Friday, November 26, 2010
Here is the quote I was supposed to do on Thanksgiving:
For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet.... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?
~Rebecca Harding Davis
I found this quote very fitting for Thanksgiving, seeing as how we, as Christians, seek to remember and give thanks for the blessings that God has given us in our lives on that day. I was also reminded that we should not only reserve this special privilege for Thanksgiving, but for every other day of the year. My challenge to you and me this week: let us continually, in every moment of our day, seek to reflect on the Lord's goodness and faithfulness in our lives and praise and glorify Him, not only for the good times of life, but also for the times when He has walked with us hand-in-hand through the fire of testing.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ."
- Count Zinzindorf
Can we say with Paul, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. " (Philippians 3:7-11)
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
MY HOPE IS SET
Every person faces the major questions of life: Where did I come from? Who is God? Is He real? Why am I here? What will happen to me after I die? Obviously, there are diverse answers for each person depending on their beliefs and the way they perceive the world, also known as their worldview. A person’s worldview shapes them into who they are and what they believe. As a Christian, our worldview is derived from the Bible, God’s Word to us. The Bible relevantly answers all of these important questions. The real matter is whether you are willing to believe it.
The definition of infinite is extending beyond, lying beyond, or being greater than any pre-assigned finite value however large; immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive. With our finite minds, we as humans cannot grasp the Almighty God’s infinite character. Above that, He is omniscient, omnipotent, and transcendent. God has created all and abides outside of time and space. As it says in Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Exceeding all of those characteristics is God’s holiness; it makes up His very being. John Calvin says this about the holiness and majesty of God, “Hence that dread and amazement with which, as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God…men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.” Not only is this God incredibly infinite and above everything, but He is our Heavenly Father, loving and merciful towards His children. Psalms 103:13-14 attests to this, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” He has intricately woven each one of us into His image. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) God has reached down and displayed His own glory in and through creation. He has a unique and specific purpose for all of His creation, including mankind. “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Since the world believes in evolution as the cause of the universe, our story of creation by the hands of Almighty God is marvelous and awe-inspiring. Not only was the universe created by God, but it was formed out of nothing. Genesis 1:1-2 describes this. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Francis Schaeffer describes this further, “The word ‘create’ used here means to create out of nothing. God created matter out of nothing. He did not just shape preexistent matter but brought it into being. He did not make only the world, but the heavens and the earth – everything there is. He created all things out of nothing.” Because we believe in a universe that was created rather than evolved, life is more precious, history more valuable, and purpose more evident. Not only was the universe created by God and formed out of nothing, but it was perfect and morally, physically, and spiritually good in the eyes of God before the Fall. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Disease, decay, and death have not always plagued the earth. It was because of sin that these entered. Therefore, we cannot blame God for the results of our sinful nature.
Even though corrupt mankind has roamed the earth for over 6,000 years, questions are continually flung from every country, race, and religion on the subject of man’s beginning, nature, and purpose. While there are many differing opinions on the origin of man, the Bible states that we were created by the Triune God and made in His image. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” What is the image of God, you say? John Piper explains this, “God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God." Therefore, we are made for God’s glory and the advancement of His kingdom, not our own personal agendas and priorities. Because of the Fall, man is born with a heart of sin and is therefore separated from God; man lies in need of a Savior. “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins…gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1,3b) “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32) This is the condition of each person’s heart; we are hopelessly dead and can do nothing to rescue ourselves from the coming wrath of God, whose laws we have broken. Romans 5:8 sums up our condition and the hope given to us through His Son, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Those who believe in Him and accept Him as Lord of their life have been brought from death to life. Though we still have a sin nature, we are no longer bound to sin, like we used to be. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, we strive to imitate our Lord and Savior in this fallen and depraved world (Ephesians 5:1).
In this relativistic age known as the 21st century, very few people agree with the fact that there is a standard of right and wrong, given from our Creator and etched within our very being. Even if they do understand this principle, very few live as if they believe it. Yet, in the Bible we clearly observe that God does not cavalierly nullify sin, but is abhorred by it. He has laid out His law for us in His Word, which should be obeyed. In Exodus 20, God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments. Some of these are still a part of our Law today, including the decrees not to steal or murder. A big misunderstanding today is that God enjoys ruling over us with an iron hand and therefore gave us these rules to destroy our “fun”. But these rules and commandments are for our good, not to punish us or take away our enjoyment. If everyone obeyed these laws, there would be no stealing, killing, raping, lying, or betrayal. The world would be a much better place. Not only has He given us His Law in the Bible, but He has instilled a standard of morality in each one of us, called our conscience. As Romans 2:15 says, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” We have become conscious of our sin through our conscience, as described in Romans 3:20. Thomas Jefferson, inventor, scientist, and president of the United States said this about our conscience, “The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or lesser degree.” A serial killer’s conscience is not as sensitive as someone’s conscience that has never done a heinous crime because he has dumbed down his conscience. Because of the Law given through God and our conscience, we have very evident proof that there is a basis of morality and ethics; breaking these laws lead to pain and misery.
“A world without suffering appears more like hell than heaven…. [P]retend you’re God and try to create a better world in your imagination…. Every time you use force to prevent evil, you take away freedom. To prevent all evil, you must remove all freedom and reduce people to puppets, which means they would then lack the ability to freely choose love. You may end up creating a world of precision that an engineer might like, maybe. But one thing’s for sure: you’ll lose the kind of world that a Father would want.” (Dr. Peter John Kreeft) One of the principal questions asked throughout the centuries is, “If God is good, why is there such evil and suffering in the world?” Many people blame God for the horrific crimes done against them, their family, friends, or even other people around the world. God is not to be blamed for the evil in the world; we are. Evil and suffering entered the world when sin did; at the Fall of man. As Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” God is perfect and good in all things (Psalms 119:68, Isaiah 63:7) and therefore, made His Creation perfect and good. According to Genesis 1:31, God saw all that He had made and it was very good. Why then does God not destroy evil, you might ask. The answer is that God will one day destroy evil, with fire. In 2 Peter 3:7 it says, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” His compassion and great love for the lost is the only thing that holds Him back. Lamentations 3:22 attests to this, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Because of that great love, God provided a way out; through His Son, Jesus Christ. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Dr. Peter John Kreeft offers another helpful commentary on this subject: “The answer, then, to suffering is not an answer at all. It’s Jesus himself. It’s not a bunch of words, it’s the Word. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument; it’s a person. The person. The answer to suffering cannot be just an abstract idea, because this isn’t an abstract issue; it’s a personal issue. It requires a personal response. The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone-God, where are you?”
Death is all around us. Around 170,000 people die every day. People everywhere are crying out for the answer to the question no one can escape: “What happens when a person dies?” Since 10 out of 10 people die, this is a very expedient question. When your heart stops beating, what happens? Many people have constructed their own views of the afterlife: reincarnation, universalism, and purgatory are just a few. Atheists, on the other hand, believe that there is nothing after death. Once you die, you are dead and nothing happens. If this were true, people should completely indulge in their own wills and desires, since there is no impending judgement. John Piper says this about eternity, “Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity." Life after death is a serious issue for those who believe in the afterlife of the Bible. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” One day, there will be a time of judgment for everyone; a time in which we must stand before Almighty God and give an account of our lives. The judgment will come when Christ returns, but we still haven’t answered the question of what happens after we die. In the Bible, there are two destinations after death; Heaven and Hell. Heaven is described as a place of eternal joy and dwelling in the presence of God; a place with no more sadness, pain, sickness, or death. (1 Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 21:4) As it says in John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Only those who believe in Jesus as Lord and produce fruit in their lives as a result of their salvation will go to heaven. For those who do not, Hell is their end. Hell is described in the Bible as a place of blackest darkness, eternal fire, and weeping and gnashing of teeth (Jude 7, 13, Matthew 8:12). Matthew 25:41attests to this, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Because of the gravity of this subject, we should live our lives as unto the Lord, continually keeping our minds in light of eternity.
From the Bible’s standpoint, the world has existed for about 6,000 years. Nations have risen, conquerors have been defeated, wars have raged, and peace has been overridden. Is history a boring timeline filled with monotonous dates or is it something more? History is His Story. Before the world was created, there was a plan; His plan. This plan was written out for the advancement of His glory. Kings and queens, conquerors and peasants, each person has a specific reason for being alive at this point in history; this is the visible portion of history. Angels, demons, God, and Satan war against each other for power and dominion in a battle that has already been won at Calvary; this is the invisible side. All of history points to the defining moment when Jesus Christ will return for His bride and the judgment of all. This Judgment Day is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is our hope as Christians. As Francis Schaeffer said, “The world is not going to get better and better. The Christian’s hope is not the gradual betterment of the world, but that Christ is coming back again.” “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” (2 Peter 3:10-12)
From creation to Christ’s eventual return, God has and will always be in control. Though we stray from His holy presence, our Heavenly Father is also compassionate, which was clearly observed at the cross. Even though our lives are erratic and shaky, our hope must remain on the Rock of Ages. Even though we don’t know what the future may hold, we know Who holds the future. Let us trust Him with our lives, that we may see Him when this life concludes. If our worldview is set on this principle, life will be much clearer and more purposeful, for we will then live for His glory and not our own.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
So, this morning I found a quote from Paul Washer on salvation. Be challenged!
“How could we have such a low view of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we have to manipulate men psychologically to get them to come down and pray a prayer? …How many times have I heard evangelists say, “It’ll only take five minutes.”? No my dear friend, it will take your life–all of it!”
This quote reminds me of the chorus from the song "All I Have Is Christ."
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
Is Jesus your life; the one you long for, think about, and have fallen in love with?