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Monday, December 28, 2020

What Does Being Mature Look Like? 5 Steps

 


For most of us that have been around awhile we come to realize it takes a long time to grow up—not only biologically, but mentally, to mature

Here's the good news: unlike other species, we are not restrained by our instincts alone. We are able to learn from our parents, our experiences, our culture and the bible.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” - 1 Corinthians 10:11

Here's the bad news: Nobody matures without effort. It doesn't happen naturally. It takes a lot of hard work. You have to read the bible.

But what does it mean to be "mature?"

There are five characteristics of maturity. If you work to possess them all, you will have a happier, deeper, and more productive life in Christ.

One: Self Control

You had no choice when you were born, or where you were born, or who your parents would be. But with each year of childhood you grow. With this growth you develop more of capacity to chart your own course. Society and destiny play a role, however, you can cultivating your ability and willingness to make your own decisions, expands your ability to influence how your life unfolds.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

The only way to achieve maturity is to take charge of your life. Nothing strengthens you as much as exercising that control. Refusing to act, waiting to be rescued and seeing yourself as a victim are sure signs of immaturity and a lack of growth.

Two: Taking Responsibility.

This comes at us in two ways.

The first way is simply to acknowledge that you’re responsible for what you do. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Don't make excuses and don't blame others. This is an easy thing to say, but we all know it's very hard to do however, a mature person does it. A mature person takes responsibility.

Second, is the willingness to take on commitments and fulfill them. For example, I got married and took on commitments to my wife and children. I have ethical obligations to my friends and my work, even on days that I might not feel like it. A mature person doesn't see commitments as burdens but as something we willingly accept and see through to fulfillment.

Three: Managing Emotions.

We should never ignore your emotions, but you have to learn to manage them. One of the responsibilities of parenting is to help our children manage their emotions. They don’t know how because they are immature that’s why we are their maturity for a season. Like children immature people lash out at their boss or their coworker or others if something doesn't go their way, or argue with their spouse when they come home, or turn to alcohol or drugs or kick their dog because of a rough day.

Maturity can be measured by how much anxiety we can tolerate without acting out inappropriately against ourselves or others. Mature people express their emotions in the right place, at the right time, in the right way. Profanity is a sign of acting inappropriate.

“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.” - Ephesians 4:29

We are emotional beings, but we should never let go of the steering wheel; that is, we need to learn how and when to manage our emotions.

Four: Having Perspective.

An immature teenager will regard a pimple as a catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius or will regard rejection by a girlfriend or boyfriend as the end of the world. Maturity comes from putting disappointments into perspective.

The reason we forgive children and teenager's overreaction is because we understand it's probably the first time it's happened. But life's disappointments don't stop when you turn 21. Far from it. Disappointments of every variety, great and small, happen throughout life. The mature person learns from them and gets stronger each time they recover. This kind of mature thinking is best expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Perspective also means that when we are upset with someone dear to us, we have to put that negative experience in the context of the entire relationship. Immature people demonize a friend or a relative they are upset with, and forget or ignore all the love and good experiences they once had. Mature people see the whole picture—not only the good, and not only the bad.

Five: Deeper Understanding.

This takes the concept of empathy to a higher level. Beyond tuning in to another's feelings, this is about comprehending the ways in which another's ideas and behaviors make sense to them. You don't have to agree with that person, but you need to be able to get inside their thinking. You need to understand why they believe what they believe.

A good way to do this is to repeat what a person has said back to them. "Is this what you meant?" If they say "yes it is," then you know, and they know, that you've reached a deeper understanding. This kind of understanding, by the way, is indispensable to achieving true intimacy. It explains why the mature person is able to have more intimate relationships than the immature person ever will.

Taking control. Taking responsibility. Managing your emotions. Having perspective. Achieving deep understanding—these are five characteristics of maturity.

Together they can lead you to a deeper and happier life in Christ and with others.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." - Galatians 5:22-23

 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Overseers Need to be Sentinels

 



"....They keep watch over you as men who must give an account..." - Hebrews 13:17

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” - James 3:1

Being an overseer in the body of Christ is not for the weak. It’s a hard position to maintain. It is imperative that it is done in the strength of the Lord.

How does He supply that strength? First through His word. Second through the Holy Spirit. Third through other brothers and sisters in Christ who are Christ first followers.

All of these must be accessed on a daily basis. The word is foundational and a sure measurement of all that is God’s will. The Holy Spirit illuminates and confirms what the Scriptures teach. Brothers and sisters in Christ, who are also committed to following these first two principles will come alongside and encourage in our moment of doubt and weakness. If not, things will drift south and you won’t see it coming and once you’re there a certain comfort level will begin to solidify. You will begin to listen to compromised brothers and sisters’ voices.  It will no longer be about Jesus first and His will be done but it will be our will be done in Jesus name.  

What will it look like? People will begin to compromise God’s will as it is revealed in scripture. They will justify these compromises by viewing scripture through different lenses that distort its original intent.  

In today’s societies these lenses are things like standpoint epistemology. This perspective argues that knowing what God’s will stems from someone’s social position. We also see the lenses of Social Justice being used to interpret scripture. This usually manifest itself through a particular political ideology such as Marxism. Another lenses that gets use from leaders that have drifted south is Critical Race Theory. This lens interprets scripture through people groups and the pigment of their skin. You can recognize it by terms like “white evangelicals” or “black theology”. This one is closing associated with standpoint epistemology lens.  All of these lenses are nothing but the wisdoms and philosophies of this world to justify twisting God’s will for the body of Christ and humanity. They undermine the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture so that sin may prevail. All of this results in people playing fast and loose with the body of Christ.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, RIGHTLY HANDLE the word of truth.” - 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

Paul did not mess around when it came to the body of Christ. He knew that the body of Christ and the individuals in each body were carrying the reputation of Jesus Christ. The protection of this reputation, therefore Jesus, was his main priority in his epistles. People in overseer positions today are people pleasers first, God followers second. They turn a blind eye to the condition of people’s souls they are supposed to care for and look past FALSE DOCTRINES and UNRENTENT SINS being proclaimed and even glorified, such as, teaching God is a She or sexual immorality (that is any sexual activity outside a heterosexual marriage) is ok, supporting the murder of the unborn is acceptable as long as my political candidate wins. Listen to Paul as he speaks to the body of Christ and to Timothy.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is SEXUALLY IMMORAL or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man DO NOT EVEN EAT. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “EXPEL THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOU.”- 1 Corinthians 5:11-12

"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are CONTRARY TO THE TEACHING you have learned. KEEP AWAY FROM THEM" - Romans 16:17

“By rejecting this (Paul’s instructions), some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have HANDED OVER TO SATAN that they may learn not to blaspheme.....But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and THEIR TALK WILL SPREAD LIKE GARGRENE. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened (FALSE DOCTRINE). They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord DEPART FROM INIQUITY” - 1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:16-19

The truth, as it is revealed to us in the Bible, is sometimes hard to confront and accept especially if it means confronting people you know. That’s why good leaders in the body of Christ put Him first and His will before their personal comfort. They understand that they will have to give an account of themselves before God one day.

You Want Heaven but Not Jesus?

 



Most people want heaven but they want it their way. True love does not force itself on you. True love must come from a free will. Either we have free will or we do not. If we don’t, we're just moist robots. If we do have free will than love can occur.

This is one of the reasons evil exists. Free will exist so we can love however we can also use our free will to choose evil.

Then the question is asked, "If Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but by me, then isn't that forced love?" Since there is no other choice am I not force to choose Jesus? For example, if I'm a train going to hell, not choosing to be a sinner but I just am by default. I didn’t chose this train.

All true, however God would not be loving if He didn’t provided a way to get off that train. That way off is Jesus. However, if you don't want that way off, you're free to reject it. It's your prerogative. No one will force you off that train.

God wants you off it. He loves you but remember love will not force you to love back. That is why we have free will to either chose His loving offer or not chose His loving offer. So, here's the real question. "How many different ways do you need to get to heaven?"

The reason Jesus is the only way is because he's the only one that can solve humanities problem. What is the problem? Not only is God loving, which is what everyone likes to hear about, however He is also just. Not only is he just but perfectly just. Which means He cannot let law breakers go unpunished. The bible uses a word for breaking the law - sin.

"Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." - 1 John 3:4

It also tells us that everyone has sinned, you, me, everyone.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," - Romans 3:23

That’s the problem, we all stand-alone before God guilty of sin, breaking His law, like: lying, stealing, cheating, lusting, coveting, idolatry, sexual immorality, greed, hate. You get the point. The list can go on and on. No one is without sin. No one has done God’s will perfectly. And because we are all guilty before our Creator, we must be punished for the law breakers we are. And that punishment is eternal separation from Him in spiritual prison after we die, and we are all going to die, in a place the bible calls Hell. Not a pleasant place. Imagine prison but a 1000 times worse.

Now this is why Jesus came voluntarily. God became flesh and was able to live a perfect life. A life we could have never lived. A life without sin in thought, word, or deed. He came to stand in our place, for all of humanity, before the judgment seat of God's perfect justice. He freely chose to be punished on behalf of humanity sins so that we could chose to get off of that train going to Hell.

"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his patience he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." - Romans 3:25-26

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -  Romans 5:8

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God..." - 1 Peter 3:18

Some might say, "But I don't want to choose Jesus and he's going to punish me for that choice?"

You are not punished because you reject Jesus. You are judged and punished because you are a law breaker, because you sinned. Here is an example. Do you die because you do not go to the doctor? No, you die because of the disease you have. Now maybe by going to the doctor you might prevent dying. Just like going to Jesus the great Physician you can escape eternal death. However, the reason for your final destination is eternal death is because of sin and you refused to cure.

That's your choice.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live," - Deuteronomy 30:19

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Book of Ecclesiastes: Is Life Really Meaningless?

 



Book of Ecclesiastes

This book has two voices. First there's the teacher. He’s the critic. He's the main voice in the book but he is introduced to us by another figure the author and he's the one who's collected the critics words and then at the end of the book summarizes everything and gets the final word.

The Teacher is more like the sharp middle-aged critic and he says, “You think using wisdom will bring you success. You'd better think again because life here under the sun is meaningless.”

That's a phrase used a lot in this book but to understand this book we have to realize first that we're hearing two voices. So why does the author wants to hear from the critic? He wants to turn your view of the world upside down and he's going to let the critic explore three really disturbing things about the world and these are intense.

The first is the march of time. The critic says, “Generations come and generations go but the earth, it's been here long before us and we'll be long after. No one remembers people from long ago and all the people yet to come. They too will be forgotten by those who come after them.”

On a cosmic scale, you and I, we are just blips. Stars are born and then they die.  Planets that orbit new stars, well, those planets they change over time and eventually burnt up. The Teacher admits this cosmic backdrop, “My entire existence is like a blink in time.”

This leads to the critic's second disturbing observation that we are all going to die.

Humans face the same fate as the animals. Death, all people, the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, those who offer sacrifices to God and those who do not, they all share the same destiny. All this activity and madness, then we all join the dead.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” - Hebrews 9:27

This book is depressing. The final disturbing thing for the critic and that is, life is random in nature.

In the book of Proverbs, life isn't random. There's a clear cause-and-effect relationship between doing the right thing and being rewarded. However, the fact is that life doesn't always work that way. The critic has observed a glitch in the system. He calls it, Chance, or in his words, “The race doesn't always go to the Swift nor the battle to the strong nor does food always come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the educated.”

Time and chance happen to them all. His point is that you can't really control anything in life. It's just way too unpredictable. If I want to master life then you're setting yourself up for a fall.

Now throughout the book, the Critic uses a metaphor to tie together all of these disturbing ideas.

Nearly 40 times he says that everything in life is "Hebel". The primary root of this Hebrew word means smoke or vapor.  Like smoke, life can be beautiful and mysterious. It takes one shape and before you know it takes a new shape. Smoke looks solid but if you try and grab it, it will slip right through your fingers. When you're stuck in the thick of it, like fog, it's impossible to see clearly.

Now our modern translations usually translate "Hebel" as meaningless but if you read closely the critic isn't just saying that life has no meaning but rather that its meaning is never clear which leads to a sense of meaningless. Like smoke, life is confusing. Because of Sin, humanity see’s life in a fog. That’s why Jesus came. To bring people out of the fog so that we can see life clearly. To see Him clearly.

Because of Sin life is disorienting and uncontrollable. What are we supposed to do with all of this? Surprisingly, the critic first of all acknowledges the perspective of the book of Proverbs. He says it's a really good idea to learn wisdom and to live in the fear of the Lord.

Didn’t he just said that doesn't guarantee success? However, he knows God has given us an inner witness that we all have that God exist. Ecclesiastes 3:11 “…. he has put eternity into man’s heart,” Because of this, it's the right thing to do but secondly and more often he says that since you can't control your life, you should stop trying.

We need to learn to hold things with an open hand because you really only have control over one thing and that's your attitude towards the present moment. Stop worrying and choose to enjoy your Creator, a good conversation with a friends and family or the Sun on your face or a good meal with people that you care about. The simple things in life.

Yes, both the good things and the bad because both are rich gifts from God and that's the surprising wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Listening to the critic is painful and can lead you into some dark places. That's why the author speaks up at the end of the book.

He doesn't want you to lose hope. He wants to make you humble. He wants you to be someone who trusts that life has meaning in God even when you can't make sense of it. He wants you to see that one day God will clear the “Hebel” and bring his peace and carry out justice on all that we've done and so he tells us that the proper response to all of this is to fear the Lord and keep his Commandments.

Because of all the things that we experience in this life there is truly only one clear constant and that is our Creator and His word. For us today this has been revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

That's the book of Ecclesiastes.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Do You Really Believe That Good and Evil Exist?

 Do you believe that good and evil exist?

Some people would think what a silly question to ask of course  good and evil exist. However, how do you know?


The answer to this question separates Christian values from secular values.


For example: murder.


Is murder wrong? Is it evil? Nearly everyone would answer yes. But now: How do you know?


I am sure that you think that murder is wrong. But how do you know?


If I asked you how you know that that the earth is round, you would show me photographs from outer space, or offer me measurable data. But what photographs could you show, what measurements could you provide, that prove that murder or rape or theft is wrong?


The fact is...you can’t. There are scientific facts, but without God there are no moral facts. I would even argue that we can’t even have scientific facts without God. But that’s a discussion for another time.


In a secular world, there can only be opinions about morality. They may be personal opinions or society’s opinion. But only opinions. Every atheist philosopher I have read on this subject has acknowledged that if there is no God, there is no objective morality.


Christian values are predicated on the existence of a God of morality. In other words, only if there is a God who says murder is wrong, is murder wrong. Otherwise, all morality is opinion.


The entire Western world – what we call Western Civilization – is based on this understanding.


Now, let’s make two things clear.


First, this doesn't mean that if you don't believe in God, you can’t have morals. There are plenty of kind and moral individuals who don’t believe in God and Christian values. But the existence of these good people has nothing – nothing – to do with the question of whether good and evil really exist if there is no God. Because the Bible teaches us humans are created in the image of God and part of that image is a conscience. So whether you acknowledge Gods existence or not you have a sense of right and wrong because of this conscience God gave us.


Second, there have been plenty of people who believed in God who were not good people; indeed, more than a few have been evil – and have even committed evil in God’s name. The existence of God doesn't ensure people will do good. I wish it did. The existence of God only ensures that good and evil objectively exist and are not merely opinions.


Without God, we therefore end up with what is known as moral relativism – meaning that morality is not absolute, but only relative to the individual or to the society. Without God, the words “good” and “evil” are just another way of saying “I like” and “I don’t like.” If there is no God, the statement “Murder is evil” is the same as the statement “I don't like murder.”


Now, many will argue that you don't need moral absolutes; people won’t murder because they don't want to be murdered. But that argument is just wishful thinking. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao didn’t want to be murdered, but that hardly stopped them from murdering about a hundred million people.


It is not a coincidence that the rejection of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world – by National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazism) and Communism (Marxism)– led to the murder of all these innocent people.


It is also not a coincidence that the first societies in the world to abolish slavery – an institution that existed in every known society in human history – were Western societies rooted in Christian values. And so were the first societies to affirm universal human rights; to emancipate women; and to proclaim the value of liberty.


Today, the rejection of Christian values and moral absolutes has led to a world of moral confusion. Where you have people calling good evil and evil good. Even among so-called leaders in the Christian community. 


In the New York Times, in March 2015, a professor of philosophy confirmed this.


He wrote: “What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun? Would you be surprised? I was.”


The professor then added: “The overwhelming majority of college freshmen view moral claims as mere opinions.”


So, then, whatever you believe about God or religion, here is a fact:


Without a God who is the source of morality, morality is just a matter of opinion. So, if you want a good world, the death of Christian values should frighten you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Is The Church Asleep?

In the book of Acts 2:17 Peter an apostle told the crowd a verse out of the book of Joel, a prophet of Israel.

Joel 2:28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

This act of God was not done in some kind of haphazard way but done intentionally and only to those who believed in Jesus as Lord. This act of God were He sends and gives and fills people with the Holy Spirit is still happening today. It seems though it’s mostly in the lives of individuals but not on groups of people as a whole. 

I believe God wants to pour out His Spirit on all people, but the CHURCH IS ASLEEP. Why? Probably the must visible reason is people no longer want to practice excellent biblical hermeneutics but filter the reading of scripture through the wisdoms and philosophies of this world, such as political ideologies, or standpoint epistemologies or cultural zeitgeists. You can notice this when you here phrases like this, “This is what Jesus means to me….” In other words, this is how I create Jesus in my image. This is of the world.

Hear what James says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity (hatred) against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God… “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:4,6-7)

Today the church is not on fire for God, but it is lukewarm at best. Listen to John an apostle what he has to say to the church, “I (Jesus speaking) know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Rev 3:15-18)

Many in the church are deceived and blinded by the schemes of the devil. Jesus warned that Satan will use people to deceive us, especially people that slap on the moniker of Christian or Minister. He said, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. (Matt 24:24)

Church leaders have hardened their hearts which in turn effects the people they are supposed to shepherd have harden hearts. They tolerate false doctrines within the body. They tolerate willful sinful behavior within the body. These leaders are more concerned about being liked than the conditions of the souls of the people they are supposed to shepherd in Christ. They are sin coddlers and false doctrine tolerators. They no longer follow the scriptures lead. It’s no longer about Jesus’ standard for the church but self interest in Jesus name.

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

 As a result of this compromise, wickedness has gotten a foothold. Jesus said, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” (Matt 24:12)

I ask you to seek God with all your heart. Grow close to God. Wake up from your slumber.

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12)

God wants to pour out His Spirit but we all need to wholeheartedly turn to God and pray and seek His face.

Even though these verses were for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, the principle of it can still apply the body of Christ as a whole. “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. (2Chron 7:14)

Our prayers are the bowls of incense in heaven.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Rev 5:8)

What is the condition of your heart toward God? Not the God of your making but the God of scripture.

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...