Saturday, July 30, 2011

Aiming High

I have heard, and you probably have too, a saying that goes something like this: "If you shoot for the moon and miss, you'll find yourself among the stars."  This is to say that aiming high and not achieving the goal still leaves a person fairly well accomplished.  Considering this idea, I contend that there are superstars among us.  Not only have some people aimed higher than anything else possible, but have found their mark and achieved their goal.  Those people who have found God have found the highest treasure, greater than the countless galaxies. (If there is anything higher than God, I dare someone to point it out).  And indeed, we know that people do not find without seeking.  So it follows that Christians are a group of people that seek and aim for things higher than the world itself.  Is it not fair to say that Christians are the most ambitious people on earth?  We have forsaken the world in pursuit of heaven!

In fact, I should say that some of us have discovered the secret: the Christian faith is not something that must be taken without question or blindly.  God is not a mysterious something that can't be known, and cannot be known to exist or not.  The truth is, and the secret we have discovered, that a person can actually find irrefutable proof that God is real, and not only that He is real, but that the book which describes Him is true.  Thereby a person can not only know that God is real, but also know who God is.  But how does a person find this proof?  Seeking.  I began this note by pointing out that those who have found God have found the greatest treasure possible, and that finding means seeking.  They are the people that shot for meaning in life - they were not satisfied with just the things of this world; they wanted more.  They are the most ambitious people, and so they sought.  When these ambitious people sought, they found.  We have found that secret.  We have learned the facts that give all existence meaning.

A person could meditate on this and come to the right answer as to the question of practicality - the means of seeking and finding.  Meditating is good, even necessary I believe, if a person is going to live a fruitful life.  But since I'm a generous person, and since I wish this secret weren't such a secret, I'll say exactly how a person can find this proof.  Reading is the answer.  Read books.  Start with the Bible.  Read books about the Bible.  Read books about other religions.  Read books by atheists.  Read books by apologists.  Read all these things and meditate on everything that is written.  Consider all the facts, test the logic, and study until you come to a reasonable conclusion about those universal questions.  But I will tell you this: Absolutely do not believe the lie that God cannot be known or proven real.  That is a flat-out lie.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christian Unity

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  1Corinthians 1:10

One thing is clearly taught by Jesus and the apostles, which hasn't been followed by most professing believers of the last few centuries, and that is Christian unity.  Why do churches put the name of a denomination on their church signs and not the name of Jesus?  And the teaching is so clear, but for whatever reason people put dividers between themselves and other Christians.  Read this, and all you have to do is change the names to make it speak to today.

What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul'; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."  1Corinthians 1:12

Well, there is one name among the four that should always be.  I'll let you take a guess as to what that name is.  Read how Paul responds to it

Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  1Corinthians 1:13

Tell me, how does it get more clear than that?  We as Christians are to proclaim the name of Christ and stay unified in mind and spirit.  The question for us is how we do that without sacrificing serious doctrinal beliefs.  Sure, we could achieve unity in mind if we all numbed our minds, ignored the Bible and theology.  That's one way to be ecumenical, but then we have committed a sin that's as bad if not worse.  So how do we unify without sacrificing serious beliefs?  The answer is the Bible and the Holy Spirit.  We must study the word of God, use it for correcting false beliefs, and make it the physical counterpart of the Spirit that we unify around.  The Holy Spirit is much more mysterious, as Jesus said of those born of the Spirit, "you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going."  There is nothing physical we can do to direct the Spirit, except maybe to pray.  But the Bible is the tangible counterpart of the Spirit.  We can take the word of God and teach each other until we come to agreement on everything that needs to be agreed on.  And in doing so we are not sacrificing serious belief, but actually fostering it, making our belief more serious and more heart-felt.

Does that mean that all real Christians will agree on everything?  Practically speaking, I doubt there is any amount of Bible study that could conform every true believer to every other on every single issue.  There simply will be some things we disagree on, like those topics in eschatology, or how exactly to interpret the first chapter of Genesis.  That is just something we will have to acknowledge, and we'll just have to forgive each other for being wrong.  I know I forgive people for being wrong a lot! (winks)  Its a whole lot better to have a belief, say on the nature of Jesus' second coming, and disagree with another Christian than to disregard the issue entirely in an effort to keep the peace.  We can keep the peace and still disagree some, right?  Its the fundamentals, the pillars of the faith, that we must agree on.  I like the saying 'what's plain is main, and what's main is plain', which of course is referring to the Bible.  If its a central teaching of the church of Christ, it will be plainly written there in the Bible.  And if a person, once shown the proof by Scripture, won't agree, then there's a problem.  But if its a disputable matter, grace and flexibility should be shown on both sides for the purpose of fostering unity in the church.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Death Is Not The End

The one single fact that we all know, and only the most foolish men ignore, is that everyone will die.  Accept it now and do not assume that you have one more day to live.  God said to the rich fool, "You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"  Those who foolishly store up wealth for themselves, focusing on earthly things, will be told like the rich man in Luke 16: "you are in agony".  This is what no man, no matter how rich or powerful he is, can escape.  God will have your soul.

What good is it to live a "full life"?  So what if you have fun, have lots of friends and make lots of money.  What good is it if your soul will burn in agony for eternity?

But don't despair!  Everyone is given the chance to know God, the Creator of the universe, by knowing His Son, Christ Jesus.  And heaven starts now for those who accept Jesus!  "I am the bread of life," said Jesus.  "He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."  Life starts when you accept Christ Jesus.  Life can only be had by the Son of God.  Life is something that all who experience it will tell you is beyond earthly description.  Jesus said: "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me;  anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."  It might seem harsh, but the reason He says this is because He gives life.  Those who are not willing to plunge head first into Christ are not worthy of the reward He gives.  That reward is beyond anything imaginable, thus it cannot be given to just anyone.  It is only given to those who give themselves - heart, mind, soul and body - to the Lord.  "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Become a loser so that you can be of the few that enter the narrow gate.  "Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Anyone that wonders exactly what he/she should do to know Jesus and live because of Jesus, I say read your Bible.  The truth is in the Bible, and only by reading the word of God can anyone know God.  Also, get on your knees with your face to the ground and pray.  Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance.  And ask that the Lord take you and make you His own.  Through prayer and knowing God's word you can live, because the Holy Spirit lives in you.  Death is not the end.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grace = Faith = Works = Salvation

Many attempts have been made to sum up salvation in an equation, though they have been mostly failures.  It cannot sufficiently be done, so I don't expect to succeed myself, but I figure I would put forth my own idea of an equation.  The worst equations are the simplest ones, and simplicity is the deficiency of equations, which is why no salvation equation will ever sufficiently cover it.  But it is important to point out the false ideas that have come from or led to these simplistic equations.  I'm talking about the 'works = salvation' and the 'faith = salvation' equations.  The Protestant churches will relentlessly rag on the 'works gospel', so there is no need to elaborate about that fallacy.  But the over-reaction to it leads to another fallacy, which gets little wind.  It is very important to make it clear that a person cannot be saved by faith alone, as James clearly puts it in 2:19.  And if you read the WHOLE of Paul's letters, you see that he also saw the necessity of faith and works.  What I want to point out, though most of all, is what Jesus said.  Jesus absolutely did not allow us to remove works from the equation, with what he said.  Some quotes from Jesus that prove that works are necessary:

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Matthew 7:17-19

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  Matthew 10:22

Then the man who had received the one talent came.  'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.'  His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.  Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  Matthew 25:24-30

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'  Matthew 25:41-43

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.  Mark 8:38

But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  Luke 12:45-46

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.  John 12:47-48

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.  These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.  John 14:23-24

Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  Revelation 22:12-15

We can see, as clear as day, that a person's deeds are closely tied to salvation.  To remove works from the equation is to deny the words of Jesus.  But does this mean that salvation is not based on faith?  Well, no.  This is why I came up with the equation that I did.  Our faith does not just happen on its own, but it is something that is caused by God.  I do believe that we all have the free will to accept or deny God, but it is also quite clear that the Scriptures teach predestination.  Both must somehow be true, as another paradox, of which there are at least a few in the Bible.  So I believe that faith in Christ is the result of God's grace, which is the first part of the equation - 'grace = faith'.  But faith, by itself, is not true faith.  True faith must result in works, so there's the second part of the equation - 'faith = works'.  And finally, as Jesus says in Revelation, we are judged by our deeds, giving us the final part of the equation - 'works = salvation'.

Grace = Faith = Works = Salvation

Maybe this doesn't sit well with some of my Protestant friends.  Maybe you were taught in church that even whispering "works equals salvation" is sacrilegious.  Well, if I'm wrong, then go ahead and show me how I'm wrong.  When I read the Bible I simply take it for what it says.  And the Bible says very clearly that a person is judged by their deeds and misdeeds.  That's not to say that the blood of Christ means nothing, but to say that the blood of Christ must wash us, or we have no place in heaven.

Do You Want The Good News Or The Bad News?

"Lets hear the bad news first."

"You are a hopeless sinner, blind to the truth, wallowing around in foolishness.  You are depressed and empty on the inside.  Everything you do is meaningless, and the lusts you chase after only end up hurting you more.  You are depraved and decadent.  You are unpleasant to those around you, and the one who made you won't even look at you.  You will die any day now, and when you do your punishment will be suffering eternally the wrath of God."

"Ok.  What is the good news?"

"It doesn't have to be this way.  Repent, and put your faith in Jesus!  Through His blood and His sacrifice you will be cleansed.  Through the indwelling of His Spirit your mind will be renewed.  Through His plan you have a purpose, and your life is meaningful to angels in heaven.  By following His decrees and learning from His wisdom you can overcome all temptations.  God created you and He wants you to be what you were meant to be - a prince or princess in His eternal kingdom.  By covering yourself with His righteousness you will be beautiful, radiant, pleasant and everything good.  And by trusting in God every step of the way your destination is eternal glory with God in heaven."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Church's Secret Weapon

The suicide bombers of Islam get much attention.  Its their great weapon against the non-Islamic nations.  And they are capable of killing plenty of people in one blow, as well as being nearly impossible to stop.  We saw that clearly September 11, 2001.  When someone is willing to die for a cause, its going to be hard to stop that person from causing something.

But Islam is not the only religion on earth that has such a potent weapon.  There is another weapon in the hands of another religion that is far more powerful.  Its a weapon that's similar but drastically different.  While suicide bombers kill people in an effort to terrorize into submission, Christian missionaries will sacrifice themselves in an effort to inform all people of the salvation in Jesus Christ, the only salvation for man.  And suicide missionaries have caused and will continue to cause a revolution in the world at an extent that clobbers anything Muslims can do.  Its a force, the truth, that Muslims will only understand after having succumbed to it.  When a Christian goes into a dark region of the world there is no fear in him, for while the body is in danger, the soul is secure.  And there in the darkness that man shines like a star.  What he speaks, the sword from his mouth, the sharp edge of Scripture, has a power that causes wonder and eager curiosity, not fear of man but fear of God.  The sword pierces through flesh to the heart of man.  We seek not to kill thousands but to convert millions.  And we'll do that at any cost, life or limb.  It is a suicide mission for many, but its the greatest mission and purpose man can have.  And we serve the King of kings, a fire going before us and behind us, a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.  It is one coordinated conspiracy from heaven to conquer the ends of the earth and nothing less.


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.