Saturday, January 31, 2004

Do you really believe God is doing a LOT of miracles today?

A Miracle by definition, theologically, is:
A Direct intervention of God's power into history.

First let me say that I think God is doing miracles today. Obviously not through any one man, but I don't think every little trial in my life God takes care of is a miracle. We have overused the word miracle and fit it to our daily lives so much that it's lost it's power.

Every little thing that happens to me isn't a miracle, it is providence.
Feeding 5,000+ people with 5 loaves & 2 fishes is a miracle. Parting the Red Sea is a miracle. Even when God heals a cancer patient that has received a negative prognosis, I believe that to be somewhat miraculous.
But God helping me through the death of a loved one, guiding me through school or helping me to recover from a "seemingly" impossible financial situation is comfort, it is providence, and it is help from the Lord, but not a miracle.

Obviously, this isn't an attempt on my part to belittle God or what He does in our lives but more to minimize the ever increasing role man thinks he plays in the Christian relationship. It wasn't about the children of Israel, though their pride got the best of them, it was about God's promises to them. It wasn't about Moses, though his pride is certainly a lesson in itself, but it was about God using someone that was unusable.
It's not about us.....it's about Him and His plan to rule our lives in the small things.

We think we are doing Him a favor when we say, "It's a Miracle!" But in reality we are depreciating all those daily wonders He continually produces, no matter how petty or piddling they are in His sight.

"It's a Miracle," when it really isn't, says God only works in the big things. I don't know about your life, but the biggest "miracles" in my life happen on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Grace and Truth

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

I feel a little sad for those that lived during the time of Moses. Surely the Old Testament sacrificial system must have left them feeling a little inadequate. Not that their sins weren't forgiven, they most certainly were. But each time an animal died, the blood reminded them of their sin. It reminded them of their mistakes. And when the Law was given, it had the same effect.

The Law was given by Moses. It was important. As Paul said, without the law I would not have known my sin. People need to understand that, but there was something that was more important: Grace and Truth. That was reserved for Jesus Christ. He was the One who had the highest honor. The honor to bring into the world Grace and Truth.

The law shows us how much we are sinners. It shows us how much we do wrong. It is negative. There is always something in the law that we will break because we are not perfect. We can never please the law.

But when Christ came to earth, He brought with him something that would be more useful to us. Grace and Truth. Not only can we use them desperately, we need them. They are a necessity.

Grace and Truth makes up for what the law lacks. The law sharply and unmercifully points out our sin. But Grace and Truth, the essence of what Christ is about, gives us the solution. The law doesn't attempt to help us or to give us a solution to our problems. It only points out that we have one. But Grace and Truth brings us the answer, that is Jesus Christ. He came to be merciful when it was unexpected. He came to give grace when it was undeserving. He came to give truth when it was unpopular.

When Moses came, the law reminded us of our sin.
And when Christ came, He not only became our Saviour, He brought with Him 2 companions: Grace and Truth, and with them all we find the Solution to our Sin problem.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Discipleship

1. Matthew 28:18-20
What does Jesus want every person of every nation to become? A Disciple.

Which is the more popular term -- disciple or Christian?

"Christian"
The word "Christian" only appears three times in the New Testament.
Acts 11:19-26 - It was the name those outside the church gave the disciples seven years after the church began.

The word "disciple" occurs over 270 times in the New Testament. Jesus defines the term disciple throughout his ministry.

Jesus came to make disciples. Only disciples will be saved.

2. Mark 1:14-18 (The Calling of the First Disciples)
"Come, follow me" (Christ).

"...I will make you fishers of men" -- Jesus gave these first disciples their real purpose for living.

"Immediately" -- the heart of a disciple is to follow Jesus right away.

3. Luke 9:23-26
"If anyone..." -- This passage refers to everyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus.

"deny [yourself]" -- Notice Christ in the garden (Matthew 26:36-39, "Not my will, but your will.") Be willing to obey God's will above your own.

Carry your cross -- daily.

Gain world ... forfeit soul. Lose your life for Jesus ... save it.

4. Luke 14:25-33
"If anyone..." Refers to everyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus.

Love Christ more than any person, or even your own life (v. 26).

Carry your cross (v. 27) -- This could mean suffering the same way Jesus did, from persecution to death.

Count the cost to follow Jesus (vs. 28-30).

Consider the alternatives (vs. 31-32).

You must be willing to surrender everything to God (v. 33).

5. Luke 11:1-4
Must learn to pray- disciples saw the strength Jesus received from the Father.

Daily personal relationship with God (v. 3).

6. John 13:34-35
Love one another.

Be an active part of the fellowship. People cannot see our love for one another if we do not spend time together.

7. Matthew 28:18-20
Command -- make disciples. Note that this command was given to all of them.

Who is a candidate for baptism? -- Disciples.

You need someone to disciple you to maturity in Christ (v. 20).

This is the only way to save the world!

8. Concluding Questions:
Am I a disciple?

Am I a Christian?

Am I saved?

What do I need to do to become a disciple?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Discipline

THROW away Thy rod,
Throw away Thy wrath;
O my God,
Take the gentle path!
For my heart's desire
Unto Thine is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
But by book,
And Thy Book alone.

Though I fail, I weep;
Though I halt in pace,
Yet I creep
To the throne of grace.

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed;
For with love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love 's a man of war,
And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can 'scape his bow?
That which wrought on Thee,
Brought Thee low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away Thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,
Thou art God:
Throw away Thy wrath!

-George Herbert


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Sola Scriptura? - Christian History

There's no question that the Bible is at the very center of conservative Christianity in America. When tough legislation limited access to the Bible in our public schools, Christians sought creative ways around the wall, legal prosecution notwithstanding. When translators set out to "modernize" the Bible's gender language, conservatives kicked up a storm. When lawmakers removed a Ten Commandments monument from a courthouse, Christian protesters mobbed the scene.

All of this activity hearkens back to the Reformation tradition of Sola Scriptura—the belief that the Bible should be the ultimate authority for the church, trumping all human traditions. For many conservatives, this authority is not only unquestioned within the church, but extended beyond the church to society at large. The dream of some evangelicals is a country—perhaps some day even a world—where every moral and political question is submitted to the Bible, which will provide answers both obvious and immediately applicable.

Friday, January 16, 2004

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD HAS BEEN NATURALLY IMPLANTED IN THE HUMAN MIND - Calvin's Institutes

1.The character of this natural endowment

That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service. Certainly, if there is any quarter where it may be supposed that God is unknown, the most likely for such an instance to exist is among the dullest tribes farthest removed from civilisation. But, as a heathen tells us, there is no nation so barbarous, no race so brutish, as not to be imbued with the conviction that there is a God. Even those who, in other respects, seem to differ least from the lower animals, constantly retain some sense of religion; so thoroughly has this common conviction possessed the mind, so firmly is it stamped on the breasts of all men. Since, then, there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, this amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart.

Nay, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact. For we know how reluctant man is to lower himself, in order to set other creatures above him. Therefore, when he chooses to worship wood and stone rather than be thought to have no God, it is evident how very strong this impression of a Deity must be; since it is more difficult to obliterate it from the mind of man, than to break down the feelings of his nature, - these certainly being broken down, when, in opposition to his natural haughtiness, he spontaneously humbles himself before the meanest object as an act of reverence to God.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

IN A DISUSED GRAVEYARD

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
"The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay."
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can't help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

--Robert Frost

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Forgiveness vs. Fear

Don't confuse the forgiveness of God with the fear of God. When making mistakes, we sometimes toil over whether God will forgive us.

The good news for you is that forgiveness is already settled. What we are pleading for from God is not as much forgiveness as it is mercy and peace from chastisement.
Like a chlild that says, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again," knowing that their parents are about to punish them. Is that "I'm sorry" a plea for forgiveness or a plea for mercy? We would do anything as a child to get out of punishment, even if it meant lying.

Let's call it what it is. It is a plea for mercy and as Christians we need to understand the difference. When we ask for forgiveness as Christians we aren't asking our sin to be forgiven as it was at salvation otherwise we would be asking to be saved again. So that's not it. No, we ask for forgiveness but we really mean we want restoration and peace. Many times we are not so much upset over being forgiven as we are at the thought of punishment.

When Christ was on the cross and the sky turned dark, and He said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me," what was He referring to? He was referring to that separation from God that was caused by the sin...our sin...that was laid upon Him; that sin that caused the Father to turn His head. It is sin that separates and when you die in your sins that is exactly what hell is, separation from God. And though as Christians we have been freed from that death, there is still a death in our bodies: an inclination to sin that continually separates us from God.

It's funny, we spend so much time putting off God, being busy with other things but when we realize how separated from Him we really are, we cry out, "Where are you God?" And His answer is always the same: right where I was when you left me. I haven't moved."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Forgiveness

When we sin or mess up, it takes us a while to come to God, but not necessarily for forgiveness. We probably ask for that not long after the act has occurred and the Holy Spirit has convicted us. Just like when we wrong another person, we feel the need to apologize over and over again and eventually, once a certain amount of time has passed or a certain number of apologies have been given, we feel the relationship is restored and things are back to normal.

Unfortunately we do this with God also. When we sin and ask for forgiveness, we still hold on to the fact that we messed up and it kills us that we aren't perfect. It hurts us deep down to know that we are wrong. Call it pride, call it whatever, but because of this, we feel unworthy to come to God.

"I can't pray anymore. I don't deserve to ask anything of Him. I am not a good servant for Him. I messed up" etc. And all the while God wants us to move on, we are still thinking about the fact that we were wrong and that we messed up. So we keep apologizing or asking for forgiveness until time has passed or WE feel God has forgiven us. Notice what I said: WE determine when we are forgiven. Isn't that a kicker.

We can't handle the fact that we messed up so to put us back in the driver's seat of our life, we control when we are forgiven by not coming to God when we should. Even though God is the One forgiving and we are the one asking, we somehow feel the need to determine when and where that forgiveness or restoration will take place. We are basically saying that, "I am not ready to let God help me move on yet. I will let Him restore our relationship when I feel it is time." But the problem is that that is not our decision to make.

We won't enter His presence or ask for something because of what we've done. We feel unworthy. That is our 2nd mistake.
Our 1st mistake was thinking that we were worthy in the first place, sin or no sin. We are no more worthy before sin than we are after we sin. God is perfect and we are not and we need to deal with that.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?

How many people ask that same question: Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?

- More people ask it than would admit. In fact, many Christians or even so-called Christians are deluded by believing that they live a Godly life. Yet all during the week when the Holy Spirit draws them to God, they say, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice," and then go about their merry way.

- Maybe they don't say it out loud, but they say it with their lives.
As Satan put doubt in Eve's mind, "Hath God really said...," so it is with us.

-Did God really say this and if He did, should I do it?

- If you question God or His motives, as did Moses and the people, when He is drawing you then you are not where God wants you. You are not at the point where you are ready to serve God. You are not where you think you are.

*Pharoah was right. He didn't know the Lord. A lot more people live like Pharoah and pretend to be Moses.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Jesus said, "It is good that I go away."

We dream of what it would have been like to walk with Jesus. To follow Him as He fulfilled God's plan for the world. The disciples got to experience this first hand and through an emotional ride that was about to culminate in His death. Jesus tells them that, "It is good."

"It is Good?"

"Are you kidding? How can it be good for you to leave? We can see you, we can touch you, we can ask you questions and you are there when we need you. How can anything good come out of leaving?"

Apparantly, Jesus knew something we didn't. Apparantly, this Comforter of which He speaks must be some kind of help. Can anything be better than having Jesus in the flesh right by your side?
Apparantly, according to Him, there is. He is called the Comforter. Do you know Him?