Thursday, June 30, 2011

Young Believers

To all my brothers and sisters younger than myself, saints of the Lord Christ Jesus, and princes and princesses in the kingdom of heaven

The God of heaven has ordained you to be a blessed generation.  You will be better, stronger, smarter than those who came before you.  But as of now we are all weak.  The journey has just begun, and there will be many hardships along the way.  Do not stop following God!  Do not be wearied by everything the world throws at you, which is Satan at work.  Take comfort in the hope and strength that comes from God.  Your life will be sustained by the word of God.  Read the Bible, understand it, and live every day by what it says.  You, and all the rest of us, will fly by the pages of Scripture, for 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'  This is your strength; cling to God's word.

The name by which you were called is Christ Jesus.  Ignore divisions, along with their particular names, in the church.  You were not called to be loyal to a denomination, but to be loyal to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Proclaim the name of Jesus and do it proudly.  Its because of Jesus that you will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Listen to your King: "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."  With that, keep your identity as a Christian, and just simply a Christian.  Do not mix your identity with denominations, because even the very idea of denominations in the church is wrong.  Denominations are a thing of the past, something for people to argue over, but should be considered completely meaningless by you.  If you argue, argue over something that has meaning, not the things that are trivial in the kingdom of God.

To the young men
Take charge!  Do not let your age hinder you from growing in Christ and strengthening those around you.  God will work through you, because the future of the church depends on you.  Do not let those older than you look down on you.  Do not lose confidence because of your age.  The positions of authority may not belong to you, but that should not diminish your influence.  Look at those around you, who you can build up in Christ for the purpose of building up the church.  Look at the massive open door the Lord has set before you.  Use the internet!  God has given you the opportunity to change the world with a keyboard.  Use the Bible; teach it to everyone you know.  Do not consider yourselves boys but consider yourselves men.  Act manfully.  Do not shy away from the truth because of what people will think of you.  It only matters what God thinks of you.  Just as God entrusted Adam with the law to teach it to Eve, you have been entrusted with God's word to teach it wherever appropriate.  Gain whatever knowledge and wisdom you can from older men, but always put your faith in God and learning directly from God's word.  And teach what you know.  If you find yourself in a disagreement with another man over God's word, do not think its wrong to debate or argue.  But do it with respect if it is a brother in Christ.  And be mindful and considerate when debating with nonbelievers.  Do it for God's glory, not your own.

To the young women
Act as ladies.  Be supportive and submissive to the men in your life.  Do not be contentious or quarrelsome.  Let your beauty shine, the beauty of 'a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight'.  You are specially gifted as being loving and nurturing.  Use those gifts.  Take every opportunity to show tender kindness and encouragement to those around you.  You are princesses in the royal courtyard of the High King of heaven and earth.  Do not forget that, and act accordingly.  Act in a way that brings your Father in heaven glory.  Do not forget that you are worth much to God.  Your worth is not in how attractive you are, or how much attention you get.  Live with confidence in the value you have in God's sight.  Live as a warm and loving person.  Do not build barriers between you and other believers, but trust those in the church.  Trust the leadership of the men in your life, which now is probably your father, but in the future will likely be a husband.  Do not marry a nonbeliever, or you will be placed in a very difficult position.  In everything, think first of what God wants for you, His daughter.  And give Him praise and honor with the reverence of your life.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matthew 6:1-4

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

At the core, this passage is dealing with the motivation for our actions.  Why are we giving to the poor?  Is it to honor God, or is it to honor ourselves?  Are we doing it to help those who need it, or are we doing it so that people will think we're good?  Jesus makes it clear that 'acts of righteousness' mean nothing when they are done for public recognition.  So when we give to the poor we should try to keep the fact to ourselves.  Only if someone does something like that in secret is it then done for God, because God knows of every good and bad thing we do.

This does not, however, mean that we should shy away from righteousness, or that we should avoid appearing righteous.  If it happens that you do something good, and that something cannot be hidden, then pray that God uses that to inspire others to do good.  The passage really is dealing with our motivation.  So, if someone does something simply for God, but in practice its impossible to keep it hidden, that is still what Jesus is asking for.  And if you look back to Matthew 5:16, you see that Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men that they may see our good deeds and praise the Father in heaven.

In each circumstance we should discern whether it is proper for us to keep something hidden or let others around us know.  Either one may be the right thing to do.  But we must always check our motives.  If you do something for your own honor, then you will have no reward from God.  If that is your motive, then your deed is nothing more than the deed itself.  But if you do it for God, those receiving the benefit of your charity will also see your reverence.  They will give God honor and thanks, because you are a servant of the Lord.  And you will feel much more at peace in your soul.  You will feel the love of Christ, and it will make you want to do more.  Recognition is absolutely unnecessary for doing good.  Just know that God sees you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have found that meditation is very useful.  Its the key to understanding difficult things.  And, as a Christian talking to other Christians, I have to say that its practically necessary.  I highly encourage my brothers and sisters to meditate a lot.

Lets first define meditation.  In movies we're presented the picture of some eastern monk sitting with legs crossed in an uncomfortable position, and other ritual stuff.  It all looks very different and interesting, and that's probably why those scenes are in movies, but that's not what meditation is.  Meditation is simply thinking something over.  Its using your brain to ponder universal truths which are not very prevalent in everyday life.  Its analyzing something in detail with the purpose of understanding reality.  And there is the key word: purpose.  It has purpose, unlike the scenes you see in movies, where there is no purpose of the meditation other than looking cool and mysterious.

Meditation is something that everyone at some point has done.  Its synonymous with deliberation, but its meant to deal with the deeper meanings of things, whereas deliberation is dealing with the practice of everyday life.  We deliberate over what we do in a situation, but we meditate over what we do for our whole life.  So its no less practical than deliberation, but its certainly less common.  And meditation is something that can happen in most any setting.  You can meditate on your bed late at night.  You can meditate while you're on a long drive.  In fact, meditation usually happens when there's not much going on and nothing pressing on the mind.  That is when your mind is free to wander and free to contemplate deep truths.

It is very good for a Christian to free up their time and use it to meditate.  You cannot think about God without meditating, and thinking about God is something that should happen often for the Christian.  You cannot meditate when your life is busy and your mind is occupied with earthly wants and worries.  So that cheesy saying that's in some movies, 'free your mind' is, in some sense, true.  What's not true, found in the eastern philosophy, is the idea that meditation is aimed at emptying the mind.  Meditation is the exact opposite: Its the filling of one's mind with a deep understanding of universal truths.  To do that one must empty their mind of trivial things.  And that happens most often when a person has nothing to do and nothing to worry about.  This is one reason Jesus spoke so often about giving up life's worries, wants and riches.  The spiritual man is the man that is free to think about God and God's word often.  That man may be poor in earthly riches, but he is rich in heavenly riches.  That man meditates often, even when he's doing something normal, his mind is probably somewhere else.  His mind is probably occupied with thoughts of eternal things.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jesus First

"Going to church doesn't make you any more a Christian than going to the garage makes you a car."  -Laurence Peter

If you put your confidence in your church or your pastor, you have a false confidence.  Your pastor cannot save you, and neither can your church.  Most pastors today don't even preach directly from Jesus' teachings.  They preach a watered down message, mostly using the epistles, particularly Paul's letters.  See if I'm not right the next time you hear a sermon preached from the pulpit.  It will most likely be from one of the epistles, and it will be a thirty minute sermon based on 3 or 4 verses.  Its rare for a preacher to actually preach the things that Jesus said, and obviously these are the central teachings of Christianity

You can't do Christianity without the words of Christ

Before we learn anything else, or teach anything else, we need to know and understand what Jesus said in order to be His disciples.  The gospels need to be our primary focus.  I'm not saying we ignore the epistles - obviously we shouldn't - but the real core and power of Christianity is in the gospel accounts.  If we had to choose between epistles and gospels, gospels would certainly be the right choice.  We don't have to choose, but we do have to get the most important part right - that being Jesus' words, mostly found in the gospels.  And, if your faith is not based on the fact that you know and understand Jesus' words, then you have a false sense of security.  Open your Bible and read.

This is what angers me most about supposed Christian churches, besides them not even calling themselves Christian but going by a denominational name.  Churches and preachers teach and preach things that are either false, not completely true, or watered down.  By doing so they are leading many people into a complacent Churchianity.  Its not Christianity, and the people in the pews are even at risk of eternal damnation.  The worst part about it is that they don't realize it.  Its a deception that tells people they are saved when in reality they aren't.  And from thinking they're saved, they make no effort to actually become saved.  From the faith put in pastors and denominational churches, millions of people are not seeking to find the truth and salvation from Jesus, because they think they already have it.  Make no mistake here: If your preacher is not preaching the words of Jesus, coming directly from the red letters, then he is not preaching Christianity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are We Christian Enough To (Literally) Fall For Jesus?

Whenever I read scripture I always enjoy placing myself in the position of one of the characters.  I like to imagine what the scene was like, how people felt and so on.  In a way, it makes the stories more real and meaningful.  I know that sounds sappy but try it sometime, you'll see what I mean.

One of my favorite stories, and one of my favorite characters, that I enjoy relating to is Eutychus.  You may or may not remember this brief story, nestled in Acts, so I'll go ahead and quote it here:

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.  Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.  There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.  Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on.  When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.  Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him.  "Don't be alarmed," he said, "He's alive!"  Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate.  After talking until daylight, he left.  The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

To me, this story just oozes with realness.  There were important things to be discussed and not enough time, so what did they do?  They talked late into the night.  When talking about the word of God, its not hard to go late into the night.  And this story condones staying up late, for the right reason of course.  That's one thing I like about it, because I'm a habitual late sleeper, and there's a proverb or two that kick my butt every once in a while.  Its also real because here we see the first time a preacher put someone to sleep, and this was Paul!  So preachers today, or congregants, shouldn't feel too awful bad about an occasional church nap (not that I'm trying to encourage it).  And what a typical young man, sitting on the edge of a three story drop-off.  Now I know that I'm not the first to do stupid reckless things.  And how typical of Paul.  As we can tell from his letters, and from the rest of Acts, Paul loved to preach.  It really should make us reconsider our rigid, 30 minutes for a sermon, church structure.  All in all, what I see in this story is a most real, most genuine church gathering.  It wasn't in a fancy building, but probably in whatever building they could use.  It wasn't at a specific time or dictated by a time structure.  They gathered together in a manner that worked for them.

The other thing I love about this story is the love for God's word that these people display.  A willingness, and even a desire I imagine, to spend all night talking about God.  They were probably under no obligation to stay there and listen to Paul, Eutychus included.  But they did.  Eutychus even stayed to the point of falling asleep, and falling out the window.  If put in a similar situation, would we want to stay and listen to Paul all night?  Would we stay to the point of falling asleep and falling out the window?  I pray that we would have the love and desire to hear God's word no matter how late it is, and we can trust the Lord to fix us whenever something happens, like it did with Eutychus. 

What Kind of Revival?

I am very pleased to hear the word 'revival' being passed around by my brothers in Christ.  The idea is a great one, as it always is.  And now, about as much or more than ever, we are in need of revival.  Not the nation, as in the United States, so much as the churches are in need of revival.  The Roman Catholic Church is full of problems, which I don't need to go into detail about, and the Protestant churches are.. well... just dead.  I've heard it suggested that we could be on the verge of a third (or possibly fourth or fifth) 'Great Awakening'.  But, before we go trying to imitate history's great revivals, I think we need to consider carefully what a lasting revival will look like.

The first question we need to ask is: Why do we keep having these great awakenings?  We hear about the awakening part, but every awakening is preceded by a falling asleep.  Wouldn't it be better to simply have never fallen asleep?  For Protestants the Great Awakening (pt1 and 2) seem be a topic of pride.  We will hear about how things dramatically changed in England, with bars being shut down overnight and so on.  But I feel that there should be no such bragging rights.  We, as churches, have fallen asleep over and over.  To talk about the waking up part is impossible without admitting the falling asleep part.  And that we have awoken more than once?  In reality, with a long term view in mind, its not a good thing.  So it seems that the revivals of the past have not been very deep nor lasting.  I think this could be partly because of the speed of them.  What good is rapid change if that change is only superficial?  Its actually much worse.  Rapid superficial change causes the illusion that actual change has happened, thus demotivating people from actually changing.  And when talking about revivals of the past we always end up talking about how a city or region was dramatically changed overnight.  If it was overnight, then the change only seemed to be dramatic, but it wasn't deeply rooted change nor lasting change.  I think this is why history has given us revival after revival.

So why keep repeating history?  If we are going to have a revival, and I pray we do, then we must make sure to do it right.  I seriously and wholeheartedly ask my brothers and sisters: Let us not attempt to do a revival like the past!  Lets not get caught up in the things that are easily visible, and thereby sell short redemption to a few feel good signs.  Jesus says in Luke 17:20-21 "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."  What we should expect, instead of the quick fixes, is a long hard-fought battle.  We must build up the roots of people's souls, and not concern ourselves about the external things.  The kingdom comes on the inside, so it doesn't matter how good or bad the outside looks, the kingdom is present only if its on the inside.  Its going to take a long time too.  The revivals of the past would happen over a year or two and everyone would be all excited, but then only five or ten years later would be going right back to sleep.  A true revival is more like a steady surge, constantly and slowly growing.  And if we have that, a true revival, with Christ becoming deeply rooted in the hearts of men, then we won't have to have any more of them.  Honestly, I would like to have one revival, and after that, no more.  Waking up and falling asleep over and over is just not my style.

So that's what I wanted to say, or more precisely warn: I think we will have a revival, and I pray we do, but its not going to look anything like the revivals of the past.  And that's a very good thing.  We need more than just a typical revival, we need an overpowering flood, constantly keeping us drenched in God's word.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sharing the Faith with Others

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matthew 28:19-20

The first thing we must do to fulfill the great commission is to evangelize.  You can't make a disciple of Christ without telling others the good news of Christ.  Of course not everyone is meant for this work.  We are all meant for some kind of kingdom building work, but not everyone for evangelism.  However, it is not hard to do, especially now with the internet.  So here are a few of my ideas for effective evangelism and beyond.

Know your target audience
I don't mean that you have to know each person you evangelize personally, but it is good to know general stuff about the demographic you are trying to reach.  In different cultures, certain words and actions are considered offensive.  There's no reason to be more offensive than need be.  Or if you're talking to a young person, making a Brady Bunch reference might not work too well.  Paul, when he was talking to the Athenians, made reference to an inscription of theirs, because he knew that would connect with them.  So it is always important to have a general knowledge of the people you're talking to, to be able to effectively convey the truth.

Be efficient
Sometimes people think its a good idea to focus on one or just a few people, befriend them and then share the gospel with them.  They call it "relationship evangelism".  I call it inefficient.  Consider the parable of the sower and the seeds.  He threw the seeds out indiscriminately and liberally.  Some of the seed fell on good soil, but most of it fell on bad soil.  Our tactic should be the same.  We should throw out the gospel wherever, whenever and however works best.  This is also why I like the use of internet.  Social networking sites make it easy to evangelize efficiently.  Try posting key verses on page walls.  Or tag you friends in a note or picture that contains the gospel.  Make friends with as many people as possible, or set up your own page to work from.  Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever else you can find.  Reach people however you can and you are sure to get some, just like the good soil, that will want to hear more.

Be prepared
When you share the truth of Jesus Christ with people you are going to get objections.  Learn as much apologetics as your time and head will allow.  Know of resources that you can refer people to.  Keep a list of good books.  Put a list of urls to good websites on a document.  Or maybe have sections of argumentation on documents that you can copy and paste.  But the key is to use every advantage and be prepared for every bit of opposition.  If an evangelist is an apologist also, and knows his stuff, he can breeze through the opposition, because then its not hard.

Have ambition and passion
Those who keep their eyes on the big picture - the finish line - will accomplish their mission.  Always remember that your goal is a big one.  There is no such thing as doing too much.  There is no such thing as being too passionate about evangelism.  Jesus says in Mark 8:38 that He will be ashamed of anyone who is ashamed of Him and His words.  So just let go of any shame you have and go for it!  Your destiny is heaven and the work you do is God's work, so what does it matter what people think?  Just keep focused and commit yourself to God's kingdom. 

And beyond
Always always make sure to connect people as much as possible.  If the person or persons you're evangelizing take an interest, get them connected to as many Christian people/sources as possible.  Follow up.  Our goal is not simply to tell others about Jesus but to make disciples of Jesus.  We must remember to follow the second part of the great commission, which is to teach them everything that Jesus commanded.  Scripture posting, Bible studies, helpful resources and so on.  Get them to like your page or become friends with other Christians.  Get them connected to the Christian community as much as possible.  Evangelism is only the beginning.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Imagine This

Imagine a Church that is strong, is sharp, and is actively carrying out Jesus' commands.  Imagine a Church where everyone is cared for; where everyone knows and understands the truth, and everyone is filled with passion and the Spirit.  Imagine a Church that people are tearing down the doors to get in.  Or a Church that is so influential in the world, everyone from politicians to pop-stars look to it for direction.  This is a brief description of what the Church of Jesus Christ should be - what it is meant to be.  President Ronald Reagan once called the United States a 'shining city on a hill'.  Long before him, Jesus Christ said: "A city on a hill cannot be hidden".  The shining city on a hill is not the United States, its the Church of Jesus Christ.  Without it, the whole world would be in darkness.

Clearly, the city on a hill has not been shining as brightly as it is meant to.  At this point I've heard many people say it's hopeless and the end must be near.  They don't see things getting better but only worse, and its not hard to understand why people say that.  But I know that they are wrong.  Just now, when it seems to be getting worse and will continue so, is actually one of the biggest turning points in history, possibly second to the resurrection only.  The Church is about to go from dim, dull and weak to being the biggest, brightest and strongest that its ever been.  I don't know how long it will take exactly - probably more than a couple decades - but I do know that it is beginning to happen.  I pray that your imagination is running wild now, as it should be.

Rather than talking much about what it will be like, I should talk about how we will get there.  The Spirit of God is the obvious answer, and it is certainly true, but I want to be more specific.  God has given us a huge opportunity.  I have come out and said already that the internet is the best thing to happen to Christianity since the printing press.  I'll take it a step further and say its even much better than the printing press.  Christianity thrives on words - the ability to communicate.  Think about it for a second.  What good do the buildings do?  How many converts have been made by cushy pews or a fancy sound system?  I'll venture to say none.  While the Church has become fatter in the wallet, and more comfortable, the essentials of the faith have been neglected.  What are those essentials?  Bible study, prayer, encouragement, edifying speech, singing praises, defending the faith with arguments and making converts with evangelizing.  Don't you notice that all of the essentials of Christianity involve hearing, reading, writing or talking - communication of some sort?  And does the internet not improve our ability to communicate?  It does, by probably a factor of 10x.  We could pay tens of thousands of dollars to send someone overseas to tell people about the truth.  Or, we could spend the same money and equip at least a dozen disciples to tell people about the truth using the internet.  We can make friends with people on Facebook.  We can make videos to put on YouTube.  We can invest in apologetic research, discipleship training and whatever else.  But what we should do, most of all, does not involve money one bit.  We should study our Bibles and sharpen each other on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  This is how the Church will become strong and mentally sharp.  And this is how we will uncover and destroy all lies and half-truths.  Think of these social network sites as a party.  If one person is jumping up and down, the building will stay practically still.  If everyone at the party is jumping up and down, its going to be one rockin party - literally.  The same is true for Christians on the internet - the more active we are, the more we gain from each other (and a much better party).  So we should all endeavor, as Christians, to add and receive as much knowledge, encouragement, ideas, etc from one another as possible.  I'll sum it all up in one verse.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be Filled!

Christians have a tendency to talk about all the evils and wrongs a person should not be doing.  We preach and teach about morality a good bit, and how a person should live their life.  This is a good thing, but by itself is absolutely worthless.  Being rid of evil, pride and worldly desire does us no good if we fail to realize one very important thing.  What do we replace it with?  People will always have desires, so what should a disciple of Christ desire?  People will always be proud of something, so what should a Christian be proud of?  People will always be doing something with the time they're given, so what should we be doing?

We must be filled.  We must be filled with heaven.  We must be filled with love for God.  We must be filled with pride in the kingdom of God.  We must be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Consider the meaning of this passage: When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.'  When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. (Luke 11:24-26)  If this man had filled his house (his being) with the Holy Spirit, then the evil spirits would not have been able to return.  The basic point is that there is no such thing as an empty house.  We can sweep the house clean - we can get rid of all the evil in our life - but if we don't replace it with something else, all of that evil will come right back.

Now one thing that really bugs me is when someone talks about the Holy Spirit or some other heavenly thing in a way that doesn't connect to reality.  In other words, is very mystical and unpractical in speaking about heaven.  I said that a person must replace the evil in their life with the Holy Spirit.  The obvious question that follows is: How exactly does a person do that?  It starts by trusting God, which means that a person prays for God to do it to them.  Reading the Bible is the another necessary action for knowing God, and thus becoming holy.  We know that reading God's word is how we can have spiritual life because Jesus tells us: Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " (Matthew 4:4)  I've pointed out these two things, Bible reading and prayer, before as the essential things a Christian must be doing.  Now I wish to point out one more thing: serving.  Serving Jesus by strengthening and expanding the kingdom of God.  This involves many different actions; there are many ways to strengthen and expand the kingdom, and not every person is meant to do the same thing.  But everyone is certainly called to serve the Lord in whatever way they can.  This is what we are commanded to do (Mat 28:19), and this is also important for gaining spiritual life.  We know this because, once again, Jesus tells us so: "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work..." (John 4:34)  We too will eat food from God if we do the will of God.  Our own service to the Lord will sustain us and make us able to continue.  This is why some are obsessed with their own service in the kingdom of God, and its absolutely a good thing, provided that we are earnestly doing it for God.

My whole point is this: Rather than focusing so much on what we should not be doing, we should focus more on what we should be doing.  When we are praying and reading our Bibles, and meditating on God, sinful thoughts do not enter the mind.  When we are spending our time doing whatever we can to further the kingdom of God, we are not spending our time doing something sinful.  When we desire the kingdom of God, and God's glory throughout the earth, we lose desire of earthly things.  The best defense against Satan is a rapacious offense.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.