Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WHO IS THE MAN IN YOUR MIRROR?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God transforms us into the image of Christ. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation! 

If you are in Christ, the image you should see staring back at you in the mirror is Christ. Your sins, your past, your failures, everything that you hate about yourself has been undone at the cross.

 Positionally, you are righteous. The Holy Spirit empowers you to grow into that righteousness practically. When God sees you, He sees Christ, you must also learn to see Christ in the mirror. 

How much of Christ others see in you is up to you and how much you surrender to the will of the Father. Who is the man in the mirror - the man in the mirror is Christ! Now go live as Christ and give the devil hell!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES - MIDWEEK BIBLE STUDY BEREAN BIBLE CHURCH

What follows is a Bible study I am leading at Berean Bible Church in Knoxville TN. If you are in Knoxville and do not have a church home, we would love for you to join us.  I will add to this post each week until the study is completed.  I hope it is a blessing to you!  Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the comment section, I enjoy hearing from readers.  God Bless

WEEK 1
AUGUST 16


JAMES


The book of James is possibly the first New Testament epistle. Many believe the book was written as a rebuttal to Paul's message of hyper-grace and see James as the antithesis of antinomianism, a doctrine mistakenly attributed to the Apostle Paul. Antinomianism is basically the belief that once salvation is secured by faith, believers are exempt from any moral obligations of the law. Paul did not teach this, in fact, Paul clearly taught against this idea: Romans 6:1-2 - What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
This epistle cannot be a rebuttal to the teachings of Paul because in Acts 15 we see the Jeruslem council headed up by James concluding Gentile believers were not required to observe Jewish Law.

Who is James – General consensus is James was the half brother of Jesus. A very small number of people attribute this writing to the Apostle James the son of Zebedee, the brother of the John. This James was martyred early in the life of the church. According to Acts, James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
Clement, a first century contemporary of Peter and Paul named James the brother of Jesus as the “bishop of bishop's, the bishop over Jerusalem.” We find Clement mentioned by name in the book of Philippians: Philppians 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Jude mentions that he is a brother of James in the opening line of his epistle and we find a list of Jesus' brothers in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, we see a list of Jesus' brothers with both James and Jude mentioned. Interestingly, James' name is realy Jacob, but anglicized by the tranlators of the KJV.

The salutation is written specifically to the 12 tribes of Israel in the dispersion. The dispersion took place shortly after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8 mentions the scattering of the Jewish believers. Peter's epistles were also directed to the scattered Jewish believers and also dealt with some of the same themes as James. There are some who believe the epistle is written to Tribulation saints due to the mentioning of the 12 tribes. We do not see a complete mentioning of the 12 tribes of Israel after the Babylonian captivity until the 144,000 Jewish evangelists drawn from the 12 tribes found in Revelation. The parallels to Matthew 25 also lead some to this conclusion. We will look at these parallels as we look at James' instructions for taking care of the poor.

Though many misinterprate the purpose of this epistle, the generel purpose is to show how beleivers ought to behave in response to salvation.


  1. V. 1 – As stated above, James is writing specifically to the believing Jews dispersed among the Gentile nations. In the first century, the dispersion was a factor of 2 events. First, the Jews who remained abroad after the Babylonian captivity but maintained their faith and observed the holy days in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost, many of these foreign Jews became believers and went back home with their new faith. The other factor of the dispersion was after the stoning of Stephen, many believing Jews fled Jerusalem for fear of the Jewish leaders. I believe this letter is written primarily to the first group while Peter seemed to be writing primarily to the second group.
  1. v. 2-3 – By the nature of these Jews professing faith in Jesus, they became double outcasts in their homeland. Already, they were excluded from much of public life because they were faithful Jews living in pagan cultures and now, upon returning home, they would have no longer been accepted in their Jewish communities. Sadly, much of the persecutions experienced by these new converts would come from friends and family.

As believers, we are living in a world governed by a philosophy opposite of what we are called to live by. We are called to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us and to put others first. Often the others we are called to put first are people who are opposed to what we believe and people who, in a worldly sense, add no value to our lives. By nature of our living in opposition to this world's methodology, we often find ourselves facing hardships that unbelievers do not normally encounter. These hardships serve as trials. What does a trial hope to accomplish – it proves or disproves a matter. In our case, it hopefully proves our faith and as verse 3 indicates, creates steadfastness. The word for trial is pirasmos meaning to put to proof and the word for steadfastness is hupamone meaning hopeful constancy. So the idea we get is that we will suffer hardship as a method of proving our salvation and teaching us a constancy of faithfulness regardless of our circumstances.

When we learn of a man who is able to look over the rail of a ship at the depths where his children lie at the bottom of the ocean and he is able to pen the hymn It Is Well With My Soul we meet a man who has been proven through hardship and found constant in faithfulness. This is the kind of faith we want to find in ourselves.

WEEK 2
AUGUST 23



Last week, we looked at the background on James and his purpose and time of writing. We also looked at the first 3 verses. James is writing to the Jewish believers who are scattered among pagan Gentile nations. James starts off his epistle discussing hardship. Being a stranger in a strange land among those of strange customs can create a plethora of hardships and trials. James encourages these believers to not only expect trials of many kinds but to look at trials as a blessing from God meant to strengthen faith. James continues on this theme as we pick up verse 4.

  1. V.2-4 – The trials we face test our faith and as we are tested, we are strengthened. Trials sometimes seem like they are tearing us down but if we stand firm in our faith through the trial, we will come out on the other side stronger and more equipped to serve.

It is in trials we learn what we are made of and we discover the strength of God. D.L. Moody was a powerful evangelist of his time but it wasn't until he lost everything in the Great Chicago fire that he finaly came to the end of himself and truly learned to rely on God. After losing everything, ministry and home, in the Great Chicago Fire, Moody traveled to New York to attempt to raise money to rebuild. As he walked the streets feeling completely hopeless and abandoned, he sought out God. Many would have given up and pursued a different course of life, maybe even denying God existed. Moody felt an irrisistible desire to seek God in prayer. He hurried to the home of a friend and asked if there was a room he could use to be alone in. The friend led him to a room upstairs and it was there, as Moody sought God without distraction that he felt the overwhelming presence of God. Moody's life was completely transformed from that point on. His ministry focus and effectiveness expanded immensely.

Going through a terrible trial led to complete surrender and receiving supernatural strength. It is when we realize how much we need God that we tap into our greatest source of strength.

  1. V.5-8 – This passage has a double application: first, God wants to bless us with wisdom. God wants to bless us with wisdom. Wisdom is freely given to us with only one condition, which is the second application of this passage – we must belive what we pray for! If we ask God for wisdom, we have to believe that He can give it to us.

Where we need to be careful with a passage like this is that we cannot go beyond what is stated and apply this to whatever we ask God for. This is one of the passages that the prosperity preachers use to destroy people's faith. This passage is speaking about asking specifically for wisdom, not health, wealth or prosperity. God will tell us no when we ask for things outside His will – not because we did not exercise enough faith or because we did not believe enough.

Notice also the danger of doubting God – it leads to instability. We deonstrate unbelief when we choose to ignore His commands and choose to live according to our own desires. Saying I am a believer but living like an atheist makes for a very unstable life.

Tying this into the first verses, we can see that when we are going through a trial, it is good to ask God for wisdom on how to handle whatever it is we are going through. Whether it is someone you trusted coming against you or a financial setback or a health issue, God wants us to go to Him first, not as a last resort.


  1. V. 9-11 – whatever state you are in will not remain forever. The lowly will be exalted in resurrection and the wealthy who rely on wealth in this life will be brought not have any of that wealth at the judgment. This life, in the grand scheme of things, is fleeting. Even in the sense of human history – 6000 years of recorded history, what percentage of that is the human lifespan? Average life expectancy is 76 -81 years, depending if you are a man or woman. We only live just over 1% of history, now imagine what that looks like compared to eternity...

The point is if you are of low estate, you should not despair because, as a believer you will be exalted and glorified at the resurrection. If you are wealthy you must be careful to not fall into the trap of the rich young ruler who could not follow Christ because of his love of his wealth.

  1. V. 12 – this ties everything previously to trials. The weak will be exalted in the Lord and the wealthy had better not rely on or trust their wealth to get them through a trial.

By coming through a trial, having trusted God, we find our faith, having been tested, genuine and therefore, we know we will one day receive the crown of life. The word for trial, or temptation, depending on your translation, is pirasmos meaning proving through adversity.

Our faith is not tested during good times, it is easy to trust God when life is good. It is in times of adversity and trouble that we truly get a glimpse of what someone has inside.

  1. V. 13-15 – This passage deals specifically with the depravity of man. We do not need any external prodding to sin. Yes, scripture is clear that we do come under spiritual attack from the enemy. Jesus was tempted by Satan and part of the armor of God is the shield of faith used to ward off the fiery darts of the enemy.

During the millennial reign of Christ, there will be no Satan to tempt mankind into sinning, yet there will be sin because of man's sin nature. Isaiah 65:20 There shall be nor more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the transgressor being an hundred years old shall be accursed.

Isaiah 60:12 For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.


Not only will there be personal sin, but national sin as well. In fact, the nations that do not come to worship in Jerusalem will receive no rain: Zechariah 14:17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain

WEEK 3
SEPTEMBER 6


James 1:16-27

    1. v. 16-17 – This passage contrasts our sinful nature with the goodness and consistency of God. As we saw in the previous verses, win is something that comes from within ourselves. From us, comes evil and sin, while from God comes everything good. Even the good we do, we do by the empowerment of God.

The second part of this passage is one of my favorite descriptions of God – no variation or shadow due to change, in the KJV it says, no variableness nor shadow of turning. This means God is consistently good. There is no shadow or hidden dark places when dealing with God. God is light and his light illuminates darkness and no darkness emanates from Him. We can trust fully in God's goodness and love and in His unchanging quality. God does not change His mind or waver in His promises. We can trust Him all the way into martyrdom if necessary.


  1. V. 18 – First fruits – Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 15:23, is The First Fruits. This is demonstrated by the resurrection itself. The third day after Passover, the Israelites were required to observe the festival of First Fruits where the very first harvest of the barely was brought to the Temple as an offering to the Lord.

In fact, the first month of the year was delayed if the Barley was not ready to harvest. Because the Jewish year is on a lunar cycle, they do not have a leap day but a leap month. When the Barley crop is harvest able, the New Moon is declared the first month and 15 days later, Passover is observed. 3 days after Passover, the first of the Barley harvest is brought to the Temple and dedicated to the Lord.

On the third day after Passover, Jesus rose from the dead and became a literal First Fruit offering in anticipation of our resurrection and being gathered in to heaven.

God does the work in our redemption.

  1. V. 19-20 – We are to be very careful how we respond to others. It's been said we have 2 ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak. Even in criticism, we should be slow to respond. I remember reading about a minister who used criticism as an opportunity to evaluate himself. If he found some truth in the criticism he would act on it and if not, he would disregard it. This minister always thanked the criticizer for causing introspection.

None of us are perfect and sometimes it is good for us to receive loving instruction. Pride causes us to get our dander up.

To spout off in anger is a dangerous thing. How many times have you had to apologize to someone saying, “I did not mean it, I was angry.” the only problem with that is scripture tells us in Luke 6:45 – Out of the abundance of the heart, a man speaks So, what we say in anger is often something we have been thinking.

Being slow to anger also spares us much grief. A hothead will have a very difficult time bearing a good witness. The Bible has harsh words for those who get angry easily: Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Jesus had plenty to get angry about in His earthly ministry. Only 2 times do we see Jesus act in anger. Once when He drove out the money changers from the Temple and once when He cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Both of those events made a powerful spiritual statement and both of those stand out because they were rare occurrences. Had Jesus been a hothead, running around angry all the time, the lesson in both of those events would have been lost and He would have been disregarded.

We must choose our battles and overlook offence. Many times what we perceive as an offence was not meant that way. Better to go to someone and discuss an issue rather than blow up.


  1. V. 21 – Remember, the society many of those James was writing to was overrun by paganism. Paganism lends itself to debaucherous behavior. As Jews living in pagan lands, most would not have been participating in sinful behavior but younger generations may have drifted from the faith of their parents. We see that generally happen, when a group emigrates to another land, the next generation will assimilate to the culture. When the English Separatists fled England for Holland in the 1600's, the assimilation of the younger generation into the sinful culture of led many of the Separatists to leave for the New World on the Mayflower.

We live in a very sinful culture and unfortunately, the culture seems to shape the church far more than the church shapes the culture. Though we may not actively participate in the sin, we inadvertently support and promote it with our entertainment dollars. When scripture tells us to put away those things, I believe we are also being cautioned about our choices of books, movies and television shows.


  1. V. 22-25 – This is all for nothing if we just read the word, see areas of our lives that need worked and then go about life as if nothing is amiss. The biggest problem with the witness of the church today is millions of people calling themselves Christian and living like atheists. I wonder how many in churches on Sunday morning would like to give testimony about what they were doing on Saturday night.

We cannot continue to ignore God's word and expect to have any relevancy in the world around us. We cannot continue sowing to the flesh and expecting to reap the fruit of the Spirit. So often people who are living outside God's will ask why life is a struggle. Things cannot go well spiritually if we are busy serving ourselves and ignoring God's instruction and leading in our lives.

We cannot continue doing the same foolish things over and over and expect a different outcome.

We have to be in the Word, we have to learn the Word and we have to do the Word. If we are not in it, we cannot learn it and if we do not learn it we cannot do it.
  1. V. 26 – this ties in with the verse about anger, being slow to speak. If we cannot learn to control our tongue we will be terrible witnesses. Thinking about the impact your words will have should help you decide if those words are worth saying. If you want people to respect you and your faith, you cannot foolishly utter every word that pops into your head. Proverbs 17:28 says even fools appear wise when they are silent.

  1. V. 27 – serving others and living obediently towards God is the marks of our faith. This seems pretty simple and yet, we like to come up with all these proofs and evidences that allow us to be able to determine if someone is really saved.

Serving those who have no voice or power. This places us in a place to receive no reward here on earth because the poorest and the weakest do not have a means to reward you or benefit you. We need to be willing to serve in ways that are not noticed or beneficial to ourselves.

Widows and orphans are among the most forgotten. The Jewish leaders of the time were very flashy and flamboyant in their service to God and did what benefited them and built up their prestige. James is telling the followers of Christ to be the opposite of that.

Also, serving God does not give us a license to sin or entitle us to indulge our flesh. The more you serve properly, the easier it becomes to crucify the flesh. Galatians 5:24-25 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


WEEK 4
SEPTEMBER 13


JAMES 2:1-13

  1. V. 1-7 - As we look at this passage, we recognize that partiality is sin. Remember, this letter was written to Jewish believers who were dispersed among foreign pagans and non believing Jews. The wealthy in those cities would almost certainly be pagans or Jews who were able to assimilate well into the society. The believing Jews this was written to would most likely be economically challenged. There is a human tendency to be infatuated with wealth and power. James is warning these believers to not give in to that natural tendency but to remember who the wealthy really are and how they got their money.

By showing partiality based on economic or social status is foolishness. A person should be measured, as Martin Luther King said, by the content of their character. I have met jerks who are rich and jerks who are poor. I have met super nice rich people and super nice poor people. I have met some really down to earth famous people and I have met famous people who expected to be treated special. If we begin to judge people by the clothes they wear or their social status we will miss out on meeting some good people and we will waste time catering to people who will waste your time and cast you aside.

The language used by James describing the rich is culturally specific. We, in the West do not experience this type of situation. This may be something experienced in some Middle Eastern countries. Here the rich and powerful may disparage Christianity more and more but we do not see the level of maelevolance experienced by those to whom James is writing.

  1. V. 8-11 - If the law for us is to love our neighbor and we mistreat someone because they are poor or offer no value to our lives, we are violating the law. We do not have the liberty to sin in some areas and not others. We cannot pick and choose what things we obey. If we are to live under the OT law, we must keep it all.

When we meet those who insist we keep the Sabbath or dietary laws, remind them that they must also not cut the hair on the sides of their heads and that they must also keep the Sabbath years and Jubilee years. If you want to live under the Law you have to keep it all or as soon as you violate one point, you have violated it all.

One question I constantly get is about my tattoos being against the Bible. I begin to go through the list of forbidden foods and hair on the sides of the head being cut and this opens the opportunity to share the Gospel.


III. V. 12-13 – The Law of Mercy is what we are now under in the age of grace. If we do not exercise mercy, we will not receive mercy. Remember the parable Jesus told about the man who was forgiven a large debt yet imprisoned the one who owed him money. It did not go well for the man who was initially forgiven. If we truly understand the grace and mercy we have received, we will extend that to others as well.

WEEK 5
SEPTEMBER 20

Chapter 2:14-26


Last week we looked at showing partiality and obedience to the law. This week we will look at one of the most difficult passages in scripture, balancing salvation by faith alone with the need to bear fruit as a believer. It is in this passage that we must be very careful to not place the cart before the horse. It is this passage, along with the greeting in capter 1, that has led some to believe this is written to the Tribulation saints – specifically the 144,000 Jewis evangelists found in the book of Revelation.

  1. V. 14 – Taken alone, this verse would lead us down a very dangerous path. Scripture is subject to interpretation by scripture.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


If we take the James passage to mean that works are necessary to salvation, we will find ourselves in direct contradiction to the Apostle Paul who said specifically salvation is not of works. It cannot be both, it has to be one or the other. So, if scripture clearly teaches that we cannot be saved by works and faith in Christ alone is sufficient for salvation – what do we do with a verse like James 2:14?
We look at it in context.


  1. V. 15-18 – What James is saying is that our faith will bear fruit and be demonstrated by service to God if it is genuine. If I claim to believe something but never act on that belief, what good is my belief.


I may believe the food in my refrigerator can sustain me but if I do not act on that belief and starve to death, what kind of faith is that?


There are people who believe Jesus is the son of God, yet they choose to serve the enemy or reject God outright.


Misotheism is hatred for God born out of the belief that God is apethetic to evil and that though all powerful and therefore able to end suffering, allows suffering, proving He is not good but necessarily evil. Though the Misotheism anthem Dear God by the band XTC claims to not believe in God, it condemns Him for allowing suffering and war. You cannot very well condemn someone you do not believe in. The song is heatbreaking on many levels.


I do not believe in Santa Claus but I do not attack him as evil or address him in any fasion because he is not real.
The point James is making here is that if you have real, saving faith, you will have works, you will have compassion for others that moves you to help them. You will live a lifestyle that attests to what you claim to believe. Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.


To claim faith and then to live like there is no God nor personal responsibility to growth is to deny the very God you claim to serve.
  1. V. 19 – can one believe in God and even name Christ and still be lost? Yes
Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin are two very good examples of what we would refer to as Deists. They believed in God and the prinicples of the Bible but did not have faith in Jesus Christ. Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible to remove all references to the deity of christ and all miracles. Ben Franklin, at the age of 84, just prior to his death, stated he doubted the divinity of Christ. These men acknowledged God and even worshipped him, acknowledged the historical truth of a man named Jesus, yet, denied the Gospel.
Simply believing doctrine does not save, unless that faith is applied to yourself.


  1. V. 20-24 – Faith not acted upon is not faith at all. We do people a great diservice by telling them to come say a prayer and that they are good to go. A prayer said after an emotional play is worthless if it is not followed up with discipleship.
In order to get the true understanding of this passage, discipleship, not hit and run evangelism must be employed.
Romans 4:2-5 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,


Romans seems to directly contradict James. Remember, James is writing to believers. James is calling his readers to test their faith by the works they demonstrate. These beleivers are in a precarious perdicament.

The believers James is writing to are stuck between two opposing cultures, both of which oppose them. The temptaion would be to align themselves with the rich and well to do so as not to be ostracized. To do this at the expense of the poor would indicate a lack of faith and trust. If we do not do what is right because we are afraid of how we will be percieved we demonstrate a lack of faith. If we mistreat those who it is in vogue to mistreat, we are telling God that we do not trust Him to deliver us from the consequences of serving Him. Even if we face death, we must trust God - Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

So, as I stated earlier, we cannot place the cart before the horse – we must have faith in Christ in order to be saved and then works will be the demonstration of that faith. The lack of works will be a demonstration of a lack of faith. Hebrews 11:6 – without faith it is impossible to please God


V. V. 25-26 – Rahab did not only claim to believe in the God of creation, she acted on that faith. Just as our bodies are the bearers of our spirit so our faith is the bearer of our works of service. While faith without works is dead, it is impossible to perform works without faith. One day, we will no longer need faith as we will stand face to face with Christ and what we know today by faith we will know by experience. I do not have faith in a chair I am sitting in, I have faith before I sit in it. Once I am sitting in it I am experiencing the ability of the chair to bear me. The body is temporal but necessary in this world and our faith is temporal but necessary in this world.  


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

THE BABY FACED MADMAN - KIM JONG UN

     This week, once again, the U.S. intelligence community realizes an underestimated threat is now serious business.  The Obama administration, whether through ignorance or outright collusion, underestimated the treat of ISIS, referring to it as a JV team.  Then, When Kim Jong Un  of N. Korea posed with a photo of what he claimed was a nuclear bomb, U. S. intelligence scoffed, calling the bomb a disco ball.


Previously, Kim Jong Un was considered a harmless mad man, nothing more than a paper tiger.  Un, like a weak child on the playground calling out insults and threats to the bigger stronger kids was simply ignored as irrelevant.  This week, the weaker kid showed up to the playground armed and dangerous, and the big kids are finally taking notice!

     Suddenly the memes mocking Un's weight are not quite as funny...  Well, maybe they are still a little funny: 



     The bottom line is, Kim Jong Un is a serious threat to the U. S. and it's allies.  Alaska and Hawaii are at immediate risk, Hawaii projects an 8-12 minute notice of imminent attack.  

     A preemptive strike could raise the ire of China and spark World War III.  A delayed response could lead to a tremendous loss of life and an unprecedented attack on U. S, soil.  Dealing with Kim Jong Un  is not like dealing with a reasonable leader who is concerned with the well being of his people.  Un has no loyalties, as demonstrated earlier this year with the assassination of his own brother.  

     The Christian response is to not hate this man, but to pray for him.  We need to pray for our leaders to exercise wisdom and courage and pray for Kim Jong Un's soul.  Should Un set off a nuke in America, he will undoubtedly be receiving a one way ticket to the judgment seat of Christ, courtesy of the U. S. military. 

     It is time for us to pray for peace and security for America and intervention from God.  Jesus tells us in Luke 18:27 - What is impossible with man is possible with God.  So, while it may seem an impossibility that someone like Kim Jong Un could be saved and turn form evil, it is not too great a thing for God to expose Un to the Gospel. Of course it is up to Un as to what he will do with the truth, but we can pray for him.

   No matter what unfolds in the coming days, we must remember that God is securely on the throne and no weapon formed against us can stand, spiritually speaking. Now is not a time of fear but of courage!

Friday, July 28, 2017

SEX AND THE BODY OF CHRIST

     
     Sex is not a new human obsession - the earliest writings and even Egyptian hieroglyphs illustrate man's ever present pursuit of physical pleasure.  Beside the necessity to pro-create and continue the human race, sex is fun.  Throughout history, men and women have sacrificed all they had on the altar of sexual pleasure.

     Great men of high integrity have been ruined by unrestrained sexual conquest: David with Bathsheba comes to mind.  Families, lives, and reputations have been ruined by one night of indiscretion. Ministries have been toppled while men and women of high standing in the Christian community have been destroyed because of unrestrained sexual impulses.  

In the Bible, not only were whole cities destroyed due to illicit sexual sin, but the entire earth was flooded because angels couldn't restrain themselves from sexual behavior with human women! (for more on this CLICK HERE) Why - because sex is fun and the ultimate expression of intimacy.  

     America experienced a sexual revolution that began in the late 60's and has culminated to our anything goes society of today.  The message: "if it feels good, do it!" becomes a modern day motto of sorts.  "Safe sex" is taught in schools as early as kindergarten and the message of abstinence is scoffed at as ridiculously old fashioned. 

 The news is filled with the sexual misadventures of Hollywood stars and political figures making the rest of us feel as if we are somehow not normal for living monogamous or celibate lifestyles.  We are taught in schools we are evolved from animals thus, we can only expect to act like animals, mating at will.  

The church's attitude toward sex has been less than consistent, as well.  Conservative churches are quick to attack the homosexual movement, while turning a blind eye to pre-marital sex within it's walls.  We just expect dating heterosexuals to have sex or cohabitate. Maybe it is just easier to ignore and we fall back on the wimp's favorite passage when confronted with sin, "judge not..." 

     Sexual purity is essential to a healthy church and a healthy relationship with God.  Romans 8:1  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Condemnation is not the issue, living a life pleasing to God and obeying the commands of scripture are the issues. My intent is not to shame or condemn anyone, my intent is to point out hypocrisy in the church while warning against falling outside God's will due to sexual sin.  

     Sexual sin, like all sin, separates us from God and restricts us from His blessings and provisions.  Sexual sin, like all sin, hinders our ability to serve God effectively. 
 1 Thessalonians 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  

1 Corinthians 6:18  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 

    God loves you and does not set boundaries in order to restrict you from fun, He sets boundaries to protect you.  In the case of God's commands against sexually immoral behavior,  we are protected from disease and complicated entanglements within relationships.  A study cited in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law named pornography and sexual freedom as two of the main contributing factors to violence against women.

   God offers forgiveness and power to overcome the desires and temptations of sexual sin. 
 1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 


1 Corinthians 10:13  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 

     Do not allow sexual sin to derail your spiritual life.  God designed you for so much better!  It is never too late to repent and live in purity.  


Sunday, July 9, 2017

LIVING NOW HERE OR LIVING NOWHERE - IT'S UP TO YOU

          Are you missing out on today while living for the mystery of tomorrow or in the shadows of the past?  Are you living for a goal?  Do you focus most of your time and resources on a desired result that may or may not manifest?  Are you reveling in a past success or victory?  Are you prisoner to your past, haunted by tragedy or failure? The past is gone and the future, if we are honest, is a complete mystery.  The only true reality is the here and now.

     Brennan Manning, in his book Ruthless Trust, introduced the concept of living in the Nowhere.  Not pronounced no-where, but now-here.  One of life's greatest dangers is missing life itself by living outside tangible reality.  Now-here is tangible reality.  Now-here is when you make life changing decisions.  Now-here is where you live.  The past is unchangeable and distorted by time where memory either glamorizes and sanitizes or casts crippling blame and shame.  Tomorrow may literally never come and is filled with incalculable variables for which even the greatest minds cannot plan.  The past and the future do not exist, there is only now-here, you can live now-here or you are living nowhere.

    A man was given one day to enjoy the beach, desiring to leave his mark, he frantically built sandcastles until evening. He looks over all his hard work and seeing how much of it has been washed away by the tide, realizes he not only wasted his time but failed to enjoy the beauty of the sea, the salt air on his face or the sound of the ocean's roar.  The man had one opportunity to enjoy what was before him and he squandered it in a worthless pursuit.   

     Like the man given one opportunity to experience the beach, we are given one opportunity to experience life.  Much of what we pursue as important will be washed away by the tides of time.  Working and planning for the future is necessary and wise, ignoring the now-here while working and planning is a tragic waste of the beauty and wonder with which God surrounds us. 

 In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon looks over his life and laments on how he wasted his time.  Solomon, the wisest and arguably wealthiest, man who ever lived, missed out on the simple pleasures afforded by daily life because he consumed himself with working toward future goals. He concludes: Ecclesiastes 3:12-13  I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;  also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. 

God gives us life, people around us, and tasks to perform, He desires us to enjoy these things while we are in the midst of them. God gave us taste buds to enjoy a good meal, the sense of smell to experience a beautiful perfume or scent of a rose, eyes to behold the wonder of a rainbow, a storm cloud or the face of someone we love. The Bible tells us that enjoying the journey is God's gift to us.  
    Balance is always wise, living as if there is no tomorrow is dangerous and foolish.  Plan and work toward the future but not at the expense of the Nowhere.  Live in today as you look towards tomorrow.  Love in today as you plan for the future.  Bask in the beauty of where you are now even as you are progress to a new destination.    

Thursday, July 6, 2017

FINDING PURPOSE IN TRAGEDY

     
Abel had it pretty good.  He seemed to enjoy favor from both his earthly father, Adam, and his heavenly Father, Yehovah.  Abel's life was cruising along nicely and then... tragedy struck!  Tragedy struck for Abel when he realized his brother was about to kill him.  Tragedy struck when Adam and Eve discovered that their son Cain killed their son Abel.  A seemingly senseless tragedy, serving no purpose except to plunge two parents into grief at the loss of two sons, one murdered, the other banished by God Himself.  

DOES ANYTHING REALLY SERVE NO PURPOSE?

Psalm 119:89-91  Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. 

If we are to believe scripture, everything has purpose. If we are to believe scripture, God is not only sovereign, He is a God of order.  If we are to believe scripture, man has free will and is not a creature of order.  So, by the power of deductive reasoning, we can conclude: man is chaotic and allowed to freely choose chaos and disorder by a God of order and the tragedy wrought by the chaos of man is somehow used by God to bring about His stated purpose and order.  Seems paradoxical, but somehow it works.

WHAT MAN MEANT FOR EVIL, GOD USES FOR GOOD

     Many Jewish families were living, working and flourishing in Germany.  Everything was going along fine and then...tragedy struck.  Adolph Hitler nearly eradicated European Jewry.  God used this great tragedy to re-establish the nation of Israel, a fulfillment of prophecy.  In the midst of tragedy, most living in concentration camps had no sense of God's purpose, only hopelessness.  God's purpose was always in play, however.  Like a master chess player matched up against a novice, every move the novice makes ultimately serves the master's victory.  

WHAT'S THE POINT?

    Above are two tales of tragic events.  At first, purpose may not seem apparent in the events of the first murder.  Cain believed he could extinguish the light of God's truth by extinguishing the light bearer, in this case, Abel.  God's purpose was to prove the light of truth is bigger than any one man.  For more on this topic, CLICK HERE  God is a God of purpose and order, no tragedy catches Him by surprise, nor can any tragedy thwart His plans. CLICK HERE for my post: Where is God When...?



  The above verse tells us all things are God's servants.  All things work together for the purposes of God, even tragedy in our own personal lives.  The question is not always "why did this happen?"  The real question is, "How will God be glorified in this, and what is my role in His glorification?"  God, being all knowing, calculates every possible choice and action of chaotic man, employing  a counter measure designed to use even the efforts of evil men to fulfill His plan for mankind.  That is true power, that is true sovereignty. That is a God worth serving!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

IS GOD SAFE? NO, BUT HE IS GOOD!

 
        Is God good?  Yes, but is He safe?  That is the question we must ask ourselves before we step out and serve the Creator of the universe - Jesus Christ Almighty.  In C. S. Lewis' masterpiece of literature, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, the character Aslan represents Jesus our Lord.  Upon finding out she was a bout to meet Aslan and he was a lion, Susan asks "Is he - quite safe...?" The reply she received: "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the king I tell you."  If you are looking for safe, look elsewhere -  hell was made for wimps.  If you are looking for good, Jesus Himself said, "there is none good but God."


     God calls us to:  2 Samuel 10:12  Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him." The good God of Scripture does not want to use us in comfort zones or "safe spaces".  The God I serve calls me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis!  The God I serve requires courage.  In sharing my frustration with a friend this week, he reminded me, "You've gotten comfortable dude, God doesn't want you to be comfortable." 

     I think one of God's favorite question from His children is one borne of frustration: "What more can I do Lord...?"  God's response must be, "I thought you'd never ask!  Let me show you!  Come on, let's go do this together!"  This is where the fun begins.  Look at all the cool things God's servants got to do in scripture: Noah got to sail around the world, David got to slay a giant, Jonah got to see the inside of a fish and lived to tell about it, Daniel got to spend the night with a pride of lions, Peter got to walk on water, Elijah got to fly to heaven in a chariot of fire, and Ezekiel got to go for a ride with God in a... well I am not entirely sure what he is describing in Ezekiel chapter 1, but it seems awesome!  So awesome Ezekiel could not speak for the next seven days.  The point is, serving God is an adventure and it is not always easy and it is certainly not safe.

If you are looking for adventure and fulfillment check out the path Jesus marked out for you from foundations of the earth. Serving God will not be easy, safe nor comfortable but I promise - IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

Related post - WHAT IS GOD'S DIRECTION FOR MY LIFE

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WHAT IS GOD'S DIRECTION FOR MY LIFE? - FOLLOWING PILLARS OF CLOUD AND FIRE

   


Have you ever felt adrift? Have you ever felt as if your life was directionless or that maybe you were running ahead of God, or falling behind? How do you know if you are walking with God or off on some rabbit trail? Can we even know what direction God wants us to go?


During the Exodus the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, but there was purpose in their wanderings. God was accomplishing His work in them and in others through them. To the outsider looking in, it appeared the Israelites were meandering lost with no clear direction. This prompted Pharaoh and his army to attack and ultimately die in the Red Sea. The Israelites were not meandering aimlessly, they were following God's direction.

The Israelites had a physical manifestation of the presence of God, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Exodus 40:36-37 Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up.

Exodus 13:21 The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.


Today, the church has a physical manifestation of God to guide us. We have the Holy Spirit indwellingThe key for us, as believers, is knowing God to the point we are able to sense His leadership in our lives. God is a personal being and to say He merely desires relationship with us would be a gross understatement. All we can know about God is found in scripture but to truly know God requires building a relationship. God initiated contact with us, He gave us a perfect world to live in - we messed it up. He gave us leaders to follow - we rebelled against them. He gave us His written Word - we allow it to collect dust on a shelf. He sent us His Son - we killed Him. He sent us His Holy Spirit - we disdain His influence.


As a society, we have worked hard to misunderstand and misrepresent God. We have attempted to re-create the creator in order to justify our own will and behavior. God has SO MUCH MORE for us than just knowing about Him. How can we expect to know what God wants from us if we do not know God. I cannot trust direction from someone I do not know, much less believe the direction is authentic. Take the time to know God, spend time with Him in prayer, worship, fellowship with other believers. Seek out discipleship. Only after you know God can you truly know His plan for your life.

Friday, June 2, 2017

WHY SHOULD GOD CARE WHAT I DO?

  Image result for why does God care what i do        
      
Why should God care what I do?  Is God some petty control freak who demands my obedience in order to placate His ego?  What am I to God that He should even be aware of my existence in the vastness of all creation?  What difference does what God thinks about me even matter... I mean, really, who cares!?



     God cares.  God cares because He craves fellowship with His creation.  God cares because He desires to bless me and provide my needs and to pour out His Spirit upon me and then use me to reveal His great love to others.  God cares because God is love.

     Recently, a couple who is very dear to me began fostering a young child who, by all indications, was most likely abused. The child seems a bit distrustful  of men.  The foster dad desires a relationship with the child and is excited when the child responds to his kindness. Slowly, he is building a relationship with the child and every positive response from the child absolutely lifts his heart.  I believe this is how it is with God.  Our desire for Him lifts His heart!  We are hurt by people because people are broken and we distrust God because He becomes one more person who has the opportunity to let us down or take advantage of us.  

    God is not human and not bound to human weakness and sin.  God is not selfish or self serving that He should harm us, not even inadvertently, for His own agenda.  Everything in all of creation screams of God's love for us. Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

     Know this, God not only loves you, He exults over you... this means, when the Creator of the universe thinks of you, He is jubilant!  Imagine, the Lord of all creation jubilantly singing over your very existence!!  

God became a man (Jesus Christ) and died in our place in order to restore fellowship with us, even though we were not interested in fellowship with Him.  God cares about our behavior because it is often harmful to ourselves and/or others and hinders our ability to receive all He has for us.  

Why should God care what I do?  Because He wants what is best for me, He wants to reveal His great love to me and He wants to reveal His great love through me. That's why God cares about what I do!

     

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

WHERE IS GOD WHEN...

       One of the most asked questions during tragedy is "Where is God?"  When the bottom falls out, we wonder, "where is God?" When our expectations are not met, or we fail, or when we are the victims of the neglect and sin of others, or when things just do not go as planned, we ask, "where is God?"  

     So often, we are lied to and told, if we live by a certain formula of obedience and we do just the right amount of good deeds and practice just the right amount of religious observances, life will be, not only smooth, but prosperous.  Jesus told us life would be tough.  Jesus is not looking for followers who want a nice easy life, He is looking for people like the Apostle Paul who are willing to suffer hardship, deny self and go without basic comforts for the sake of the lost.  

    Sadly, many abandon God, feeling betrayed because expectations were not met.  If I do good, good things happen, right?  Not necessarily, after all, what is the minimum amount of good I must do in order to "release" blessing in my life.  Thankfully, our relationship with Christ is not based on our performance, for if it were, we would all be in trouble. Even if there were some magic Good Meter measuring my deeds, how would I know if I were doing enough good in order to receive the amount of comfort, health and wealth I desired?  What if I were able to work to the blessing and knew just the right amount of good I needed to do in order to get what I wanted?  Would my motive cancel out my action since it is selfish at the core? The question is moot, I am called to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Christ.  I should have no expectation of an easy life in the flesh. 

  As Christians, we must remember, we are called to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. The Bible tells us: one day we will share in the glory of Christ, we will rule and reign with Christ and we will live in an environment where there is no danger, sickness or tears. Gratification deferred must be our mindset as we set our hearts and minds on Christ. 

     The key to getting though adversity is acknowledging this is not our home.  At home, I want to feel, well...  at home! I want to be comfortable, happy and secure.  If I view this life as home, I have certain expectations, demands even. I want what everyone else has, I want wide open roads clear of obstacles, I want instant gratification!  If I recognize my home is in heaven with God, when I recognize just how fleeting this life is in terms of eternity, I am able to experience the joy of the Lord in any circumstance or situation.  If we lose sight of the big picture, we will get lost in the weeds of life and lament our situation. As we stay focused on the prize, hardships here only serve to make There look so much better.  

    So where is God when life takes, what we believe to be, a wrong turn?  Right there with us, just like He was when we were on top of the world.  Where is God, He is on the throne and in control and working all things together for good for those who love Him.  Without the guidance of God's Word, we will forget these truths,  as we abide in Christ and continue in His Word we will know exactly where God is and we will yearn to be with Him in glory!