Sunday, July 15, 2012

The thrill of obedience

       I would like to take a few minutes and praise God from whom all blessings flow.  I have been blessed in the last 6-12 months to have had such a breakthrough in my spiritual walk that I must testify about it.  This poor man cried, the Lord heard him, and saved him out of his troubles. (Psalm 34:6).  I have cried out to God and sought for him in certain areas of my life and I have found him (Jeremiah 29-13).  There is no greater thrill as a Christian than knowing that God has called you to obedience and you have answered with a resounding YES!  By no stretch of the imagination have I mastered every battle, however I have seen the grace of God evident in my life helping me to make great strides in the areas of being a husband,  in actually putting God first in much more of my life , and in actually sharing my faith with others and striving to build them up in theirs.  Admittedly, I feel a call to ministry on my life.  However, if you have been reading my posts then you know that I believe the Bible teaches we should all be doing this as Christians.  Certainly some are called to a specific ministry calling, but the Great Commission was for everyone(Matthew 28:16-20)
     Until a year or so ago I was failing miserably in this.  Oh I would have the occasional conversation.  Perhaps I would even instigate it.  But it was haphazard, not intentional.  The driving force in my life was not a desire to win the lost and glorify God within every aspect of my life.  I would talk about wanting that but my life was not reflecting it.  No, when I was home, my life revolved around my family, television, and food.                                                                                                
     I love my family.  I have a beautiful wife, and two little boys, all of whom I adore.  However, through a number of arguments, about numerous issues, I discovered that I was not loving them in a Godly fashion. See I fully believe in spiritual headship and submission of the wife to the husband as it relates to Christ and the Church.  Not in the abusive way in which many men use it.  However, I was so busy defending my rights or trying to effect change by force, that I did not realize that I had totally missed what my wife needed from me. This year God placed 1st Corinthians 13 style love on my heart as the way in which he wanted me to try to treat people.  I was already a relatively loving and patient person in general, or so I thought.  The truth was that I paled in comparison when I looked at God's idea of how we are to love each other.  So I cried out.  I asked God to help me lay myself aside and to love my wife the way Jesus loved the Church.  That was the beginning of a lot of change in me and it amazed me how much easier we began to get a long.  It surprised me how quickly, in some areas, she has desired to grow as a result of my choosing to let go of  the responsibility for her change.  You see in any relationship the only person whom you should be actively trying to change is YOU.  And that, only by the grace of God.  So cry out to him, because he listens and he cares.
    Food is a challenge in which I have not yet seen major breakthrough yet so please continue to pray for me as I  cry out to God for the grace and strength to begin to effect change in that area of my life.  What I can say is that my addiction to television and movies worsened my eating issues because I would stay up late and watch movies or television shows and eat while I did it.
    My parents, siblings, and I have been TV and movie junkies for as long as I can remember.  I guess we just couldn't see the damage it was doing to our spiritual selves in regards to the junk we were allowing in to our spirits and the time that we wasted when we could have been growing in our study of the Word or out sharing it with others.  Gratefully, God made me aware of the need for this to change and yet I still struggled for a while.  I would be driving home from church or work and my first thought often would be to turn on the TV and see what was on, catch up on what I had missed that had been recorded, or to watch the latest movie that had come out.  Even at work, if there was downtime and I could catch something on a TV, I would.  Praise be to God that in the last 6 months he has taken away that hunger and replaced it with a hunger for God's Word.  I now listen to at least one sermon a day by podcast from some ministers whom God is using to feed me.  In my thirty minute commute to work I catch half on the way to work and half on the way home from work.  What really amazes me is that I, as a musician, have of late been giving more ear time to preaching than music.  A MAJOR shift, of this you can be sure.
     I want to be clear that, these changes have not come lightly.  They have been with great desperation and crying out to God at times.  You see, the first thing you need in order to see change is a desire to change.  If there is any element in your life that is not wholly surrendered to God through the scriptures and you know biblically that you should change but you feel know desire to then you must cry out.  Beg God to help you to hunger and thirst after righteousness(Matthew 5:6).
     I wanted to share my faith but I never would have imagined a blog.  One day God dropped the idea in my spirit in such a way as to command obedience.  The rest is history.  I don't know what God has planned for me.  What I do know is that I am no longer satisfied to disobey.  I must strive to step out in obedience, even though it is scary.  Even though I do not know the end result.  And, even though I have, and I know I will again, meet resistance to the idea of moving, step by step, further into ministry.  This blog, though I have no idea how many people are actually reading it, has been a huge blessing to me.  I know it is my primary outlet, given by God for this season, for honing my thoughts and skills in developing expression of thought on biblical topics. Whatever kind of ministry God leads me to I know that I am forced to delve into scripture deeper all the time in order to scripturally substantiate my thoughts.  It is awesome.  I praise God that some who do follow it have encouraged me that I am sound in message and delivery, that it is a blessing to them, and to keep it up.  
    Outside of this blog, I have asked God to help me step out of my comfort zone in obedience at work.  I work in a hospital Emergency Department.  As you can imagine, I am exposed to every possible scenario of people group and life struggle.  Without going into heavy detail,  let me just say that in the last 6 weeks God has given me many opportunities to pray with people that needed prayer.  I have looked up scriptures that pertained to their situation and created quick documents for them to keep to encourage them along the way. He has used me to minister to people with psychological and behavioral issues that no one there knew how to handle except to drug them up.  Some of these have happened in view of staff by no choice of my own and God gets the glory.  I am continually looking for opportunities to do this as I cannot express the excitement that comes from being the conduit by which God shows himself to others.  I hope to have some bibles handy soon that I can provide to patients as the spirit leads.  In addition to this, I have seen favor as I have been able to use downtime to sit with my bible open and study or work on things.  This has created opportunities for conversation about Jesus and inspires thought on the part of those that observe this sometimes silent witness.  
   We are supposed to be peculiar people.  People are supposed to notice something different about us.  I am so grateful that God has seen fit by his grace and not by any merit of my own to bless me with this growth and these opportunities.  I so look forward to what he is continuing to do and I pray that this will inspire others to look at their lives and take one of two paths.  Either they will recognize their need for Jesus and cry out for his saving grace in their lives or they are already believers and will develop a hunger for growth and change, by his grace, that will serve as an example of God's goodness to others whom their lives affect.  
   Philippians 2:12-13 says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose".  I pray this becomes a reality in your life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

back to back blogs on same email apology

      To everyone who receives this blog by email, I want to apologize for the latest post email and also say again, Thank you.  I am going on vacation 7/15-7/22 and do not anticipate posting anything.  I had extra time at work Sunday night so I completed 2 posts and will probably complete at least one more before vacation.  What I did not realize is that in completing both posts on same night is that they would go out in the same email.  In fact, the only way I discovered it is by scrolling down on the email.  So the Harry Potter related post actually showed first because it was the second one I completed.  I hope it wasn't overwhelming receiving both.  I am not ashamed of either but I do acknowledge that they have been heavy in topic and nature.
    I really do love people, lost or saved.  I want to see everyone come to the knowledge of Jesus and to understand what the full application of it should be.  I took a while to get some of that and my heart is 2 fold. 1. that God is glorified by the lives of  those who are supposed to be Christians.  That people would not misrepresent Jesus or experience unnecessary trials because of disobedience. That they would always be examining themselves daily as they grow in their Christian walk.  2.  That any lost or worse yet, those who don't realize they are lost because they have a form of religion would find revelation in the scriptures and truths presented here and would become aware of their need for Christ and aware of  the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 
     So basically, my heart is to disciple believers and evangelize the lost.  Isn't that what God wants all to do. That's the Great Commission.  I pray that even though I present a touch message in a lot of my posts, that the Holy Spirit will have prepared the hearts of the people that needed to hear that message. If you didn't need it for yourself, perhaps it will be useful in your ministering the truth to someone else.  As long as God is glorified in my obedience, I am happy.
     I will be working on a series of posts over vacation getting into the depth of the Gospel as it applies to Salvation, Sanctification, Glorification, and Assurance of Salvation.  I am not a seminary student or grad however, I have grown up as a pastors son and am becoming a student of the Bible and am pursing a working knowledge of the Bible with a fervor. I am learning from a number of different solid Evangelistic and Discipleship driven ministries.  This series will be heavily influenced by a sermon series delivered by a pastor named Dr. David Platt.  He pastors a megachurch  in Birmingham, AL named Brook Hills.  He wrote the book Radical which is shaking the spiritual apathy of anyone who reads it.  He is solid as a Theologian/Teacher, and in Evangelizing and Discipling.  It has opened my eyes to some things and giving me a working knowledge of how to present what I already believed about the Gospel. I hope it will be a blessing to you, wherever you are in your walk with Christ.  I hope to begin that shortly after vacation. 
        I would like to say that the fact that I am giving credit for information in some of  my posts to other ministries is in no way intended to insult or undercut the value of my own pastor.  I don't believe anyone should be influenced by any one person.  Besides, the Bible is the ultimate authority.  We are just stewards of delivering it. Thanks for your support.
     I strive to love you all as Christ loved the Church, placing the value of the truth of the Gospel above the value of my own life or reputation and I pray that God will have his way in your life.
In Jesus name,

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Gospel in Harry Potter and other books? Why not the Bible?

     Over the years, as the Harry Potter series has picked up momentum, there has been increasing interest in Christian circles to find biblical meaning in the series, i.e. The Gospel according to Harry Potter.  I will not only be discussing Harry Potter here, so stay with me. (added after finishing the post).
        This concerns me for a number of reasons, not one of the least of these being the fact that we are looking for anything Godly in a book whose driving force is witchcraft.  Galatians 5:19-21 lists the acts of the sinful nature, all of which will keep you from the kingdom of God, and witchcraft and idolatry are among them. Also, I am concerned about promoting books written by an author who by her own admission is "drawn to religion" yet her actual beliefs are ambiguous at best based on several interviews involving questions about her beliefs.  Certainly, she has Protestant background and thought the book is not a true allegory there are Christianesque themes.  She is also quoted as having always thought of Dumbledoor as gay.  I don't remember if that was ever alluded to in the movies. It doesn't come to mind.  And I can't speak for the books, however that she would even go there leaves a concern for just how liberal her "religious" views are.   
        Now, before I go any further, let me just say that I understand the fascination with Harry Potter.  I have grown up enjoying movies and TV and I can get sucked in to a storyline as easily as anyone else.  I have not read the books.  I have seen all the movies, some of them more than once. I am not sure that will continue based on my current convictions however. I have even seen the movie about J.K. Rowling's life and the creation of Harry Potter.  It is very endearing, as are the books.  I have many family members who love the books and the movies.  In a debate they will argue for the Harry Potter books vs. against them.  If the truth be told, my fleshly, movie loving man would love to be able to justify the existence of these books.  I would love to be able to have peace about finding inklings of the Gospel in Harry Potter and using them to justify the books.  Unfortunately, I do not believe the Bible supports that idea.  I believe that Satan is using the fantasy and interspersing of biblical ideas such as sacrificial love, redemptive love, and good vs. evil to draw us in.  There are many respectable authors and journalist trying to do justice to both sides.  I have not read the book "What's a Christian to do with Harry Potter" by Connie Neal from Focus on the Family, but from what I can tell of lengthy reviews of her book, it is the closest thing out there regarding addressing legitimate spiritual concerns while still finding virtue in the books.
         There is already so much out there trashing the Harry Potter books and focusing on the negative vs. positive aspects of it that I am going to try to take a different direction.  That direction is:

Why, in a world that is already so anti-Christian are Christians so apt to go crazy over Harry Potter, Aragon, or any of the other multitudinous series of books that have come out in the last 10 yrs.  What about stories like Twilight.  Vampire story lines have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years.  Talk about your ungodly subject matter.  Even Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia have a seen a resurgence with the making of the movies.   
    Here is the thing.  The BIBLE is the only God-ordained, God-Breathed book with a message and author powerful enough to break strongholds, heal disease, and save souls from eternal damnation and yet, you don't see nearly the hype over it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation(Romans 1:16). You don't see parents encouraging children to find interest in the Bible and read it over and over again.  That's not to say that it doesn't happen but, it doesn't appear to be a prevailing, awe inspiring, news worthy event.  Why is that?
    I suppose that is an unfair statement.  It gets attention. But it is usually in the form of how we can make it more appealing to this generation.  How it will make you prosperous and help you find your best life now, or whether or not Genesis is a legitimate story and basis for Creation.
    Here is a fact that is undeniable.  If we are giving more time to and getting more excited for ourselves or our children regarding secular entertainment than we are about the Bible and it's influence on our lives then we have seriously misprioritized what is important. We are in danger of idolizing these other sources of entertainment by giving them a higher priority than God's Word. 
 Just how often is the Bible read?
Wiki answers says this:
Surprisingly, the people that claim to be the most devout Christians and go to church often have spent the least amount of time reading the bible that is supposed to be their guiding text. Most it seems go to church and "hear the Word" from their minister or pastor, trusting that this person is being truthful, honest, and meticulous about sharing what is written in the Bible and ONLY what is written in the Bible. Modern churches seem to focus more on prosperity and making people feel good then they do Scripture. Therefore, the modern Christian must take it upon him or herself to read the bible. There are bibles printed for every reading level and in every language, so there is no excuse not to have read it for yourself. Trusting the wrong person to teach you Scripture could place you in the position to be victimized and preyed upon by a charlatan.

Read more:

A Gallup poll says this:
 According to a recent Gallup poll, about six in ten Americans (59%) say they read the Bible at least on occasion, with the most likely readers being women, nonwhites, older people, Republicans, and political conservatives. Readership of the Bible has declined from the 1980s overall, from 73% to 59% today. And the percentage of frequent readers, that is, those who read the Bible at least once a week, has decreased slightly over the last decade, from 40% in 1990 to 37% today. About one American in seven reports an involvement that goes beyond reading the Bible. Fourteen percent currently belong to a Bible study group. In terms of frequency of readership, 16% of Americans say that they read the Bible every day, 21% say they read it weekly, 12% say they read the Bible monthly, 10% say less than monthly and 41% say that they rarely or never read the Bible

If I were a betting man, I would bet you that the percentages are sadly better for secular material. I could be wrong.  Even if I am, these stats are pretty sad.  If we made as big a deal out of the bible as we do the Harry Potter books, or Vampire books/tv shows, everybody would be reading the Bible.  I have a hard time rationalizing anyone spending tons of time on trying to find the "good" in Harry Potter or any other secular book, defending it's good name in the name of unity between views, when the Bible is so under utilized and under prioritized.  People are out there trying to use Harry Potter to relate the Gospel to people. WHY?!  God does not need Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings or any other fictional book Allegorical or otherwise to supplement the true story of the Bible.  If we are using them for that purpose then we are undercutting the power of God's Word.
     Why are we trying to use man written secular books or any other secular material to try to relate to children or anyone else in our culture?  Maybe if we raised our children on the Bible instead of all these other books they would not leave home at 18 and abandon their faith for some period of time if not permanently because they had no real faith in God's Word.
 Do we really think that God did not know what the 20th and 21st centuries would hold when he wrote the Bible.  Do we really think the Bible needs help from other resources to accomplish the goal for which God put it forth. That the All powerful, All knowing God of the universe is sitting up in heaven saying, "boy I sure am glad those other authors squeezed some semblance of my Gospel into their fictional story books.  I don't think the world would have gotten it otherwise". 
NO! Don't be ridiculous! God's word is sufficient(2 Timothy 3:16-17).  It will accomplish anything that God needs it to accomplish in our lives(Isaiah 55:11).  However, if we do not have a working knowledge of God's Word and instead we are pouring our time into secular, fantastical books that have no eternal purpose then we are wasting our lives and we will lack power and knowledge to accomplish the work of the Gospel.  
       Two thousand years ago, the God-inspired writers of the Bible were steering people away from all things secular and back to the Word of God.  They were reminding them that they were created for one purpose and that is to glorify and worship Almighty God with their lives.  This may seem like a critical rant to some but, if the apostles thought it important then to sometimes strongly draw attention back to God from the things of this world then I think it's safe to say that it is important today as well.
       I did not even intend to go this direction but I believe this is what God wants said.  We need to stop prioritizing the things of this world over the things of God.  One day God is all you will have, for better or for worse.  I hope that becomes a reality for how you live your lives now.  That is the will of God.  To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel(Philippians1:27) To consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ---the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.(Philippians 3:8)  I hope people have read this and that it causes them to think about what is really important.  God is definitely doing that with me.  Blessings.

Conformity...biblical or non-biblical

       Let me start by saying, as always, that while I am firm in the stances I take based on scripture and often direct in the seriousness of the issues, I strive to love God and people in my presentation.  Love does not always mean being light in subject matter or delivery.  The bible says speak the truth in love that in all things we will grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.(Ephesians 4:15)  Verse 12-13 are in the context of the different spiritual offices.  These verses say that the purpose of the different spiritual offices is to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
       This is the purpose of this blog.  To share the truth in love, with a strong biblical foundation, that all may grow and mature in Christ.  If what I say makes people uncomfortable or angry sometimes, that's ok.  Sometimes, growing pains hurt. The other purpose is to draw any unsaved person who may read this blog unto the knowledge of their need for Jesus and hope that the seed planted will grow unto salvation.
       Let me remind everyone reading this that I am always looking in the mirror.  Everything that I post is something that I have grown in or am still growing in myself.  I was not, nor will I ever be perfect.  However, I have hungered after God, chasing the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus, and he has placed a fire in my belly for his Word.  He has also placed this desire to share the revelations of His truths, that he has placed in me, with others.  Therefore, this blog is not my own.  It is God's and he has made me a steward of it.  I will always strive to be faithful in being truthful yet constructive in all that I present here.
     With that said,  as I continue working on posts regarding the depth of the Gospel and it's function and application in life, I am wrestling with a concern right now, so I thought I would post on it.  Conformity.  Two definitions I found for the word conform are: 1. to comply with rules, standards, or laws, 2. to behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards.  Websters dictionary defines it as : to be similar or identical; to be in agreement or harmony.  The 1st definition and Websters definition are God's idea of conformity.  The 2nd definition is the worlds idea of conformity.
       It concerns me greatly that many professing Christians today are prone to formulating their "Christian" views based on what they want.  They choose to believe in a God that fit's THEIR idea of "Love".  It fits THEIR idea of "Justice".  They formulate a God  that fit's their beliefs instead of formulating their beliefs to fit God.  Unfortunately, this means that they have placed their faith in a lie made up in their heads vs. placing their faith in the truth of the God of the bible, who chooses them, and by his grace places a revelation of himself in their hearts. The former are quite likely false converts.
      Similarly, even true, yet immature converts, rationalize (self-deceive) themselves into thinking that ungodly things are ok to have in their lives.  To the point that if someone challenges these things, that person is called "holier than thou", "religious" or "legalistic".  I understand that more often than not, when someone is angry with a Godly idea, they often displace that anger on the person delivering the challenge.  Yet still, sometimes it surprises me.  I guess because sometimes it comes from people whom consider themselves to be solid Christians. Who may have even appeared to be mature until confronted with the truth. The truth of the matter is that if someone is truly secure in their faith, they will not need to feel defensive.  In fact, they may even pray about it, asking God to help them change.  Those that lash out, do it out of a lack of confidence in what they believe and why the believe it.  Maybe it even causes them to question their salvation.  That could be a legitimate concern.
       I am not composing this post because of recent personal experience, though I have experienced the "shoot the messenger" mentality before in regards to theological challenges.  I am mostly writing this because I am tired of people who profess Christ while continually justifying, supporting and still engaging in things that are clearly sinful and not pleasing to God. Of course, I want to be very careful because I absolutely believe that it is God's grace that enables change but, that work begins the moment we are born again.  We are to desire transformation and growth and be crying out for God's grace to help us in this from the moment we are justified (saved).  Therefore, if someone is defending their right to continue pursuing sinful things or they are still living a sinful lifestyle, they are in direct contradiction to the very nature of God that is in us if we are truly born again.  Now, obviously I do not know for sure if someone is born again.  Only the Holy Spirit knows that for sure.  However, we can look at the spiritual fruit of obedience and the attitude toward obedience and know that we may need to challenge someone to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.
(2 Corinthians 13:5-6).
          Romans 12:1-2 says,"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will".
            Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world...think about this one.  What is the pattern of this world?  2 Timothy 3:1-5 Paul says, "there will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying it's power.  Have nothing to do with them".
Sound familiar.  Sounds like the world today doesn't it?  We are not to be like the world or to love worldly things!
          Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  That is the only way you will know God's will.  How do we renew our minds?  We must study to show ourselves approved(2 Timothy 2:15).  Psalm 119  is all about dependence on God and obedience to God that we may be blameless and not sin against God.  Psalm 119:11 specifically says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you".  THAT, is how  we are able to not conform to this world and how we are able to know his good, pleasing, and perfect will.  God told Joshua in the book of Joshua 1:7-8,  "be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.
       As I have said before, and will probably say again, we must study God's word until it is on the inside of us, transforming us.  Then the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds when we need it for strength, or as a reminder of what is acceptable or unacceptable in God's sight.  We also cannot share the Gospel or make disciples effectively if we do not first have a solid foundation in God's word ourselves.   
        How often do we do this?  For a long time, when I would get home from work, my first inclination, even as I drove home, would be to watch TV.  I had an addiction to it. I would stay up to late, eating all the wrong things while watching all the wrong things. Even in this disobedience however, I desired to change.  I desired to be more Christlike.  I would cry out to God to help me grow and make me new, and deliver me from this. I would beg him to give me a hunger for his word, meanwhile the TV was an idol in my life.  It had a greater priority for me than God's word.  But, THANKS BE TO GOD, that he heard my cry and by His grace, he gave me a new heart for his Word and a distaste for television.  That is not to say that I do not stumble in this area but, it is no longer a primary force in my life. Now I stay up too late sometimes, reading the Word or listing to sermons by podcast and learning from the teaching of others.  It is so much more about God now. :-) There have been other areas in life where I have seen success, but initially, I did not take action.  I was made aware of the potential lack of obedience, but would say, "I don't feel that God is convicting me about that at this time".  Even though scripture made it plain that I was in disobedience.  Gratefully, God corrected me in this.
       I believe that  God makes us aware of a need for change.  He does this either by his Word or by someone sharing a biblical principle with us.  Once he shows us that there is a potential area of improvement in our Christian walk, we are then responsible to begin striving to bring correction in that area by crying out to God to give us the grace needed to have success. If scripture supports a need for change, and we are made aware of it, then to say that we don't feel any conviction about it is not acceptable.  Once we are aware of it, IF we care about what God cares about, we should feel conviction about it.  Once we are aware of it, we are responsible to take action in faith, by grace, to begin changing that behavior.  
      A few glaring examples of disobedience in today's culture are sexual immorality, verbal sins, and our sources of entertainment. These are all things that I have been guilty of at some point in my life.  I want to address each of these briefly in hopes that you will examine your life to see if you are in disobedience.
       SEXUAL IMMORALITY. Matthew 5:28 says, "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart".  I believe he targeted man because he understood that men are, by their nature, more influenced by what they see.  It is certainly true of both sexes though. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body".  1 Corinthians 6:9-20 is loaded with examples of wickedness, to include the sexual sin of homosexuality, and exhortation that we are not to take part in these things.  I hope you will go back and read all of those verses. Romans 1:26-28 is another solid reference to homosexual sin.  Galatians 5:19-21 lists acts of the sinful nature, to include sexual immorality.  It goes on to say that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
     VERBAL SINS.  Profanity is one of those verbal sins that tends to be excused.  One that people often don't prioritize as something to correct.  Ephesians 4:29-31 says,"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Ephesians 5:3-5 says, "but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person---such a man is an idolater---has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
I typed out much of this because I want us to see just how seriously God takes these things.  Things that we tend not to give enough weight to, God lumps in with other sins that we tend to take more seriously.  He says that if these things are still part of your lifestyle, and you see no need to change it, or are making no effort to change it that you have no inheritance in God's kingdom.  That seems like a really good reason to evaluate your relationship with God and see if you are in the faith.
      ENTERTAINMENT.   There are previous posts regarding this and I hope you will revisit them. I will touch on it again because this is major area of conformity and compromise today.  If we consider ourselves to be in the faith.  If we truly believe that we are children of the Most High God.  We should evaluate EVERYTHING that comes into our spirits/hearts by audio or visual means.  Suffice it to say that I believe most entertainment today is froth with unholy material that does nothing but glorify and make commonplace that which displeases God and separates us from God. If any entertainment is allowed into our lives it should only be that which is glorifying to God and draws our attention to God's ways and thoughts.  Some may label this idea religious or legalistic but I call it scriptural and biblically supported. Philippians 4:8-9 says, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think on these things".  Galatians 5:17 states that the sinful nature and the Spirit of God are in conflict with each other because the are contrary to each other. Again, Galatians 5:19-21 lists the acts of the sinful nature, "Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Those who live like this WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God.  
       Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (idolatry and witchcraft), Pirates of the Carribean (most of the other acts of the sinful nature), or even most romantic or comedy storylines.  Even action flicks surrounding Marvel comics.  All glorify the sinful nature.  Music in the form of oldies, rock, R&B, Hip Hop, Country or any other style.  If it glorifies Love, Romance, or Sex, in any form outside of the way in which God designed them to be thought of it is sinful.  Revenge, drugs, violence, and fornication are all sinful acts that today's music, TV and movies, books, and video games glorify. 
      We want to see these things as harmless. But Satan uses all of these ideas to mask and make more appealing, acts and ideas that are ungodly.  Oh we don't want to see it because we don't like change.  We want to argue that as long as it does not cause us to stumble into these acts then we are ok.  If these forms of entertainment cause us to dwell on ungodly, sinful acts, even if it is only for the period of time that we are engaging in the entertainment, it is still contrary to what scripture says we are to dwell on. As I have said before, why would we argue for the right to enjoy entertainment of any form, lyric, or storyline that supports the sinful nature if that nature will keep people from the kingdom and steal Glory from the one who died for you.  These things are contrary to the Spirit.  They do not bring glory to God and bringing glory to God is the purpose for which we were created (Isaiah 43:7)  If you are offended or put off, ask yourself, Who's interest are you serving?  God's or yours?
     Is this post a little lengthy?  Perhaps.  But I dare not risk a thorough representation of the truth on this matter in the name of brevity.  Especially when souls are on the line.  Are these ideas considered radical by societies standards, even Christian society?  Absolutely!  Are these ideas supported by scripture and is this message needed today?  YES!  These are not new ideas.  They have been in scripture from the beginning and many bold, obedient pastors today are teaching the message, in one form or another.  I am just another voice proclaiming the truth.  That message is, you are conformed in one direction or the other.  Either to Jesus, or to the world.  One leads to the kingdom of God and the other away from the kingdom of God.  You cannot desire and strive to live in both directions and be certain of your eternal destination.  Which one are you?  2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you---unless, of course, you fail the test.  Think about it.      
Love in Christ,

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

understanding scripture in context

   It's unfortunate often times that we quote scripture without understanding the context in which it was written.  I've done it, pastors have done it.  Anyone can be guilty of it if they are not careful.  That is why we must always pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of the scriptures to us everytime we read them. Sometimes the context of a scripture is on a grand scale i.e. a whole chapter or period of time, however sometimes it is simply understanding it in relationship to the verses surrounding it.  Granted contextual interpretation has it's places of debate considering cultural influence etc., for better or for worse.  But, there are many places that are pretty plain.I would like to give some examples of this. 

There is a scripture that is often quoted from Jeremiah in an effort to encourage others.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".

This is quoted most often as a means of encouragement and supporting the idea that God wants us blessed.
I agree, however, the next scripture is pivotal in the fulfillment of that promise.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 states, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart".

All of this is in the context of God delivering Israel from exile in Babylon.  The blessing in 29:11 was in relation to Israel praying to God and seeking God with all their hearts, as stated in 29:13.