Tuesday, July 27, 2010

False Advertising

Growing up, I never swore or cursed.  Raised Catholic, I was all too familiar with the Ten Commandments.  To me, breaking the third commandment was just as bad as breaking the sixth.  Let's assume I was lucky enough to be behind you at the Wal-Mart 10 items or less lane.  For me to mumble "Jesus Christ"; while you paid for your 23 groceries items with food stamps,  paid for your beer with a check, and talked on your IPhone, would be no worse than beating you to death with the register.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7

What does is it really mean to "take" God's name in vain? Interestingly, it has nothing to do with speaking, much less cursing.  The word 'take' in this verse has the same meaning when describing someone who "can't take it anymore."  The Hebrew word used is nasa'.  The word means to lift, bear, carry, or take.

So does the third commandment forbid lifting or carrying large billboards that spell "JESUS"?  The Hebrew word for 'name' is shem.  In English, I would say my name (shem) is Steven.  In our Western mind, my name has nothing to do with my nature.  It doesn't describe me, it just identifies what I am called.  If you wanted to describe me, you would be describing my character.  In Hebrew, the word for 'character' is the same word, 'shem'.  It carries the same meaning as used in the idiom, "make a name for oneself."

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

In Biblical times, a name wasn't just something on your driver's license.  It was the essence of who you were.  Your name was a word picture of your character.  The third commandment wasn't about using God's name inappropriately.  It forbade carrying the character of God in vain.  The word for vain in Hebrew is the word 'shav', and it simply means fruitless, useless, or nothingness. So what does it mean to carry God's character FOR NOTHING?

Let's assume I was participating in a rescue mission tasked with bringing food and water to some folks lost in the mountains.  After traveling 5 miles, they are now in my sights.  Just before reaching them, I carelessly trip over my own feet and lose all of the water and food down the side of of a cliff.  From everyone's perspective, I hiked 5 miles for nothing.  In the end, it was fruitless and useless.  My intentions were good, but my actions during the home stretch wiped it all away.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

What happens when you combine Christ-like "talk" with a secular "walk"?  If I was to pour boiling hot water into a pot of ice cold water, it would cease to be either.  Have you ever met a Christian whose walk didn't represent their talk; or how about their talk not lining up with their walk.  One of the most important jobs of a Christian is to "protect your cargo."  The Bible teaches that a Christian is the "temple" of God's spirit.  We are the carriage that carries the King.  We are called His vessels.  We are ambassador's of Christ sent out to "carry" His "name" into the nations.  How fruitless would it be to drop our cargo just as we arrived?  Have you ever gotten to know a Christian only to discover they were much more appealing when you only saw them once a week?

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.  Matthew 21:18:19

To understand this verse, we have to have to understand fig tree growth in first century Jerusalem.  There is an important relationship between leaves and fruit on fig trees.  Figs appear at the same with leaves.  As Jesus approached the leafy fig tree, he had no reason NOT to believe he would find fruit.  From the perspective of a "hungry" Jesus, the fruitless tree was useless.  It would be like hanging a piƱata for bunch of excited kids only to discover that it was empty.  How cruel is that?

Remember how important names are in Jewish culture?  Well the Greek city of Antioch had a name for these people telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  They decided to call them "Christians".  You see, back then, they would call YOU that.  Today, we assign it to ourselves.  On some days, we need references.

However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord  Acts 11:20-21

.......It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians. Act 11:26

Friday, May 21, 2010

Move Over America

America has had a great run.  Until the turn of the 20th century, the Bible was the most commonly used textbook in America. Despite what our current President says, America IS the world's most Christian country.  No other nation on Earth is more recognizably Christian than America.  It wasn't moderate Muslims, violent Buddhist, or messianic Jews on the Mayflower. They were English Christians who wanted to separate (Separatists) from the Church of England. American was built on religious freedom, but the slab was unique to the God of the Bible.  The concentration of Christian values was so great, that after 233 years, American is STILL the most recognized Christian nation in the world.

Despite being 233 years old, America has only been a superpower since WWII. After the war, the British Empire was dissolved, leaving only two superpowers left in the world, America and the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union lost the "Cold War" to the United States and dissolved itself in 1991.  By 1992, America was the single most powerful nation on the Earth.  America has starred or directed in every major world event, for the last 50 years.  To imagine a scenario where America isn't on the world stage is not only inconceivable, but disturbing. But we wouldn't be the first empire to rise and fall.  In fact, the prophet Daniel doesn't even give America a mention in his revelation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

King Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with a unique construction. It's head was of fine gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and it's feet were part iron and clay. Daniel then told the King that each part represented four successive world empires that were to come.  Daniel starts by saying that King Nebuchadnezzar's empire was the head of gold.

You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them  into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. Daniel 2: 37-38

Daniel tells King Nebuchadnezzer, that the head of gold was his kingdom, the Babylonian empire. This empire lasted 70 years as the most powerful kingdom on earth.  In 536 B.C., the Babylonian empire, the "head of gold", came to an end when it fell to the Persians, the "chest and arms of silver".

But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; Daniel 2:39

The Persians fell to Alexander's Greek empire, the "belly and thighs of brass" in 336 B.C.  The Greek empire lasted for over 300 years until it gave way to the Roman Empire, the "legs of iron".

And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others Daniel 2:40

Unlike the previous three, the fourth empire has no conqueror.  Also, the fourth kingdom is depicted TWICE.  It is first shown as being separated with two legs of iron.  Just as Daniel predicted, the Roman Empire had grown so large, it was divided into two, the Western Empire at Rome, and the Eastern Empire at Constantinople.  Two hundred years later, the "brittle" iron empire of Rome collapsed under its own stress.

But Wait.., There's More (in a Billy Mays voice) Daniel isn't done with the fourth kingdom.  Daniel continues with the re-emergence of the same Roman kingdom.  But this time, they've been given an extreme makeover.

Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. Daniel 2:41-43

Unlike the previous kingdoms, the re-emergence of the fourth kingdom BEGINS divided.  The Bible predicts that the fourth kingdom rises again in the form of a ten-nation confederacy.  Daniel had another vision of four great beasts; a lion with eagle's wings, a bear, a winged leopard with four heads and;

a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. Daniel 7:4-7

History identifies these beasts as the same four Kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar's image - Babylonian, Persia, Greek, and the Roman Empire.  Consider the accuracy of Daniels visions.  Daniel's third beast corresponds to the third kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's image - the leopard with four heads and four wings. The wings symbolize the speed of which Alexander expanded the Greek empire.  In just 13 years he had conquered a majority of the known world.  The four heads symbolize the four divided kingdoms ruled by his four generals after Alexander's death.  The Angel Gabriel revealed this to Daniel in explaining another vision.

Daniel has a vision where he sees a very powerful two-horned ram. Suddenly a goat with a prominent horn came from the west, crossing the earth with great speed (sound familiar).  The goat tramples the ram and becomes very great, but at the height of his power his horn is broken and four horns grow in its place.  Gabriel interprets the dream as follows:

The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.  Daniel 8:20-22

Let's go back to the fourth kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's image.  The fourth kingdom refers to the fourth beast in Daniel's vision.  The ten toes of the image represent the ten horns of the beast.  Daniel also gives a clue as to when this new kingdom will be in power.

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.  Daniel 2:44

These same kings are described in Revelation and will ultimately be destroyed by the FINAL kingdom represented in the image.

You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.  Daniel 2:34-35

And now we come full circle.  Daniel prophesied four great kingdoms before the one that ultimately destroys the renewed and divided Roman empire.  So we come  back to the question.  How can there be a powerful and prominent revised Roman empire with 10 kings if there still exists an American superpower?  I believe we are in the time between the third and fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar's image.  The iron legged kingdom of ancient Rome is history.  However, 1600 years after its fall, the new Roman empire of the EU is ready to take the reigns.  But there is one problem, America still has them.

The EU isn't powerful enough to be in a position to be crushed, but thanks to America's slow descent, it will be soon.  There are only TEN nations that hold full status in both the European Union and the Western European Union, and that doesn't appear to be changing.  There are other states that participate, but there are only 10 kings calling the shots. The following quote suggest they don't need any more.

Following a decision taken on 14 June 2001, the Secretary-General stated during the 1352nd meeting of the Council of Western European Union on 28 June 2001 that, with regard to the period from 1 January 2002, the Member States deemed it unnecessary, in present and foreseeable circumstances, to make any formal change to the statuses of non-full members. source

America has been in the driver's seat for over 50 years.  What puts us in the back?  Are we still in the car?  No one really knows.  For now, I can't think of a more accurate description of the EU than 'partly strong, partly fragile.' It's members share everything but sovereignty.  They have no constitution, no a central government, and no king.  Well, not yet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What does God need with a star-ship?

Despite being one of the worst movies in the Star Trek series, The Final Frontier had a couple of good lines.  Well, I can only think of one, but still, It's my favorite line.  After reaching the mythical planet Sha Ka Ree, Kirk and crew meet an interesting entity who claims to be God.  The entity seemed believable at first, but he made a major error in his dialogue with a skeptical Captain Kirk.  The "God" asked how they managed to reach him, and Spock's brother educated him on their use of a star-ship.  The "God" then demands that the star-ship be brought closer to the planet.  Kirk rightly asked, "What does God need with a star-ship?"  Like Kirk, one of the things that I tipped me off in relation to Islam, was the codependency of their god. 

In Islam, Muslims are to help Allah's insecurity by fighting against those that don't believe in him.  In Christianity, If someone doesn't accept the message, you move on. It's not YOUR message to begin with.

Koran: Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. - Sura 2:216
Bible: If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. - Matthew 10:14

In Islam, Allah needs the help of Muslims to punish those who offend him.  In Christianity, God takes out his own trash.

Koran: Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme - Sura 8:39
Bible: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. - Romans 12:19

In Islam, Allah encourages all Muslims to pick up their swords and fight for him.  In Christianity, Jesus encourages all Christians to lay down their swords and pray for them.

Koran: Allah has purchased of their faithful lives and worldly goods, and in return has promised them the Garden. They will fight for His cause, kill and be killed. - Sura 9:111
Bible: You have heard the law that says, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! - Matthew 5:43-44

What separates Christianity from all other religions can be summed up in Kirk's question.  In Christianity, God doesn't NEED you or your star-ship.  He desires you.  He loves you.  There is no concept of love in Islam, only fear.  In Islam, martyrdom will get you into heaven via the express lane.  Allah desires that you "Slay the infidels wherever you find them".  Jesus didn't come to slay the world, He came to BE slain.  After being spit on, whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross, Jesus looked up and said, "Father, forgive them."  Compare that to the next time you see Muslims making death threats when their God is mocked.

My God isn't codependent, insecure, or nervous about people who don't agree with Him, but Allah seems to be a little sensitive when it comes to unbelieving mortals.  When Kirk refuses to bring the star-ship closer, the entity gets visibly upset and attacks Captain Kirk.  Suddenly, everyone starts doubting the entity after realizing that this "god" is helpless without them.  Yup, that's pretty much how I came to the same conclusion.  The god of Sha Ka Ree needs a star-ship, Mohammad needs a sword, the Wizard of Oz needs a curtain, and Jesus wants ME.  I'll take the one who wants me over the one who needs me any day.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Friday, April 16, 2010

Discerning the False

I was always good at taking tests.  Even if I didn't know the subject matter, I could successfully guess my way through most questions.  No matter how tough the question, with a quick process of elimination, I could easily be down to two choices.  It's not always about finding out which choice is right.  Sometimes it's easier to just rule out the ones that are wrong.

My favorite questions are True/False statements.  The single most important rule in analyzing True/False statements is every part of a true statement must be true.  If any one part of the statement is false, the whole statement is false despite many other truths.  You don't always have to know what is true.  If you can recognize any part as being false, you can confidently mark the whole statement as false, and move on.

Often in life, we get inundated with problems that completely overwhelm us physically, mentally, and spiritually.  The reason is that problems by definition force us to make decisions on how will we respond to them.  Most problems don't just go away.  They stand there nagging, whispering, and tapping their foot waiting for you to reveal your strategy on dealing with it.  Like a crying baby needing to be fed, problems want attention, and they want to know what are you going to do about it.
You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked Proverbs 3:25
Problems don't wait until you've had 8 hours of sleep and 2 cups of coffee.  Most of our problems come upon us suddenly.  Suddenly, you lost a job.  Suddenly, you get a letter from your kid's school, your lawyer, or the IRS.  Suddenly, you have problems, and you need sudden solutions.  In the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, what will you do?  What can you do?  Our immediate response would be to strategize, brainstorm, or grab at anything that looks like an answer.  But like the strategy for True/False statements, If any part of your solution isn't of faith, then the entire solution isn't of faith.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Any imagination, thought, or plan born out of fear, must be immediately arrested and investigated. If God never gave us fear, then anything born of our fear must NOT be from God. We may not know what the answer is, but there is a sure way to know what isn't. We make a lot of mistakes in the heat of the moment. Our survival instincts immediately kick in when our health, security, and peace is threatened. No matter how well we think we know how to fix the situation, most of the time, it does the opposite.
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12
Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is to circle False, then go to bed.

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10


Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Ambassador

As I watched the House of Representatives pass the Health Care Reform Bill, I felt like I had been in a car accident. For a brief second, I couldn't breathe. First came the feeling of shock., then a sense of confusion, followed by grief. My only relief, if you can call it that, was that no one was looking at me. All eyes were up front. I wasn't IN the accident, but I sure felt it. I wasn't behind the wheel. I didn't agree with the route. I didn't even vote for the hired driver. But that offered me no protection from my seat on the bus. The emotions were as real as the damage. I wasn't in the accident, I witnessed it. Had I been involved, I would have had to concern myself with the consequences. Like being immersed in a book or movie, I forgot who I was, or more accurately, whose I was.

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. Luke 17:20-21

An ambassador is the highest ranking resident representative of a foreign nation. They are messengers sent to live in a foreign nation with the express purpose of communicating the interests and goals of their home country. They are ministers of the highest authority, with full power to represent their head of state. Ambassador's allow national leaders the ability to be in many places at once. If you are speaking to the ambassador of a nation, it is understood you are speaking to it's leader. It is the duty of an ambassador to speak ONLY on behalf of their home country, and not on behalf of the country they reside.

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  2 Corinthians 5:19-20

As an American, I couldn't help but feel the effects of the initial impact. But I am also an ambassador of Christ, a citizen of the substantial, superior, and spiritual Kingdom of God. The health care bill will have an economic and social affect on all Americans, but I'm not just an American. As an ambassador of Christ, my security is in a head of state that isn't bound by limitation, opinion polls, and economic trends. I am as passionate about politics as the next guy, but the difference is I know who is in control of my destiny. I may live in America, but I understand whom I answer to. Political activism is my responsibility as an American, but it's not my burden. It is one avenue in which I carry out my real job - being a diplomat for Christ. If Jesus didn't worry Himself with the decisions of an inferior government, why should I? The religious leaders of Jesus' day were notorious for asking Him political questions. On one occasion, they wanted to get his take on Caesar's tax increases. Jesus thought that question was so important, He responded with as much emotion had the question been about Parker Brothers' decision to increase the Luxury Tax on the Monopoly board from $75 to $100.

Jesus said, "Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a coin. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matt. 22:19-21

It is undocumented, but I believe the follow-up question was whether or not he believed Caesar should sign "Climate Change" legislation, but I can't prove it. And just in case you didn't get the insult, God provided an object lesson. On another occasion, Peter was approached by the IRS and asked if Jesus paid taxes. Surprisingly, Jesus didn't respond by opening an account with H&R Block or scrambling to find all of his gas receipts.  Jesus let them know how serious he was about tax season and having to hand out more of Caesar's Monopoly money.

Jesus said, "Go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” Matt.17:27

Compared the the Kingdom of God, our system of government rivals a board game. God's authority is superior and nothing can float out of the sewers of Washington to change it. Ambassadors may live in their host country, but they are NOT exclusive citizens of it. Ambassadors may have to participate in it's commerce, but they are NOT slaves to it. As long as you are doing the work of an ambassador, you will always have your embassy, your provision, and the power and authority of Christ himself. Jesus is alive and he is busy preparing a new place for us.  When he left, who did He leave in charge of the store?  That would be me.

I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  John 17:14-18
After the signing of the health care bill, I prayed for the Americans. I then cited diplomatic immunity.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Clean End of a Turd

Political Correctness is a term that has been thrown around for years, but few of us know what it is.  I must have heard the term a hundred times before looking up the definition.  Even then, I was confused to what it meant. All I knew was that I needed it, If I was to avoid being sued, fired, or labeled racist, homophobe, or intolerant. Because there is no shortage of politically correct phrases, understanding what is expected of us is as easy as Paris Hilton...er... I mean an economically exploited sex care provider.

This is an African American neighborhood.
You cannot fly airplanes because you are visually challenged.
He is hair disadvantaged like his father.
Pat is considering gender reassignment surgery.
Where do the involuntarily undomiciled get cardboard and Sharpies?

One doesn't need to know the definition of political correctness to understand what it's all about. In it's simplest form, political correctness is a term that describes language, ideas, and behavior that seeks to minimize offenses by averaging out our differences with a thesaurus. For example, only a small percentage of our population has had a sex change.  But unless you are walking around twirling your umbilical cord, we've all had some type of surgery. Before Political Correctness, the thought of having a sex change was culturally taboo.  But today, It's something we're not supposed to even blink at. 

Before Political Correctness, being poor was a temporary setback or an obstacle that needed to be overcome. There used to be a stigma associated with being poor that discouraged you from getting comfortable and spurred you to get back on your feet. A generation ago, If you were on welfare, you hated that you were.  Thanks to Political Correctness, you can be financially disadvantaged and feel better about it. Poverty has nothing to do with finances. Political Correctness is the poison that turns your temporary situation into a permanent perspective.

The victimization of the poor IS their poverty. Proverbs 10:15

Not to be left out, illegal aliens can now plunder America guilt free. It is politically incorrect to demand that existing US laws be enforced. Consequently, It is costing U.S. tax payers over $300 billion a year in welfare, medicaid, and other government services to support illegals. Political Correctness would have you suspend that fact and believe that they are not illegal aliens, but undocumented workers. Guess how much taxes "undocumented" workers pay toward the $300 billion it cost to support them? Which begs the question, what kind of workforce COSTS you money? Don't ask bankrupt California. It's politically incorrect to investigate that crime scene.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was quoted as saying she will no longer use the word "terrorism" because it causes people to fear terrorist. (Crazy, I know.) She will now call them "man-caused disasters." We can all sleep better knowing that aeresol cans and Jihadists are equally scary. Which is probably why airport security spends equal time certifiying my mouthwash and my passport. Political Correctness is something that we innately know to be stupid. But that doesn't stop us from choosing to go along with it.

The Apostle Paul spoke of a time when the world would choose to believe something they knew to be a lie.  Eventually, they would get so good at it, they could no longer distinguish the lie between the truth. Everyone who graduated the fourth grade knows WHY the Vikings called Greenland, GREENland. It's not the settling of the science, but the searing of the mind. They have "departed" from their own conscience because it was the Politically Correct thing to do.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by (politically correct) demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 1 Tim. 4:1 (NIV)

Texas A&M holds an annual contest for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. A few years back the term up for definition was 'Political Correctness'.

And the winner is: "Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

Friday, February 26, 2010

God's Question

God has only one question for mankind.  He's been saying it for 6,000 years. Some of us have heard him say it multiple times. On the surface, the idea that an all knowing God would even ask a question sounds counterintuitive. But when one looks deeper, the answer is apparent.  If God is asking us a question, it's because WE choose the answer. God may know how we choose to answer the question, but He still gives us the free will to answer it.

Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9

God's first question to mankind was "Where are you?" It is a question only we can answer.  God didn't create robots pre-programmed to love him.  He created free will agents with the ability to choose Him, or not.  Hense, When God asked Adam, "Where are you?", He wasn't referring to his physical location.  God asking the location of your body is absurd.  God asking you to decide the location of your heart is the single most important question of your existence.

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. Joshua 24:15

We are all born into this world as trees planted on a fence line.  On one side of the fence is evil, representing our world right now.  On the other side is good, representing our life in eternity. We remain on the fence line, up until the point God asks us that very important question.  If we choose Christ, we are uprooted and transplanted into His righteousness.  We are grafted into the vine of Christ and our identity is now in Him.  If we don't choose Christ, we are transplanted to the other side and thrown into the elements.  On one side is a life hid in Christ, planted in eternity, and justified. On the other is a life hid in uncertainty, hopelessness, and separation. As long as we breathe oxygen, we can choose where we want God to plant us.  So where are you?

Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! Jeremiah 12:1-3

The prophet's question is as valid today as it was 2,600 years ago. Why do wicked people prosper?  Why does it seem like good things happen to bad people, and vice versa?  The answer is obvious when considering the branches of a tree. Having your tree planted in Christ doesn't mean you won't have branches hanging over into evil.  If I'm in traffic, at the Popeye's drive thru, or at the mall, you might actually see them grow faster than Jack's beanstalk.  But those are my branches, that is NOT where I'm planted.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, we are not what we've done.  We are where we choose to be, and choose to trust.

Just like a Bible toting, bumper-sticker, lapel pin Christian can have branches sneaking over into wickedness,  a sinner can have branches reaching over into charity, righteousness and good deeds?  The answer to the age old  question is this:  God MUST redeem the good branches of the wicked in this life, because their next life is only judgement.  For the Christian, we have already been judged at the cross, so our next life is only reward.  We redeem the reward of our good branches, on the side of our planted hearts.  We redeem the consequences of our bad branches, on the other.

When a Christian reaches into sin and unrighteousness, God prunes them. He doesn't even try to clean it up. He leaves the dead branches on the ground for all to see and read. ( Think Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, King David,etc. ) When the branches of a wicked person reach out into righteousness, God prunes them and their reward is given to them now. Why?  Because their answer to the question was, "right here and I'm not moving."  When God asked Adam, "Where are you?", it wasn't because He needed to know where he was.  He wanted to know which side of the fence to plant him on. On one side is forgiveness and eternal life, on the other is shame and suffering.  The question hasn't changed in over 6,000 years.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Mark 8:36
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Friday, February 19, 2010

Falling Off The Earth

As a child, one of the games I used to play with my brothers was Keep Away. Keep Away is a children's game in which two or more players pass a ball to each other, while a person in the middle attempts to steal it. Of course, Keep Away could be played with anything. I've played it with a ball, a television remote, or anything wanted by the one in the middle. For me, Keep Away was more fun if the person in the middle didn't want to play. There was an added feeling of joy and happiness when you're taller, faster, and in possession of something valuable to the poor victim.

Many years ago, I came to a major crossroads in my life. It was decision time and I didn't know which way to go. I had just graduated High School and was deciding on whether to join the military, head to college, or attend seminary. I was so scared about making the wrong decision, I spent the entire summer worried about what was going to happen next. Would I go to college? If I did, would I pick the right major? What about the military? Which branch would I choose? I didn't want to waste time, and I certainly didn't want to screw it up. It was during this time of paralyzing pressure that God spoke to me these words, "It's easier for you to fall off the Earth, than to fall out of my will.

Before hearing those words, I always thought that God's will was like a doggy treat that I only got if I deserved it. If I prayed enough, had good church attendance, read my Bible, or sat still long enough, then God would reward me. It's as if God was Jay Stewart and I was on "Let's Make a Deal". If Jay liked me, perhaps he would give me a wink or some-type of sign to tell me which curtain I should go for. No one wants to get zonked in life, and perhaps a little flirting before the show will get me something big. I spent the entire summer being on my BEST behavior. In reality, I became religious. I pictured Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit playing a game of Keep Away. If I wanted His will, I needed to work for it.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Psalms 23:1-3
So why do we think we need to "make" things happen, when the scripture clearly teaches that He is the shepherd, and we are just the dumb sheep? It is the shepherd, not the sheep, that know where the next pasture is. It is the shepherd that makes the herd sit down and rest. It is the shepherd that takes the herd from danger. It is the shepherd that causes them to be where they need to be. It doesn't say he only leads the sheep with the whitest wool. It doesn't say he leads them if they've been good that day and haven't caused too many problems. The Lord leads them because of one thing. Because HE is a shepherd. Shepherds don't play Keep Away. God doesn't withhold good from us. For a sheep that WANTS to remain in the herd, it would be easier to fall off the earth than fall out of the Shepherd's will.

So what about Jonah? What about the sheep that seem to fall out of their shepherd's will? What you have to understand is that Jonah was a prophet of God to Israel. You don't get to be God's prophet by being rebellious. Jonah wasn't running from God, Jonah was running from an assignment. There is a big difference between a single act of rebellion, and living a rebellious life. It was because Jonah was in God's herd that He went after him. Jonah knew exactly what he was doing. Jonah didn't accidentally take the wrong flight and end up in Tarshish. Even when we purposely flee from our Shepherd, He comes after us. Why? Because that's what shepherds do. For a Christian who is in God's hand, and WANTS to be there, there is nothing that will be able to take you out of it. Even in the heat of the moment, when you jump yourself.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me. John 10:28

Jonah is known by us as the guy who ran from God. But Jonah was known by God, as HIS sheep that had gone astray. Yes, you have a free will, and God will never violate that. But He does have a Ways and Means Committee that will ensure you return to the herd, one way or the other. Jonah was NOT the rebellious prophet who didn't want God. You are never who you are right NOW, and you are not who you used to be. Right now, you are His. You are not what you've done. You are NOT the rebellious child who had an abortion, had a child out of marriage, robbed a bank, or stole a car. God knew Jonah's heart and He knew that the Jonah's heart still belonged to Him.

God knows your heart, and he knows who you are, even when others don't. If you are in His family, then you are His responsibility and He will be the perfecter of your faith. Don't let the devil, your in-laws, or your friends tell you otherwise. And don't worry about tomorrow, next week, or next year. Keep your eyes on the Shepherd. The sun will rise, gravity will remain, and you can't sneak past the Shepherd. He's just too good at it what He does.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

And let us run with endurance the race God HAS SET before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Spotter



Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Eph. 6:10

Long before 38 Special released the album, strength in numbers was an idiomatic expression referring to the physical and emotional strength drawn from a group of people. The phrase implied that individually, we are nothing, but together, we are a force to be reckoned with. I have no strength, but the numbers do. Similarly, the Bible doesn't tell us to be strong. It tells us to be strong in the Lord. We have no strength, but God does. We have no power, but He does. Being strong in God has nothing to do with how well we quote scripture or the size of our authorized King James. Being strong in God is simply positioning yourself under his responsibility and his care.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:10

No one likes to appear weak. We're not even interested in being strong, just as long as others think we are. We all have a tendency to flex our own muscles. We can't help it. We buy stuff, wear nice clothes, put on make-up, be on our best behavior, and change the way we talk. All because we want to project in public, a bigger, better, and more successful image of ourselves. Most of us are like walking power-point slides. We accentuate the positives. We underline and italicize. Even our walk looks like scrolling text, as we say our name in bold. But inside we know better. Paul didn't hide his weaknesses, he displayed them.

Paul isn't indulging in masochism. He's simply realized that troubles in life have aided in the popping of his bubble, the snapping of his girdle, and the crumbling of his wall. If it's down, God can lift it up. If it's out, God can put it back. If it's dead, God can make it live again. Paul understood that God doesn't compete with his kids. He doesn't say, "Let's flip a coin. Tails, you can do it your way. Heads, you have to follow me." If you want it bad enough, God will give it to you. God will never take the microphone out of your hand. He'll let you talk your entire life, and patiently wait for you to lose your voice. Paul embraced his suffering because he noticed how quickly it caused him to pull over, get out of the driver seat, and let God drive the car. Being lost with no gas, no money, and no place to go is a clue that you should have never been driving in the first place. Need proof? Ask Jonah.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor. 10:13

Paul invites weakness, because it allows God to be strong. Paul also says that God doesn't test us beyond our limit. So which is it? How do we reconcile God being our strength in weakness, with the fact that he said he wouldn't tempt us pass our weakness? We have to recognize that HE is the way of escape, that allows us to bear it. The escape isn't an admission of defeat or a retreat. The escape is a part of the victory. The escape is a testament to God's faithfulness and His strength. Religion will teach you to return to battle with the latest Hillsongs album and quoting more scripture. Christianity teaches that it isn't about you, it's about Christ! Those that battle sins and habits on their own, fail miserably. Ask me how I know. Remember Joseph didn't conquer the temptation with Potiphar's wife, he RAN from it. Jesus was the only one who ever conquered sin. Flexing our muscles and standing in our own strength may seem like the Christian thing to do, but in the end, it will kill you.

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Prov. 14:12

Spotting is a crucial part in weight training. The main job of a spotter is stand next to the lifter with his or her hands under the bar. By doing this, the spotter can place MORE weight on the bar allowing the lifter to push more weight than he or she could normally do. If all we ever lifted was what we can already push, we would plateau and never go to the next level. A spotter ensures that your weight limit is always rising. God never brings us into situations where He isn't going to "spot" for us. And if God is spotting, there's NOTHING we can't lift. I've foolishly placed weights and had to call for a spot a few times. It's not a good feeling. Many choose to live their lives without God's love and protection. For them, there is no way of escape. ....unless you call for one.

For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13