who used the spiritual gifts in a selfish way. They were centered on the gifts and at the same time, they were not sensitive to see the sin in their own lives. So, we reason with ourselves that if they were truly Christians, the Holy Spirit would not only work in the gifts, but He would also work in the hearts of these people. Paul stood in faith for these people and treated them as disobedient Christians who needed to repent. Notice that Paul didn't throw away the spiritual gifts in this situation. He never threw the baby out with the bath water. 

   Did God's supernatural power end when the last original Apostle died, or when the words that were canonized were finally canonized? Was God only active during the early church years? 

   Go through the Old Testament, and you will find a supernatural God who is at work in the lives of everyday, average Joe people. We look at supernatural events, such as the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, the raising up of the widow's son, the use of the prophetic words from the mouths of the prophets, and many other things that happened, and we spiritualize the person through whom God worked. We put them in a 'way out there' category and make them (in our minds) different from us. We put them on a high plane or pedestal and we distance ourselves from them because we categorize them as 'supernatural' and we categorize ourselves as 'natural'. But, they are more like us than they are like God. 

   God worked in miraculous ways all throughout the Old Testament. God worked miraculous ways throughout the New Testament. But then He stopped? Why would God operate in a supernatural way for 4,000  years or so, then stop? Does God change like that?

   Thomas Jefferson and many of the early American founders believed that God was indifferent to His world. Another aspect of this thinking is that God is distant from human beings. God is separated from human beings because of their rebellion and sin, but God sent His Son, to live a perfect life on earth, then die a horrific death, in order to pay for our sins. And not only to pay for our sins, but also for us to be reconciled back to God. God's intention all along was for people to be reconciled back to Himself. This automatically implies that God wants to have a relationship with His people. Relationships are not stoic, nor are they the result of attaining much true knowledge. We have to have some kind of knowledge of who God is before we can really get to know Him, but sometimes, all that knowledge actually gets in the way of our having a relationship with Him. We can have the right knowledge, and lots of knowledge, but we can have a mechanical relationship with God if we are not careful. 

   Some characteristics of God are love, justice, omnipotence (being all powerful), omnipresence (being everywhere at the same time), omniscience (knowing everything that has ever happened and everything that will happen in the future), without sin or flaws, and righteous. A deist cannot understand a God who is like this. Or they want to believe that God is like this, but He does not interact with human beings. 

Many would base their belief system on a faulty premise that believes that God is not good. Many do not understand why God allows war, sickness, famine, death, violence, etc. and blame God for these things. But in reality, this whole episode began in Genesis 3, when the devil, in the form of a serpent, came to Eve and lied to her about who God is, and tempted her to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. Eve believed the devil, but what was worse was that she encouraged Adam, who knew better, to eat the fruit. Adam took the fruit and ate it despite the fact that God came to visit him every day and talked with Adam. When Adam ate the fruit, he made a choice decision to end that relationship with God. He knew there would be consequences, but he didn't know how severe and far reaching the consequences would be. 

   Today, the disease of sin is still rampant and people destroy one another continually. Although Adam was the first to carry out rebellion against God, and there is nothing we can do in ourselves to remedy this, we are responsible, not for stopping our sin, but for turning to Christ, who not only took the punishment for our sins, but also will deliver us out of our sins. 

   It is like a vicious cycle. People see the badness of the world and say they reject God because He should stop people from hurting one another, yet, they refuse to come to Christ so they could be part of the solution of this dilemma. 

  Each person is either a contributor to the problem, or part of the answer to the problem, depending upon whether they have been reconciled back to God or not. 

   The problem is that we live in a bad world. Some interpret that as God not being responsible for His world. The bad world we live in has to do with the disease of sin, which we all have, and which came as a result of the fall. But some, and many professing Christians interpret the badness of the world as a result of a distant, indifferent God. Neither of those belief systems are true, but this is where deism comes from. It comes from a lack of understanding why there is so much bad in the world and unbelief in a supernatural God who still works wonders even to this day. 

   So, in conclusion, deism is simply unbelief in a God who is supernatural, or a God who works today in supernatural ways. It is a belief in a God who does not love His creation and is indifferent to His people. Both thoughts contradict Scripture though. 

   God is a God of love (to His children) and a God of power. He wants a healthy relationship with His children. He will demonstrate His power to us, even today if we turn to Him and trust in what He has done for us through the Cross. God wants us to walk with Him and hear His voice. He wants us to be Spirit filled believers who operate in the spiritual gifts and power of God in our lives. God's power can change us. God can and will work in us when we believe in Him and want to glorify His name. 

   So, can a true Christian be a deist? What do you think?

Monday, November 3, 2014

My Parade Application Rejection And How I Worked Through It

   It has been almost a year now, since a friend was so excited about a float with a group of people in a parade last year. She was so excited and thought maybe we could do that kind of thing too.

   For a couple of years, I had been saying the same thing. We really could be in a parade, if we put our minds to it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of people to make a parade work, and no one seemed interested when I brought up the subject.

   Actually, I have always wanted to be in a parade. It probably started when I was little, and we would go and watch the Christmas parade in downtown Orange, New Jersey. My aunt was in it, because she was a majorette. Ever since that time, I wanted to be in a parade.

   My dad used to take us to the parades. He was a big fan of parades, as was I. I ended up with my aunt's baton, and I would practice this thing on a regular basis, but never found a place that gave lessons, nor did I find any classes in school that offered baton twirling.

  But one day, the hope of being in a parade came closer. An announcement over the P.A. system indicated that there was going to be baton twirling classes on Saturday mornings at a particular school, with the possibility of being in the parade. So, my friend and I went, and scouted out the school building where these supposed classes were to be held, but we never found the class rooms. Later on, we found out that the classes were for younger girls, not Junior High aged girls. Bummer.

    Many years later, I made sure that any baton twirling classes that came my way, would end up with one of my daughters at least, to be a participant in the class. Of course, it was always with the hope of the daughter ending up in the parade at Christmas time. I found a baton twirling class and my daughter was in. However, there was no opportunity for being in any parade.

   Fast forward many years. Finally, I got to be in the parade (the same one I always tried to be in) and this time, it was not with a baton or twirling students, but it was doing something else I love even more. We were in this parade, and have a really nice float. We are giving out tracts to people. It doesn't get any better than this. This parade opportunity happened two or three times, then it wasn't there anymore.

   Like I said, I have always wanted to do a parade, but last year, when my friend saw what we could do, I jumped on that opportunity and called the Chamber of Commerce that day and found out how we could be in the parade next year. I gathered a group of people who would be in it and we made all the plans. Everything was set.

   I called the Chamber of Commerce again in August to make sure I wouldn't miss getting the application. As soon as they were taking them for the Christmas parade, I sent mine in. We got the banners. We ordered and put together the give-aways. We designed T-Shirts and came up with a float design with all the props. We were on our way and pretty much ready, when November 3rd was quickly approaching. The deadline for the applications to be sent in was October 10th. They told us in an email that if our application was accepted, then we would hear back by November 3rd. For the week leading up to November 3rd, I kept an eye out looking for things in the mail from them, but nothing came. The email they sent out also stated that those applicants who were not accepted would be refunded their money that week.

   On November 1, I realized that my application was probably rejected. It was a very sad weekend. How will I tell my people about the rejection? Was it too late to find another parade? Is there something else we can do in place of the parade? What was God doing in all this?

   Saturday was a very weary day for me. It was a sad day, because the more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that we probably wouldn't be in the parade. Sunday morning rolled around, and on my way to the church meeting, I had thought about some of the things that were written in the email from the Chamber of Commerce. There were 4 requirements or strong desires that they had for each applicant. Three of them I had met, but one I didn't meet. It was the one that indicated that you needed to have been in one of their parades prior to this one. I had not ever applied for one, so now I realized how disadvantaged I was, after all, there were patrons who had been in the parade maybe 40 years or more, and now I come in and want to take their place because they cut the number of applicants down to 75. Either my group and I would be one of those 75 or we wouldn't be in the parade at all. In the morning, I was talking with a friend about it who was familiar with this parade. She said that the parade last year was too long, and the parade committee decided to restrict this one to 75 groups that would be able to participate. All I could think of after hearing that, was, if we did get in, it would be a miracle.

    But Sunday morning, somehow faith began to well up inside of me. I knew that the devil wasn't going to be happy, and I also am familiar in some ways, with the way God works in situations like this. God is sovereign and He does test us out when we are serving Him. That is a good thing. He is not testing us out to frustrate us and make us feel defeated. Many times, another open door swings wide open and God wants us to walk through that door. Sometimes though, the door is closed and there is not a wide open door somewhere else. What is God going to do with this parade situation? But more than that, how is my heart going to respond to whatever God is doing? Would my faith disappear? Would I become confused and angry? Would I wait a couple of weeks doing nothing, then all of the sudden a door opens up for us? What was God going to do with the dream that I had of evangelizing through a parade? Was my dream only a pipe dream, or wishful thinking? Only God knows, but He does have a plan.

    By Sunday night I was pretty much resolved to the fact that we weren't going to be in the parade. I threw it out to the group and asked for suggestions. Maybe we could take the truck and trailer and go caroling somewhere. We could dress up like we were going to be in the parade. What a cool idea. I could still give away my frisbies and Candy Cane Legend cards. The only thing we wouldn't use would be the big banner that we would have used in the parade. We also would have had to put more people on the trailer and we would not want to give the people in the neighborhoods we are caroling in, the impression that we are parade rejects. But we have over 50 people signed up for the parade and how can we fit them all on a trailer?

   Sunday night I got on the Internet and wrote to someone who was in charge of a parade in our town. I explained that even though it was too late for this year, I wanted to be kept in the loop for next year or future parades. The woman wrote back the next morning and said that it was not too late for this year and I could sign up immediately. So, I found the registration form and filled it out, and as soon as I get the rejection notice or phone call from the other parade committee, I was ready to click on the link that would send the form in.

   I left the web page open so I could just click on the link when I was ready. Meanwhile, I had called the Chamber of Commerce and left my name and number for the person to call back to affirm that we were definitely not going to be in the parade. By this time, I am totally fine with not being in that parade, especially since I found a new one we could be in. The group was excited too, but many had to check their schedules to see if they had that day free.

    I waited all morning for the dreaded return phone call, which never came. In the early afternoon, I got an email from the Chamber of Commerce and I knew that it was the rejection letter. But I was ok, because I could just click on the link for the other parade and we were all ok with that. I had decided also that I would never sign up again for this other parade that was so hard to get into. Only if a miracle happened, would we get in anyway. But God does do miracles, so I don't want to write anything off too quickly and jump into making other decisions without knowing all the facts.

   It was a rough 2 days, but God helped me through it all. Some were praying for me. It is easy for me to become discouraged. It is easy for me to lose faith and start doubting God. But since I have had some experiences with difficulties like this one, God's grace was totally there this time. I didn't put God in a box and expect a certain thing to happen a certain way, and when it didn't happen, then get angry about it. (I have done this before, I hate to admit).

   I opened the email, with full knowledge that it was a letter telling me they were sorry that I was not accepted in the parade this year. The only thing I wished from them, was that they would have told me sooner. But it all worked out in my mind anyway. When I opened the email, the words that I read were, 'Congratulations! You have been accepted in the 62nd Annual Winter Park 'Ye Olde Hometown' Christmas Parade'. What? Did I read that correctly?

   Of course, that means now I have to go back to looking for a place to order the T-Shirts from, laminating the Candy Cane Legend card, ordering imprinted balloons and more tote bags, and designing the sticker for the lollipops that I ordered. So, my imaginary weekend nightmare is over, and we are back on track now with making parade plans. If I only knew that the application was accepted, how different my weekend would have been, but how much less would have I experienced a work of God in my heart! We really do walk by faith in humility. May we learn to see God in all of our life experiences and not lose heart, no matter how adverse the situations might look to us!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Christmas; A Pagan Holy Day Or A True Celebration Of Christ?

  I'm beginning my struggle again with the Christmas posts that are sure to be on their way, and have already begun. As I read through the many Facebook posts written by friends and popular bloggers on this topic, I am beginning to feel my blood boiling again.

   First of all, I know that the Bible says that one person regards a day as holy, while another person doesn't. I get that and agree with that. If you are a person who doesn't celebrate Christmas, I am not going to chide you or write blogs against you. You have the freedom to not celebrate Christmas. But this issue is deeper than whether we should celebrate Christmas or not.

   This issue that I am bringing up reminds me of the whole 'King James Only' issue. There are people who have made a religion out of believing that the King James version of the Bible is the only correct version that is out there. Not only that, the people behind this religion believe that those who translate the Bible into other versions are doing it deliberately in order to discredit Christianity. They will tell you that the translators are doing it in order to remove the deity of Christ. But is that really true?

   The Bible began to come together in the third or fourth centuries, although everything had been written, it was put into order and decided what was truly supposed to be in there and what wasn't. There was a strict standard of how they made those decisions. There were other writings out which did not correlate with other parts of Scripture. With all the letter writing going on between the churches and disciples, as well as other newly formed Christian groups, in the early church, all the information that was in the Bible was already being circulated to the different churches. The very first copies were no longer available, but copies of those originals were out there and were preserved.

   Today, we are finding many copies of these manuscripts and they are kept in a place where they are studied. They take these fragments and try to match them and put together the Bible with them, to see how much they really do match what was written years ago.

   Some would complain and say that there are too many discrepancies, but if you look at what those 'discrepancies' are, you would see that they are very minor. They would be mainly word order or variations of name spellings, for example.

   So, many of those who are transcribing the Bible, will notice a discrepancy, and will put a note into the Bible printing, so you and I will be able to see that some things that are in our modern Bibles, such as the King James version, are not found in the earliest manuscripts.

   The King James Only people are having a fit with this. Again, they are trying to portray the transcribers as being 'wolves in sheep's clothing' because they are writing things that expose the King James version a little differently. So, a new religion has begun, and in their celebration of this, they had a book burning, in a church up North. They brought all their non-King James version Bibles and threw them into a fire saying that they were Satanic.

   OK, this article is not really intended to talk about the King James Only people, but to bring up another new concept that I think is becoming another religion. Of course, it is considered a Christian religion, but it is not found in the Bible.

   Now we are contending with people who believe it is wrong and sinful to celebrate Christmas. I have always loved Christmas, and not always for the right reasons, but nevertheless, I am not struggling with this newfound religion because I happen to like Christmas a lot, but because I see something similar to the King James Only way of thinking.

    We sing hymns in church today, and many of those hymns are really deep. They speak to people's hearts and minister to them where they are at. But did you know that these hymns were originally tunes from bars (the drinking kind)? The Christians took the songs from the bars and put Biblical words to the tunes. How clever!

   Music is from God, but what we do with it can be evil or good. It was intended to glorify God, not the devil, so if we take the tunes that people used to accompany them while they were drinking, what would be wrong with taking those tunes, and putting Biblical words to them? The devil stole the music from God in the first place, and now we have taken it back and use it for God's glory instead of the devil's.

   One of the problems I have with the Christmas dilemma, is that those opposing it are comparing the holiday to a 'feast' day that God ordained in the Old Testament. There were certain feast days that people celebrated and those were a picture of what God was doing in the work of redemption for mankind. There was a purpose and meaning for those days, but when Jesus came, He fulfilled all of those feasts and holy days that God appointed.

   While I believe that it is ok to celebrate those if they have a precious meaning to us, I am concerned about why we would want to do that. I think celebrating the Passover would be cool, because it is such a clear cut picture of what Jesus came to do for us when He became the Passover Lamb. But, if we go back to such things, we have to be careful to not trust in them and our ability to carry out these holy days in order to try to please God. We don't have to go back to Judaism in order to be saved. In fact, that is what made Paul angry at the Galatians.

   Christmas is not a 'feast' or 'holy day' like God appointed the Jews in the Old Testament. Christmas is simply celebrating the fact that Christ came to earth, to live a perfect life, and to die on a horrible Cross to pay for our sins, so we could be reconciled back to God, and not be under God's judgment anymore. That is worth celebrating! The Bible tells us to rejoice. The Bible has a lot to say about rejoicing and celebrating.

    Idolatry is a problem for every person who has been born. Idolatry simply is what we love, or have affection for. It is not just love or affection, but what is most important in our lives. If God is not the object of our highest affection, then we are in idolatry. An idol can be literal, like a television, or it can be intangible, like 'fear of man'. We either love God, or we love something else. Our love for God can be measured in our love for other people. If we don't love others, it reveals that we really don't love God. If we love others (and I am not talking about an American idea of love) it shows that we really do love God. Jesus said that others will know that we are His by our love for one another.

    Having a plant inside of our house is not worshiping the plant. Having a Christmas tree inside the house is not idolatry! Very few today know who the pagan gods were that people used to worship. No one knows who they are and what their traits were, in order to worship them. You can't worship something you don't know about.

   Celebrating Christmas is not a feast ordained by God. Do you celebrate birthdays? God's word doesn't tell us to celebrate birthdays, but there is no indication that celebrating birthdays violates Scripture in any way either. When we celebrate a birthday, we are honoring the person whose birthday it is. The Bible tells us to honor others.

  Yes, there are temptations to sin with the Christmas holidays. A big one is materialism. How easy for us to get caught up in materialism and all the toys and games. Such a big distraction that can pull us away from God. God is more amazing than all the toys put together. But toys and games are not wrong in themselves, necessarily. Materialism can lead to pride and idolatry. Is it any wonder that the last words in John's epistles were 'keep yourselves from idols'?

   Another temptation is to lose focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas becomes a family tradition, and there is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, if we are not careful, we will start to think of Christmas as a 'family' holiday. We relate Christmas with family instead of the Christ child.

   I think so many times we just get issues confused, and we don't have a good understanding of what the issues are. It is good to learn about the History of Christmas. You will be surprised at how many different accounts there are for celebrating this holiday. We could pick out one and defend it, and use it against other Christians, and continue to divide the body of Christ up (which is a favorite trap of the devil), or we can be content to know the different versions and accounts that make up the holiday we call 'Christmas'.

   Let me close by saying one more thing. If we lived in a third world country, I doubt that we would be arguing about whether we should be celebrating Christmas or not, or whether the King James version of the Bible is the only correct one. We might not have any presents to give or even a tree or nice meal, but, we would have the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts, not only at Christmas time, but all throughout the year. That is the way we all should see it. Whether we literally celebrate with decorations and food, or whether we have nothing physical to look at or eat, we celebrate because of the meaning of the holiday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Is Legalism And What Is Lawlessness And Why Does It Matter?

   There are two stumbling blocks many Christians fall into when it comes to the Gospel. One of them is legalism, and the other is lawlessness. 

  Legalism is simply trying to obey rules to please another. It is making our own efforts to try to please God either in order to be able to receive salvation or in order to progress in our Christian walk. 

   Some examples of legalism might be the following; baptism, church attendance, moralism, church membership, evangelism, serving in the church, and things like that. 

   There is nothing wrong with the listed activities above. They are good things in themselves, and have a place in the life of a person who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. They become wrong when we do them for the wrong reasons.

  I have asked people whom I am sharing the Gospel with, if they have ever come to a place where they repented of their sins and trusting in Jesus Christ, and many times, I get an answer like, 'I was baptized when I was eight'. They are basically thinking that their baptism will help them get into heaven. But the Bible says, 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy, He saved us'. 

   The Apostle Paul had some strong words that he said to a group of people called the Galatians. The Galatians were people who came to know the Lord, but they wanted to go back into Judaism in order to continue in their walk with God. They began in the Spirit, but they were continuing in the flesh. Paul asked them, 'Who bewitched you?'. 

   Lawlessness is the opposite side of the pendulum. There are professing Christians who understand that salvation is free, and assume that since salvation is free, they know that they cannot do any works to please God, therefore it does not matter what they do, once they have come to Christ. They are far from being legalistic. They get it. They understand that they cannot be saved by works. So, they throw out the works part of the equation, and live in the same way that they did before they came to Christ. 

   An example of this would be a well known Christian artist who is set free from legalism to pioneer the Christian music industry, yet wants everyone to make sure she can continue to make out with boys. As soon as her music began to hit the charts, people were calling her a 'female Billy Graham' which she resented. She made it very clear in her concerts and talks that she was interested in guys, and eventually she married and had a family. This woman left her husband for another man and received 'Christian counseling' in which she learned that God's primary concern for us is that we are happy. Her counselor advised her to leave her marriage since she was not happy in it. She is now married to the man whom she was having an affair with, even though this man is not a professing Christian. This is an example of lawlessness. 

   We think it has to be one or the other. Are we still under the law? Can we do whatever we want once we are saved and still be saved? There seems to be a lot of mystery when it comes to where the boundaries are and what they define.

   Is it really that complicated though? I think a look at Scriptures can help us understand it more clearly.  Most of us probably know the verses in Ephesians 2:8,9 which tell us that we have been saved by grace, through faith, not of works lest any many should boast. But in Galatians Paul says that if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain. It doesn't come much clearer than that. 

   As far as the lawless go, I think they actually grasp the idea that we don't have to work to atone for our sins, but they would go to the extreme of saying that it doesn't matter what we do or don't do. They do not see anything wrong with sinning, for the most part, because Jesus died for our sins. The problem is, that when they came to Christ, did they grasp the seriousness of the sin issue before God, or do they just think that the blood of Jesus will take away every sin we commit from now on, so, it doesn't matter if we sin or not.

  Let's look at this a little deeper though. We know we can't do anything to atone for our sins. But, since Jesus died for our sins, is it ok to stay in our sins? 

   Romans 6 makes it very clear when Paul was asking the Romans this question. Paul answered his own question right after he asked it and his answer was 'God forbid'. This leads to further questions about this issue.

  If Jesus died for our sins, and the greater our sins are, the more grace abounds, it would make sense for us to keep sinning in order to receive the grace to be forgiven, but something happens when a person is truly born again. A change of the attitude toward sin comes to the person who has truly experienced salvation. A person receives a brand new heart, with brand new desires from God at the time of new birth. This heart does not want to sin. This heart will battle against sin. The new believer will be aware of God's presence and this will produce the fear of God in him or her, which will keep the new believer from sinning. God also gives the power to say 'no' to sin. So when temptations come, even lifelong ones, they begin to lose their power and grip on the person. 

   Does that mean a person who is truly born again will never sin? Not at all, but his or her desire will be to not sin. Some have even fallen into sin for a while, but God's mercy is great and they came back and were restored. 

  So, we can't be saved by good works or deeds, or by avoiding certain things. We are saved completely by the blood of Jesus Christ, who died to pay for all of our sins. If we try to add anything to that, it would be an insult to God. We get into heaven on His score alone, not His score and a little of our score. 

  But if we have the mindset that we can be saved and still do the things we like that we know are contrary to God's standard, we have to wonder if we are truly saved. Jesus said that if a person does not forsake all he or she has, then he or she is not worthy to be His disciple. Being a disciple is not legalism. We are not working to keep our salvation. If a person does not want to forsake all they have for the sake of the kingdom of God, then we have to wonder if God has truly done a work in the person's heart. 

   If you knew that Jesus was in the same room as you are, would you be pleased with what you find in your room? Would you be concerned about what Jesus would think about whatever is in your room? Perhaps people who believe that we can do anything we want once we are saved, have a small, powerless god they are worshiping? Maybe they don't know God is everywhere all the time. Perhaps they don't understand that God is all knowing. Maybe they think of God as a Genie in a bottle? 

   Salvation is not a formula to get to heaven. It is having our sin sick souls treated with the spiritual medicine to cleanse us from it. It is the process of being set free from those things that hold us in bondage and are opposed to God, in our lives. We hold onto our sins, and our sins hold onto us. It is when we are both free from sin that we can experience the freedom that is promised in John 8:32 '“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ESV

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can We Ultimately Avoid Hardships?

O.K., I know things in life are going to get harder. It is going to be challenging to be a Bible believing Christian. Nominal Christianity could become non-existant.

   So, what should our attitudes be? If I know there is a certain consequence for my actions, and I don't want to face that consequence, I would do whatever I could to make sure I do not do the activity that will bring the consequence.

    I guess some people go as far as they can, thinking somehow they won't get caught, or they will be able to get out of the punishment somehow. That is not how I look at the impending threats to our freedoms. I want to take caution to make sure that whatever I do in life, will not bring about bad consequences.

So, when we see things like Muslims raping girls and going free, and teachers instructing their students to write Jesus' name on a piece of paper, then stomp on it, we see an injustice to what is right and fair, being done. When we see these things being done, what should our attitudes be?

  For some, it is just carelessness. It is under the guise that 'Jesus is coming back soon so it doesn't matter'. While it is true that Jesus is coming back soon, we have to remember that He could come tonight, but He could come back 20 years from now, or maybe 100 or more. In God's eyes, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. It's been almost 2,000 years since Jesus ascended back into heaven, so maybe in God's eyes, that is like almost 2 days. So, if Jesus is coming back tomorrow, how should we respond? What if we just let everything go, and Jesus comes back in 50 years from now? We would be living in a country where the leadership are tyrants. That is just the default for people when the citizens let go of their responsibilities.

   But before Jesus left earth to go back to heaven, He told His disciples to 'occupy' until He returns. Occupying does not mean just sitting back and doing nothing until He returns. It means we are to be busy with the kingdom of God. We are to be diligently studying His word and letting His word fill our hearts. It means we are to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to change. It means that our focus in life will be different than it was before. Everything we do should be to promote the cause of Christ on earth, while we are here.

   The reason I am writing this blog, is because too many Christians respond to the horrible things happening today by just saying, 'that's terrible', or, 'how can he get away with that?' These same people do very little in society. This world is not our home, but we have to make the best of it while we live here.

   Is it easier to do evangelism in a country where freedom reigns or is it easier to do it underground, in a country where there is little or no religious freedom? If we don't take responsibility soon, we will be doing evangelism underground. We will risk our lives for loving the truth. Attending a church meeting will be risky. Many who profess Christ today, will end up denying Him because it will be too hard to be a Christian.

   I am not saying that persecution is bad in itself, but it is hard. In some ways, it is preventable. For example, years ago, children were able to take their Bibles to school and read them. In fact, many lessons were taken from the Bible in Early American schools. But today, Madeline Murray O'Hair went to the Supreme Court and brought with her a bogus case that actually got accepted and now it is considered illegal to carry a Bible to school. Did you know that there is nowhere in the Constitution that talks about 'separation of church and state'? The whole concept of 'separation of church and state' came about when the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620. The reason they left England was to be able to have a normal church setup, where there was a pastor who gave oversight, and took care (spiritually speaking) of the flock. But in England, instead, they had a king who was over the church. He called the shots and decided how the people would worship. The king was not a pastor. The king was not even a Christian. But because he was the ruler, he made the rules, and he ruled the church as well as the land. The Pilgrims and other groups got tired of that and made their way over to a new land to set up a new place to settle in and live, without a king presiding over their churches!

   Sometime later, the people who were members of Danbury Baptist church in Connecticut were concerned about the possibility of a leader of the newly found country to run the church. Thomas Jefferson wrote back to them and used the phrase 'a wall of separation between church and state' meaning that the church would be protected from any governmental opportunities to gain control or give oversight to the church.  In the First Amendment, it states 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' This doesn't sound like forbidding Bibles to be in schools, does it? It has to do with the government taking initiative in trying to establish a religion or religious thought.

    Our rights to believe and hold dear to our hearts, God's word, are being violated. Ultimately, it is our fault that this is happening. The reason it is our fault, is because we have not been vigilant in protecting our freedoms. Even today, people are making up bogus cases and bringing them into the legal system to have them enacted. Why aren't we doing the same? Are we too distracted with plans to go to Disney or the beach? Or, is it just laziness on our parts?

   No one challenged Madeline Murray O'Hair when she went to court. No one was there during the Roe vs. Wade court hearings to challenge them. Today, people do not even know that it is a sin for people to sleep together outside of a marriage relationship. That is because they were never taught the 10 Commandments because the 10 Commandments are being stripped off our school walls as well as other government owned buildings.

   Where are the true Christians in this? Do we not know what is going on? Or do we not care? Here's the point: If we don't start caring soon, we are going to lose our freedoms altogether. Please don't think that that would never happen. It will. But it doesn't have to.

   Next time you hear about someone coming up with a law that will enable people to sin, don't just sit on the back burner. Do something. Even if all you do is pray, that is significant. All of us need to be praying for our country to be restored.

   The alternative is to watch our children and grandchildren be swallowed up in a confused world filled with hate. How would you like your 13 year old granddaughter to be raped by a Muslim, and the Muslim gets away with it because he has the right to do that, according to his religion? How would you like your grandson to be kidnapped by a Satanic worshiper, in order to offer his body as a human sacrifice? How would you like your son to not be able to get a job, because the area he lives in is predominately Muslim? All these things are going to be happening to us, because we don't care, or we don't believe that they will happen to us. Somehow, we think we are invincible, or that God loves us so much that He wouldn't let those things happen to us. They are happening because of our apathy and indifference.

   So, we need to repent from apathy and indifference and ask God to give us hearts that will be aware of what is going on around us. In the book of Revelation, God is going to spit out those who are lukewarm or indifferent. On the other hand, we really can make a difference in our churches and in this country.

   I pray that the day will come when we will not see articles where Muslims get away with raping 13 year old girls, and students will not get arrested for bringing Bibles to school. I pray that the day will come when every parent will attend PTA meetings and protest books like, 'Heather Has Two Moms'.

   I always ask myself, 'where did the breakdown occur in our country?' There were probably several events that caused us to breakdown, but the one I have seen which brought a significant change was when Madeline Murray O'Hair went to court and had prayer taken out, and following that, the 10 Commandments being removed (under the guise of 'separation of church and state'). This happened in the 1970s, or earlier. When I was a teen, everyone knew it was wrong to sleep together. If people were doing this, they kept it secret. There used to be a standard of right and wrong. The standard (10 Commandments) is gone today. I talk to many people and meet professing Christians who are living together with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They have no idea that this is sin before God. Someone needs to tell them.

   Another problem is the churches that exist today. Many of them do not believe in the authority of Scripture. They pick and choose what they want to believe. They make a god that makes them happy. They believe that God wants them happy. These people also believe that when Scripture and culture conflict, that the Scripture must bow to culture. What? Did I hear that right? Yes, they believe that. They believe that God doesn't know what He is doing and that He didn't know how hard life was going to be in the 21st Century. You see, they don't know God. They don't know the all-powerful, all-knowing, Uncreated One, who lives and reigns throughout Eternity. They have made a weak god that they think will make them happy.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.