Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Hope Of The Christian

There are three essential virtues, within Christianity, on which we have our foundation in Jesus Christ built on. Two of them are faith and love and the third one is hope. In this blog I will be, specifically, dealing with hope, but first, seeing that all three inner relate to each other, what does Scripture say about the faith and love. I Corinthians 13:13 regards love as the greatest of the three virtues--“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” [NIV] Faith, as well, is very highly important, for it is our “core” foundation, without it salvation in Jesus Christ would not be possible--Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” [NIV] Though, faith is essential for salvation, it is hope that gives us security in that salvation--Titus 3:7, “So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” [NIV] I have heard many sermons about faith and many sermons about love, but, specifically, I have rarely heard a sermon about hope. Why is that? Well, what is the cornerstone of the Christian belief? It is faith--Ephesians 3:17, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” [NIV] To have hope in Christ one must have faith in Christ first. Well, I think it is obvious on why so much it talked about love: God is love (John 3:16) and love is the key word in the two greatest commandments--(1) love God with all your being (2) love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the cornerstone to our Christian obedience to God and fellowship to our fellow man; furthermore, love is the foundation to all God given laws--Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, " YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." [NIV] However, hope is the cornerstone of Christian perseverance--Hebrew 6:11, “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.” [NIV]

Hope and I mean real hope, which is only found in Jesus Christ, is not present until we deny our human selfish-pride and bring in our new life in Jesus Christ. Hope, as I see it, becomes the “glue” so to speak that holds all three virtues together. Colossians 1:4-5, tributes hope as the spring for our enduring faith and love in our new life--“Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saint (5) the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.” [NIV] True hope brings us true peace and true joy in our lives through our promised “Comforter,” the Holy Spirit--Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." [NIV] Hope brings us enduring strength and great rejoice through times of suffering and true hope in God will never disappoint us--Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [NIV] Hope is the promise of eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--Titus 3:6-7, “Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7) so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” [NIV] Moreover, the greatest encouragement that hope gives is the “blessed hope” of the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13, “While we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [NIV]

Often, I think where Christianity would be today if it was not for hope. Hope in Christ is what keeps us going, hope in Christ is our passion to witness, hope in Christ is our power to love, hope in Christ is the glory of Heaven, and hope in Christ gives us true freedom. The world has so much to offer in the way of hope, but it is a false hope that never will please, fulfill, or satisfy. This false hope is a constant let down that will keep us always wanting more, but we never truly getting what we want. What the world’s sense of hope will bring us? Nothing, but death--Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [NIV] To the Christian, hope is not wishful thinking, as the world suggests; hope is trust in God’s word, which leads to everlasting life--Isaiah 49:23, “…Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed." [NIV]

Of course, our hope in Christ will fall under attack, by the one whose enduring pursuit has always been to destroy our love, faith, and hope. Satan will attack us in a way that is quite seductive, he will have us to think that our own self-passions, self-wants, and self-desires will be given to us by God, no matter what, as long as we have enough “faith.” Oh, brother and sister, we know better. Christ told us to deny our self-passions, self-wants, and self-desires, to take up our crosses and follow Him. (Luke 9:23) Satan truly has a false sense of hope; he keeps trying and trying to destroy the very hope that we have in Jesus Christ, to prevent our way of spreading Christ’s hope in a hopeless world. Satan knows, by far, his future and we know it as well, he has a “hopeless hope” and he wants it to become ours, but we unlike him, we have a “living hope”--I Peter 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) and into an INHERITANCE that can NEVER perish, spoil or fade—kept in HEAVEN for you.” [NIV]

“The children of God are filled with peace and joy, despite all their struggles and valleys, they are confident of the salvation that waits for them. They receive peace in the knowledge that, thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed his blood and was crushed for their sins, the evil one can no longer accuse them before the Father. They have confidence that God will forgive them their sins because they trust in him, and confess their sins. They have confidence while they work and while they rest that the Son of Man will give them eternal life when he returns. They belong to God, and no one can snatch them out of his hand. They will never betray the Lord as Judas did. They love their Saviour, and he loves them. They produce much fruit. They are good and faithful servants who put what he has given them to good use. They keep themselves ready and waiting for his return.”

Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (3) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” [NIV]

Will it not be a great day when our hope turns to reality.

God Bless You

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hey Christian, Christmas Is Okay--If You Were Concerned

So, what is the story behind all this Christmas is pagan stuff and why are some Christian concluding that Christmas is sin against God?

The history of Christmas, as in the name Christmas, came from the Roman Church back in the 4th century A.D. during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. In Rome and throughout the Roman Empire their were much in the way of pagan rituals and festivals, which several festivals were held either on December 25th or sometime around the date. December 25th hosted two related festivals--natalis solis invicti, which was the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun," and the birthday of Mithras, which was the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice was another celebration of the sun, which fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the True Deity, church leaders decided to introduce a new festival (i.e. Christmas or “Christ’s Mass”) for Christians to observe the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The intention behind church leaders creating this new festival was so to avoid Christians from falling into the pagan practices and festivals that were popular at the time, as stated above. Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25th in 336 A.D. soon after the Christian baptism of Emperor Constantine, who declared Christianity the empire's favored religion.

So where does the argument for those opposed to the Christmas tree and other Christmas traditions lay. Here is the famed Scripture passage that most “anti-Christmas” people use to justify their viewpoint that Christmas, namely the “Christmas tree,” is of pagan origin and therefore a sin against Almighty God for any Christian to partake in—

Jeremiah 10:1-4, “Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel (2) Thus says the LORD,‘Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; (3) For the customs of the peoples are delusion; because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. (4)They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter.’” (NASB)

Now, to understand this passage in Jeremiah we must first understand the cultural background story behind it. If you go on in further in this passage you can clearly see that this pagan custom was a form of idol worship to the pagan god/s to represent, in a way, the One True Everlasting God. One of the most common examples of a tree idol was the Asherah, which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Asherah was a pagan goddess that was worshiped throughout the Mediterranean region. She was considered to be the goddess of the sea and the mother of Baal. She was always represented as a tree or pole, either planted or erected, then decorated. There are many warnings in the Old Testament about the Asherah tree--here are a couple of examples,

Exodus 34:12-14, “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. (13) But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (14) for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (NASB)

Judges 6:25, “Now on the same night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;” (NASB)

I believe these two examples along with Jeremiah 10 are clearly referring to idol worship, which they all relate to the pagan goddess Asherah. Therefore, to assume this has any reference to the Christmas tree is pure silliness and every bit taking the passage out of its contextual meaning. However, if those who set up a Christmas tree fall down and worship it as a god or goddess or if someone loves their Christmas tree more than God, then such a thing could be considered a form of spiritual idolatry, therefore, one could justifiably apply Jeremiah 10. Outside of these possible exceptions, I think it clear that Christians who put up a Christmas tree in their home are NOT worshiping them for idol worship purposes, nor do they love them more than their Savior Jesus Christ. They are simply using the Christmas tree as a fun custom or as reminder of the “reason for the season:” the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

It is unfortunate thing when well-meaning Christians call something sin that is not sin, and then try to enslave the minds of their fellow believers. As an old 4th century theologian stated, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Now, I would like to encourage you to read an excellent testimonial by a dear friend of mine, J.L. McKinney. He used to believe that Christmas was indeed pagan and wrong for Christians to participate in. However, through much prayer and study in Scripture he no longer sees Christmas as an issue, but rather a joyous occasion—“A Letter To An Old Friend.” (Click the title to read the blog)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Deliverance: From Atheist to Believer

“I was an atheist at one time. And like most atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don't believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people...to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded. To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.

I didn't realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn't escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God's existence, my prayer began with, "Ok, you win..." It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, wrote, ‘I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.’ C.S. Lewis said he remembered, ‘...night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.’

Lewis went on to write a book titled, "Surprised by Joy" as a result of knowing God. I too had no expectations other than rightfully admitting God's existence. Yet over the following several months, I became amazed by his love for me.”

By Marilyn Adamson

Truly a compelling story of rejection to acceptance, however, this is only a part of the whole article. Marilyn Adamson's theme throughout the whole article is answering the question, "Does God Exist?". Now, to a believer the answer to that question is simple, however, to an unbeliever that question is not so simple. Well, I am not sure about you, but as for me, to see a former atheist turned believer and then go on to answer the question "Does God Exist?," in itself, gives the answer. If you want to read the full article, simply, click on "By Marilyn Adamson" and your there.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christian, Through The Eyes Of...

What is the first thing you think of when you hear, “Christian?” What word, picture, or phrase comes to you?

I am sure everyone has their own opinion or thought about Christians, whether it is positive, negative, or neutral. When you are on the outside looking in, your perception of Christians can be seen in all sort of different ways. What concerns me is when I hear others talk negative towards Christians. However, what really concerns me the most is when that negative perception came from the source itself, Christians misrepresenting Jesus Christ.

For example, you have the “Christians” protesting at funerals, claiming that unexpected death comes to those who do not serve God or you have the so-called “Servants of God” who bomb abortion clinics and say they are doing God's work, apparently both of these groups need to catch up to their Bible and read "love thy neighbor." These people as you can see are extremist, who take a verse or phase completely out of context to justify their hate-filled agenda. My opinion is that these so-called Christians are clearly darkening the light that Jesus Christ wants us to shine as Christians. With that said, I do not believe willful acts like the bombings and the protesting at funerals have anything to do with Jesus, but have everything to do with a distortion of satan to tarnish the name of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Think about it, what better way for satan to steer unbelievers away from Jesus, then to corrupt within the very faith he despises and oh, how well our adversary, in so many ways, is doing that today.

Personally, the name Christian has made a transition with me over the years. I grew up in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, and faithfully, my family attended a local Baptist church. Being directly involved with Christianity including the high standards the Baptist church taught about being a Christian was a lot to live up to. The Baptist church like I said, taught high standards for Christian living: girls were to dress proper--no pants and no exposed cleavage, only dresses with a covering top, everyday and all the time. For the guys--no long hair, no piercing, no tattoos (if you have one do not get another one), and dressy pants and a button up shirt at all times in the church. To break it all down, anything that is a style or a trend in the world, stay away from it, which included any and all music that has a beat.

Sadly, though, after graduating from high school my commitment and passion for Christian living started to fade. I found myself face to face with the outside world no longer under the “security blanket” of the church and school. Everything seemed to hit me at once and my conviction for Jesus Christ became dark. During the next eight years my life spiraled into a world of drugs and alcohol, and a slu of bad decisions; however, I did manage to find a great wife and have three healthy boys--not all bad. Well, it was not until a conversation with my neighbor, when I was twenty-seven, that I finally listened to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to get my life back on track with my Savior Jesus Christ.

It has been four years since that life changing day, now I am thirty, my life has once again found purpose and passion in every aspect of my life. As a result of coming back to the Lord: my family and I attend a great Vineyard church in the community, finally, after a year of praying and church "jumping," my prayer life is strong, the increasing desire to study The Bible has followed, my love for music has expanded, and a true joy to write encouraging words has became a new found passion. I am not bragging here, it is all just a true joy and I want to share it; moreover, it is not all glorious, I have my low times, but my new found hope in Christ keeps me going through the rough times--like the old hymn says, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

Growing up when I heard the name “Christian,” my first thought was a person with a high code of standards mixed with an abundance of life sacrifices, but now, my thoughts are not so dramatic. Through out all of my experiences over my life (the good, the bad, and the ugly) I see the world in a whole new light--the clouded eyes of my past of “religious codes” and bad choices has transformed to a clear new set. Now, when I hear “Christian,” I think of a regular everyday person, with a regular job, a regular family, and a regular life. There is no dress code, no particular look--none of that really has anything to do with a Christians relationship with Christ. A Christian is one who earnestly desires more of Christ in there life; lives by faith, hope, and love and lives to spread the Gospel to all who need it. That is Christian, through the eyes of me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

November 4th, Abortion, And The Christian

Now this is not my usual type of blog as I usually do not get into political or controversial issues, but due to this election time, I feel it is necessary to point out to some Christians that our vote breaks down to more than just economics, health care, taxes, or American jobs. I am not saying that those issues are not important, but as a Christian, I believe all of those issues should come second to moral issues such as abortion because Christ and His apostles taught us to think and act as moral people in all things and I have never read that Christ nor His apostles told us to worry about economic issues. Therefore, we as believers in Christ must ask a critical question, first, when it comes to our vote. Where does each candidate running for President stand on the moral issues (local and state elections included)?

Pro-Life, Pro-Abortion, or Pro-Choice

There are two main candidates running for President, which most of us will be voting for one of them on November 4th. One candidate has a history on the issue of abortion of being completely against it (pro-life) and the other has a history of being for abortion (pro-abortion). Well, you might say that I am incorrect about the one who is pro-abortion and correct me by saying that he is really pro-choice. Okay, but isn't pro-choice really saying pro-abortion--let us break down each terms and then you will see that there is no difference between the two. Pro-life, of course, is one who is completely against abortion, Pro-abortion is one who is for abortion, and Pro-choice is one who believes that the choice of keeping the baby or aborting the baby is completely up to the woman. Now, think about, if one states to being pro-abortion, they are obviously for the woman's right to choose abortion, but are they totally against the woman's right to choose to have the baby--of course not, they just want the right of abortion to be available. So, is that any different from being pro-choice? The rights for a woman to choose either to keep her baby or aborting her baby are both seen by those who are pro-choice and pro-abortion. With that said, there is no difference between being pro-abortion or pro-choice. If you are pro-choice, you are also pro-abortion. There is no "gray-area" with abortion--you are either against the option of abortion or you are for the option of abortion. I guess, pro-choice is just a more "user friendly" term to take on than the harsh term of pro-abortion.

The Abortion Debate

Now, there is much debate within the medical and scientific fields concerning when life truly begins; however, even that debate is be voided by a new hanis procedure called "partial-birth abortion." No matter the debate, there is one issue that the medical and scientific fields do agree on and that is when a sperm and an egg come together they form a living cell. Now, does that living cell have a heart, a set of lungs, or a brain, "No." But will it? "Yes"--sounds like the beginning of life. In addition, common sense tells us that life begins with that living cell or upon "conception" based on the vast amounts of contraceptives out there to prevent pregnancies--it seems pretty obvious that life begins the moment of conception.

The majority of pro-abortionists argue that the abortion issue is not solely based on when life begins, what it boils down to is the "Freedom of Choice." Now, knowing that this living cell is human, what about the fetus/baby's rights. Because it is not a "breathing" human outside of the womb that takes all rights away from it. Humanity has always put a high importance on life along with searching for new ways to prolong it. One cannot help to take notice at the world today and see all the medicine, technology, and "health pushes" that are out there to help sustain and prolong life. Is it so hard then to apply that same importance on life that most hold, so dear, to a fetus or baby?Freedom of choice is a great thing for many reasons, but if the voice of the pro-abortionist is that it is the woman's right to do as she pleases with her body and no one can force her to do anything she doesn't want to do. Why can't we apply that same freedom of choice for a fetus/baby? To give freedom of choice for one and not the other, to me, is a complete contradiction. Who gave anyone the right to make a forceful and deadly choice for the baby, especially taking into account, that the baby has, absolutely, no ability to voice a defense of any kind--true cause to help defend their life.

The Christian Position

I was reading several pro-choice/pro-abortion articles on the internet and one particular article said this about abortion in The Bible, "The word "abortion" does not appear in any translation of the bible!" Well, this article amongst the other pro-choice/pro-abortion articles site Genesis 2:7 as the conclusive verse of when life begins, with the "breath"--Genesis 2:7, "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Now, I grant that this verse says a lot about life, but have some forgotten that God created Adam not through the standards means by which God set up of birth through the womb. In addition, God Himself breathed life into Adam, if one recalls there were animals already around breathing oxygen. This verse not only states how God gave life specifically to Adam, but also tells us there is a specific quality found in humans and not in animals. This argument clearly does not hold up Biblically to base any justification concerning the right to abortion. Of course, there were other verses used in these articles, but most as I predicted, were horribly taken out of context and/or the writers of these articles used misleading terms and statements to back up their arguments. Oh yeah, the idea that our God given "Free Will" of choice some how justifies abortion--nice try. Clearly, that thinking contradicts so many Biblical principles including The Ten Commandments. Moreover, our God given "Free Will" is the choice to either serve God or serve man, which is clearly pictured by the two trees in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9-13).

Now, The Bible does not specifically dabble with the subject of abortion, maybe because abortion/legal abortion was not prevalent then or was so widely "taboo" it wasn't even a issue a back then--just my thought. However, The Bible does offer enough information to give us a sound Biblical position on the issue of abortion based on the sanctity of life. In The Old Testament book of Amos, the Ammon people were about to be judged by God for several transgressions (sins), which one of those sins was a form of abortion and God surely did not take it lightly--Amos 1:13, "Thus says the LORD, 'For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to enlarge their borders."

There are also several verses in The Bible that state life or a life calling begins in the womb; plus, preciousness of children. Funny, I never once saw any of these verses below in any of the "Biblical pro-abortion" articles I read on the internet. And Why? To simply put it, "The proof is in the pudding."

Life In The Womb

Judges 13:7, "But he said to me, 'Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'"

Job 31:15, "Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?"

Psalms 139:13-16, "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. (14) I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; (16) Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."

Isaiah 44:24, "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,'"

Isaiah 49:1 (Jesus prophecy), "Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me."

Luke 1:15, "For he (John the Baptist) will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb."

Galatians 1:15, "But when God, who had set me (Paul the apostle) apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased"

Our Precious Children

Psalms 127:3, "Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward."

Proverbs 17:6, "Grandchildren are the crown of old men, And the glory of sons is their fathers."

Luke 1:42, "And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

I believe it is apparent and casts no doubt on God's position about life, where life begins, and how precious children are, after all, The Bible is God's Holy Word (I Timothy 3:16). Therefore, our position should be no different and we should never be willing to entertain any debate on the issue of abortion or compromise any standard on the subject. Yes, there is death from diseases, death from famine, and death from war, but does this mean that God contradicts Himself for the love He has for humanity--not at all. We must remember that is was by one man's (Adam) sin (Romans 5:12) that caused the "domino effect" of sin throughout all of humanity and along with that sin the once perfect earth was cursed (Genesis 3). However, God did show His ultimate love to all of humanity by sending His only Son, Jesus--John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." God through His wisdom intelligently designed a system in which life for humanity can live on and thrive. Do you honestly think He intended it to be a place for death? Unfortunately, natural miscarriages do happen, but it is not our place or choice to make it unnatural.

Conclusion--November 4th

Dear Christian, when it comes to November 4th remember that our vote should not be based on "We Need Change" (all politicians say that), politics, or economics, but a moral vote for what is right morally. Yes, abortion is legal in this country; we all know that, but that should never give reason to "throw our hands up" and give up--perseverance and hope should always be our fuel. Remember, one man can influence abortion legislation that is a fact, especially, when I hear and see pictures of this horrific procedure "partial-birth abortion," which one of the main candidates for President supports. Therefore, are you going to vote for the man that has proven to have no conscience or issue in destroying God's greatest creation and a helpless one at that or are you going to vote for the man that has proven a firm stance on protecting God's helpless creation. I know none of them are perfect, neither are we; both have pasts, so do we--just please make the right choice.

We all have been in the womb, came from the womb--are you glad your mother chose to keep you? I am.Lastly, I did not write this to condemn anyone who has had an abortion or to anyone who participates in decisions for it. Really, all of us deserve to be condemned, we are all sinners, but fortunately Jesus Christ has given us all away to escape condemnation and that is through Him--Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Furthermore, I do not advocate for or agree with the extremists that use slander and/or violence to promote their anti-abortion agenda. Sadly, most of these extremists call themselves "Christians" and if they truly are Christians, they need to "clear the fog" in their mind and eyes, read The Bible, and see that Jesus' message is that we do all things through love and compassion--not hate. Truly, our main agenda as Christians is to be a proper witness (attitude and actions) in spreading The Gospel and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.

All Scripture quoted from the New American Standard Version (NASV)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Keep To Sound Doctrine

I Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in the later times some will depart froth the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, (2) through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared,

II Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their liking,(4) and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”

I do not know if it is just me or if I am jumping to conclusions, but lately, the more I read news articles, blogs/commentaries, watch the news, or browse the internet--I see these two passages becoming known. Now, I am not a prophet, nor do I believe I can predict anything, but certain note worthy issues that are going on today have brought me to these two passages in The Bible. Now, I am sure these types of concerns have been going on for a long time, but because of the information age that we live in, these “new doctrines” are ever more dangerous, prominent, and bigger then ever before. Christianity is severely under attacked both internally and externally today--I am not talking about church burnings or Christians bickering over dress or music issues. These false doctrines are much bigger and much more destructive to Christians as a whole as well as humanity altogether.

Externally, Christianity throughout history has always been under attack, but lately, one of televisions most watched celebrities are leading millions to hell and causing born again believers to stray and doubt their faith in Christ Jesus. This new religion is called the New Earth and you might not have heard of it, but I am sure you have heard of its founder Oprah Winfrey: now there is a familiar name. This is no lie, I was shocked when my wife came home from work and told my about it and then she showed it to me on youtube. My wife was right: in the flesh--no look alike--Oprah denying Jesus on one of her shows, she stated to one of the audience members that there could not possibly be just one way to heaven that there are many ways and then the youtube clip immediately started into her internet broadcast of her newfound religion. Oprah states that there are many ways to salvation or just being a good person is good enough, she also states the goal is to overcome the Cross-not to cling to it, and that God was made in mans image. The concern I have is the overwhelming influence that Oprah has, there is a reason why millions of people watch her show everyday. Now, this is a scary statistic, the first week Oprah’s New Earth internet broadcast aired it had 300,000 viewers and only after three weeks it was over 2 million. The stats clearly speak of her popularity and influence and if that does not concern you as a Christian--something is wrong. To see the full length youtube video for yourself click>>link.

Internally, Christianity in regards to sound Biblical doctrine is being attacked by new a false doctrine that teaches a different Jesus, a different God, a different Holy Spirit, and a different Gospel that is nowhere to be found in The Bible, but it was, supposedly, given to these false teachers through visions from God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Why this movement is even more alarming than Oprah’s New Earth is because it comes from with in the Church. This new false doctrine is called The Word Faith Movement. Maybe you have heard of it, I did not until my pastor pointed it out in a sermon several weeks ago. What is so dangerous is that this movement is headed up by some of the most recognized and most watched TV. Evangelists, such as--Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Clefro Dollar, and Fred Price and the list goes further. This movement is nothing more than a cult, which as I pointed out earlier preaches a different God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and Gospel. They rarely use The Bible to justify this doctrine, well, and this might be going out on a limb, but maybe, because it violates and defies all sound Biblical doctrine. The shocking part is they have no problem saying that because they all claim these are new revelations apart from The Bible given by God. They teach that Jesus and His disciples were financially wealthy and because of that if, you believe in the doctrine God will supply all with wealth, health, and prosperity. In addition, they teach that we are like “little gods” or that we will eventually become like God because He created us in His image--sounds like Satan’s lie to Eve in the garden (Gen. 3). They also state that Jesus was just a mere man that when He died, He spent three days in hell fighting against Satan and his demons. Jesus eventually defeated Satan and became the officially first to be born again, which paved the way for everyone else. I could go on and on, but this movement seems to be endless on smearing mud on everything that is sacred about The Bible and Christianity. Now, if you are like me the first thought is who on earth would believe such direct lies and manipulation, even the most simple minded Christian could recognize this violates Biblical doctrine. Well, would it shock you that roughly several million every week buy into to these lies. They are clearly leading their Christians followers astray and leading the lost down a road to hell. Unfortunately, this doctrine along with its false teachers is increasingly gaining steam. Their books are becoming best sellers, their books along with other publications are being promoted at Christian bookstores, and their evangelism shows are being broadcasted on Christian networks like TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). If you want to read a more in-depth commentary on this false doctrine click>>link.

My concern for the Christians and the lost who are buying into these lies are great. Oprah’s New Earth and The Word Faith Movement are not just mere cults leading a few hundred or even a few thousand astray. Now, do not get me wrong, I am not down playing those numbers, one is enough to show concern, but when we are talking about tens of millions of people--this is a crisis that needs to be corrected and stopped. I do not know about you, but I do not like the thought of millions being turned away from our Lord. Of course, there are many other false teachings out there, which we should be concerned about, but based on the numbers they are clearly the most destructive. More often today, we are turning into a tolerant society and sadly, many Christians are following right behind, feeling there is nothing that can be done. Well, that attitude needs to change; we need to get back to having passion about standing up for what is true and what is right, instead of calmly standing back and watching. Turn off all things that have to do with Oprah, turn off all things that have to do with The Word Faith Movement and yes, I mean TBN--they might have other good and sound shows, but that still does not erase the fact that they allow false teaching on their network. Walk into the Christian bookstores that are indorsing this junk and let them know how you feel. Educate people, tell as many people as you can about these things and more importantly WITTNESS FOR THE TRUTH and PRAY.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. I John 4:1

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Feeling Blessed To Be A Christian In America

II Timothy 3:11-17
(11)“Persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. (12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,(13) while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (14) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, (15) and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Matthew 5:3
"Blessed are the poor in spirit
, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Recently, I have read some commentaries/blogs preaching that a true Christian is a persecuted Christian. They often say, “We must always feel persecuted as Christians, if we do not, we are not truly in Christ and we serve another Jesus” then I usually see verse 12 of II Timothy 3 used somewhere in their context along with the second scripture I noted Matthew 5:3. Now, Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” is mainly perceived in three different ways. Some perceive it as saying that Christians should not be financially rich, where they get that meaning in this verse is hard to say, but others, which I am referring to in this post, perceive it as feeling persecuted (poor) in the spirit for Christ. The third meaning, which I believe is what this verse is truly saying is that we as Christians should be poor or weak in our own human spirit or to say that as Christians we need to have a humble spirit and recognize that we can not just rely on ourselves in this life, but we need to seek God’s help in our lives in all situations to guide us.

Now concerning II Timothy 3, Paul noted in verse 12 that if we choose a Godly life for Christ we “will be persecuted,” not that we should feel persecuted. Yes, persecution will happen when we chose a life for Christ, though I believe, the persecution experience will happen on different levels. Some Christians will barely scratch the surface of persecution or just experience verbal persecution, and unfortunately others will experience horrific persecution, but no matter the level of persecution in which one will experience does not make us any less or any more a Christian. Also, note that Paul said in the previous verse (11) that The Lord rescued him from his persecution, not that he is still enduring it. My question to those who believe a true Christian is a persecuted one, especially, those who live in America--What is the extent of your persecution in the “Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave.” We live in America, for goodness sake, how can any Christian living in America even perceive persecution. What--did somebody call you a name, taunt you, or say, “God is not real?” Big deal is that persecution--not even at its least. True persecution to me is being thrown in prison for our faith, beaten/tortured for our faith, and dying for our faith in Jesus, read the book of Acts--the first century Christians were facing this everyday: Is that going on in America? I haven’t seen that lately in news. What do we know of persecution in America than just mere words? Remember the saying, "sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," I think this can apply here. I know and I pray for Christians in other countries that are being imprisoned, beaten, and even dying for their faith in Jesus Christ. It is sad and horrible, the ultimate test of faith, but Christ in them keeps them strong, upholds their hope that in Him this life is just a mere vapor compared to eternal life with Him. Now, they are experiencing what a lot of us will never experience-- so please place it in your heart to always pray for them.

Is it so hard to thank God everyday for living in America?--I do. What a great and glorious feeling it is being able to worship and believe in our Lord without any true persecution that other believers experience. I have always believed that God from the beginning has blessed America for recognizing the importance of His principles, though currently, American is turning its back on those principles and turning to Godless principles such as greed and self-satisfaction. My pledge to you dear Christian of “persecution” in America and to all Christians not only in America, but other Christians in other countries living free to practice our faith. Make it a point to praise and give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for blessing us to be able to walk in a Christian book store or any other store to buy a Bible, feel blessed that you can wake up on your day of worship without any consequence of imprisonment, and feel blessed that we can walk in faith without true persecution. Please if you are not already to always pray for our brothers and sisters that do not have our same freedoms and pray that we all will keep strong in our faith, love and hope in Jesus Christ. So, that when the day comes that we might experience true trials and tribulations for Jesus, the Spirit of the Lord within us will help guide and protect us. Being in Jesus brings joy, whether there is persecution or not.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Ecclesiastes 7:14
“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

To Those Who Do Not Know...Are You Interested?

The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

Romans 1:20-21: "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, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." We must acknowledge God as the Creator of everything and accept our humble position in God's creation.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." Everyone is born with the nature to sin or to do wrong and because of that sin we are distant from God's presence in our life.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even though we all sin, God still loves us and He showed His love by sending His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die for our sins.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The consequence of sin is death. And Yes, we all die, but the gift is eternal life in paradise when we believe and trust in Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." This is how we receive our gift from God, when we express with our mouth and believe in our heart that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and by the power of God Jesus rose from His death, only then will we receive God's gift, which is salvation

Romans 10:13 “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” That is it and nothing more--to receive salvation from death to eternal life. But remember, you have to mean it. It is not only the words you say, but also the absolute belief in your heart.

Romans 11:36: "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." Determine in your heart, today, to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.

If the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is truly something you want in your life--right now is the time, please do not put it off. Here is a simple prayer that you can say right now to receive the great blessing of salvation. If you stumble with the words do not worry, Jesus knows your heart with what you are asking--

"Dear Lord up in Heaven, I have heard Your great message of salvation and I believe with my whole heart. I realize that I am a sinner and that through your death on the Cross my sins can be forgiven: please forgive me. I believe in my heart that You have rose from the grave by the power of God to be my everlasting Savior. With my belief and acceptance of You come into my heart. I commit my life to You, my Savior. Amen"

Now, if you have prayed this prayer and committed your life to Christ--Praise The Lord!!!! Let me know by commenting, so that I can pray for you, to ask the Lord for His guidance in your life as a new follower. Being a Christian does not mean we are made perfect or that you will never sin anymore. We are still only human and have the human nature to sin, but as Christians when we do sin, God opens His door to us at any time that when we come to Him in prayer we can ask Him for forgiveness: He will forgive. In addition, Jesus does not just leave us hanging without anything to help us, when we accept Him we receive His Spirit (Holy Spirit) within us to aid in our walk with Him and to help and guard us against sin. The keys in our walk as Christians is having faith in Jesus, a faithful prayer life, reading The Bible, and finding a good Bible believing church--and remember, Jesus is always near to help us in anyway. If there is any other questions that you might have please feel free to ask?

BELIEVERS BAPTISM: Not Salvation, But A Testimony of Salvation

"And Jesus said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" Matthew 28:18-20.

Baptism is not an act that gets us into heaven--it is faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord that offers that assurance. Baptism (by full immersion as taught in the Bible) is an act of obedience that should be an important part of our acceptance of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Baptism symbolizes our relationship with Jesus Christ as well as our discipleship as a follower of Jesus Christ. But it does not mean that one who truly gives their heart to Jesus on their death bed, in the heat of warfare, or in a crashing airplane, will be kept out of heaven because they failed to be baptized. The thief on the cross next to Jesus did not have time to be baptized before he died, but he had an opportunity (as we all do) to believe in Jesus and put his trust in Him, and Jesus responded by saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" Luke 23:43.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Love So Deep, Even The Just Did Not See

We know that Jesus told us to love and to keep that commandment. That one commandment of love is the foundation of all commandments and is the foundation to everything we do as believers in Jesus Christ. We all know that Jesus showed that ultimate sacrifice of love to a world that did not deserve it, which was His punishment and death on the Cross. And when we accept His love, He will give us eternal life.

I was thinking today about that love and how deep His love truly is. We all have heard the scripture to, “love our enemies,” if you are like me that is the hardest area of love to express. It is easy to love those who love us back, who care for us, who help us, but to love those who rebuke us, do not care for us, and treat us like dirt--that is a tough one. Though this can be tough for us, it was so perfectly demonstrated by our Savior with no flaw or hesitation in one passage that we often over look as an example to loving our enemies.

In John 13, The Last Supper, which is also seen in all the other Gospels. John, though, gives us a little extra. In verse 21, Jesus says to the disciples, "I tell you the truth, one of you are going to betray me." And because of this statement, the disciples become very confused. Then in verse 25 one asks, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered in verse 26, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." Well, take in mind that Jesus is saying this to the point for all to hear. Jesus goes on in the rest of 26 by dipping the piece of bread and giving it to Judas Iscariot. Jesus then goes in verse 27 to tell Judas, "What you are about to do, do quickly," In this passage or any other Last Supper passages in the Gospel there is no mention that the disciples were shocked to learn that the betrayer was Judas, they only realized this later when Judas brought the Roman soldiers to imprison Jesus.

Now, did you see the love in this passage? To be honest, I never saw it either until about two weeks ago. Why didn’t the disciples make the connection that Judas was the betrayer? Jesus, point blank, told them, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." and then He gave the bread it to Judas, but still the disciples never once made out the Judas was the one. Why? Is it because they lacked common sense or they were ignorant, of course not, it was the ultimate love of Jesus that blinded their connection. Jesus knew who His betrayer would be from the beginning of His ministry up to the Last Supper. However, He always demonstrated His desire to love even to the one that would betray Him. Now, that is truly a perfect example of loving our enemies. Think about, if you were in a similar situation and you knew someone that you walked and talked with everyday was going to stab you in the back and betray you, which to me can be the worst enemy, wouldn’t you act very different towards him or her, I am sure I would be guilty of that. However, Jesus did not; He showed His unconditional love to the one that He knew would bring Him to unbearable pain and suffering and eventually to His death. Would you and I show that same kind of love?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Singing Praises To God. Is There Really A Wrong Way?

Psalm 33:3, "Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy."

From a toddler to teens, I went to a Baptist church and attended a Christian school that was connected with the church. The church along with the school had a very strict policy about the music that was played: traditional hymns accompanied only by the piano or organ; no basses, drum, or guitars. Now, as an adult, my own family and I attend a Vineyard church, which is probably one of the most noted protestant churches promoting Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) in the church today.

One day, I started thinking, “What does The Bible truly say about the whole subject of music and instruments and is there such a thing as "proper music" to be played in church?" Well, growing up in the Baptist church and the Christian school I was taught along with everyone else that secular music (non-Christian) was wrong because it never glorifies God, it only glorifies self or man and the style emphasizes the music not the words. So, as Christians, we need not to be conformed to this world based on this verse:

Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Well, you might ask, "What does this have to do with CCM--the music may sound like the worlds music, but the message of the song is about God?" This is a great question that was asked by many and the answer was always--even though the message is about God, the entertainment side of the music is of the world; therefore, the message is lost and it is no longer good or pleasing to God. Being a kid growing up in this, you pretty much accepted the answer, and never questioned it.

Well, as I got to my late teens, my attitude and thinking towards this subject was that all music either traditional, CCM, or even secular music was fine as long as the message of the music was decent. After graduating high school, I started walking my own path and not God's and I stopped attending the Baptist church; and frankly, stopped attending church all together. From 18 to my late 20s, I was big into secular music. When I was 29, I started attending the Vineyard church and it was there when I gave my life, completely, back to Christ. Soon after that decision, my interest for secular music faded and my interest for to CCM grew, it soon became everything I was playing, singing, writing, and listening too and is still that way today. Moreover, if this is so wrong according to how I was taught than why does it feel so right in my life.

Now, getting back to my question, "What does The Bible truly say about music and instruments?" Well, seeing that the internet is a great way to find information, I searched for articles and references about music in The Bible, and to my surprise, tons of articles came up about the matter. There were, actually, more articles contending that CCM is in no way Biblical. Most of the "anti" CCM articles were doing there best to rip to shreds the music and its artists, by what they called "clear cut scripture against it." The majority of these articles, in my opinion, were very argumentative and attacking by using words like: satanic, demonic, worldly or evil, and then at times would even relate it to some kind of paganism. Most of the verses that were used to derail CCM had nothing to do with music; they were, mainly, verses like Roman 12:2. Even the verses they used that had something to with music were the verses referring to "singing praises to God" or verses that referred to having a "new song," which are all great verses that deal with spiritual matters of the heart, but never, specifically, point to a style of music or instruments preferred by God. I am not going to get into the details about every example about why critics of CCM feel its wrong, but from what I see, most of the articles are very opinion based, more about assuming intentions on the music or artists, and they tend to only go with Bible verses that could backup their opinion, but they seem to leave out other verses that contradict their opinion.

Mainly, the critic’s over all theme tends to be that any music that has a beat or rhythm is wrong. They contend that according to The Bible, music should never appeal to the "flesh" and when that happens music brings out a physical responses, which is no longer a heart expression to God; therfore, that physical expression is wrong. These critics must forget or overlook the fact that all music either with or without instruments has rhythm--sound in time ; plus, The Bible explicitly has verses that correlate instruments with dancing as praising the Lord, example, Exodus 15:20-21 and there are several others in Psalms and the New Testament, note: these are the verses they usually leave out in their argument. Concerning the drums, the critics often state that drums are not even mentioned in The Bible because back in The Bible times the drums were often related to pagan rituals; therefore, because of that reason the drums must be wrong. Well, I guess the critics would also have to agree that because the name of God is never mentioned in book of Esther, we must conclude that God was not around during that time: right. Of course, we all know that is not the case--do you see my point? God is not the author of confusion, man is and when we fall into only using some of The Bible to make our point sound valid it can cause contradictory, confusion, and mis-leading statements.

To conclude, when you clear all the smoke that the CCM critics have on this issue, it all comes down to a pure and simply dislike for the style of the music, let me repeat, the style of the music. The Bible does not, specifically, dabble into the style of music that is proper for Christians or the proper music to praise God, and to say so--is an error. Music and/or instruments in themselves are in no way wrong according to what I read in The Bible, it only becomes wrong and not pleasing to God when we choose to glorify ourselves with it, rather than God, and God knows our heart when we come to Him in praise and worship. God, also, tells us as Christians not to judge each other and for the critics to say that CCM and its artists are in any way wrongfully enticing, misleading, and leading others down the wrong path away from God is assuming intentions of the heart. Clearly, spiritual matters of the heart and judgment, for that matter, is God's department: not ours. This verse has always helped to give me a clear understanding to what is right or wrong according to God concerning not only music, but everything I do in my Christian life, and I believe, in general, it can help us all as believers.

Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"I Will Never Leave You..."

The feeling of being alone is a tough one, especially, when you are looking for comfort and finding no answers. One day, about two months ago, I was browsing at blogs and I came across a blog post called, "Concerns of the Heart." The beginning of the blog post was about a concern that the writer was having with the condition of her heart, and not knowing if her heart was right with God because a sense of feeling alone, spiritually, crept in. She then started to wonder if she was doing something wrong to make God feel so distant.

While dealing through her dilemma, she thought of a fellow friend who was going through the same problem--then a verse of scripture came to mind.

Psalms 22:24, "He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him, but has listened to his cry for help." [NIV]

She goes on further to say that this verse is a reminder to us all, in general, to keep steadfast in our trust in the Lord and that no matter what, He hears us.

The second half of her blog goes into a spiritual conflict of trying to understand the line between believing in the Lord in mind, and believing in heart: "What's the difference?" She goes on to quote the verse:

Romans 10:10, "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." [NIV]

This was really something, personally, I have never thought about, but once I sat down and thought about it; it hit me: One, "it is with your heart that you believe…," separate from the mind, inward expression of faith in our heart. Two, "with your mouth that you confess…," outward expression of our heart's decision. This is a great verse to believers that shows our heart and our mind and the true relationship between them, not only do we receive the Spirit of Christ in our heart by our faith, but we also need to be express it outwardly. She follows up and concludes her blog post with this verse:

Philippians 4:7, "And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus." [NIV]

Philippians 4:7, to me is an excellent follow up verse to Romans 10:10. These two verses should give us confidence as believers that with our inward and outward expression of faith, God will, not could, can, or might, but will gives us peace that He will always be there guarding and protecting us.

My heart soon after reading this post was convicted. It was as if I was meant to read it because at that time I going through the same dilemma; namely, the feeling alone and finding no answers. Reading this post reminded me that no matter what, God is always there listening to my every cry for forgiveness, strength, knowledge, and understanding for His will in my life. However, at the time, I could not hear or feel His presence. I was constantly asking myself what was I doing wrong, but I never come to any justifiable answer, but there had to be something.

This post was perfect for what I needed at the time, a reminder of my never-ending relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ--"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5. This verse has always been a special verse to me and after reading this post, this verse had found new clarity, in general, this verse along with Roman 10:10 and Philippians 4:7 are just a few great verses to all believers to help guide us to understand, once again, that no matter what God is always there listening. He will never turn His back on us: it is we, as believers, who do not completely open ourselves to Him. Sometimes I can get so concerned and caught up in the trials of life and then turn around sit back dumb-founded and say, "Why God, why does it feel You are not there?" And the simple fact is He has never left, I am just blocking Him out with my life's little distractions. When I feel like God is not there, it scares me, but I need to never forget that it is not God who is distant, it is me who is distant from God; and this was my prayer to Him at that time and is still at times today:

"Dear God, You are always there even in my weakness, there are times I can loose sight of Your presence because I am so distant, but because of Your never failing love, grace and forgiveness, I can come to you with an open heart, and in-turn You will open my eyes to Your direction and presence. I thank You for Your love, Your grace, and the salvation You gave me: Amen."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Humble Witnesses

I Thessalonians 4:11-12

V. 11, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,
V. 12, "So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Lately, I have been going through a personal study of the New Testament. As I was reading through I Thessalonians, I came across these two verses, which immediately stood out and spoke to me. Though this letter was written 2000 yrs ago, the principles of it were not only important for Christians back then, they are still even as important today; moreover, I think giving the background of this letter helps us to see the concern that was needed at this time in The Bible. This was a letter that Paul the apostle wrote to the Thessalonian church. The Thessalonian church was experiencing a lot of stresses and anxiety at this time. One in particular was that the people of the Thessalonian church were so excited and motivated for Jesus Christ, that excitement drove them to quit their jobs because they thought the second coming of the Jesus Christ was on the horizon and they wanted to be ready with no distractions. Paul, in his earlier missionary work of spreading the Gospel of Christ established this church, but when he heard that they quit their jobs and were not following other principles he gave them, he grew concerned, so he sent this letter to further institute the principles he originally taught them.

Though the whole letter expresses great instructions and principles to all Christians then and even now, these two verses stood out the most to me. When Paul said, " to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life," I do not believe he was saying to live in silence or not to speak at all. I believe he was instructing them, which can surely be applied to us now, to lead a humble and calm life as Christians; in other words, do not be a loud mouth and an arrogant person. The second instruction, "mind your own business," is probably self explanatory, we need to be, only, concerned about matters of our own life and not be concerned or butt into others lives though as Christians I think if we see a concern in someone elses life where we could help: HELP, but remembering to show kindness and respect. Even though the third instruction, "work with your hands," was directed mainly towards the people of this church, Paul makes it clear to them that he never told them to stop working, he reiterates that they should strive to always work hard; in addition, this principle is so true for Christians today. Even in the book of Proverbs, it instructs us to work hard.

At the closing of verse 11, Paul continues with verse 12 by bringing the application of living by these principles, at which if we as Christians strive to apply these principles in our lives daily, it will only help us to gain the respect of unbelievers. These verses taught me that the only way we will properly reach out to those who do not believe in Christ, is to maintain a proper testimony by showing kindness, compassion, humbleness, hard work, and respect to others everyday, which in turn, will help us as Christians to have a stronger chance to witness to those who do not know or understand that they can, as well, reap the freedom of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Posting My Thoughts

Throughout my whole blogging experience, it has given me a new sense for challenging writing. I am not just writing for myself or writing another paper to be graded, but I am writing to an endless audience where there are no grades or positive feedback to encourage better writing. The audience can be at times strong and cutthroat and if they have a strong opinion or find loopholes about my writing, they will make it known. Therefore, I have to write as if I am on my best game to gain the acceptance of the blogger community. The tougher the critic the better, when they find the loop holes in my writing that is what truly makes me strive to be a better writer.

I decided to name my blog, Truth Perceived. It is a walk through my life and thoughts as a Christian in today‘s society. I wanted to create to the reader that I am not just another “Holy Roller Christian” that is so caught up in religious doctrine and standards that their thinking clouds their eyes from the reality of the real world. I want people to see that I am a Christian that people can relate too, not a person that people avoid and look at as someone weird or annoying. I enjoy the fact that others who might agree or disagree with what I am writing are reading my posts and finding them interesting based on my style, format, and content and if they happen to learn or gain some insight out of them I have accomplished my goal in my blog.

What I enjoy about blogging the most is that I can show whoever is reading that I have something to say. Most of the time, just in general conversation, I find myself as being more of a listener and not the talker. Now do not get me wrong, I like being the person that everybody comes to, to speak on whatever is on his or her mind, while looking for my insight in whatever way they are looking for. However, with blogging I can show that I have something on my mind as well. I can write without any interruptions and get everything out first then I can send it out for everyone to read to get their insight: it is great.

One interesting issue I discovered was that blogging was stressing me out. I was almost to the point of oppression with my posts and the comments towards my post. I had to make the posts perfect in both grammar and content, leaving no loose ends. I enjoy writing, but I was getting so strung out around the fourth and fifth post that the enjoyment for writing turned into more of an obligation to write just for a grade.

My breakthrough to overcome my dilemma did not happen until I was reading the class handbook, The Weblog Handbook. In chapter 7--“Taking a Break“, the writer was talking about the very same thing I was going through. It was like the writer was saying: know when to say when with blogging. The writer states that there are periods of time when we get so caught up on blogging, it can effect us physically and mentally. We need to learn when these periods pop up to shut of the computer and walk away for a few days. Though the stakes were a little higher than your average blogger experience because I was being graded too, I went ahead and took the books advice and I took a needed four-day hiatus from blogging.

After my four-day vacation from writing, I felt refreshed and rested. I found myself once again wanting to write again. My enjoyment for writing had come back and writing became easier. My enjoyment for writing started six months ago and the one thing I learned is that I can get so bent out of shape to make my writing perfect and that striving for perfection can affect me in a negative way in all aspects of my life. I learned that I need to take breaks and relax because the best writing I have done has been when I want to write not because I have to write. I write songs and play the guitar and there has been times when the same type of feelings of stress and lack of enjoyment have came up. A friend of mine who plays guitar once said to me that the best thing he has done is to know when to put the guitar down and take a break and then when the feelings come back to play, that is when he knows it is time to pick up the guitar again. This advice was given to me three years ago and it seems to be good advice in everything that I enjoy. With the handbook and my friends advice, I have learned that it is okay to take a break and getting stress out and striving for perfection can just make things worse. My love for writing is best served to everyone including myself when I am enjoying it and that is what I will always strive for.

God's Grace To A Wayward Child

I grew up in church my whole life and was blessed with the opportunity to go to a Christian school, from kindergarten to graduation; Thank you, Mom and Dad. When I was sixteen, sitting in a pew at my church, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit for salvation during a sermon by an Evangelist visiting the church. During the invitation, I asked Christ to save me and that day will forever be a day, I will never forget. The first two years after that day were great, but the Devil proved he was not going down without a fight. Around my senior year in high school, the Devil's fight became strong and I started on a downward spiral into darkness, ignoring the Holy Spirit’s convictions.

For the next eight years after graduation, I was doing my will and not God's. I was no longer attending church and alcohol and drugs ruled my life. In the mist of all of this, I never realized how my actions were killing my parents and destroying my own family, but God in His mercy and faithfulness was always there whispering in my ear, "Turn around and come back." One day, just a couple of years ago, my neighbor came over and invited my family an I to their church and right away I felt the need to go, so the following Sunday I went. Thank God for His grace, a dedicated and loving wife, and two parents who probably prayed their hearts out for my family and me because soon after that Sunday I gave my life back to Christ and stopped doing it my way. It has never been the same since. That decision spawned a domino effect in my life; my wife committed herself to Christ and all three of my boys did the same and my life once again had joy and purpose. "THANK YOU GOD, MY HEAVENLY FATHER, FOR YOUR GRACE AND NEVER GIVING UP ON ONE OF YOUR WAYWARD CHILDREN."

Seeking The Truth

On a beautiful fall day while working in the yard, I found myself in a conversation with my neighbor, Tim, talking about religious doctrine such as the Holy Trinity, baptism, and salvation. The conversation was going pretty well, we both agreed on all the general principles, but we started to disagree on the specifics. I always knew that there were different denominations within the Protestant movement like the Baptists, Pentecostal, Apostolic, and Methodist; and I was under the impression that the simple practices like baptism and worship style mainly separated each denomination; however, I believed the Biblical doctrine of salvation was the same within all Protestant churches. My impression soon became a misimpression as the conversation headed into the details.

Tim was a faithful Apostolic and I grew up Baptist and by one question Tim asked me, soon spiraled me down a path of questing the very foundation of my own salvation in Christ.
He calmly asked, “Have you ever experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Wondering where this question was coming from, I confidently replied, “Yes, I received the Holy Spirit at the point of my salvation, and I was then baptized a week later.”

Without hesitation, Tim replied, “Your salvation experience and your baptism are different than the Baptism of the Holy Spirit because there is always an outward expression, speaking in tongues, which follow when you receive the Holy Spirit.”

Anxiously! I replied, “I have heard of speaking in tongues and I know that it is in The Bible, but my conviction tells me that because the church has been established and the Holy Bible has been established, there is no need for speaking in tongues in the church today. And to say that you need it for salvation is ridiculous.”

With a sarcastic sigh, Tim replied, “You are one in the majority of people that are completely ignorant and led backwards from what The Bible truly says about salvation, particularly in the book of Acts.”

Completely shocked by where this conversation was going, bothered and concerned I said, “Sunday after Sunday for years I saw people saved and none of them spoke in tongues and they were also all led by called of-Godly men: I cannot believe or even conceive that the God I serve would let people be led astray by phony preachers proclaiming His own word, The Bible.”
The conversation eventually ended due to external reasons, but I did not want to stop, I wanted to prove that what he was saying us incorrect and misleading. As he was heading back to his house, he handed me a pamphlet and said, “This explains in more detail about the Apostolic faith of salvation and the Holy Spirit.”

Soon after we parted ways, and I just stood in the yard dumb-founded and confused, thinking that this is the strangest thing I have ever heard. Truly, what bothered me the most about the conversation was that Tim questioned the very integrity of my salvation along with doing a better job arguing his conviction on salvation with scripture? I knew all the right answers, but I had nothing to back them up. For the first time I felt spiritual weak and unprepared. Although the conversation ended before I wanted it to, I believe now it was all for a reason--God’s reason for me.

As I noticed by looking through the pamphlet, the Apostolic faith whole belief system is founded in one verse in The Bible, Acts 2:38, which says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Knowing that you should always read the whole text around a particular verse to grasp the complete context of which the verse is applying too, it struck me after reading the entire first and second chapter of Acts. This verse that the Apostolic faith considers to be the one true verse of salvation is not a salvation verse at all. This verse is a forgiveness verse, the people were already believers because of the background text leading up to Acts 2:38; and furthermore, Peter said, “Repent," in this verse and if you refer to any other scripture in The Bible pertaining to salvation, believe is always, first, then comes repenting.

Throughout the next several weeks I was intensively reading The Bible, praying, and searching for answers. I came across the book, Concise Bible Commentary by Tom Fleming, which gives a historical view point about what is going on in the Bible; in addition, the writer gives a more clear understanding of what the writer of each book in The Bible is saying. In the chapter that covers the book of Acts, the writer says this:

“On the Day of Pentecost two separate groups received the baptism--the gift--of the Holy Spirit. The first was the group of the apostles in Acts 1:15 and 2:1-4, the second, the group of three thousand mentioned in Acts 2:37-42. But there were several important differences between the two.”

“The first group consisted of people who were already believers and who had to wait till after Jesus’ ascension to receive the Holy Spirit. The second group consisted of the people who became believers only after hearing Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost and who received the Holy Spirit immediately. The experience of those of the first group (i.e. speaking in tongues) should not be considered the normal experience of the Christian. The experience of those in the second group, who received the Holy Spirit when they believed, without any unusual happenings, was the normal experience of Christians, then as well as now.”

It was not until about two weeks later after reading this; I was researching on the internet and came across a web site that explained in more detail what the writer above was explaining. The site stated that in every incident where there are people speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, the verses either before or after imply that they were already believers waiting for the promised comforter of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit. In other passages in the book of Acts, there are other people who were previously unbelievers who receive the Holy Spirit without experiencing anything unusual; for example, the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16. Clearly, if speaking in tongues were a defendant expression for salvation, every passage in Acts or throughout The Bible would include it.

As I continued on, in my study of Acts and other scripture, I realized the writers of Concise Bible Commentary and the website made perfect sense to me without leaving any loose ends to question. The conversation with Tim, at first, left me uneasy and confused spiritually, but after diligently studying and through the help of my Lord and Savior, I gained a newfound confidence in my faith and salvation. It was no longer something I was taught growing up; it had become a new strength and love for Christ in my life. Even though it has been over a year since that conversation with Tim, I will always be thankful to him and my Savior for opening my eyes and helping me see the need to strengthen my own faith and conviction. Although I do not completely agree with the Apostolic faith concerning salvation, the Holy Spirit, and speaking in tongues; I do not question their faith and hope in Christ and we are all brothers and sisters in the same body of Christ. Moreover, faith, hope, and love for what I can see and read in The Bible is what He--Jesus--has ever wanted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Meant For Something

When I was 21, I was having a conversation with my mom talking about the usual everyday stuff and out of the blue I suddenly asked her,

“Have you ever felt that you were meant for something or you had some kind of calling in life, but you just cannot put your finger on it?”

Of course, this totally caught my mom off guard. I believe this was the first time I dropped a “deep” thought on my mom. Without even giving her a chance to answer, I started into the details of my thought.

I explained to her how almost every day I have thoughts that there is something out there pulling me towards it and the only thing I feel certain is that it has something to do with the public or people: funny, all my jobs and the career I have now have been in public service: maybe not a coincidence. I continued to express to her that this feeling is so strong and real it cannot be just over-active thinking, more like a passion, but there is nothing I am really passionate about though this passion feels so strong within my heart these feelings cannot be for nothing, there has got to be a reason.

Now, I am 30 and nothing has changed, I still burn with that very same passion, but now it seems more intense, an every bit closer. More often today, my life is becoming more active with my family, church, work, and school, but as of recently, I believe I am on the threshold of figuring out this inner feeling or “calling,” if you will. Three years ago my friend Adam introduced me to the guitar and that, I believe, started the first step of a series that is bringing me closer to pin-pointing the feelings I have been searching for nine years. I know this might sound weird or strange to some, but like I said it is very real to me, as real as Eric Clapton playing a Fender Strat. Since my new found hobby of playing the guitar, it has developed into more singing and writing within the past year. I have thirty songs written so far, which ten of those will be on my concept album, Simple Truth, that will hopefully be recorded, professionally, this year.

I like to think that maybe this is what these feelings are leading me to, a career in music both in effecting peoples lives and being apart of the very thing I love to do, play music. I believe these songs are not just coming out of the clear blue sky, they are coming from something bigger than me. More and more I find myself getting involved with the music at my church along with two other churches in the area. I was talking to my pastor a few weeks back concerning these feelings and he mentioned, to just stay patient on the path to Christ and He will lead me in the right direction and to continue on with my talent and passion for music because what I have is a God given talent not to be wasted and to always be happy with it and if His will leads to bigger and brighter things in music, look at that as added blessing or bonus from God, but never be disappointed with what I am currently doing and to always strive to do better in the talents He has given me and always remember, my given talents should always be for His glory not mine.

The advice from my pastor really hit home. He helped me to see a clearer understanding about the passion and the feelings that have been stirring up inside me for nine years. "Patience is a virtue," so I will be patient and faithful to God and He will lead me to His perfect plan for my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not to my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct my path.” Proverbs 3:5

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Perfect Sense, Science and Genesis

This post was originally a comment-response posted by myself on my blog post, Perfect Sense. This post has been edited compared to my original comment, but if you want to see the full unedited version of my response; plus the whole comment discussion, check out the comments in my Perfect Sense post--FYI: for the comments on Perfect Sense--before I changed to Forward Thought, I was Anthony Mason.

I am not closing out science altogether. I understand and believe that science helps to explain what most of us cannot explain. I understand that because of science great things like hospitals and medicine derived, but what I am saying is science cannot explain everything and never will--there are some things that even science cannot touch, so why do we just stop at the point where some state that science is something that cannot be completely unfalsified because eventually you have to get to there with science, but by then the meaning of science would no longer exist. So what then, what is there to accept?--Theories that have no scientific relevance? I believe we were created to be intelligent beings. So, what ever spectrum you come from, creation or evolution, it is hard for me to accept that as intelligent creatures we must accept everything up to the point of nothing or “in flux,” as some say; which are all theories with no scientific relevance. I guess then the Creation theory is one of those “lack of science” theories as well, but it is the one I choose to believe in and put my faith in.

A person asked me one time, “What if you are wrong about the whole God thing?” My response to that person was, “Well, what if I am right?” I get a kick out of that question because you might as well ask a fish, why does it swim. I have faith in God because I just do, the belief is so deep and strong it can be hard to explain, but to believers it is as simple as 2+2=4.

The Concise Bible Commentary by Don Fleming is a great book that splices historical accounts with Biblical accounts book by book in The Bible. In the first chapter, Genesis, the author writes:

Science may investigate the physical world and suggest how something happened, but it cannot say who made it happen. Believers may therefore hesitate to dismiss a scientific theory simply by saying “God did it”, because the theory may have been the way God has done it. When scientist tell us how rain falls or how the grass grows, we do not contradict him by saying, “God makes the rain and the grass grow.” We accept both.

It is interesting that some state The Bible should not be considered a factual based book to teach science and should only be considered a book of allegorical value, I agree, but not completely. Though The Bible does not explain in detail everything about accepted scientific principles--that was not God‘s intention for The Bible; though, it does explain some accepted scientific principles used today.For example, in Isaiah 40:22 (written 2800 years ago) it says, “It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth.” During the time that the book of Isaiah was written, the accepted philosophy was that the world was flat. It was not until Christopher Columbus (2300 years later), whose voyage was inspired by this verse, set out to falsify the “world is flat” theory, sounds like a scientific experiment to me and guess what, it was falsified. If you want to see more examples, hit link.

Genesis is an account of how God made the formless to the formed, and with His almighty power made everything out of nothing, not in flux, not by chemicals reaction--NOTHING and as a believer I can easily believe that, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God‘s command, that what we see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Hebrews 11:3

“All scripture is inspired by God…” II Timothy 3:16, that even includes Genesis.