Saturday, July 30, 2011

Were Jesus' Prayers Answered: Protection

Part 2 in a 5 Part Series

In the previous post in this series, we started looking at Jesus’ prayer in John 17.  I cannot imagine that Jesus’ prayers would ever go unanswered, and yet some of the things He prayed over the disciples and us as believers according to verse 20 don’t seem to be so, but like many of our prayers, I think Jesus’ prayers were answered, just not the way we’d expect.

One of those prayers is in verse 15: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

Do you feel like you’re being protected from the evil one?  Or do you keep reading Job over and over telling yourself God is trying to prove something about you to Satan by letting him have his way with you?

But what we overlook a lot of the time is that Job was never in any danger from Satan.  God is the one who brings him up in conversation with Satan: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8), and after Satan’s initial onslaught, God again says, “"Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." (Job 2:3)

God never had any intention of giving Job up or letting Satan do anything that was going to endanger him. 

How can I say that?  I promise I’ve read Job and know all about the horrible things that happened to him, but I don’t think God’s protection is all about having a comfortable life with no suffering.  I think God’s protection is summed up in what Jesus prays a couple of verses earlier in John 17: “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

Judas was considered as “unprotected” and lost to the evil one.  Satan’s greatest weapon against us has nothing to do with suffering or hard circumstances in life.  Even with Job, the enemy wasn’t trying to make him miserable; he was trying to make Job curse God and die.  Satan’s only weapon against us is to get us to sin.  And you can bet he will use suffering and pain to do it.

But Jesus prayed that we would be protected from falling into Satan’s hands.  The disciples said and did some things that Jesus called them out on as sin, but He said that He had protected them by the name God gave Him—Yeshua or Yahweh Saves—and it is by that name that we are protected too, not because of any measure of perfectness on our part; rather we are protected by the perfectness of Yahweh who saves us: our strong tower, our shield, our deliverer.

Praise God!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flee From Idolatry

Have you ever been told that an idol is anything you put above God?  So it would be something like you watch television more than you read your Bible and pray, maybe you spend more time following sports, more time shopping, more time with family, etc.  

But is that what God says idolatry is? 

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were constantly falling into idolatry.  They made themselves a golden calf only 40 days after hearing the audible voice of God on Mt. Sinai and called it God.  But these idols weren’t always exalted above God.  The Asherah poles or trees were planted right beside the altar of God.  (Deuteronomy 16:21)  Or they had household idols while still worshiping the Lord (Judges 17:5-13)

The point is that these idols were not replacements or exalted over God.  They were exalted against God by being worshiped at all.

The sermons you’ve heard suggesting that idolatry is anything you exalt over God are at least partially correct in that idolatry can be something other than just a graven image.  The Bible says that idolatry is an issue of the heart:

"For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the LORD will be brought to answer him in My own person. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 14:7-8)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

But don’t think you have to somehow just give God a little more love then your idolatrous habits.  God doesn’t want a little more of your love.  He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)  If anything in your life takes a fraction of your love away from God, even the size of a mustard seed, it is an idol. 

That’s not to say you can’t love other things, but if you do not love those things through the lens of God’s love, it’s idolatry.  Does God love television?  Does God love what you’re watching on television?  Does God love football? Does God love shopping?  Does God love your family? If you think the answer is a “yes”, the next question is “how does God love those things?”  That’s how you should love them.  Anything else is idolatry.

Why do you think Jesus talks about vomiting lukewarm Christians out of His mouth in Revelation 3:16?

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Were Jesus' Prayers Answered: Unity

In John 17, Jesus prays over the disciples, and in verse 17:20 He makes it clear that the things He is praying not for them alone, but for all those that come after them who believe in Jesus, in other words us.

As I read this passage, I began to notice that the things Jesus prayed don’t seem to be so.  Is it possible that Jesus’ prayers weren’t answered? He is the Son of God.  If His prayers weren’t answered, then how can we have any hope?  They must have been answered, but how? 

Here’s an example:

That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23)

I don’t know about you, but in the past 2,000 years, I haven’t seen much unity in the so-called followers of Christ.  There have been denominational splits after denominational splits after denominational splits, and they started almost immediately.  Paul talks about these issues in the first chapter of first Corinthians:

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-14)

Why all the divisions? 

The answer is pretty easy actually.  They’ve taken their eyes of Jesus.  A.W. Tozer puts it this way:

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same [tuning] fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

~ A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (1948), p. 97

And if they’ve taken their eyes off Jesus, I don’t believe they aren’t part of the group Jesus is praying for here. He is not praying for Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants.  He is not praying for Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Non-Denominationalists, or any of the other hundreds of denominations out there.  

He is praying for those who believe in and follow Jesus.  They may have come to that belief through a denomination, but their denomination doesn’t define them.  They don’t say, “I’m a Baptist”, “I’m a Catholic”, “I’m a Lutheran,” etc.  They say, “I love Jesus!” 

In my experience if you take a bunch of Jesus lovers from all the different denominations and gather them together what you get isn’t discordant arguments about doctrine and dogma, what you get is unified worship of the only One worthy of worship, God Almighty! I’ve seen it many, many times. 

Yes, Jesus’ prayers for unity were answered, but those prayers only apply to those who have believed on Jesus and not an organization of men.  You won’t see a Baptist in heaven, and you won’t see a Catholic in heaven, nor a Presbyterian, nor a Methodist, nor an Orthodox believer. 

There is only one way to the Father and His name is Jesus. And the only people you will see in heaven are those who chose to follow Him, and they will be unified in their worship of God in the next age just as they were in this one.

Next in the series: Protection

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Were Born For This

Bruce Wilkinson, the author of the bestselling book The Prayer of Jabez, presents a follow up to that book all about miracles. 

When the publisher sent me the book and I first read the description, I braced myself for a super-charismatic-fire-from-heaven how-to book all about how to make God do crazy miraculous things in your life just by knowing the right spiritual buttons to push.  But I was pleasantly surprised, and somewhat relieved, to find that this is not what Wilkinson is encouraging in You Were Born For This.

In fact, the kinds of miracles Wilkinson talks about are rarely those signs-and-wonders spectacles that charismatics and conservatives get all worked up about one way or the other, though there are a few examples of healings.  Rather the book focuses on those amazing God-incidences (coincidences that God orchestrates).  Like when you’re in your hour of desperation because you can’t pay the bills this month, and a stranger shows up out of nowhere and hands you the exact amount you needed.  You’re left praising God and wondering about the mystery of it all.

I have certainly had a few of those experiences. 

What Wilkinson says in the book is that any one of us can be that stranger.  We can deliver a miracle to someone’s life if we’re just willing to be used by God and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  You could be the one to hand a stranger money, you could be the one to offer encouragement when hope seems lost, you could be the one that introduces them to the love of Jesus Christ, etc.

Honestly, I was looking for things to dislike about this book.  I don’t like step-by-step guides to God and obeying God.  It’s all too self-helpish.  But this book doesn’t have one thing in it about seeking miracles to help yourself.  If you were to follow the directions exactly as he writes them, the worst you could do is be used by God to help someone in need.  I gave it a go while reading the book, and God did some amazing things.

Needless to say, I will be living differently after reading You Were Born For This.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to hear Jesus tell them, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

Buy It Now $10.19

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Can God Make a Rock So Big . . . ?

Here it is folks!  I have the answer to the age old question “can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” 

I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has heard this particular paradox that attempts to limit God’s omnipotence by saying if He can’t make a rock that big, He’s not omnipotent, and if He can make it, then He’s not omnipotent because He can’t lift the rock. 

Typical apologists tie themselves in knots saying things like it would be against His nature to create something that would limit His omnipotence.  My favorite is that creating a rock of this size would inevitably make it cease to be a rock because at some point a rock becomes a cliff, a mountain, a continent, an asteroid, an orbiter, or a planet. 

But these apologists just play into the hands of the atheists with their rhetorical counters.  Before I became a Christian, I used to get no end of amusement from the foolishness of these replies.  Didn’t they realize they were admitting to their God’s impotence with these non-answers?  Then God audibly spoke to me and turned my life upside down.  He was real? 

Suddenly I didn’t find the paradox quite so humorous.  Is this God who revealed Himself to me omnipotent or what?

So, I started to search the scriptures to find out if there was anything in there about God’s omnipotence.  And it wasn’t hard to find affirmatives to my query:

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Luke 1:37 “Nothing is impossible with God”

Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Psalm 115:3 “But our God [is] in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

The answer seemed to be “yes” God is omnipotent.  So, what to do with the paradox? 

Can God create a rock so big that He couldn’t lift it?  Well, the answer must also be a “yes” lest we try and limit His omnipotence just like the atheists attempt to.  It would be one honking big rock too: infinite in size, way beyond the comprehension of any created being like ourselves, even the angels would ponder the thing in its all-consuming bulk.  And it would in effect limit His omnipotence.  He would cease to be all-powerful because He couldn’t lift it.  But this is all hypothetical because God has not created such a rock (I think we’d notice), and until He did, His omnipotence remains.

Now the question becomes would God ever create such a rock? 

The verses listed suggest that God does whatever pleases Him.  Would He be pleased to cease to be the most powerful being in existence just to make a few tiny people He created, who don’t even believe He exists, feel better about themselves and their sins and iniquities?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the infinite rock to appear any time soon.  God doesn’t disappear in a puff of logic, and He remains omnipotent.  All praise and glory to the One who is, who was, and is to come.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Don’t Want to Be Offended (Re: Love Wins)

There’s a lot of controversy in evangelical circles right now over Rob Bell's new book Love Wins.  I’m going to admit right up front that I’ve never read the book.  I read his book Velvet Elvis and watched some of his Nooma videos back in the day, but nothing of his since then.

That said, I can’t really discuss Love Wins in any detail.  I don’t think Bell is saying what people think he is saying.  He comes right out and says what he believes in.  Watch the video and see for yourself:

All that said, the controversy that the book spawned is a little more concerning than the book itself.

I’m going to layout what I believe before getting too deep into this.  I believe what the Bible says, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  That judgment leads to eternal life or eternal hell.  Eternal life is knowing the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3).  Jesus made it possible to know the Father by removing our sins at Calvary, and if you choose to accept this gift, it’s yours.  You’ll be transformed, and you’ll stop doing those things that separate you from God.  If you choose to reject it, you’re damned already.  Damnation means hell for eternity.

To sum up: Hell is real. Everyone does not get a trophy for participation.

Now, let me add some more controversy to the controversy about Rob Bell and whether this salvation can occur post-mortem:

We tend to get riled up at the thought of someone who did not accept Christ in this life getting into heaven anyway.  But let me ask you this: if He chose to extend mercy to someone after death during judgment, would you really be that person who says to God, “It’s not fair.  I spent years on earth serving You, and this person is getting the same thing I am” like the bitter workers in Matthew 20:12? Would it not be better to rejoice in such a case that your brother or sister who was lost is found?

Again I want to be clear that I think in order to be saved in the next life, you need to be saved in this one.  But it’s one of those things that I wouldn’t be upset about if I were wrong.  Jesus was very clear that many who think they’re saved will not be, and many who we might not think ought to be saved will be.  He’s the One who sorts the wheat and chaff, not us.  Let us rejoice with Him in the salvation of any sinner whenever it may happen, and grieve with Him in the destruction of any sinner whenever it may happen.  And rather than worrying about who's going where all the time, let's spend more time pointing everyone to Jesus, most importantly ourselves since He's the only one who can change our destination plans anyway.

Solo Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Halfway Herbert

Francis Chan tells us the story of Herbert who never finishes anything.  He finishes half his homework, he eats half his dinner, and he only brushes the top half of his teeth.  That’s why all his friends call him Halfway Herbert.  And when Halfway Herbert crashes his bike into his dad’s car, he tells his dad a half-truth so that he won’t get in trouble.

Halfway Herbert soon learns that a half-truth is a whole lie, and Jesus doesn’t take us halfway, He wants us to give Him our all. 

In the author’s note at the end of the book Chan writes, “The typical American pattern is to tell our kids about the love of Christ and wait until they are older to teach them about what it means to follow Christ.  Let’s not sell our kids short.  Let’s not underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do in the lives of our children.”

This is why I love this series of children’s books that Francis Chan has released.  They teach biblical truth in an accessible but unreserved way to children.  I find myself as convicted as the children in the stories by the lessons that are taught.

I highly recommend Halfway Herbert and any of the Francis Chan children’s books for the children in your family.

Buy It Now $9.35

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why are Christians so Power Hungry?

There are a few different types of power hungry Christians that I’ve met over the years.  There are the Dominion groups, both conservative and charismatic, who want to take over the world for Christ the king, either politically, socially, or spiritually.  There are the signs and wonders groups that want to call down fire from heaven anytime they should so desire.  There are the legalists who like to rule over their followers through condemnation.  And there are the traditionalists and denominationalists that set up hierarchies of power to maintain proper distance between individuals and God.

The thing is all of these groups have taken elements that Jesus taught and built man-made traditions around them.   But the kind of power a Christian should seek can never be found in man-made traditions. 

Jesus once told the disciples, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:19-20)

Jesus also said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

If you want to know power, seek to know God.  He doesn’t need your help to bring His kingdom to earth, He doesn’t need your help to perform signs and wonders, He doesn’t need your help to convict sinners, and He doesn’t need your help as mediators when dealing with people. 

But when you know Him, when you speak to Him and He speaks back, when you submit to Him and obey His commandments, when you love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, He will endow you with power from on high to accomplish His will on Earth, which might include all those things mentioned above.

The point is don’t start out thinking you know what’s best when it comes to wielding God’s power.  You are not a superhero out to save the day.  Don’t pray, “God give me the ability to do ‘x, y, or z’.” Rather, seek God’s face because He’s God.  Get to know the One who gives and takes away.  Pray, “God I want to do whatever you want me to do today.  I’m totally submitted to You because I love You.” Serve Him in your weakest moments just as lovingly and confidently as in the moments where it seems like all of heaven is at your beck and call, not because of anything He can do for you, but because of Who He Is:

The I Am, The Beginning and the End, the Creator, the Almighty One, Savior, Deliverer, Provider, Healer, the Jealous One, Merciful and Just, Father, Bridegroom, Brother, Friend . . . Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Let’s Get Real: Bringing Authenticity and Wholeness to Your Marriage

As individuals we need God in our lives, so it only stands to reason that we need God in our marriages.  Dale and Jena Forehand’s book: Let’s Get Real focuses on putting Christ first in your marriage in order to have authenticity and wholeness.  The book starts out with the story of their marriage, which ended in a broken home and divorce.  When they turned to Christ, they reconciled and remarried.  Their son came into their room and said, “Since you two are getting back to together, I would like to get together with God” (p 18).

The book basically tells about the lessons they’ve learned so that others might be spared the pain they experienced.

I love that the Forehands attribute all their success in marriage to God and base all their advice on relationship with Christ and bringing God glory.  I’ve read a few Christian marriage books, and the only other two I’ve read so far that do this are Love and Respect and Sacred Marriage, which ask the question “what if God made marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

All that said, I recommend Let’s Get Real with some reservation.  While the principles are sound, much of the book is missing.  At the end of every chapter is a “listening section” with fill in the blank questions based on the accompanying DVD.  Unfortunately the book and the DVD are sold separately—an inconvenient marketing ploy for someone buying this book because their marriage is in trouble and their life is falling apart.

Buy the Book: $7.99
Buy the DVD: $22.49

A review copy of the book was received from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Doesn't God Speak to Us More?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a survey titled: If You Could Experience God . . . The question was “If you could experience God physically one way, which would you rather do”, and the following options were given:

Feel God
See God
Hear God
Taste God
Smell God

The results of the survey were

9%    Feel God
18%  See God
73%  Hear God

It’s encouraging to see so many wanting to hear God’s voice over any other physical encounter with God, but why aren’t more hearing the voice of God.  I think it has to do with our prayer lives.

Most Christians have a very shallow personal prayer life.  We pray in church, and we pray over our meals, and sometimes when struggles come up in life or if we really, really want something, we pray for help.  Our corporate prayer life is even more dismal, in that we might have a Sunday school prayer and a prayer during service, but there’s not much beyond that.  And the average duration for any of these prayers?  Less than 5 minutes.  According to a recent Gallup poll, the average Christian in America spends one hour a week praying.  One hour a week for the Almighty God, that’s all we can spare.

Let’s compare that to some of the other world religions:

Muslims are required to pray five times a day facing Mecca, each of these prayers are 10 – 15 minutes in duration.  So that’s about an hour a day. 

Hindus pray and meditate at least three times a day, usually lasting several minutes, hours, or days.

Buddhists meditate for hours, days, and sometimes months at a time. 

It doesn’t really matter which direction you turn all the other religions spend more time in devotion to their deities then average Christians do.  Why?

Exodus 20:18-19 has the answer.  God has just called all the Israelites to meet Him on the mountain.  He’s delivered the ten commandments audibly with a visual display of His glory, and it says, “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die."  God is offering to be their God and offering a relationship with them unlike any other in history since the fall, where He will talk to them audibly, and they reject it out of fear.

Just like the Israelite’s on the mountain, God has offered us a personal relationship with Himself unlike anything offered before.  To have Him dwell within us and redeem us, yet we don’t pray as often as these other religions. Why?

It’s because we have a living God who will answer us.  It’s easy to pray or meditate all day when nothing is going to answer.  But we know He’s going to answer, and we’re afraid of hearing His voice.  We’re afraid of feeling His presence.  We know that when He comes near, He’ll point out all those things that we do wrong, and He’ll require change.  We know that He’s going to turn our comfortable little worlds upside down, so we stay silent.  We approach quickly and nimbly with trite empty prayers and run away before He can reply, and we say, “Pastor, you talk to God and tell us what He says.”  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Do You Forgive?

Forgiveness plays a big part in our Christian walk.  Jesus says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)  In fact it’s such an integral part of His message for us, He says it in Matthew 6:12, 18:21, 18:35, Mark 11:25, Luke 11:4, 6:37, and John 17:3.  And these don’t even count the implied verses or when the apostles reiterate forgiveness in their epistles. 

So what does forgiveness mean in realistic everyday terms? 

I could go into a long study about the Greek word and how it means to leave behind, let go, give up a debt, which brings to mind the parable of the man who owed ten thousand talents in Matthew 18:24.  But I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

In fact you’ve probably heard sermons about how you don’t forgive people because they deserve it, but because it will release you from bitterness.  Or maybe you’ve heard sermons about how God says, “vengeance is mine” (Romans 12:19), so just forgive them and God will get them in the end.  And these things are kind of true, but do they really reflect what forgiveness is?  Is forgiveness really all about you?  Is it really all about hoping that other person will get they’re just desserts in the end? Can you really say you've forgiven someone with these motivations behind your forgiveness?

What does real, Biblical forgiveness look like? 

When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?” (Luke 23:34)  This wasn’t a “release me from bitterness” prayer or a “you get them in the end, God” prayer.  Jesus asked that God would not take vengeance on those who crucified Him.  He asked that God would forgive them.

A short time later in Acts chapter two, Peter preaches to a crowd full of men who had crucified the Lord.  He specifically says to them: “this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)  And three thousand of these men who Jesus prayed that God would forgive were forgiven. (Acts 2:41)

In Acts 7:60, we can see this same thing happen again when Stephen prays that God won’t hold his murder against his murderers.  In Acts 9, Paul who held the coats at Stephen’s stoning is saved.

When you forgive somebody, pray that God will forgive too. This is Godly forgiveness.  Truly, in the same way you forgive, you will be forgiven.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Top 7 Christian Songs - July 2011

1. Blessings – Laura Story

Laura Story reminds us that this world is not our home, and even when trials and tribulations come our way, they are not meant to turn us from God, but to turn us to our Rock and our Fortress.

2. You Loved Me Anyway – Sidewalk Prophets

The Sidewalk Prophets sing of God’s love.  How He sent His Son to die for us, and how each of our sins nailed Him to that tree.  But He loved us through it all and freely gave us the grace His death and resurrection bring.

3. Glorious Day – Casting Crowns

Casting Crowns layout Christ’s life from the love of His incarnation to the salvation offered via His death to the justification of His resurrection all the while reminding us that He’s coming back and what a glorious day it will be!

4. The Way – Jeremy Camp

Shine bright; let Your glory fill this land.  Lift high the name of the king of kings: the great I Am. Jesus, you are the way!  There’s not much that can be added to a statement like that.  Na na na na na Jesus!

5. Stronger – Mandisa

Mandisa is making a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” statement in this song.  So God allows trouble in our life to make us stronger.  I’m not sure about that.  I’m pretty certain the Bible says He allows these things to show how weak we are and how strong He is.  At best He gives us strength to endure.

6. I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

God is faithful.  That’s why we have can have faith in Him.  Neat huh?  Chris Tomlin’s praise and worship songs are really incomparable in the Christian music scene today—mostly because he just uses scripture and worships God with it.

7. Reach – Peter Furler

What happens when the lead singer and creative force behind Newsboys goes solo? You get a Peter Furler album that sounds just like . . . Newsboys!  The song is good too.  It’s all about God being personal with everyone at once and how amazing and inconceivable that is.

Bonus: My Top Pick for July!

Manifesto – City Harmonic

They sing a creed of the Christian faith with the Lord’s Prayer intermittent within the song.  Incredible.  I have never heard the Lord’s Prayer prayed with such intensity.  It’s almost like he means it.  

* Top 7 songs are according to the national Billboard charts for Christian Music in all categories

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What is Sin?

Have you ever asked this question?  If you have, you’ve probably gotten a lot of cryptic responses like “sin is ‘missing the mark’”, “sin is disobeying God”, “sin is all the bad things we do”, etc.  

While these answers are not wrong, I never felt like they adequately explained it.  So, I set out to find a solid answer for the question of what sin is. What’s the mark we’re missing?  What’s God want us to do that we’re not? How do we know what bad things are?

I somewhat foolishly started in Romans, where Paul complicates the matter even more with phrases like “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET."  (Romans 7:7

So, is sin breaking the Old Testament Law?  Jewish leaders spend years going over the Law and still can’t completely agree on everything in it and how it applies today.  And then there’s the whole “I do what I do not want to do, hoo do, di di do” tongue twister Paul lays out at the end of that chapter.  Yikes!

Bedraggled by the torrent of rhetoric that is Romans, I walked away even more bogged down by the question of sin.

Finally acknowledging that I couldn’t grasp it on my own, I prayed for help.  As I prayed, I looked up and saw the picture hanging above our front door.  It’s just a piece of paper we printed on our home computer with a couple of verses on it:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)

On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40)

And it clicked.  If the law points out what sin is, and all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments, then sin at its base is not following these two commandments.

Sin is not loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  Sin is not loving your neighbor as yourself.  So simple: no one answers questions quite like Jesus does.

Friday, July 8, 2011

God's Wisdom for Little Boys

God’s Wisdom for Little Boys by Jim George and his wife Elizabeth George is a collection of character traits derived from Proverbs for what God’s little boy is.  For example the first page begins: “God’s Little Boy Is Helpful” based on Proverbs 3:27: “Whenever you are able, do good to people who need help.”

These traits and nuggets of wisdom are coupled with some amazing paintings by Judy Luenebrink; I think the cover page shown here demonstrates what a great artist she is.

As my son grows, I hope to make this a staple in his reading diet.  Learning the words of Proverbs in a fun and practical way will lead him in the steps of righteousness early on and hopefully impact him for eternity.  If you have a young boy in your life, I definitely recommend God’s Wisdom for Little Boys.  If you have a little girl in your life, there’s a God’s Wisdom for Little Girls available too, but I don’t have a little girl yet, so you’ll have to get a copy and let me know how it is.

Buy it now for $10.87

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to Honor Your Parents

As Christians we’ve all heard that we're supposed to honor our mother and father, and we’re quick to teach it to our children, but are we quick to live out the commandment and receive the promise attached to it ourselves?

The commandment goes as follows: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (Ephesians 6:1-3)

There are a couple of noteworthy things in this commandment:

First, there are no qualifying statements.  It does not say, “Honor your father and mother unless they treated you poorly, neglected you, tried to control your life, or even abused you.”  It does not say, “Honor your father and mother until you reach 18, and then you’re an adult and you do not have to, or you get married and do not have to.”  It does not say, “Honor your father and mother unless they’re not Christians like you.” It says to honor them period. 

Second the promise attached to this command has a converse side as well.  If you do not honor your parents without reservation, things will not go well for you, and you’ll have a short life. 

Ultimately the word honor in the Bible is associated with value.  It could just as well read, “Value your parents so that it could go well with you.”  So, how much value do your parents have to you?  If you had a blank check that represented the value of your parents, what value would you write in the blank?  One million, ten, a billion, a trillion?  Would you write in a phone call, a letter, an unexpected gift, a dinner, a “thank you”, an “I love you”, or even a hug? Maybe some of you would pay to be rid of them.

Do you know what God would write in that blank?  “Jesus”. 

He thinks your parents were worth Jesus.  He sent Him to die for them as much as He sent Him for you.  Jesus says that anything you do for the least of these in His name, you’ve done to Him (Matthew 25:40).  If you dishonor your parents, you dishonor Christ.

Isn’t the honoring of parents just an Earthly representation of the honor we should be showing our heavenly Father? Honoring our heavenly Father brings eternal life, so is it surprising that honoring our earthly parents would bring us longer life on earth?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Giveaway: Perished by R. Frederick Riddle

Entry Period Begins:  July 6, 2011
Entry Period Ends:    July 13, 2011

Head to the Giveaways Page on Manifest Blog for your chance to win a copy of R. Frederick Riddle's new book: Perished signed by the author.  Read my recent review of the book here.


When God creates the heavens, and earth, the archangel Lucifer refuses to believe and, with the creation of man, he rebels. Adam and Woman (Eve) enjoy sweet fellowship with God, but Satan makes war against God. Using Serpent, he tricks Woman into eating the forbidden fruit, which Adam knowingly eats; thus bringing sin unto all mankind. In holy anger He drives them out of Eden, while at the same time extending His grace and promising a Redeemer.

Adam and Eve start a family, but tragedy strikes as Cain slays Abel and God drives him from their home. He goes to land of Nod and starts a new civilization, thus beginning a struggle between good and evil. While conflicts grow, faith in God also grows and is demonstrated in the lives of Adam, Methuselah, Noah, and others. As society makes marvelous advances immorality rises, bringing upon them the judgment of God.
Product Details:

List Price: $29.95
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (December 17, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1456036823
ISBN-13: 978-1456036829


1. Become a follower of Manifest Blog if you're not already.

2.  Enter you name and email in the linky on the Giveaways page.

3. Throw in your blog address if you want, and I'll follow you back.

4. Finally, stay tuned for the announcement of the winner July 14.


Giveaway item: 1 autographed copy of R. Frederick Riddle's new book: Perished.   Only one recipient will be drawn at random from all available entries.  Obviously no purchase is needed to enter; just fill out the linky and cross your fingers.  Only U.S. residents please, only because of the price of shipping, not because I don't love my international readers. Finally, remember "Man casts the lot in his lap, but God determines the outcome" (Proverbs 16:33).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Futurecast: What Today’s Trends Mean for Tomorrow’s World

George Barna and his Barna Group are some of the most trusted names in market research for Christian ministries, non-profit organizations, and various media and financial corporations.  While in 1984 the company was originally founded as a simple research company, in 2004 the company regeared its focus to research and facilitating transformation based on that research.

Futurecast is a collection of the most recent data on the Christian demographic in the nation coupled with Barna’s predictions for the next 5 years based on that data as well as transformative suggestions on how to act on that data.  One of the biggest changes those familiar with Barna’s early years will notice is the steer away from trying to initiate social change from the top down (government, business, education, etc), to focusing on how we can impact individuals for the kingdom in our sphere of influence. 

Personally, I think that should be obvious, but I know many Christians, and I’m sure you do too, who would rather take on the government in all its abstract bureaucracy than tell their neighbor about Jesus.  But as Barna points out, individuals make up society.  Reaching one person who reaches one person who reaches one person who reaches one person is an exponential catalyst for social change. 

If I had to pick one thing to critique, it’s Barna’s championing of the home church movement as something new and separate.  While I wholeheartedly support the home church movement in the U.S., I don’t think it needs to separate from the legacy church and form its own denomination like Barna implies. While he doesn’t push it too strongly in this book, I just finished another book that Barna coauthored entitled Small is Big where that idea is presented pretty forcefully (Click here to read my review of Small is Big).  However this critique is at best a side-note to Futurecast and doesn’t detract from the book at all.

Overall, the numbers Barna presents in his book about U.S. culture and Christianity are not overly shocking, though there are a few surprises in there.  If you’re at all interested in where our nation stands in terms of its Christian culture, then I recommend Futurecast whole heartedly.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishing for sending me a free copy in return for my honest opinion.

Buy it now: $16.49

Monday, July 4, 2011

Texas Governor Calls Nation to Prayer and Fasting

Rick Perry the current and longest-serving governor of Texas issued a call for repentance in prayer and fasting for our nation.  He says, “Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response. Therefore, on August 6, thousands will gather to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.” (The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis)

Obviously Gov. Perry’s call for prayer was not met with much agreement from the rest of the country.  The Secular Coalition for America issued a statement urging the other leaders of the nation to reject and condemn Perry’s invitation as an “explicitly Christian platform for theocratic grandstanding that does nothing to offer substantive solutions to our country’s problems. By its own description, this event privileges Christianity over other religions and beliefs.”

The prayer summit is co-hosted by the American Family Association, which was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center on their 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda list because of its stance against gay marriage.  Of course all of the groups listed are Christian, even though several other groups are against the idea including The Islamic Society of America, but that’s a topic for a different post.

The reaction of these groups to Perry’s call really just cements why such a call is needed.  As a nation we have turned from God.  We have rejected Jesus Christ.  So, today as we celebrate the foundation of our nation, may we do it in a spirit of repentance and prayer.  God save America!

P.S. It’s things like this that make me love living in Texas.

Gov. Perry's Invitation to The Response from The Response USA on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Don't Be a Digital Christian

You’ve no doubt heard the saying “Don’t be a Sunday Christian.”  The sermons incorporating this phrase often go something like this:

Too many Christians profess their faith in Jesus on Sunday here in church, but then when they leave these walls, they go home or to work and no one would ever be able to tell them apart from the world.  They curse in public, they watch inappropriate movies, they lust, they covet, they lie, they steal . . .

When speaking to the church at Laodicea, Jesus didn’t call this being a Sunday Christian; He called it being lukewarm.  “'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” (Revelations 3:15-16)

With that in mind as I’ve been networking more with my blog, I’ve come across so many amazing Christian bloggers who have learned and shared great lessons about Christ and life, but at the same time, I wonder how many digital Christians I’ve stumbled across.  Sometimes, I wonder if I’m just a digital Christian. 

It’s easy to sit behind our computer screens and talk about how we should be living life for the glory of God, but if we’re spending all our time behind our screens; how are we reaching the lost, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned . . . For the record, we aren’t doing those things by sending a digital donation.  That’s just enabling someone else to do things.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with sharing our faith on the Internet, blogging about what God’s taught us, even digitally donating to Christians doing the Lord’s work, but I for one don’t want to mistake the things I talk about in the digital world of the Internet for living the real life God’s called me to live.  The Internet is a great tool, but the real life people on the other side of the connection need real life people to invest in their real life.

I was recently convicted with the following words: “don’t talk about things so much that you think you’re doing them.”  And I think that applies to my blog as well.

My Prayer:

Lord, break my heart with the things that break yours.  I want to live as hot all the time: in church, online, at work, at the grocery store, at the park, at a restaurant, wherever You lead let me burn for You. Amen


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