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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Christian in Name Only?

[41] Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”
[42] The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? [43] It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. [44] I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [45] But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. [46] The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. - Luke 12:41-46 (NIV)

When I read this passage I ask myself, “Who is Jesus speaking about?” and “Is this a parable meant to illustrate a future event or a present reality?”

The context would suggest that it’s a future event. (v.40) Since it’s a future event it must be dealing with Christianity and not Judaism. Since the question came from Peter it appears that Jesus is telling this parable to His disciples. There is one thing I strive to do and that is to not filter a passage through a particular person’s systematic theology. I want to let the passage speak for itself as much as possible. For example I don’t want to interpret a passage through the theological filter of Calvinism or Arminianism or any other person-ism. They are people just like any other. We all have the same ability to understand the scripture, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, as other people. I don’t believe someone has some kind of secret knowledge when it comes to understanding God’s word.

Some people suggest that Jesus is speaking about the religious authorities of the day in the nation of Israel. I don’t see this at all is this passage. Because the religious leaders of the day did not accept Jesus as there master. Jesus wouldn't have put them in charge of the Gospel message and the citizens that belong to His Kingdom. This assignment would be given to His followers.

Even though Jesus doesn't directly answer Peter’s question of who in regard to the 12 disciple or everyone, which calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ, this parable does suggest it’s directed to the 12. If then it is directed to the 12 what do we see? We see a warning. If you plan of taking up my cause then you better understand what you will be getting into. This endeavor is not to be trifled with. If you decide to be my servants-managers and fail at your task then the same fate awaits you as that of an unbeliever.

It looks like Jesus is telling Peter that if you don’t persevere you can lose your citizenship in His kingdom. Then I ask myself if this can happen to the 12 then can it happen to me? I’m a person with the same broken human nature as them. As a follower of Jesus Christ I also possess the same gift of eternal life, as them. This makes me a believer. This gift I received by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, if I live a life that does not reflect this gift while at the same time possessing the gift and Jesus returns, it looks like that what I have can be taken away from me and I will receive the punishment of the unbeliever which is a place in hell. 

This is what this passage looks like to me. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Is my humility just a facade?

Why is true humility so hard to find? Because it goes against everything we are bombarded with from the day we are born. The world cherishes power, riches, fame, prestige, and beauty. From the time most of us were toddlers, our parents encouraged us to do better then others. Schools use pride and competition to motivate students to surpass others in both academics and athletics. They hold elections for students to vote for who is the most popular. Some schools issue bumper stickers to the parents of honor students so those parents can brag about their children. 

From primary school through college, we are encouraged to pursue careers that will give us prestige, wealth, and power over others. Schools and colleges also spur us to have collective pride— pride in our school, pride in our state, and pride in our country. We’re supposed to think that our school is the best in the state or the nation. Why? Because we go there. Our country is the best country on earth. Why? Because we live in it. If we lived in another country, we would be told that country is the best on earth. 

So from the time we are toddlers, we have been trained to foster pride in ourselves and in everything connected to us. No wonder humility is hard to cultivate! We’ve been programmed for pride, not humility.

So it is little wonder that by the time we reach adulthood we are glutted with pride. Yet Christians imagine that because years ago they said a prayer in which they acknowledged that they were sinners and needed Christ for salvation, that means they have somehow conquered pride. In reality, all that has usually happened is that they’ve embraced a theological position. Their hearts are as full of pride as ever.

Just because you may look the part, this doesn't mean you are a part of the Kingdom of God

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Is the USA a Christian nation?

Nagasaki after Atom Bomb

In 1549, by the request of a fugitive Samurai warrior named Anjiro, Francis Xavier sailed to Japan to plant a church. He was very successful, and it was said of these converts that they were very zealous.
Interestingly, when Francis Xavier asked Anjiro if he thought Japan would receive Christianity, he replied, “They would not do so immediately, but would first ask you many questions and see what you knew. Above all, they would want to see whether your life corresponded with your teaching.”

Gary G. Kohls who wrote about this period tells us that Christianity took root there. But in the 1600s, it quickly became the target of brutal Japanese Imperial persecutions. Within 50 years after the planting of Xavier’s mission church, it was a capital crime to be a Christian in Japan. The Japanese Christians who refused to recant their beliefs suffered ostracism, torture, and even crucifixions similar to the Roman persecutions in the first three centuries of Christianity. After the reign of terror was over, it appeared to all observers that Christianity had been completely stamped out.

However, 250 years later, Japan was being opened up for trade purposes, and it was discovered that thousands of baptized Christians still existed in Nagasaki, Japan. It was now the 1850s, and these homes, were completely unknown to the government. When they were identified, the government started another series of persecutions. However, this time, because of international pressures, the persecutions were soon stopped, and Nagasaki Christianity came up from the underground.

In a relatively short time, by 1917, the Japanese Christians had organized and built a massive Cathedral, calling it St Mary’s. By the 1940s, thousands of people professed to be Christians in Japan. It appeared to most that Christianity was beginning to be practiced openly, without fear of hostility and persecution.

However, early in the morning of August 9, 1945, a few young American Christians from another part of the world, met with two chaplains— one Lutheran and the other Catholic— for a little prayer meeting before they started their day’s work. After the prayer, these two American Christians climbed into their B- 29 Super Fortress long- distance bomber and began heading for Nagasaki.

Tragically, history records that St. Mary’s Cathedral was one of the very landmarks these American Christians had been told to look for as they flew into the target zone. Shortly after the pilot identified the cathedral, he ordered the atom bomb to be dropped.

At 11:02 a.m., as told in Kohl’s words, “Nagasaki Christianity was boiled, evaporated, and carbonized in a scorching, radioactive fireball. The persecuted, vibrant, faithful, surviving center of Japanese Christianity had become ground zero. And what the Japanese Imperial government could not do in over 200 years of persecution, American Christians did in 9 seconds.” The Christians of Nagasaki were wiped out.

This was and is the product of the idea that the United States of America is a christian nation and that it is acceptable for Christians of one nation to kill fellow christian of another nation if that nation declares that their cause is the “just” one. Even though war may be evil, it is a necessary evil so that good may prevail.

Listen to what the bible says about Christians who follow this kind of reasoning.

Romans 3:8 (NIV)
[8] Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.

Could the Roman soldier that cut off Paul's head be a born again professing follower of Jesus Christ. Be an ambassador of Christ as if God were making His appeal through him. Being compel by love as Jesus commanded us to love the family of God, our neighbor and our enemies and be justified in committing this act against another follower of Jesus Christ because he is a citizen of the Roman Empire and was ordered to carry out this mission by Nero? Because they told him it was for a “just” cause. Is that what Jesus would want you to do? Is that what it means to love your enemy as Jesus commanded us to do? 

There are only two nations. The kingdoms of man and the kingdom of God. We cannot serve two master. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

John 15:10 (NIV)
[10] If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Do we just follow Jesus in theory when it’s uncomfortable and literally when it’s easy?

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Two Sides of Forgiveness

This morning the group of guys I meet with talked about forgiveness. It’s an essential element in being a follower of Jesus Christ. Even though it’s not mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit, I believe it would be safe to call it one.
There are two facets of forgiveness that needs to take place in a person’s life for it to be complete. A willingness to forgive and a willingness to ask for forgiveness. Without these forgiveness cannot to experiences or completed in a person’s life. For example God is a forgiving God. He wants to forgive all people of theirs sin so that they may have fellowship with Him, receive the gift of eternal life and become a citizen in His Kingdom. However, all these things cannot take place until an individual asks for His forgiveness. There will be many people that will be going to hell that God was willing to forgive but He couldn't because they didn't ask. And by their not asking, forgiveness was never made complete in their lives.
When we read Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness there is the giver and the asker. In the parable of the unmerciful servant we see this giver and asker. (Matt. 18:21-35, Luke 17:3-4) Now as far as the giver is concerned Jesus wants us to maintain the same disposition as the Father even if someone doesn't ask. (Matt. 6:12, Mark 11:25) because that is how He is towards all humanity. So that if or when that person seek forgiveness for the wrong they have done you would acted in the same way as our heavenly father would, forgive. Not just out of duty but from the heart, with all sincerity. Also the asker must ask from the heart. Not begrudgingly but sincerely.
Does this attitude of forgiveness mean we stay silent about sin? No. Jesus told people to repent, which means to change. Change from what? Change from a sinful life to a godly life. However for this change to be genuine there had to be a willingness to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Jesus and the Father could know what was in a person’s heart. They knew when to declare a person forgiven even if they didn't verbalize it. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he forgave her and told her to stop sinning. (John 8) He told the religious leaders of his time to stop sinning and when he was on the cross he was willing to forgive them. (Luke 23:34) But that forgiveness would never be complete in their lives until they admitted to the wrong they did and were willing to change and follow Him.
In people to people forgiveness, we need to verbalize our confessions, one to another, because the last I checked we can’t read each other’s minds. (Luke 17:3-4)
So we need to maintain a willingness to forgive if we say we love Him.
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
[13] Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

[9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.