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Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Cracked Pot

An elderly woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. 'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'

The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?' 'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house of our master.'

As citizens of God’s kingdom, under the new covenant, we are a group of people that are made of the same stuff. And that stuff is broken. We all have flaws. No one is without them. Some of these flaws are fixed however some are not. It is in these flaws that are not fixed that we see God’s plan.

Paul tells nus in 2 Corinthians 12,  But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace  is sufficient for you, for my power  is made perfect in weakness. ”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight  in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,  in persecutions,  in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When I use to facilitate a men’s group I would periodically reminds us that we were a bunch of crack pots. Meaning we leak. What do we leak? That would depend on what you were filled with. As followers of Jesus Christ it should be the Holy Spirit. Since one of the jobs of Holy Spirits is to point people to Jesus. I’d tell these men we need to be leaking out Jesus to those within our personal spheres of influence. This looks like, if you see a need and it’s within your power to meet it then do so and at the same time point to Jesus when thanked. This brings about the beauty of God’s presence in a lost and dying world.

Now since we are crack pots we need to be constantly re-filled. Jesus gives us a well that will never run dry. “….Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:14 (NIV). However to get re-filled you have to go to the well. Some have stopped going to the well of Jesus and have turned to another well. A well of their own making. A polluted well.

Psalms 1:3 says, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” However, what happens to the tree if the stream gets polluted? The fruit becomes anemic. The leaves shrivel. The nourishment and comforting shade of the tree becomes compromised. In the same way when we invite pollution into our walk with Jesus we will experience decay instead of godly prosperity, weakness instead of strength, regression instead of progress.

Listen to the writer of Hebrews 10:35-39 says about persevering in avoiding the things that pollute, “So do not throw away your confidence;  it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere  so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, “He who is coming  will come and will not delay. But my righteous one  will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

We all have flaws however it is in these flaws that God will be glorified. We will be kept humble. People will hopefully see Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life and become citizens of God’s kingdom.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How Do You Measure Your Goodness?

Some people are confident in their own goodness as a result they look down on others.

Two people went into a church, one of them a religious person and the other a poor person. The religious person started to pray and said about themselves: 'God, I thank you that I'm not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this poor person. I have a job, pay my bills and contribute to society.'

But the poor person bowed their head and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

It is this poor person, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Because everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled, and everyone who humbles themselves will be exalted.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Are All Religions Right?

In our culture today there is this accepted idea that all roads lead to God. There is this analogy that says all religions are like blind men feeling different parts of an elephant. As the blind men trying to determine what an elephant is like, one feels the trunk and says, “An elephant is like a snake.” Another feels the tail and says, “An elephant is like a rope.” Another feels a leg and says, “An elephant is like a tree trunk.” Therefore, the argument goes, they are all right because they are only seeing part of the truth.

The problem with this elephant analogy is that the person using the analogy is assuming that they themselves are not blind. They are basically saying, “let me tell you how all religions really work.” However this is an enormous and arrogant claim that requires near-omniscient knowledge. How would this person know how all religions work? Why should this person be exempt from the very analogy they are using?

Here’s the point. As soon as someone makes the claim that there are no absolute truths they have just contradicted themselves. To say there are “NO” absolutes IS an absolute.

Here is where the distinctiveness of Christianity stands out. Followers of Jesus don’t make exclusive claims on the basis of their own knowledge, but on the basis of Jesus’s knowledge. If he is the very Son of God, it is reasonable to trust what he says about the way God works. Why? Because he’s the only person that has been resurrected from the dead to eternal life, as is testified to by the Scriptures. If a person is going to make absolute, all-encompassing truth claims, they better have access to some source of knowledge that is absolute and all-encompassing. This is the very thing that sinful people lack.

Here is the question, who determines how someone can enter into God’s heaven?

Suppose there is this person who owns this amazing house and they invite everyone to come and live there. This house is free from all the problems that plague humanity. It is also the place where you can experience perfect love, peace and tranquility. When people begin to arrive they are stopped at the entrance and asked to change their clothes. Some people were okay with it however, some were not. Those that were not decided that they were going to enter the house their own way. Some try to dig a tunnel under the house and come up to the floor. Some try to enter the house through one of the walls that had no door. Some try to enter the house through the windows. Some even tried to enter the house through the roof. None of these ways worked and they were quickly removed from the property.

Doesn’t the person who owns the house have the right to determine how people will enter that house? In the same way, God is the one who determines how people enter into His heaven. And that way is through Jesus and him alone.

Here are a few of the truth claims to this reality.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6 (NIV)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” - Acts 4:12 (NIV)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, - 1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning From Modern Day Tragedy

On May 27, 2017, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma three teenagers dressed in black and wearing masks and gloves were killed by a resident when they broke into a home with the intent to rob the home. A fourth suspect, the alleged getaway driver, now faces first-degree murder counts in their deaths, authorities said.

The 23-year-old, the son of the homeowner fired the fatal shots from a AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

One suspect had a knife, and another carried brass knuckles.

The deceased suspects were 16, 17 and 19 years old.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, a 21-year-old woman, the getaway driver, planned the robbery.
Elizabeth Rodriguez was arrested on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary.

Oklahoma state laws say, that first-degree murder occurs if "any other person takes the life of a human being during ... first degree burglary."

One of the teens father said his son never did anything like this before. He was a good kid. Even his friends said they never saw him acted that way. Even if that is true he still lacked the moral fortitude to say no. His moral convictions were not strong enough to resist peer pressure. The desire for material possessions and peer pressure were greater than any moral fiber he might have had. This is a lesson for teens everywhere. Especially for those who belong to a Christian household. Beware of where others want to take you. To a stranger’s house. To a party were drugs and alcohol will be. Don't be entices with the lure of the where the opposite sex might be. Don't think to yourself, "I can leave if things get out of hand." You can't control the unstable person. Take these words of wisdom to heart.

Proverbs 1:9-19 (NIV)
[10] My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them.
[11] If they say, “Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
[12] let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
[13] we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
[14] throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse ”—
[15] my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
[16] for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
[17] How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
[18] These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
[19] Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Cup Of Tea

An elderly saint received a university professor who came to inquire about The Way.
The professor began to talk about all his ideas and opinions about life, religion and society.
As the saint served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” The saint said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you The Way unless you first empty your cup?”

Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that our “worldview” is so deeply embedded in our consciousness, in the habits of our lives, and in our social practices that to question one’s worldview is to question “reality” itself. - James Davison Hunt (To Change the World)

I remember when I came to Jesus. I was told the truth, my destiny was hell, eternal separation from God. I needed fire insurance. I've always had a sense of the value of my life, my existence. For the must part, as i grew up, i had this inner value of pricelessness about my existence. I didn't understand death but I knew life. The life force that animated me. Because of this I can remember, with a sense of purpose, avoiding some behaviors in the circumstances of living. For example, in my early teens some of the friends I hung around with one evening wanted to take acid. They tried pier pressure as soon as they saw me being hesitant. My inner thoughts at that moment were, I didn't want to have a bad trip that could permanently lead to bad trip episodes the rest of my life at random unpredictable times. How did I know that? I didn't. This was just one of those stories that floated around the teen social circles of my time. It was enough of a story, to me, that if there was a chance of that happening, my brain wasn't worth it. My brain is an important part of my existence. I think it was easy for me to believe in God because of the marvelous uniqueness of life to me. Was this view a result of a privileged life? That depends of your definition of privileged.

I grew up a military brat. My dad worked two jobs during my time living under his roof, till about the time I went into the Air Force at age 17. My parents socialized. There was always drinking and smoking cigarettes. No pot. Nothing really out of control. I'd say typical American social gatherings. Like barques on Indy 500 race day. Christmas party's with the neighbors. Halloween parties. Things like these. I was recruited to set up for these events.

To a certain degree, my dad was more absentee than present in my growing up years. My mom was a stay at home mom. Always there. But never did the helicopter mom thing. I had what you might describe as a very long leash. I hung out with whomever I wanted too. I could go where ever I wanted too as long as it was within my means. My parents argued out load but when I was in bed. I heard them.

My peers play a big roll in shaping my thought process which could also be described as cultures influence on my thought process about my interactions as a citizen of the nation I belonged to.
Believe me I did my share of stupid things but never to stupid where my life was in a position where I didn't have some kind of control over my body. Not every moment of my life was governed this way. There where moments that some would call luck and others might call intervention. I can't say one way or the other at this time. However, by some standards I was a good citizen.

I didn't have some sheltered lifestyle that inculcated this priceless value I put on life. We were not a religious family at all. So when someone came to me and told me about God, immortality of the soul and eternal life, I was open to what they had to say. To me, It was a means to an end. The preservation of my life forever and the avoidance of eternal death. This fire insurance was free. What really locked me in was once I was in I could never leave or get kicked out. I was sold. I said the sinners prayer. But this was a choice which foundation was selfish.

You see, I came to Jesus with a full cup not an empty cup. My lifestyle didn't really change other than the new moniker of Christian. This went on for awhile. Jesus was more or less a Genie in the Bottle for me. However, I was eventually taught the truth about what must take place to become a born again citizen of the Kingdom of God.

I'm not unique in my experience when it comes to having a gospel message that is presented as a means to an personal end. It's that gospel message that says, "Come to Jesus. He'll fix your marriage, your finances, your kids, your relationships. He will bring healing, find peace, joy, love, freedom, happiness."

Some people come to you just for the acquisition of knowledge.
Some people come to you just to argue.
Some people come to you looking for something new.
Some people come to you from a means to and end.

I came to Jesus for what he had to offer not for Jesus himself. As a result my Christianity was superficial. I know I'm not alone in this religious Christian experience. This resulted in me living with 1 foot planted in the world and 1 foot planted in the Christian culture.  

Karate Kid kind of illustrates the point.

I created a Jesus in my own image instead of the image we fined in Scripture. He was a Jesus that was OK with me sinning now and asking for forgiveness later. He was a Jesus that was wrapped in the red, white and blue and on the GOP's side of the political isle. He was a patriot for the American way. Instead of loving your enemy, He was Ok with killing your enemy. As a result of this Jesus,
I was like new wine being poured into old wineskins. It seemed like I was always patching up holes in my life. There came a time in my life that I needed to take the words of Jesus to heart. Where I needed to believe what was being said in the Scriptures instead of looking for ways to explain away what the Bible said. I had to empty myself of my preconceived ideas, the dictates of the institutionalized religions around me and believed in the perspicuity of the Bible. This resulted in a transformation of my soul and barriers being erected with friends that I called Christians. I went from a cultural Christianity to an authentic relationship with Jesus. A relationship that transcends culture. A relationship that puts me at odds with some people around  me. I took to heart what Jesus said in Luke.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:33 (NIV)

We must give up everything in order to become a follower of Jesus Christ. There must be a complete emptying of self in order to be born again. If this sounds like it’s more than just the sinners prayer, it is.

Are We Strangers In A Strange Land?

Did Paul or any other NT writer criticize the secular authorities? Did they speak out against the Roman Empire, Caesar or other secular government officials or secular political issues? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:12, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?"

Here is the concern about the topic of political engagement with the secular governments of mankind. When we read the NT, which informs us about how to live as a citizen of God's kingdom within the kingdoms of man. We don't see believers being told to speak out against secular authorities. However, we do see believers being told to pray for secular leaders.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. - 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world, it was from another place. Jesus didn't send the disciples out to convince the secular nations to conform to a Christian social ethic. He sent them out to invite all people from every nation into the Kingdom of God. To become citizens of a new kingdom that was not of this world. Who's King is from heaven.

The so-called leaders of the Christian community should speak out against things like abortion or sexual immorality but within the sphere of the body of Christ. As new believers come into the Kingdom they bring with them their secular views. They need to be taught that these views must now conform to a NT perspective.

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)

We are now strangers and aliens to this world. aliens and strangers in the world, ...  - 1 Peter 2:11 (NIV)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. - Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, - Philippians 3:20

Strangers and aliens don't go into another nation and tell them that must conform to their ways without adopting their King as their new leader. Believers are to live as ambassadors of Christ not as antagonist of secular governments. The NT informs us that Christians should live as model citizens within every form of secular governments. However, today Christians want to tell non-believers to conform to Christian values apart from becoming followers of Jesus. I just don't see anything like that in the NT.

Our business should be about the gospel of God's kingdom not secular kingdoms.
As believers, we are a nation unto ourselves.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, 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. -  1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Can Money Buy Love?

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. - Luke 16:9 (NIV)

When we agree to be apart of the New Covenant we become citizen of a new nation. This nation is the body of Christ, the Church. The supreme leader of this nation is Jesus. He becomes the leader of every aspect of our lives. Including all our material possessions; home, car, clothes, money, you name it. 

We find a great story that illustrates this verse in Victor Hugo’s "Les Miserables". Jean Valjean, the subject of the novel, steals a loaf of bread. As a result he spends nineteen years in prison and, when finally released, finds it difficult to escape his past. On one occasion, taken in by the kindly Monseigneur Bienvenue, he finds himself unable to resist temptation and, in the middle of the night, steals some silverware. He does not get far before being captured by the police. The next day he is brought back to the house to return the valuables. He is startled at the Monseigneur Bishop’s response. “Ah! here you are!” he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean. “I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons? My friend,before you go, here are your candlesticks. Take them.” He stepped to the chimney-piece, took the two silver candlesticks, and brought them to Jean Valjean. 

Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two candlesticks mechanically. Confused, he was like a man on the point of fainting. The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice: “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.” 

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he spoke them. He resumed with solemnity: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” 

This becomes the turning point in Valjean’s life, and the remainder of the novel traces the reverberations of grace in his life. When we read this account of mercy and compassion and see its impact in the recipient’s life, we see Jesus words put into action. 

The moral of the story is: Use possessions to serve people, rather than accommodating it for yourself, because you are only God's managers of anything you have. If giving your possessions away leads to the salvation of a single soul remember they're no longer your possessions. They belong to Jesus. A persons soul is more valuable then all our material possessions put together. The grip you use to hold onto them will reveal who the Lord of your life really is.

The Futility Of Thinking There Are Only Atoms

  Authentic Christian apologetics is not about defending a generic theism but instead defending Christian theism which is solely grounded in...