Sunday, May 17, 2015

What is the kingdom of God like.....

The kingdom of God is like a man who owns and lives in the most wonderful home in the world. It has many rooms and he invites everyone to come and live there. However, there is only one way in and no one can come in unless they enter through a specified gate. Many people will refuse to live in this amazing home because they want to come in from another way. Only a few will enter through the specified gate.

In the same way if you owned a home you would determine who could come in and by the which way they could enter.

Jesus said he was the only way to God. This would excluded all other ways. Either this is true on it is not.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bad Company Corrupts Good Character

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” - 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)

It seems like in today’s modern evangelical message something is missing. There is this desire to get people saved by telling them about Jesus (in a superficial way) and then getting them to say a “sinner’s prayer” and then declaring them saved. However, what really happens is these people get this new present handed to them, like a Christmas present on December 25th. They excited about it. They embrace this new label as Christian and they try to make a change or changes in their lives. However, they don’t quite change the other things of their life that were the means of living a God rejecting life.

They will hear things like Jesus still hung out with tax collectors and sinners so it’s OK for you to still go into bars and drink beer. Or, God made the plants so why can’t we smoke pot. This is usually the case because they really weren't taught any different or they just wanted the benefits of Jesus without a relationship with Jesus. That’s most likely the fault of the sharer of the message and partly the receiver of the message.

However, there are those that not only want what Jesus has to offer but they want Jesus himself. They want to truly follow Jesus because they love Him. They want to obey Jesus when he said, “If you love me you’ll obey my commands.”

That’s why Paul’s advice to believers is so important. Even though we have been free from the law and it judgments through Jesus Christ we still must make the right choices in our daily lives as ambassadors of Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)
 [12] “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)
 [23] “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.

In the world of AA, NA and whatever addiction anonymous groups that are out there, there is one thing that is key to staying free from that thing that brings destruction into their lives. That thing that enslaves them. These groups call them triggers.

For those who are followers of Jesus Christ our desire is to avoid sin and to live for Jesus. We want to avoid the sin that Jesus went to the cross for on our behalf. As brand new believers we have just escaped from errors we live in.

The triggers for addicts are the same for new believers wanting to leave sin behind.

A trigger is any form of stimuli that initiates the desire to engage in addictive behavior. During the course of a recovery program, triggers may prompt an individual to slip-up and use a substance or engage in a behavior that they otherwise are trying to avoid.

Triggers are associated with a memory or situation that relates in some way to prior substance abuse behaviors. As someone struggles with addiction, the people they interact with, the places they spend their time and in some situations their place of work can become strongly associated with their addictive behavior. It could even be smell, a song or even a passing thought. It could be an inner unpleasant feeling like stress, anger, loneliness, anxiety, or any other negative emotion that may coarse through our bodies and any given time.

During recovery, it helps to reduce exposure to these triggers as much as possible. This may require changing relationships, moving to a different side of town or making a career change. Triggers prompt cravings, which are strong desires for a certain substance.

Learning how to identify triggers and developing strategies to manage cravings are key aspects of most addiction recovery programs.

For a follower of Jesus Christ we need to be taught the same kind of things. The bible calls these temptations.

[22] You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; [23] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; [24] and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  -Ephesian 4
It is a learning process, however, we don’t have to rely on our own strength. The bible tells us we have the supernatural helper of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus tells us, “[11] “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? [12] Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? [13] If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” - Luke 11:11-13 (NIV)

Jesus says this in John. “[16] And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— [17] the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. [18] I will not leave you as orphans;” - John 14:16

Paul describes our dilemma this way, “[21] So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. [22] For in my inner being  I delight in doing the right thing;  [23] but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war  against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin  at work within my members. [24] What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  

Jesus really is the answer. It’s not the institutionalized religion we see today that is done with the label of Christian. It’s the supernatural encounter that brings us into a personal relationship with someone who cares even more than our family or friends. 

Why Do We Say We Love Something or Someone?

In the 1920s, Bobby Jones dominated the golfing world, despite being an amateur. In one film about his life, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, there is a scene where a professional golfer asks Bobby when he is going to quit being an amateur and grab for the money like everyone else does. Jones answers by explaining that the word amateur comes from the Latin amo—to love. His answer was clear: He played golf because he loved the game.
When we have a true encounter with Jesus we have an encounter with true love. This love moves us away from ourselves and towards others. This love moves us away from sin and towards God.
Are you a christian because you love Jesus? Are you a christian because you love what his community can do for you?
Sin causes us to shrink life down to our personal lives. It's all about ME. Me-ism is the philosophy of life. The DNA of sin is rejection of God and the exaltation of Me. The mission statement of your world is "I want" Sin is anti-social even though it masquerades as social. It is only social to fulfill what I want, some personal desire.
Jesus came to rescue you from you, me from me. Sin causes us to de-humanize people. People become either a vehicle or obstacle to what I want. We get angry in traffic because no one else matter more then you do.

Selfishness can cause people to get married when they're not in love. We marry people because what they can bring to ourselves. When we say the love is gone it is because it was fake love. A love that was never really there to begin with.

When it's all about you, you become easily irritate and angry. We need to be rescued from ourselves. The world defines love when you take care of my wants and desire and needs. When these desires aren't met then this worldly love punishes you.
Jesus came to break the bondage of ME so that I can live for Him and others. However, on our part, for us to be truly released from this prison of sin, we must be willing to change. Consider the woman of this story.
Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)
[36] Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. [37] When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, [38] and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
[39] When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
[40] Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
[41] “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. [42] Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
[43] Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
[44] Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. [45] You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. [46] You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. [47] Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
[48] Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
[49] The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
[50] Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

America's Christian Churches and the Governments of Man (Unequally Yoked)

[14] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? [15] What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? [16] What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” [17] “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” [18] “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NIV)

The other day I attended a local church Town hall meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to inform the membership of the status of the church. One of the topics was the local churches Constitution and the changes they were being made it in order to keep it updated. One of the updates was the name of the church. Since the name changed the constitution need to reflect the churches new name. Then another change was going to be introduced into this churches constitution and it had to do with the local board of elders and who on this board had voting rights. In the present constitution the elected elders and the senior pastor were the only voting members. An assistant pastor, though on staff and a part of the board, did not have the right to vote. The change to the constitution was to allow the assistant pastor a vote within the board. The reason that was given for this change to be made to the local churches constitution was that the state passed a new law that required ex-officio members of the local church boards, if they are considered assistant pastor they are ex-officio members and therefore allowed a vote on church matters. In other words, the state is dictating how a local church is to structure their boards and conduct their business.

When I read the NT I find no instruction for the church, local or universal, to create a constitution and rules for membership. I can't find any place where an extra set of rules are needed, other than what we already have in the NT alone, to govern a body of believers. It is as if the NT is not enough. The scripture are somehow not sufficient. When we add to the scriptures new guidelines on how we are to live as believers within the body of Christ we start creating man-made religion. We invite the world to be an influence when Jesus calls us to come out and be separate and be apart of His kingdom.

The reason why the state has the right to do this is because local churches want to take advantage of the 501 C 3 status the government gives to non-profit organizations. Which the government permits churches to do since they can qualify as non-profit organization. Which a church can enter into. They don’t have to claim 501 C 3 status if they don’t want too. The main reason why churches claim this 501 C 3 status is to avoid paying taxes. The result of this is obvious. The body of Christ (which represents the kingdom of God), being led by “men of God”, has crawled into bed with the kingdoms of man for money. Now the kingdoms of man, whose ruler is the adversary of the Christ and His people, has a foothold is the kingdom of God in American Churches here on earth.

[19]We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.  - 1 John 5:19 (NIV)
[6] And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. - Luke 4:6 (NIV)

Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells the church to “come out from them and be separated”. We are not to be yoked with the unbelievers especially for the sake of money. Jesus said, “… What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.” (Luke 16:15 NIV)

Someone might say aren't we supposed to be good stewards? Yes, but not at the expanse of the word of God and His kingdom. Jesus told us to get rid of the things that would cause us to allow the kingdoms of man to influence the body of Christ’s purposes here on this earth until He returns again.

[4] You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [5] Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? - James 4:4-5 (NIV)

By yoking ourselves as the body of Christ to the kingdoms of Man we now serve two masters all for the sake of money. Jesus said give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and the God what is God’s. We should just pay our taxes. And if we, as a body of believers can’t afford to pay the taxes. Then get rid of those things that keep us from obeying Jesus. As Jesus said, If you love me you’ll obey me. Or are we going to walk away from Jesus admonishing like the rich young rule because we like our money to much as local churches.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

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. - Romans 12:2 (NIV)

There are two kingdoms. The kingdoms of man and the Kingdom of God. We cannot live for both. We need to chose one or the other. Or we can continue to just give lip serves to this truth as a body of believers.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Invitation to the Thirsty

[1] “Come, all you who are thirsty,*
come to the waters;*
and you who have no money,
come, buy* and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk*
without money and without cost.*
[2] Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?*
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,*
and your soul will delight in the richest* of fare.
[3] Give ear and come to me;
hear* me, that your soul may live.*
I will make an everlasting covenant* with you,
my faithful love* promised to David.*
[4] See, I have made him a witness* to the peoples,
a leader and commander* of the peoples.
[5] Surely you will summon nations* you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,*
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One* of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”*
[6] Seek* the LORD while he may be found;*
call* on him while he is near.
[7] Let the wicked forsake* his way
and the evil man his thoughts.*
Let him turn* to the LORD, and he will have mercy* on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.*
[8] “For my thoughts* are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”*
 declares the LORD. - Isaiah 55:1-8 (NIV)

Monday, April 20, 2015

The homosexual issue and the church

[12] What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? [13] God will judge those outside. - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NIV)

The homosexual issue in the world today is a political issue. What I mean by this is that it is an issue being debated on whether it should be except-able within the kingdoms of humankind. However as a result of this battle it has spilled over into the body of Christ.

I want to address this issue as to how the body of Christ is the deal with it when it comes to the nations of humankind. As Members of the body of Christ we need to not be distracted by this single issue when it come to the message to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Especially in the USA. We need to make sure we understand this issue is a political issue and not a kingdom of God issue when it comes to those that don't belong to the body of Christ.

2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)
[4] No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.

In the same way our commands are from Jesus and our affairs are to be concerned with the body of Christ, His church not the kingdoms of humankind. We need to stop demanding that the kingdoms of humanity follow the values of the kingdom of God when they are not apart of the kingdom of God.

The gospel tells us that it doesn't matter if you are homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or poly amorous. We all stand guilty before God as sinners. A heterosexual is just as guilty before God as a homosexual apart from Christ. And as sinners we deserve the judicial decree of being found guilty and as a result of our guilt we deserve punishment for our breaking God's law. It is very easy to emphasize the fact that God is love. Who doesn't want to be loved. I know I do. However we would be dishonest if we didn't proclaim the truth that God is also just. It's not one over the other. It's both/and when it comes to the gospel message. To do anything less would be a disservice to the souls of people and disobedient to the God who saves.

God says, for all have sinned and fallen short of His standard for humanity. Which is perfection. We must be perfect in all we have ever done whether it's thoughts, words or deeds. And no one has ever accomplished this level of a life lived. No heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or poly amorous person has done this. And because of this we can do nothing but pay the price that Gods judicial requirements demand. Jesus told us that this punishment was eternal punishment. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels... Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." - Matthew 25:41, 46 (NIV)

This is what a good judge would do. A judge who refuses to punish evil is not a good judge; he is an unjust judge. A corrupt judge is not good, but God in his goodness, the one who judges all and does what is right, promises judgment against those that fall short of His standard. He calls that evil. To say God is good and expect Him not to be just is insanity. If God is good, then he will judge, and he will judge according to truth. Not a manmade truth but His truth. We must be careful to not take His goodness and patience for granted. In his patience God restrains himself. He puts up with our rebellion and sin. He knows every sin we have ever committed, but he has not exposed them all. He has not visited his wrath or our just deserts on us for all those sins, but we wipe our foreheads and say, “God is loving and good therefore he will never deal with my sins.” Do you despise the riches of his goodness, Paul asks, don't you realize that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? However, the bible teaches us that the human condition is such, "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NIV). I other words once we break a law and get away with it, it becomes easier to do it again. When this happens repeatedly our conscience becomes callused to that law therefore, God’s judicial restraint leads us not to repentance but to recalcitrance, to the hardened heart and the stiff neck. And when we get caught or exposed our sorrow is not because we did anything wrong but we become sorry because we don't want to be punished. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."-2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV).

It is an exercise in futility to demand that the world obey the God they don't know or even seek after. Jesus didn't come to make the Roman Empire the kingdom of God. Jesus came to invited all people out of every nation into His kingdom and it is their that we obey Him. Jesus said if you love me then you will obey my commands. His commands were to Love God, love your neighbor, love your brothers and sisters in Christ and to love your enemy. I haven't found one command from Jesus that tells us to go out and demand that the world follow Him apart from Him. The world desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the world. The world is going to do what to world does and that is to rebel against God. So let's stop being sucked into unnecessary issues within the kingdoms of humankind and start inviting people into God kingdom. Share the entire gospel message, not just one part of it, and then allow the Holy Spirit to do His work within the the hearts of those who have truly been born again.

This is the good news. God knows our predicament before Him. And since we can't do anything within our power to rescue ourselves from His judgements He provided a way out. This way out doesn’t not require us to go through any rituals or, to use a euphemism, get all our ducks in a row. Thats why Jesus came because God knew we could never do it on our own. We could never be good enough. However Jesus could and was. He lived a perfect life in thought, word and deed. Because of that he had the ability to stand before God and offer Himself in the place of all humanity as the person that could satisfy God's perfect standard and then pay the price for all the sins of humanity. Because the wages of sin is death. It was at the cross that Jesus experienced death for all who would believe. Thats love. There is no greater love then to lay down your life for an enemy. Because thats what we are in our broken human condition.  He was then raised to life, proving who he was and showing us that death and the grave had been conquered. This unmerited love and gift of eternal life comes to us when we humbly admit we are a sinner in need of a savior. That from the heart we believe in all that Jesus did and change our way of thinking about God and believe in His son Jesus Christ and live for him forever more.