Posts from the ‘Christianity’ Category

Six Step Downward Spiral of a Society

So now we ask the inevitable question in this country, namely, “how did we get to this place?” 
Well, thankfully, Romans chapter 1 verses 18 – 32 gives us a verbal flow chart, a trail to twisted thinking if you will, that outlines the downward spiral of a debased society. The end result of this spiral is stated at the outset. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,”

Step 1: in spite of the obvious design in nature, the society adopts an alternative (i.e. Godless) and materialistic philosophy. In doing so, they suppress the truth!

“who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”


Step 2
: The society no longer sees the need to honor God. This results in futile thinking, and darkening of the mind. What this means is that they lose the ability to see the hand of God in creation. There is a complete lapse of spiritual discernment. 

 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Step 3: God gives the society up to what they desire with their futile minds, and they fall into self deception and to defiling themselves with the very actions the society once instinctively knew to be impure.

 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

Step 4: Natural passions are discarded in favor of unnatural passions, including specifically burning with lust for those of the same gender.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 

Step 5: God turns His back on a society that refuses to acknowledge His right to govern their consciences, and then every other unrighteousness evil fills up society’s behavior as the new “normal”.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Step 6: in spite of their collective memory that such things are sinful, they flaunt their sin and give their wholehearted support to the so-called courageous ones who defy the law of God. So after this step, we arrive at the judgment of God, who reveals His wrath because the society refuses to repent.

 “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭18-32‬ ESV)

So what is the solution to this mess of our own making? The answer was given to Ezekiel long ago, and is an eternal spiritual principle of our unchanging God. We have two major missions as the people of God; warning and intercession!

Warning:

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
“If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭33‬:‭7-11‬ ESV)

Failure to warn our society is a sin of omission and an act of hatred, even if they do not want to hear our warnings!

Intercession, combined with our repentance:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ ESV)

Notice we as God’s people, need to turn from our own wicked ways and seek heaven’s healing for our land. If we as the church repent and humble ourselves before God, then God will heal our land. It won’t happen by praying against those who are lost, but by the Church bowing in humility and the fear of the Lord that will turn this nation around. 

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Our Best For God

It all started out so well. The people were amazed at the strength and power of their God, and had seen His love for them manifested in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. As the people of God are taught what the Lord required of them, they were given the greatest commandment, recorded in
Deuteronomy 6:5

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Nothing was to be held back when it came to their single hearted devotion to God. It was to be a love offering of their entire being; heart, soul and mind. But as years passed, a familiarity set in that morphed into contempt. What was once offered as an overflow of gratitude to God became an obligation and duty. Eventually it was looked on as a burden to be borne out of tradition, even while resented. And they acted like it, too. The spotless offerings were changed into leftovers, spares, and animals that would not cost them anything to lose.

Enter the prophet Malachi. God speaks to His people and confronts them with their heart condition when it came to worship.

Malachi 1:6-8
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

God wanted the best from His people, not the cast offs. They would have been better off not worshipping at all than to offer polluted offerings to God. The Lord puts things I. Perspective for the people in verses 11 – 13:

Malachi 1:11-13
For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“But you profane it,
In that you say,
‘The table of the Lord is defiled;
And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’
You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

“Wow!”, you might say. “They really messed up. It’s a good thing we are in no danger of that happening to us, since there are no animal sacrifices for worship now”. But wait, there are sacrifices of worship. They just are not animals anymore. But they are offerings of worship in they same way as before, and God expects our best.

Hebrews 13:15-16
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see that? We have sacrifices to give, just like they did. Verse 15 parallels the command to love the Lord our God with our soul, mind and strength, while verse 16 is about loving our neighbor as ourself. You see, whenever we spend time in worship to God, He expects it to be with our entire being. That doesn’t mean that worship has to be an aerobic workout. It does mean that we need to be fully engaged in what we are doing during worship. Focusing on other things, offering half hearted or distracted worship, or inwardly despising and diminishing worship will produce a polluted offering to God!

We each need to examine ourselves when it comes to our worship. Are we doing things out of routine and obligation, or out of love and devotion? Do we look forward to worship, or see it as an interruption? I challenge us all to be fully present during worship today, with our mind, soul and strength focused on our awesome God. Don’t insult Him by offering any less than your very best!

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Infants Who Die

On November 2nd, 2001 our daughter Sarah Elizabeth was born. Tragically, she passed from this life eight hours later, after midnight on November 3rd. These two days have been rough for me ever since that time. John Piper once compared grief over the death of a child to an amputation. Unlike a gunshot wound, once the healing is done, the arm is still missing. Then follows the feelings of loss over what might have been and dealing with the gone-ness that will never be resolved this side of eternity.

On question that comes up occasionally is that of what happens to infants when they die. I am completely sure that God saves them and takes them to heaven, but what do I base that on from Scripture? Glad you asked.

It is not that infants are not fallen along with Adam like the rest of mankind. They are. Romans chapter 5 makes that abundantly clear. It is, however, a matter of accountability before God. I would begin with what jesus said to the Pharisees in John 9:41.

” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

The culpability is based on their ability to see what jesus taught, but rejecting it. Because they had been exposed to the truth and rejected it, the were still in their sins. Infants cannot perceive the message and have no sin in this regard.

But what about those who have never had the Gospel preached to them? Paul addresses that question in Romans 1:19-20 and it directly pertains to what we are speaking about here.

Romans 1:19-20
” because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

What is of necessity implied here, is not only that those who have not formally heard about God have no excuse because of how God has revealed Himself in the natural world, but that those who are incapable of reasoning and observing creation DO have an excuse! This would mean not only small children, but also those with mental capacities so severely diminished that they are unable to perceive God in creation.

So based on those Scriptures, along with others, I would tell parents who have lost a child that they will see that child again, and that their loss is not an eternal one. Of course that assumes that the parents are believers, too so that they can be in heaven as well.

God is able to cover those who have an excuse due to early age or mental capacity due to His mercy, and the shed blood of Jesus for sin. In the end, what was written in Psalm 119:68 will still be true of God.

Psalms 119:68a
” You are good, and do good;”

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Fired by God – Lessons from Nadab & Abihu

While reading the other day, I was meditating on the account of Nadab and Abihu. My thoughts were along the lines of, “what were they thinking?”, and pondering about why their punishment for offering strange fire on the altar of incense was punished so quickly and severely. So I looked in my search function to find out more about these two sons of Aaron and came across a surprising passage that made me even more mystified by their actions.
The Nation of Israel was at Sinai, when these two were given an awesome privilege recorded in Exodus 24.

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” – Exodus 24:9-10

Both Nadab and Abihu had been given the awesome privilege of seeing a vision of Jehovah God on the mountain. In verse 11 it even says they ate with Him! This encounter should have instilled in them a reverence and awe for the power and reality of their God that would change their lives forever. And perhaps, for awhile at least, it did just that.

There is a popular adage that says, “familiarity breeds contempt.” But is that possible in our relationship with God? Is it possible that continued miraculous encounters with God could make someone take God LESS seriously? If pride enters in, it certainly can do just that. Nadab and Abihu began to assume that this event on the mountain made them special, or even worse, made them better than others who were not there. After all, we must be somebody special if God shows up and has a meal with us, right?

Well that is exactly what happened to them. Nadab and Abihu forgot about the nature of the God they were serving. Instead of this vision driving them toward a thirst for an ever more intimate relationship with God, it puffed them up with pride about the special revelation they had been given. After all, God was their buddy and pal who liked to have lunch with them. They must be something pretty special.

But our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 13) who will share His glory with no man(Isaiah 42:8) and will not be mocked ( Galatians 6:7). Fast forward a little while to the sacrifices being offered in the tabernacle. Moses and Aaron had offered a sacrifice, just as God had instructed them, and fire came down from God and consumed it.

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people.
And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” – Leviticus 9:23-24

Right after this spiritually charged and miraculous manifestation of the power of God, Nadab and Abihu take it upon themselves to cut corners with God and offer something unholy and profane in place of that which was sanctified for worship of God. And just like in the previous chapter God answered with fire.

​”And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.
And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spoke, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:1-3

What made this judgment come so swiftly? Perhaps it was because, as ones who had been with Moses and Aaron on the mountain, they should have realized the awesome majesty and power of their God and given Him the respect and fear that was due Him. In context, verses 8 – 9 could indicate that they were drunk. What it boiled down to was a lack of the fear of The Lord.

In our day, in the churches of America, don’t we sometimes do the same thing? How often are things from the world offered up to God in worship? We bring in the world’s philosophy, marketing, music, and lifestyles and offer them up to God and expect Him to be pleased with our worship. How often have we shown up for worship when just an hour before we were watching a show or listening to music that God absolutely hates? Where is the reverential awe and fear of The Lord? We have gotten so familiar with the Jesus who is our co-pilot and best buddy that we forget who we are serving (or who is the one being served) and offer up the unholy because hey, we are under grace and it doesn’t matter what we do any more. God’s got us covered!
The lesson of Nadab and Abihu is clear. God even told us what it was a few verses later in Leviticus 10:10.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;”

And lest you think this principle doesn’t apply to us today because of grace, listen to the Spirit speaking in the Letter to the Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:28-29
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

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The Roman American Church

I have heard many criticize the Fourth Century church in Rome for taking festivals from Rome’s pagan culture, “Christianizing” them, and keeping them in place in order to be more attractive to the Roman citizenry and thus bring increasing numbers into the churches every week. They go so far as to say that this corrupted the church.

But some of those same people have no problem with taking the music, marketing strategies, business practices, holidays (Halloween?), fitness centers, politically correct philosophy, and morality from our present secular culture, adding some Christian lingo to “Christianize” them, and using them to bring in greater numbers every week. After all, as long as we don’t change the core of our message, that’s what matters, right? Except the message invariably does change in order to be more seeker-friendly and bring in the numbers for services, commerce and financial gain.

What is the difference between the 4th Century Roman church and the 21st Century American church? None! Pagan Rome and secular modern culture are both anti-Christ from the word go! They were so disturbed by Christ and His disciples that they killed them at every turn. Yet we spend time trying to be as worldly as we can get away with in hopes that maybe they will like us now. Are we above our Master? They hated Him, and they will hate His followers as well!

John 15:18-21 (NKJV)
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

The Church used to heed Paul’s admonition to “come out from among them and be ye separate saith The Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Now we have flipped that on its head and say “make things light and non confrontational so the lost will feel comfortable and want to come in amongst us”. May I submit to American Christendom that a sinner should not be comfortable inside our churches! The convicting power of the Holy Spirit should make a sinner distinctly uncomfortable. It’s called conviction of sin, and it is one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was sent! Instead we draw them in with consumerism, customer service, and entertainment. But those who are drawn by the entertainment will need ever increasing entertainment to keep them coming back for more!

So enough of secular, commercialized, comfortable American church-ianity. Away with WIIFM (what’s in it for me) messages and philosophy! We desperately need world shaking, sin convicting, life changing Christianity that is able to go forth in spiritual power and call the lost out of the secular world to faith and repentance and discipleship!

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Communion and the Wrath of God

I want to talk about one of the attributes of God that the bread and the wine should remind us of. Many times we talk about how they represent His love, His Mercy, or His grace, and they certainly do represent that. But those only have meaning for us if they also represent something else — the wrath of God.

In looking for a good definition of the wrath of God, I really liked one by Arthur W. Pink.

“The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin.”

A just and holy God can only have one reaction to evil, and that is wrath. This is not God losing His temper and lashing out. This is a very calculated and perfect reaction to sin.
Joel speaks of God’s wrath and ultimate punishment of all the nations that oppressed God’s people. They will be judged and ultimately destroyed. The wrath of God on the unbelieving nations is described as God’s trampling of the grapes in the winepress (3:13).

As the Apostle John describes in the Book of Revelation,
The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia (180 miles) (Revelation 14: 19-20).

In Revelation 19:11-15, He returns on a white horse to judge and wage war. His eyes are a flame of fire. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood. From His mouth comes a sharp sword to strike down the nations. “He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:15).

This is another way in which the bread and the wine are such perfect symbols. In order for bread to be made, the grain must first be crushed into flour. And in order to make wine or juice, the grapes must be crushed in a press. This juice we hold in our hands was the product of crushing, in the same way that the blood of Jesus was shed as He bore the wine press of the wrath of God for our sins.

Isaiah puts it this way in chapter 53:10:
Isaiah 53:10 (HCSB)

Yet the Lord was pleased to crush Him severely., When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished.

This is what Paul means by the word propitiation. What these emblems represent is Jesus, who is the propitiation, or satisfaction of justice, for our sins. Romans 3, starting in verse 23 says,

Romans 3:23-26 (NKJV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Jesus was crushed to satisfy the wrath and the justice of a holy God. I would encourage you next time as you eat the bread and drink the juice with the wrath of God in mind, to meditate on Jesus, the one who endured the wine press of the wrath of God for your sin. The perfect One who The Lord crushed for our justification.

Romans 5:8-9 (NKJV)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

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Worship In The Shadow

The Word of God, at its very beginning, speaks of mankind as being created in the image of God. But what is meant by that phrase? I believe there is a clue or two in the original Hebrew of the text. The word translated as “image” is “tzelem” which comes from the word “tzel” which means “shadow”. So there is a definite connection, since whenever rays of light fall on something it casts a shadow, which is a type of image. So according to the Bible, we are in the image of God in the same way that our own shadows look like we do in a way.

Another connection can be seen when, in Exodus 31 God appointed a person named Bezalel to create the Tabernacle and its furnishings. His name in Hebrew, Betzalel, literally means “in the shadow of God”. The Tabernacle was used to facilitate the worship of a God by the ancient Israelites. When a human worships the God of the Universe, it is as though he or she were standing in the shadow of God, who dwells in unapproachable light.

which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (I Timothy 6:15, 16 NKJV)

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But how does this apply to us today? In Hebrews 1:3, the author describes Jesus as the “express image of His person”. We are in the image of God in the same way a shadow shows His image, but Jesus is the express image. It’s the difference between a shadow outline and a photograph. While people can and should be able to tell that God is with us, they will only get a clear and detailed picture of God when they see Jesus. And that biblical imagery should carry over into our worship today. When we worship God, we stand in His shadow as those who are created in His image and looking upon Him who is the perfect picture of the Father.

There are some things that are true when that standing occurs. For one, in order to worship in the shadow of God, like we were created to do, He blocks our view of other things. Those lesser things may be visible in our peripheral sight, but our focus will be on the One who overshadows us. Worship occurs when we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and give our while attention to Him. As we habitually do that, we will slowly but surely be changed ourselves into clearer images of Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)

This may be bold, but I believe it is accurate. Anything that does not point us to Jesus and cause us to focus on Him is less than true worship. In the modern church over the past few decades, there has been a restoration of the truth about the joy of The Lord in Worship. What we need now is a restoration of the awareness of the awesomeness and glory of the One who alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. In doing so, we fulfill the destiny of why we were saved in the first place.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:49 NKJV)

So next time you spend time in worship of God, whether alone, as a family, or with other believers, I would encourage you to focus on the One in whose shadow you stand. Contemplate the brightness of His glory, the perfection of His holiness, and the enormity of His power, and realize that as you stand there, He gazes back in love to you and knows your name, your thoughts, and the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Know that He alone is worthy of worship, and look away form those things which have become idols in your life. Let no rival thrones survive as you gaze upon His majesty. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and from your heart, and love The Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength. You will be ruined for cold ceremony or dead rituals. But you will be worshipping in Spirit and in truth.

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