|March 03, 2012||Where are all the 2,000 year old men? Part 2|
|February 25, 2012||Where are all the 2,000 year old men? Part 1|
|February 18, 2012||What Are You Afraid Of?|
|February 11, 2012||Real Men Read Good Books|
|February 04, 2012||Warrior-Poet Christianity|
|January 28, 2012||Why Bad Things Happen to Good People|
|January 21, 2012||Aborting Providence|
|January 14, 2012||Can You Hate Religion and Love Jesus?|
|January 07, 2012||Dear Heavenly Father|
|December 31, 2011||A Hope-full Future|
For the sake of time and space, the question as stated above comes from someone who would discredit the Bible based on Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 simply because we have no knowledge of 2,000 year old men walking the earth today. I certainly don't know of any. However, the people who usually ask this question begin to make all kinds of assumptions without any basis, and then wildly false conclusions based on those assumptions that eventually lead to holding Christianity responsible for every bad thing that ever happened on the face of the earth.
It is not ignorance on their part, for ignorance can be rectified with a rational discussion. What they demonstrate is a "hands over ears and eyes closed" childish game of willful ignorance where they accept no answer, no matter how rational, and refuse to answer any intelligently posed question while asking multiple "gotcha" questions that have been answered time and time again. I quite imagine that they would hold their breath in an effort to turn blue if they thought it would help, but that would mean they couldn't whine so I guess that really isn't an option for them. Too bad.
Allow me to set up the question in rational form. OF the three verses, Matthew 16:28 gives the most detailed and specific information:
1. There are "some" - meaning at least two or more, maybe even three or more
2. "standing here" - present at the time the words were spoken
3. "which shall not taste of death" - will not die
4. "till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." - the second coming of Christ
Lest anyone say that Jesus is talking about the Transfiguration, simply look at verse 27 which puts verse 28 into context and see if that holds true. Verse 27 is clearly talking about the second coming as it references rewarding every man according to his works. The Transfiguration also does not hold up to the 4th point. Jesus has not left yet, how can He return unless He leaves?
This website has an answer that also dismisses the Transfiguration: "Contradictions" however, I still disagree with even his answer because I simply believe verse 27 makes it clear that Jesus is talking about the second coming. So, the question remains: where are all the 2,000 year old men?
First, answer these questions:
1. Is there a precedent of anyone in the Bible who never died?
2. Is there a record of any of those people being present, identified, and viewed by anyone in the New Testament during the time of Jesus on earth?
3. Is there any record of anyone else after the Ascension of Christ who should have died because of present circumstances but did not at that moment die?
To answer question 1: Genesis 5:24 "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." lest you think that does not mean he did not die, the Bible again mentions Enoch in Hebrews 11:5 "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Also we have II Kings 2:1 and 2:11 which mentions that Elijah was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind.
To answer question 2: Matthew 17:3 tells us of the actual sighting of Elijah in the New Testament alongside Moses. So, we know that Elijah was at least present in the New Testament.
Steve Yothment wrote me through email and also noted those same Scriptures, and gave the following answer: "I've heard that John Hagee has claimed that Elijah and Enoch are the Two Witnesses of the Book of Revelation. (Rev 11:3) As I recall, Tertullian, Irenaeus and Hippolytus also thought that Elijah and Enoch are the Two Witnesses. Anyway, is it Elijah and Enoch who were standing there when Jesus spoke "There be some standing here who shall not taste of death . . ."? - Steve Yothment"
To be honest, it is not the answer I had in mind, but I can find nothing wrong with his answer. It is entirely possible that they could have both been present because Christ never names anyone. We also know that they did not die and were both taken to heaven, but that Elijah at the very least made an appearance in front of the disciples. It also answers the question, "Where are all the 2,000 year old men?" in that we know both Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven.
As we have no record of who Christ was talking about, we also have no record of anyone else being taken to heaven. The bigger question is question 3: "Is there any record of anyone else after the Ascension of Christ who should have died because of present circumstances but did not at that moment die?"
In the book of Acts, Paul was tasked by God with the specific duty of testifying in Rome (Acts 23:11) and in the very next verses, we see more than 40 Jews taking a death oath saying they will neither eat nor drink until Paul is dead. Verse 14 makes it clear they were not speaking generally, but were perfectly clear to either die by not drinking or eating, or see Paul killed. Yet, we know Paul escapes out of their murderous intent - no word on whether or not they kept to their oath. Next, Paul is set on a voyage that seems as though it will kill everyone, but God reaffirms Paul's mission to Rome and that all will be spared in the ship (Acts 27:24). However, just in case anyone doubts that Paul should have died in either the acts of men or the acts of nature, there is the last act of the snake which bites Paul, an obviously venomous snake such of the kind that the men who witnessed it fully expected to see Paul fall dead. (Acts 28: 3-6) Yet, Paul does not die. Why? Because his life has a mission to fulfill.
That there would be "some standing here" when Christ spoke those words meant that there were some being given a special mission, who would not taste of death, until the second coming of Christ. I cannot say that at least two of them were not Enoch and Elijah, we simply do not know from the text. However, we do know that Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, and there we have one of two possible answers.
There is nothing in the passage that says the people standing there who would not taste of death would be walking the earth for the next 2,000 years, yet on the other hand, we have evidence that if that is exactly what Christ meant, then there is nothing that would stop it from happening. Next week, I will delve into one other person (not Enoch or Elijah) who was standing there who may have been one of the people Christ was talking to directly. I'll give you a hint: he was also given a very specific mission just like Paul.
Now, let the petty ramblings of the willful ignorance of the atheists with an agenda come forth!! For everyone else, if you have a sincere question, please email me at email@example.com and I may feature your question in a future article.
I want to start by saying this: Just because YOU don't understand the Bible doesn't make the Bible wrong or God a liar. For some reason, atheists in particular, are drawn to the parts of the Bible they do not understand, and then finger-point like little children while whining away. What is worse, if YOU personally cannot give them an answer, then they conclude that THEY are right and YOU are wrong.
How ignorant and childish.
Just because you cannot give an answer to someone on any topic doesn't make your statement false. I can say with confidence that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, but if someone asks me to prove it I'm going to have to shrug. If they ask me how I know it is true, I'm going to have to point to a book somewhere. If they further challenge me to prove the book I didn't write true, I'm going to have to say "Go to the author." Atheists, however, do not want to go to the Author of the Bible, because they do not believe in God. So instead, they want you to speak for God, and are ready to pounce on you if you can't. "See! You can't prove it! It must not be true!" So, God is a liar because I cannot prove the Bible true?? Wow.
Well, the speed of light is still 186,000 miles per second, and it's not up to me to prove anything. So it is with questions about the Bible I may not fully understand. That we both, atheists and Christians alike, may not fully understand a particular passage of Scripture does not instantly make God a liar, or the Bible untrue, nor do I have to prove anything.
That said, Christians should feel free to stiff-arm the questions they do not understand for a while and say "Let me do some research on that and get back with you." Truth is, there is nothing to fear from such childish finger-pointing, and if you will put just a little time into some Bible study, looking at the context of the passage in its proper place and time, and really seek to gain a real understanding, then I believe you can have an answer.
Here is one particular passage that, for no good reason, has confused many. Again, atheists will finger-point like little children and ignore the vast majority of Scripture in an effort to hold YOU responsible for a Book you didn't write. I will simply let the question stand as written first and then give answer next week.
"Matthew 16:28, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
Mark 9:1, “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”
Luke 9:27, “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.”
Some means more than one. Jesus has not returned with all of his powers. Where are these men who were alive then and are still alive? Truth or lie: There are 2,000 year old men still wondering the earth who personally met Jesus."
See how the question is worded? He wants to draw an exact line with the words "truth or lie" and later he personally challenges me to give answer "Where are these 2,000 year old men?" as though I had them hidden somewhere in some secret undisclosed location or something. It's funny really, because the Bible answers this exact question.
I told him on February 21, 2012 that I would answer his question next week, and so I will. Meanwhile, until next week arrives, I wanted to allow this question to go to all of you out there.
The words were spoken by Christ. Christ has not yet come in His kingdom. There were some present when Jesus spoke that were not going to taste of death until such an event took place. The Bible is true. Jesus did not lie, and you CAN find the answer in the Bible. Well? What do you think?
As I told my atheist friend, I will answer this question next week, but for the next seven days, why don't you think this over, study it out, and see what you find. I'll give you a small hint: he didn't ask "Where is the 6,000 year old Christian?" or "Where is the 3,000 year old Christian?" but he could have.
- reposted from www.MenRising.com
Something about screaming always sets my nerves on a knife edge. A number of weeks ago, I wanted to take my two daughters out for some ice cream. So, we piled into the car and took off, and it was a nice ride just listening to my two daughters talk to each other, talk about different topics on little girls minds, and I especially enjoy listening to my youngest who always seems to carry a song in her heart when she is happy. So it was not a little disconcerting when, as I was getting out of the car, I began to hear one of my two daughters scream from the other side of the car as though mortally wounded.
My first reaction was to figure out who was hurt, and then identify, attack, and shred to pieces whatever was doing the hurting. I raced around the edge of the car as my oldest just looked on with wide eyes at her little sister who was still in the car screaming at the top of her little lungs with eyes closed. The door was not open so I assumed she had somehow caught her hand in the door. I jerked the door open, but that wasn't the case, and she was still screaming while I began to feel more desperate.
I screamed her name asking what was wrong, and she pointed at . . . nothing. I couldn't see anything in the direction of where she was pointing. She then got out the word "spider" and my eyes finally narrowed in on a spider so small it could have been mistaken for a grain of sand dangling from the car ceiling 6 to 8 inches in front of her face. However, to a little girl with an overabundance of fear, a spider dangling from the ceiling of the car within 6 or 8 inches of her face probably looked terrifyingly huge, and she obviously felt obliged to feel terrified because of it.
I, being the hero I am, promptly smashed the spider between my two hands, but my daughter was still screaming. I finally had to grab her by the shoulders and yell her name telling her I killed it and it was gone before she even began to calm down. As I got her out of the car, she latched onto me in a tight embrace still sniffling. As I carried her into the restaurant to get ice cream, I could feel her small frame still trembling with fear. Or was it me trembling from the adrenaline rush? I guess it was hard to tell.
All I know is, that as a parent of the male variety, the sound of my daughter screaming in what I interpreted as great pain flipped my switch, and I was ready for war. Finding out that, in fact, no one had been hurt, and the source of all the mayhem was a tiny little creature actually had me feeling more sorry for the creature whose life had to be sacrificed so my daughter would regain her sanity. I began thinking, how could such a small thing bring so much turmoil to what was a perfectly good day, and upset my daughter so much that she could not function in any other way than sheer panic?
As we sat down for ice cream, I called my wife telling her what happened, and she told me that I just had to be understanding, that the fears my daughter has toward spiders is very real to her, and that she just needs to be comforted. I have to admit the "ready for war" mentality seems to come way more naturally to me than the comforting part of me, so the little reminder didn't hurt. I let my daughter talk with her mom, and then we all, eventually, began to laugh a little about what happened.
I was reminded in those moments by the last few words in Hebrews 13:5 that say, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Too often, I think, we leave God in much the same position that I was left in regarding our own fears about what happens in this vapor we call life. Being too easily upset about things, fear arrests our lives and we become incapacitated, unable to think about anything else other than whatever worry, doubt, or fear consumes us at that moment. God tries to remind us He is there and we have nothing to fear, but confronted with our own fears face-to-face, we leave God the task of swiping away the small things, and trying to comfort an irrational state of mind.
Whenever fear tries to take hold in my life in some fashion, I remind myself of what someone once told me: "Life is an incurable disease, and we will all die from it some day." He was joking, but the point is still true. We will leave this world and everything in it behind one day, so why fear losing these things when the outcome is inevitable? When it all seems to be falling apart and you feel like you are losing everything, try to remember what is really important; that there is an eternity to be had, and the only "things" you can take with you are the people you have shared the Gospel of Christ with who have accepted the salvation of Jesus Christ. When it is all said and done, then one day you will see the only ones who had anything to fear are those who rejected Jesus Christ, while you had nothing to fear.
Long ago I heard couples talking about a book called "The Five Love Languages" and just about the time I heard the title my brain turned off and started wandering to other topics I keep stored in my brain's hard-drive for when "boring" conversations like this come up. I wasn't interested. Why? Well, to put it simply, the book had "love" in the title. I wish I could be more pragmatic, but that's it. I made up all kinds of assumptions just from the title, and I had come up with a vision of a book that contained all kinds of "mushy stuff" about relationships that basically women wanted men to know, but no man was ever going to read. Why? Well, it seems men don't read such books.
Fast forward to a conversation with a guy I had regarding his personal life with Christ, and I began to think of a few books that influenced me and he said simply, "John, I just don't read books." I hesitated, and then shrugged my shoulders. What else was there to say? When I talked about this phenomenon with another friend, he had a different response. When I told him about the guy who just doesn't read books he responded, "Really? Ya' think? The guy is having all kinds of problems in his Christian and personal life and then you found out he doesn't read books? Is it any surprise?"
It got me to thinking. There are a lot of guys out there who do read books, but there are also a lot of guys out there who proudly assert that "They don't read books" as though it were something to be proud of. I'm not saying a guy needs to get into "the mushy stuff" women enjoy in fiction, but there do happen to be some very good books worth a read. I am reminded by the oft repeated quote of "Charles Tremendous Jones" that says, "Five years from now you'll be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet." Years later, this quote was paraphrased to say "A man is never changed but by the books he reads and the people he meets."
Men don't want to change though. They resist being changed. I have never met a man yet who said, "I married her because I just knew she was going to change me into a better man." I fact, if that had been part of the marriage bargain up front, most men would probably never follow through with getting married. I say this in jest, but in some part of men there resides an idea that if we are good enough to marry the way we are now, then we should be good enough the way we are for the rest of our lives. However, that simply is never true, for everything changes in life, and men need to be able to change and grow and improve over time or risk becoming either irrelevant, or replaced.
Getting back to my original topic though, I eventually was encouraged strongly by a good friend to pick up and read "The Five Love Languages" with my wife. I was hesitant, but told him I would. I was just sure the book was going to talk about all the "mushy stuff" women love, and that the message would be something along the lines of "You're doing it all wrong. Idiot." I am happy to report that nothing could have been further from the truth.
In the end, there was a lot to be gained from reading this book together with my wife. We learned a lot about each other, I discovered some very interesting and encouraging things about myself (turns out I was doing a lot of things right already!), and also discovered ways to do the right things even better. My wife learned along the way as well, we were both helped through the process, and our marriage took another bump up on the ladder of success.
This would not have been possible if my manly ego had not been laid aside long enough to pick up the book, but it had me thinking about all the men out there who may be thinking, or even proudly saying, "I don't read books." This message is for you: "If you're not reading good books, then you're doing it all wrong. Idiot." Now go set your manly ego and pride aside long enough to realize you need to change as all things change in life, and the best way to make a change is to guide that change by reading good books and opening yourself up to being influenced by good people. Why? Because real men read good books!
It always seems to happen eventually. It finally happened for Keith, a friend of mine, and the results could have been devastating but turned more to the comical. Keith is a relatively new Christian. He's been saved for some time but just now really coming into his own as far as his walk with Christ. Years ago, while talking with him one day outside my house, we were interrupted rather rudely by someone demanding that we both hand over our money.
I knew the guy as a neighbor in the area, but Keith had no idea what was going on. "Friend of yours?" Keith asked nervously looking at me. I smiled and said, "I'll handle this." I just looked at the guy and said nothing. I'd heard this before, and I'd hear it again, but this was a first for Keith, so I wanted him to hear it all. You see, my neighbor is a devout atheist, and as much as I enjoy speaking about my faith in God, he enjoys mocking it whenever he gets the chance. As he gets no-where with me personally, he often inserts himself into conversations when I am in public and talking with others. Kinda rude and annoying, but I figure its a free country, and Keith needs to hear this.
My atheist neighbor, let's call him Joe-Bob, proceeded to quote the Bible where it says, "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again." - Luke 6:30. Joe-Bob began to make all kinds of outrageous demands as well as asking for our wallets, keys to our cars, and everything we own. "If you're really a Christian, Jesus commands you to do these things in the Bible." I stopped him right there. I've tried talking with Joe-Bob before, but he's of the mind that no explanation is ever good enough, so I didn't even bother.
I called him by name and said, "If you want to take my wallet and money and everything I own, you are welcome to try, but know that I am going to be dialing 9-1-1 in the next 10 seconds telling them that someone is trying to rob me." That's when Joe-Bob went on a rant, saying how he knew it, we weren't really Christians, and that we were all (all two of us?) a bunch of hypocrites and on and on until I finally said, "5" and then "4" as I pulled out my cell phone and was actually going to dial 9-1-1 so he could yell into the microphone. He just started walking away after that waving his hands and muttering things I could not really understand.
Keith looks at me, "What was all that about?" I went straight to the point. "What do you think of what he said?" Keith doubted such words were even in the Bible, but I took him inside, opened a Bible, and there they were. Keith was rather speechless, as I imagine most Christians are when confronted by such lunacy. Let me pose the question to you now. How would you have explained what happened to Keith and the verse in the Bible?
Too often, we are tempted to simply dismiss the charges made by atheists without ever seeking the truth from God's Word because we are afraid the truth might be something we don't like. However, if we understand a few things about God up front, we need not fear. God is not the God of confusion or lunacy. If we are God's children, then we assume first of all that God's heart toward us is good. Second, from that perspective, when we hear or see something about God that doesn't sit quite right, then either our perceptions on the situation are incorrect, or our interpretations of events are incorrect. In the end, a righteous God does not sin, so we must try to align ourselves with God first.
I talked with Keith about the circumstances surrounding the passage when Christ uttered those words. Jesus was speaking to many groups and factions (Pharisees, Zealots to name two) of the Jews in the open air, in their land, during a time of Roman occupation. Rome was the law, and the Jews of that period were an occupied people under invasive Roman government control. Whatever the Romans wanted, they took, and for their part, the Jews saw the Romans as the enemy. Take a look at the middle-east today to see how well that culture tolerates any kind of occupying force!
To keep things simple, in Christ's directives in Luke 6: 27-36, Jesus starts out with "Love your enemies." Jesus was wise and would never have said anything publicly against the Roman government, but here the Jews would have translated "enemies" as "Romans". As Jesus goes on, you can imagine how well the Jews would have received the message (not so well and somewhat begrudgingly if you ask me) but the principle Jesus was preaching was this - do not escalate a bad situation. In those verses, Jesus gave some very precise examples as a guide to do just that.
Jesus does not specify Romans as enemies, but the context of the situation provides clarity of purpose and intent to His words. When you understand "Romans" as "enemies" and the situation of the Jews, the passage makes perfect sense. Still, there is a principle here that we can also learn from regarding our own enemies - do not escalate a bad situation! Does that mean that we should roll over and allow someone like Joe-Bob to rob us? Just think about it, and simple logic will tell us "Of course not!" However, if Joe-Bob was a Roman and I a Jew in Israel during that time period, I could not call 9-1-1 for help, and in fact, any response at all would just make an already bad situation even worse.
The principle of non-escalation of a bad situation does not mean Christians should not defend themselves within the scope of the law. As we live in a completely different society and world today, Joe-Bob is going to have to keep his hands off my property if he wants to stay out of jail, and you, my fellow warrior-poet in Christ, are free to respond to any assault within the limits of the law.
A husband comes home from a late day at work expecting to see his smiling wife, but instead he is greeted with a house full of silence. As he makes his way through the house, he begins to hear the sobbing sounds of his wife in the bedroom. There is news, it is not good, and the next words she will utter will shatter the calm of the world he thought he knew.
All of us know stories of devastation. All of us know someone who has suffered greatly, and some of us have stories of our own that would sunder the hardest heart. In the moments of great despair, there is no greater problem in the world at that moment than the one we face, precisely because of its proximity and nearness to us, because its effects are immediate in our lives, and because for the rest of our lives we will always have an easy path to that moment and relive and feel everything all over again.
Whether we hear of such stories or live through them, the inevitable question comes: "Why?" In the case of children or innocent victims, we often ask "Why would a loving God allow such bad things to happen to good people?"
It is a tough question, and one worth considering. There are many who would point to these exact moments in life as though they were proof that God is not real, or that if God is real, then He is a heartless, careless God. While we as Christians with a firm faith in God do not accept such judgements, even I must admit that I have sometimes in the silence of my soul pondered why such things happen.
In another familiar story mentioned last week that makes a great example is the story of Cain and Abel. We are all familiar with the actual story, so I will not retell it here, but suffice it to say that we would all agree that God knows everything and therefore knew of Cain's murderous intent before the crime was committed. On the other hand we have Abel. Abel had done nothing wrong, in fact, God was pleased with Abel. The death of Abel was not a judgement of God regarding sin in his life. In the end, we also know that God could have easily prevented the murder, but did not.
With such knowledge we must go where the unbeliever goes . . . God knew, God could have prevented it, but God did nothing to stop it. Why?
One hard fact that we all must understand is that we are not physical beings. This is crucial, because this understanding opens up a larger picture of what is going on. With a word, God from the spiritual realm spoke and everything we take in with our senses was created. The world and universe we know is but a fraction of reality. Some few men in the Bible were privileged enough to see into this spiritual realm, but suffice it to say that the spiritual reality is far greater than the physical one, and things that happen in the spiritual realm affect the physical world we see.
Another hard fact, is that we are spiritual beings with the shroud of a physical body, and we are called to fight in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. II Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
As in battle, when there is victory, there are results, but also when there is no victory, there are consequences. The battlefield is in the hearts and minds of men, and there where we wage our war, God has given us free choice, thus God will not interfere.
Cain lost at least one spiritual battle before murdering his brother. God does not condemn Cain, but tries to encourage him to do better. Instead, Cain loses the spiritual battle of the heart and mind, and the consequences of that loss result in the murder of his own brother.
You see, when we lose the spiritual battle for our hearts and minds, there are consequences, but they need not all be so dire as murder. Bad attitudes, back-biting, resentment and anger, and a whole list of consequences can be found in Galatians 5:19-21. Read the list, and if you see any of these things true for you in your life, then rest assured, you are losing spiritual battles somewhere. If you are the victim of such things, then others around you have lost spiritual battles, and your proximity to them can mean that you endure some of the consequences of their failure on the battlefield.
Galatians also lists results of victory in spiritual warfare in 5:22-23. See, we often pray for the fruit of the Spirit as though it is a gift that God simply grants, but that is not how fruit is born. Fruit is a result of a process. Win the spiritual battles in your life, and the fruit of the Spirit will be yours, and not just for you. For as every victor celebrates a victory with others, so your life can become an inspiration for others around you with every spiritual battle you win.
You were given a sword, armor, and a shield for a reason. Defend yourself, my fellow warrior. You are called to fight.
Decisions, even small ones, can have vast and unintended consequences. Like a secret agent on a mission, one errant decision can cause the whole plan to unravel calling for everyone involved to "abort the mission" because circumstances have changed and success is no longer possible.
My daughter has been given a few responsibilities around the house. For this she gets an allowance of $1.25 per week, and included in these responsibilities is the daily task of feeding the dogs and checking to make sure they have water. Should she fail to feed the dogs even once during the week, she forfeits her allowance for the entire week. Some may see this as a bit heavy handed, but I am trying to teach her consistency in self-discipline, and the idea that failure to hold up her responsibilities will have great consequences.
If she doesn't feed the dogs, then the dogs who depend on her, the dogs who have done nothing wrong, would go hungry. (To be sure, I'd feed them myself, but only after she has gone to bed.) She might forget, and in fact, even if she remembers I have told her that she does not have to feed the dogs if she does not want to, but the dogs will go hungry if she does not, and she will get nothing for an allowance at the end of a week. She will not be reminded of her responsibilities. The choice is hers.
So far, she has had a few close calls, and maybe one day she will slip up and forget, but the knowledge of leaving hungry dogs outside to suffer for her own actions has made an impact on her. What is more, the idea that she could do a whole weeks worth of work to lose it all at the end by forgetting has her leaving notes to herself, reminding herself to feed the dogs. She is learning a lot of lessons here.
It may not seem fair to some that she should lose her whole allowance if she misses feeding the dogs once at the end of a week, but consider this; we can go our whole lives building a reputation, and lose it all in a moment. I also believe we lose a lot more than just our reputation when we choose to do what is wrong.
I believe God has a plan for our lives, and His hand of providence is ever willing to bless us along that path. We can choose to stay on that path, or we can choose to stray. The choice is ours. God will not be there hovering over us to remind us that sin is going to have consequences, we simply must choose. Whether we like it or not, choosing to sin will abort God's hand of providence in our lives as we kick off a chain reaction of events that sends us off of God's plan for our lives.
A striking example of this exists early in Scripture where, in Genesis chapter four, Cain chooses to abort God's plan for his life. Notice how God never intervenes, even when it will cost Abel his life. Cain always has a choice in his actions. In the end, Abel is murdered, the parents suffer the loss of a child, and Cain is marked for life. Even today we think rather poorly of the first child born into this world, because he had a choice, and because he chose to abort providence the earth would never grow for him ever again. Genesis 4:12a "When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength;"
The good news is, you may choose to abort providence in your life, but God is not without mercy. Your life may have strayed far from God's plan, but God is in the reconciliation business as well. This is one aspect of God that many Christians I know love to embrace for themselves, but detest when God shows mercy on others who have wronged them.
If you are ever tempted to sin, take a moment to realize you have a choice here. You can choose to do what is wrong, and God will not come down from heaven to stop you. Regardless of how awful your sin might be, God will not intervene. You must fight that spiritual battle yourself, but know that if you lose that spiritual battle and give in to temptation, there will be vast and unintended consequences, and you will abort God's providence in your life.
If you are someone who realizes how far off God's plan for your life you have strayed, there is still hope. God is a God of judgement, but only against the unrepentant heart. God is also a God of mercy to those who would come before Him with a humble heart. James 4:6 "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." Psalm 51:17 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Take a look at this video first . . .
After watching the video myself, all I could think of is how many people I personally know won't have a clue what to do with this video. I read a website where the writer respectfully picked it apart without understanding the perspective I believe Mr. Bethke comes from, which is one of "be" not "do" when it comes to our faith in Christ, and our relationship with God.
To really understand why people do not like the video "for reasons they cannot fully articulate" you need to understand their perspective. They are probably coming from a place in their life where all they have known as church has been a building they go to three times a week, including Sunday school, to learn about God. They are comfortable in the walls of the place they call church, and comfortable with the people they associate with and know as Christians.
For many of these people (not all), a person is only "right with God" when they conform to the standards of the Bible as they interpret them. Anyone who does not conform is "probably not really saved" otherwise they would have been "transformed by God" into someone who will fit in with their group. As well, they believe that you must "do" things to have a right relationship with God. It is a "works first" perspective, whereby we can continue to have a relationship with God after salvation because of what we do.
What I don't understand about their perspective is that many I know personally would admit that we are not saved by our works. That only by God's grace and through faith we are saved, but yet once saved they seem to believe that they can only continue to have a relationship with God based on what they do.
For those people who do not understand why people like the video, here is their perspective. Church is not a building, it is the saved people of God, and they do not understand why vast resources are spent on structures when there is greater need for those resources. The greatest message ever recorded in the Bible was not preached in the synagogue, but on a mount.
A person does not gain a stronger relationship with Christ because of what they do, they simply have a relationship with Christ because of who they are - children of God. As a child of God, they accept that they have a responsibility to be a witness in their actions, but those actions are not what gives them value in Christ. They already have value in Christ. They do not have to "do" anything to have value, however, because they have value and want to "be" a Christian, their actions will flow outward from there.
In the end, for what it is worth, I simply ask you to evaluate both perspectives on their results. Recently I have been witness to churches who are meeting in high school gymnasiums and in small groups in homes, growing enthusiastically, seeing people saved weekly, believers discipled, and reaching their community around them regardless of appearance, age, social class, or color. These churches are the ones coming from the perspective espoused in the video, the one of "be" a Christian.
I have also seen churches who are stagnant in growth. The people who come to church are pretty much the same people every week. They get curious visitors once in a while, but growth is limited to the people who "fit in" with their group. Their people work tirelessly within the walls of the church in great programs for the people who go to that church, but even they sense "something is missing" without understanding why their own church does not grow. These churches are the ones coming from the perspective of "do" in order to attain a "higher standard" of Christianity.
As for the video, I get it. I agree with it. I am a Christian not because of what I do, what I do flows out of who I am.
Today, I am married with two children, and God is a greater part of my life than He has ever been before, yet still the past haunted me. My father was verbally and physically abusive, and for years I have asked the questions many people ask about how God could allow such things to happen. Sometimes I come across some truth that helps, but for many years I simply held God at a distance without ever even realizing it. God was God - powerful, almighty, and omnipotent - that was it.
Up until recently though, I never could latch onto my part in the relationship I had with God. I had a great head knowledge of who God is, I started my prayers with the words "Dear Heavenly Father" and could even talk about being a child of God without ever understanding the relationship I possessed.
The other day, while reading "When God Whispers Your Name", I came across these words: "You may get your looks from your mother, but you get eternity from your Father, your heavenly Father." The words "heavenly father" struck out at me, challenging me, and my attention focused on the next words. "By the way, he's not blind to your problems. In fact, God is willing to give you what your family didn't. Didn't have a good father? He'll be your Father." The book then quoted Galatians 4:7 "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
I am reminded by the prodigal son, who once he recognized he was not even worthy to be called a son any longer, came back home only desiring to be a servant in his father's house, only to have his father embrace him and reclaim him as a son. Then it dawned on me that for years now, I have been struggling with coming to God as a son, because of my own past.
My own father rejected me and rejected any attempts at reconciliation later in life. His refusal to be a father had spilled into my own perception as a child of God. I could serve God, but I could never seem to accept my relationship as a son of God. To that end, my life had been focused on serving God. Serve God in the choir, out on soul-winning, visitation, teaching a Sunday school class, in missions work, being an usher, working in the Children's ministry, oh I had the title of "servant of God" down pat. The problem is, that is where for so many years I had been taking my value.
As a worker in the secular world, you only have value to your employer if you produce. Stop producing on the job, and soon your boss will stop producing a paycheck. Your value is in your ability to serve the interests of your employer. However, in my family, my daughters' value is not tied up in what they do around the house. In fact, for the first few years of their life, productivity meant either cleaning vomit off of myself or changing a smelly diaper.
Because they are my children, they have value. Period. That's it. The only thing they need to do to realize that value is claim their title as my daughters, and accept my unconditional love. They do not need to earn my love. They are my daughters whether their performance is good or bad. I love them because of their relationship to me, not because they are productive or do well. In my mind, they will never lose value.
However, if they ever refuse to accept my unconditional love, because of some personal shame or guilt they feel, then in their own mind they would lose that value. Just like the prodigal son, their only recourse in their own mind may be to try to earn value once again by being a servant. This is where I found myself, and it was at this point I began to realize my value to God is not in being a servant, my value to God is in being a son.
If you have come to a point in your life where God does not feel so much like a heavenly Father anymore, maybe you need to take a step back and ask yourself, are you trying to be His servant or His son?
I heard last night on the news that 2012 brings with it a lot of hope, if only because it isn't 2011. It was a reminder of what the future always seems to represent - hope. Hope for what exactly though? Hope for change? Most people don't like change. Hope for something better? We'd do well to be careful in what we wish for. No, the kind of new hope I'm talking about comes from an understanding of who you are as a born again warrior of God.
My wife and I have been having some very serious discussions about some die-hard beliefs we have held to for a long time without any real understanding about why we feel that way. For some of those long-held beliefs, we have discarded them simply because they were not Biblical and more preferential, for other long-held beliefs, we needed more insight either to continue to hold to them, or let them go entirely.
One of those die-hard beliefs comes from an oft repeated verse in the Bible from Fundamental Independent Baptist pulpits. Let me be clear, I have a strong Baptist background, and this post is in no way meant to be derogatory, however, there are a lot of religions, churches and groups out there (including the Fundamental Independent Baptists) who could stand a large dose of intense Bible study by the individuals who claim those titles.
The verse in question comes from Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" The premise taught for so long being we are sinful wicked creatures with a heart bent toward evil deeds. Whether saved or unsaved, you are degenerate and only by the grace of God does anything good ever come into or out of your life. This is what I had been taught and believed for pretty much my entire life. Then a book came across my path over the past few months: "Waking the Dead", by John Edlridge, which put forth a counter claim. In the book Edlridge claims that the verse in Jeremiah only holds true to a person who has never accepted Christ as Savior, and that once a person accepts the blood of Jesus for payment for sins, they get a new heart. The process of being "born again" is the awakening of the Holy Spirit of God in you wherby God now lives in you, in your heart, and as such, your heart is no longer "desperately wicked" but rather your heart is good!
I immediately recognized and latched on to the truth of that statement. How can anyone possibly operate from a core that is pure evil and hope to influence anyone in a positive way?! However, if my heart is good, then from that central core where Christ lives, I can begin from a positive stance to begin to influence the world around me in a positive way. My wife, however, needed more than a book to tell her this. She needed something from the Bible.
To her credit, during an intense Bible study not related to the heart, she came across another verse in the New Testament. Hebrews 10:22 "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Here, in this verse she actually stumbled upon while conducting an unrelated Bible study, we see the words and process by which our "desperately wicked" heart is made good.
The whole passage actually starts at verse 19 and goes through verse 25, and having it in its proper context only lends greater strength to the truth she realized. The Old Testament required a process of purification by which the High Priest could enter the presence of God in the Holiest place of the tabernacle or temple. That process included the ritualistic purification by water and the sprinkling of blood upon the horns of the altar - a picture of what was to come.
Verse 22 is the full realization in the life of the believer of that ancient practice, when, as born again believers we are encouraged to "draw near with a true heart." What kind of heart? A heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked? No, but rather "hearts sprinkled" with the blood of Jesus Christ (see verse 19 of the same passage). Sprinkled to what purpose? The purpose of purification, to have our hearts washed "from an evil conscience" so that we no longer have to bear the guilt and weight of sin. Finally, we are "washed with pure water" so that we can appear unblemished before God.
This verse completely counters the claim made by so many that the verse in Jeremiah is describing the hearts of all men. For the heart of a man who has laid his faith in the blood of Jesus Christ is no longer wicked, his heart is good. Your heart, my fellow warrior in Christ, is good. This is great cause for celebration indeed, for it gives a new hope not just for today, nor only for the next year, but for every future endeavor of your life.