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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't Play The Fool...Your Soul May Depend On It

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)
[4] The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

The devil never tips his hand in temptation. He shows you only the beauty, the ecstasy, the fun, the excitement, and the stimulating adventure of stolen desires. Hebrews 11:25 (NIV) Speaking about Moses it says, "[25] He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time."  Sin brings pleasure but it always comes at a cost. And the devil will try and convince you that the price really isn't as expensive as the preacher says it is.

He never tells the heavy drinker, “Tomorrow morning there’ll be a hangover. Ultimately, you’ll ruin your family.” 

He never tells the drug user early on, “This is the beginning of a long, sorrowful, dead-end road.” 

He never tells the thief, “You’re going to get caught, friend. You do this, and you’ll wind up behind bars.” 

He certainly doesn’t warn the adulterer, “You know, pregnancy is a real possibility.” Or, “You could get a life-threatening disease.” 

Are you kidding? Face it, when the sin is done and all the penalties of that sin come due, the devil is nowhere to be found. He smiles as you fall . . . but he leaves you with no encouragement when the consequences kick in.

2 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV)
[11] in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Maintaining in Hardship

A Study on 2 Timothy 2:1-10

In these next few verse Paul is encouraging Timothy. He wants him to be mindful of who he picks as ambassadors of Christ when it comes to teaching others the gospel message for the unbelieving world and the body of Christ. He then reminds him that the gospel life is not an easy life. As a matter of fact it will be hard as evidences by the chains Paul is in at the time he is writing this letter. When these hardships come:

1. v.4 Hardship Can Distract Us
Don't let them distract you. Remain focused. Don't look to the world for relief, look to your King, Jesus. Don't look for answers to your hardship from the world around you. Jesus himself told his disciple that foxes have hole and birds have nests but the Son of man has no place to rest His head. As His followers we may be call to live in hardship for His purposes so don't let the trials of life cause you to lose focus. As followers of Jesus our life here on planet earth is about the kingdom of God and not about the kingdoms of man.

2. v.5 Hardship Can Cause Us to Compromise Our Integrity
When hardship comes, as you live for Jesus and him alone, and the world comes against you or the circumstances of life turn into storms, maintain your integrity to Jesus and his calling. Don't compromise in order to find relief from hardships. Don't soft peddle or compromise the gospel message and the doctrines attached to it. Don't cheat or take a bribe or offer a bribe in order to find relief. Paul probably could have easily bribed His way out of those chains in that society. Continue to follow Jesus. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples. If you love me then you'll obey me.

3. v.6 Hardship Can Make Us Greedy
 As you work hard in doing Gods will and material assets come your way just take what you need to meet your needs. Remember what the Lord taught about what our needs are, food and clothing. Don't let hardship and your desire to avoid hardship at all cost cause you to take more then you should. As a leader in the body of Christ don't give the enemy the opportunity, as far as it depends on you, to slander the name of Jesus and His kingdom because of money. Remember Jesus example. Remember the disciples example. Remember Paul's example and do like wise.

Paul continues to remind Timothy, as you see me endure hardship, see how I maintain for the sake of the gospel and the body of Christ. This is more important to me then my own personal comfort. Now go and do likewise. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Do we see what Jesus wanted for His church today?

Mark 10:42-43 (NIV)
[42] Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. [43] Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

The context of these verses was about a couple of disciples coming to Jesus and asking for positions of authority over the other disciples. When the others disciples got wind of this they got mad. Probably because they got beat to the punch. However, Jesus uses this opportunity to teach his disciples some valuable lessons about Him and His kingdom and about how those that want to be His followers should live their lives as citizens of His kingdom here on earth towards Him and one another.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden people have been jockeying for position one over another. We begin to see this right away. We were created in the image of God. In the community of God there is perfect equality. When they created us, male and female, we were to live side by side. The woman was a helper to the man. In the same way that the bible describes the Lord as the helper to people. Before God they were on the same level playing field. Then came the fall and we see God setting the standards for the first human relationship in its fallen state. Genesis 3:16 God tells the woman that the man will rule over her. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. Since the fall even this standard has been corrupted by the corrosive effect of sin. I’ve seen married relationships were the woman is clearly the boss and the man is ruled by the woman. Even beyond the intimate relationship of a man and woman we see this pecking order type of living in all the different parts of societies.

We see these hierarchical systems of social organization in children. In the school setting as early as elementary school someone asserts themselves or a perception is generated that one kid is somehow superior to the rest. Then there is this desire by others to be accepted or approved of. Within this pecking order people are accepted or rejected. People are ruled over and demand of or exiled and slandered. This system is seen in the work place and the civic social order and the political state or nations.

This is what we see taking place with the disciples when they ask Jesus for positions of authority. This is what is inside them, a result of their sinful human nature. This is what they have grown up with in the society around them. This is what they think the future will be like even with Jesus. Even though God understood this view and tried to help humanity to keep this view in check. He also knew what the real remedy was and that remedy would be found in Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit. The example of his remedy should be displayed to humanity through His bride, the church. So Jesus points this reality out to his disciples and then teaches them how it should be with them and those they disciple, the body of Christ, the church.

First he tells them to scrap what their inner inclinations are and what they see around them in regards to the rulers and officials of the earthly institutions. God’s view on leaders is not the same as the worlds view. They were not to mimics the hierarchical systems of the world. They were to follow His model. The model of a servant. The model that doesn’t strive to rule over others but to serve one another out of love. A model that doesn’t seek out positions over but positions under.

A perfect example of this is seen at the last supper. Jesus becomes the lowest servant in a household. The servant that gets down on their knees and washes the feet of the guest that come in from the outside. Feet that have not been covered with socks and shoes. These were feet that were uncovered and caked with dirt and whatever livestock excrement that might have been in the street that day. This is the leadership Jesus wanted his disciples to model. The leadership that is humble and serving not full of pride and ruling.

In Matthew 23:8-11 Jesus tells his disciple to not copy the practices of the religious leaders of the day.

[8] “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. [9] And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,' for you have one Father,* and he is in heaven. [10] Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.* [11] The greatest among you will be your servant.* [12] For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.*

Again, Jesus stands how the world views leadership on its head. He strips away the tendencies of the sinful human nature desire to want to rule and clamor for status and titles of prestige. This is what the religious leaders of the day lived for and wanted. I remember as a new Christian this passage stuck out to me because what I saw in the church didn’t seem to fit what Jesus taught. I was at a new member’s reception and I went up to the ‘pastor’ and asked him if I could call him by his first name, Glen. He looked at me with all seriousness and told me I was to call him Pastor Glen. Inwardly that didn’t seem right or feel right to me at the time but I was so young in the faith and I thought he probably knew something I didn’t. There was another incident with an assistant ‘pastor’ that explained to me that my experience in the military and its rank structure should be a guide to me as to how the leadership at the church should be looked at.

Jesus understood something the disciples didn’t at the time. When you begin to take on titles for yourself and demand from people to call you by these titles and to receive recognition for yourself with these titles you place yourself over others instead of beside or under others. You set up a hierarchical system of the world. We see this with the word ‘Pastor’. In the bible this was a gift that was given by the Holy Spirit for the body of Christ. However, this gift has turned into a position and the word has become a title. We see this with the title Father and Reverend. We have these classes of people within the body of Christ called clergy and laity. With these title and positions we have institutionalized religion. The very thing Jesus didn’t want to happen with His bride. Even Paul didn’t use his gift as an apostle as a title. We don’t see him writing in his letter ‘Apostle Paul’ like we do today with ‘Pastor’, Pastor Bob or Pastor Tom. No Paul says in his letters ‘Paul, an apostle’. When we read the description of the gifts in regards to the body of Christ no gift was better or more important than another. However, when we turn gifts into titles we elevate one person over another. The level playing field that Jesus wants us all to stand on start developing hills and holes that people begin to stand on and in. Someone is above another or someone is below another. We become like the world around us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, as individuals and as a body of believers we are called to be ambassadors of Christ and His kingdom, to manifest God’s love and the life He want us to live, God’s life.

Jesus wants us to be leaders but not as the world defines leaders. It’s not a hierarchical system because when this kind of system takes hold we give the enemy a foothold within the body and therefore an avenue into the lives of individuals. Then the kingdom of God, as represented by the body of Christ stops being a reflection of God’s love and His leadership style of His bride.

The prophecy of the coming of Jesus in Isaiah provides us with a great illustration of how we are to live as brothers and sister in Christ under Christ leadership.

Luke 3:4-6 (NIV)
[4] As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
[5] Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
[6] And all mankind will see God's salvation.'”**

When we envision these verses about Jesus and what he came to do we see him creating a level playing field with no obstacles in the way to live the life God wants for His people to live. A valley filled in and a mountain brought down creates a plain. When the crooked roads are done away with and the obstacles are removed you have a place were everyone is side by side. No one is on a mountain above another person or in a valley below another person or an obstruction that blocks the way of a person to see and know the God who loves them.

What really stinks is that even though Jesus came to do away with the division, factions and cliques that these hierarchical systems bring. These systems which are a manifestation of the fallen sinful nature of humanity. The church today has embraced these systems for centuries. They’ve been passed on from generation to generation with really no question asked. It’s just how things have been done and those that get it handed to them benefit from it so why change. Why really examine?

Love the community of believers anyways. Go to church and find those people that love the Lord and fellowship with one another. Pray for one another. Help one another. Don’t give up on the body of Christ as we see it today. God hasn’t. I believe He still speaks to us even with all the obstacles we put in the way. Because He is greater and he will bring about restoration in His time. He’s been carrying the gospel message forward throughout the ages despite us and He’ll continue you do so. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is Jesus' Kingdom?

John 18:36 (NIV)
[36] Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In the Christian American culture today there is this undercurrent of thought that the USA is a Christian nation therefore part of the kingdom of God. When it comes to world affairs we are doing Gods works. This idea has been promoted so much that Islam, in the Middle East area especially, equates the USA with Christianity. So that when the jihadist war against the west (i.e. USA) it is a war against Christianity. In their minds there is no distinction. And the Christianity they see is one of violence. It is a Christianity that promote the use of weapons and death to carry out Gods will here on earth. This idea is not one they made up. Americanized Christianity has promulgated this belief, encouraged this belief and prayed for this belief.

Is this what Jesus and his disciples thought and passed on to us? Jesus first recorded message was, Mark 1:15 (NIV) [15] “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” The message of His kingdom never stop being proclaimed throughout His earthly ministry and the disciple continued this message. The parables, Matthew 4:23, Acts 20:25, 28:23 and the very last verse of Acts says, Acts 28:31 (NIV) [31] Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I read about this part of the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ I'm reminded of when these documents were written. At the time there was only one kingdom that matter to the known world and it was the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was always concerned about agitators and those that wish to plant seeds of sedition against the Empire. The Roman solution to these seeds was to respond with violence and death. So for these manuscripts to proclaim another Kingdom and to call people to follow another King was highly provocative. One thing that people understand is that you can’t pledge allegiance to two kingdoms. God's kingdom is no different. Just like you can’t serve two god's, in the same way there is no dual citizenship with God. Jesus made it very clear to Pilate, who was an ambassador of man's kingdom, that His kingdom was not of this world and that His kingdom would not advance through violence.  Like all the rest of the kingdoms that existed on the earth. Whether then or now. This hasn't changed.

Consider this, you are a follower of Jesus Christ. You have the message of God’s love, peace and salvation for all people. Jesus tells all those that claim to be His followers to proclaim this message. Now you are in the military, part of man’s kingdoms. You march into a town where you just killed people. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends. You find the survivors of these dead family members and now you must share Jesus with them and His message of love, peace and salvation as they bury their dead. Now remember in Colossians 3:17 (NIV) [17] “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” You just got finished killing these peoples loved ones in Jesus name to God’s glory. Now you have to turn around and explain to them how Jesus wanted you to kill their family members because he loves them.  And this same Jesus loves them also. If I wanted to survive, looking at the weapons in your hands or the weapons that just destroyed my family, I’d be saying I believe.

For some reason I don’t see Jesus or the 12 living like this. Killing for the kingdoms of man in the name of Jesus. We must remember that in the name of Jesus means you represent the gospel message of the Kingdom. Be careful not to create a Jesus in the image of your patriotism. Or create a Jesus in your image because you love this life.

If Jesus is your king then, like the disciples of Jesus time, your priority is "Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven." Our purposes and causes and the way we live are to be dictated to us by Jesus not the kings of the earth or a Jesus created in the image of our patriotism. Jesus told His disciples that His kingdom would not advance through violence and the death of others. But through love. The love for God, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ and our enemies. As citizens of His kingdom we are to put away the sword and take up our cross. Not to take life but to lay down our lives. Because death has been conquered. We do not need to fear death as the world does. We are not to love this life more than our obedience to Him.

Philippians 3:20 (NIV)
[20] But our citizenship* is in heaven.* And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,*

1 Peter 2:9, 11(NIV)
[9] But you are a chosen people,...a holy nation,* a people belonging to God,* that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light... [11] Dear friends,* I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world,* to abstain from sinful desires,* which war against your soul.*

If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ then let’s follow Him and not be afraid of those that believe the lie that a particular nation of this planet is a Christian nation. The only nation on this planet that is a Christian nation is the true body of Christ and no other. A nation without borders. Jesus didn't come to prop up the Roman Empire or restore the Nation of Israel. He came to invite people into his kingdom. A new kingdom. To become citizens of His kingdom. To pledge allegiance to Him and Him alone. To follow Him and Him alone. To live as strangers here on the planet during our brief sojourn. Jesus said if you love me then you'll obey me.

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV)
[17] “Therefore come out from them*
and be separate,
 says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”**

Revelation 18:4 (NIV)
[4] Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
“Come out of her, my people,*
so that you will not share in her sins,

so that you will not receive any of her plagues;*

The Futility Of Thinking There Are Only Atoms

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