Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be a Winner! Play in the Real World!

Medical studies show that having a 4 oz glass of red wine everyday can help prevent cardiovascular disease and prevent certain tumors from forming.  Yet, someone who drinks a bottle of wine a day can destroy their physical health, not to mention damage relationships with family, friends, and coworkers sometimes beyond repair. We would say, "they have a problem, an addiction."

But chemical dependencies are far from the only addictions out there.  Some people are addicted to gambling, some are addicted to social networking, some are addicted to shopping, some are addicted to sports (playing and watching), and some are addicted to video games. 

None of these things in moderation are necessarily bad, some like red wine actually have real benefits, but we don’t live in a moderate culture anymore.   Everything is excess. Do you want to know if you’re addicted to something? Look at your daily routine and give up that thing you do/think about most.

Whatever the addiction, the root is always the same.  Escape.  There is a hole in the addict’s life, dug deep by hurts, failures, greed, and pride.  And the addiction offers a distraction from the emptiness. 

People drink or do drugs because they want to feel differently about their life.  People gamble because they can’t seem to make enough to get ahead. They use social networks to fill the lack of real life connections.  They shop because they can’t seem to find that one thing that will make them better than the neighbors.  They live vicariously through sports stars because they don’t have the physical prowess they wish they did.  They play video games because of the success they experience there that they don’t have in real life.

And that’s the sad part about addiction.  The temporary elation the addict experiences isn’t real.  It isn’t lasting. 

There is more to real life than the pursuit of pleasure.

Real life is actually all about the pursuit of God.  He is the only pursuit worthy of excess. He is the only pursuit that will fill the holes in our soul.   And He is the only pursuit that will bring life.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul, and to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, making no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (1 Peter 2:11/Romans 13:14)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Journey

You see a lot of motivational quotes around these days that go along the lines of “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but in the end it is the journey that matters most.” (Ursula K. LeGuin) or “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” (Greg Anderson). 

I don’t think any of these people have traveled across the Midwest with a toddler strapped in the backseat.

My wife, my son, and I are touring the country for the next couple of weeks visiting family.  Over the past few days, we’ve traveled north from the southern tip of Texas through Oklahoma and Kansas.  We stopped in Nebraska to see some of my family, and then headed up through Iowa and to Minnesota to see my wife’s family.  From there we’re heading to Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and then back home to Texas.

We have loved the stops we’ve made along the road.  The people we’ve met have been great, and spending time with family is a joy we cherish, living so far away from them, but the journey itself is long and . . . well let’s face it America’s heartland is boring. 

Those amber waves of grain we sing about are great in lyrics and pictures, but after four hours of seeing nothing but them for miles in any direction, they loose some of they’re idyllic luster.  The destinations are definitely the lure and purpose of the journey.

Isn’t that a lot like how the Christian walk feels sometimes.  We have moments of God working incredibly in our lives.  And then we have long stretches where He seems very distant, and things get a little boring.  And we find ourselves singing along with the psalmist: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" (Psalm 42:1-3)

That’s why the Bible says things like:  “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalms 27:14), “those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth” (Psalms 37:9), “Wait on the LORD, And keep His way, And He shall exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalms 37:34), and “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew [their] strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).

For the Christian the joy of the journey is the destination. Why? Because our God is faithful.  If He is your destination, the journey, though it be long and arduous, will be worth whatever duration or direction it may take. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo?

That is not the question, but it certainly is one question a lot of younger Christians are asking these days.  In fact it was a question that I had to ask in college when a lot of my friends were getting them.  I decided against it, and here’s why:

There’s only one verse in the Bible that mentions tattoos: “'You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:28)

Usually the response to this verse by those who want to get tattoos goes a couple of different ways:

1. This verse is applying to pagan rituals that God didn’t want the Israelites participating in.  Tattoos today are purely adornment and not ritualistic.

2. This verse refers to Old Testament law.  We’re under grace now, so we don’t have to follow the law.

The issue that I struggled with was that while tattooing may not always be ritualistic in our culture; it’s still very ritualistic in other cultures today when they worship their gods or the dead.  I also had a hard time when looking at some of the other rituals included in this Leviticus passage: eating blood, divination, soothsaying, purposefully cutting yourself, selling your daughter into prostitution, not keeping Sabbaths, not revering God’s sanctuary, and turning to mediums or spiritists.

Are these things we can do as long as we’re not ritualistic about it?  Likewise are these things we should go do just because we’re under grace now?

Paul writes, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law.” (Romans 7:7)  He also writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1) We are not under the law, but we should not purposefully seek to break it and sin either. 

If all the law would be fulfilled by, as Jesus says, “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40)  Then getting a tattoo, having been restricted in the law, must somehow be an unloving act toward God or others.

When I came to that conclusion, I decided against it.  After all, did God not fearfully and wonderfully form me in my mother’s womb? (Psalms 139:13-14)  Is my body not the temple of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 6:19)  Would I graffiti the temple of God and defend my actions as artistic expression?  That’s not revering God’s sanctuary, which you’ll notice is in this list from Leviticus too.

Here’s the thing: grace is being forgiven for not loving God with everything you have (sin), so that you can love Him the way He loves you (righteousness).  The Old Testament law is founded on loving God with all that you have to offer.  I could not bring myself to sin so that grace may abound and get a tattoo.  I just couldn’t do it. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Erasing Hell

Does hell exist?  Are biblical references to it just metaphoric?  And if it does exist, what are the implications for our everyday life? 

Francis Chan addresses these issues in his new book: Erasing Hell.  He co-wrote the book with Dr. Preston Sprinkle (best name ever!)  I love Francis Chan’s writing mostly because of the zeal that He has for God, not just in the things he says, but in the way that he lives his life.  He is not afraid to live out the things he teaches; in fact I dare say, he is afraid not to. 

Erasing Hell is only an exception to this in the sections that Dr. Sprinkle (still the best name ever!) helped write, and it’s fairly easy to tell where he jumps in because instead of focusing on God and how we should live for God in light of the issue of hell, he focuses on history and context. 

These things aren’t bad, and I learned some things for them. For instance there is no record of the Gehanna Valley being a city dump for trash and corpses with fires that burned continuously.  That idea doesn’t even appear until the 13th century from a European rabbi trying to dispel Christian thought on the idea of hell. The references Jesus makes to Gehanna is in reference to the Jewish 1st century understanding of hell as punishment after judgment, which is evidenced in other Jewish writing of the time.

And that’s a good thing to know.  Jesus is talking about a real, honest to goodness, fire and brimstone, hell.  Nothing else.  But it’s Francis’ parts of the book that make the idea of hell less abstract. 

He talks about how sometimes he thinks about his grandmother who denied Christ until her death and how much sorrow he feels knowing that she is probably spending eternity in hell.  He talks about how he was sitting in a coffee shop writing this book, and when he looked up and saw all the people sitting in front of him, he realized they might all be going to hell too.  And how he had to stop writing and talk to them about Jesus.

This is the rub isn’t it? 

If you believe there is a hell, and that your friends and family, coworkers, peers at school, teachers, your boss, the wait staff at the restaurant, the guy on the street corner, anyone who doesn’t know Christ may be heading there, how can you go on with life as usual.  The only way to do it is to push thoughts of hell out of your mind, and just send all those people on to their eternity. 

Is that loving others as you love yourself?  Is that loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength? 

I recommend the book, but don’t get if you’re just looking for some more knowledge about the subject.  Get it if you want to gain the heart of Christ when it comes to hell and the multitudes trekking blindly towards it everyday. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Name of Jesus

A few years ago, I had a long conversation with a friend who had fallen into a strange brand of “ministry” that was heavily focused on deliverance or as it’s more commonly known, exorcism.  The conversation had many treks and bunny trails, but through it all, God was speaking very clearly to me.  He would say, “this is what he’ll ask tomorrow, and this is the answer you will give him”, and then the man would ask the exact question, and I would have an answer. 

It was a sad experience because this “ministry” was having people invite demons into themselves and then supposedly exercising them, but everyone involved in it experienced a lot of problems afterward, and this friend and others refused to listen to the warnings God was giving them, not just through me but many others.

One of the questions that kept coming up was how could someone cast out a demon in the name of Jesus and not be a follower of Christ?  Or how can someone heal the sick in Jesus’ name and not be a follower of Christ?  Or do miracles in His name and not be a follower?

And yet Jesus says that this can and will happen: “Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:22-23)

At another point, the disciples come to Jesus and say, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us."

To which Jesus replies, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40)

But Jesus did not say, “Oh yeah, that’s George.  We go way back.  You’ll get to know him more in eternity.”

So how is that people who are not following Christ, and who Jesus says very bluntly are going to hell, can perform miracles, cast out demons, even prophesy? 

The answer is that they can do it because of the power in the name of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ in Hebrew is Yeshua or Yahweh Saves.  Every time I say His name, I feel two things: intense love but also a little bit of awe.  I’m calling on the name of Almighty God, the God who created the universe with a word. 

The ones who Jesus will turn away in the end use His name to do amazing works, but refuse to love Him by obeying His commands (John 14:15)—what do you think lawlessness is?

Honestly it makes me a little ill not just when I see people invoking Jesus’ name to work miracles despite hating Him in their actions, but also when I hear people so casually cast around His name at dinner or bedtime prayers; it’s almost like they don’t know the One who they’re asking to bless their food at all. 

Honestly, I’ve been guilty of using His name without giving Him the honor He’s due as well, much to my shame.

Father forgive me, and help me to love Your name and Your Son’s name with reverent obedience.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's Your Pleasure?

Tonight, I went out and picked up Taco Bell for dinner—just for me mind you.  My wife and son had already eaten, but I had a school board meeting that ran a little late, so I was on my own for dinner.  I didn’t necessarily need Taco Bell, but it sounded good, and since I’m the only one in the family who likes it, it’s my food of choice when I’m eating by myself.

Their Mexican Pizza is by far the most exquisite, delectable junk food I can imagine.  I’m sure it quite literally will be the death of me.

And there in lies the issue doesn’t it.  The things that bring us temporal pleasure in this world are killing us, literally killing us.

In church today this issue came up not once but twice, in Sunday school and in the pastor’s message.  That’s usually a pretty good sign that I need to perk up and pay attention.

In a society where our basic needs are met, it seems that our goals automatically shift to what will give us the greatest pleasure.  We blindly follow Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological Needs > Safety Needs > Belonging Needs > Esteem Needs > Self Actualization.  

Pleasure in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is fleeting.  Your physiological needs may be met today, but tomorrow famine might strike the land.  You may be safe today, but tomorrow someone might steal your wallet/purse and your identity along with it.  You may greatly love the family you belong to, but tomorrow they could all be killed in a car crash.  You may have great self-esteem, but tomorrow you may be humbled.  Self-actualization does not last because, this may come as a shock to many readers, the world does not revolve around you. It doesn’t revolve around me either.

In reality, there is no hierarchy of needs.  The road to fulfillment doesn’t look like a rainbow pyramid.  There are no steps to reach self-actualization.  There is only one need, and it’s not some thing that you can just check off a list; in fact, it’s a He not a thing at all, and His name is Jesus Christ. 

Pleasure that lasts only comes through Him.  Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

When we do those things that please God, He takes care of the rest.  When we give up self, we can be Spirit-actualized, which is an eternal pleasure that no circumstance will ever take away.  That’s Good News! 

So, I’m sorry Taco Bell, but as tasty as your Mexican Pizza is, I’d give it and you up in an instant if it pleased my savior, and I’d happily say that about any temporal pleasure on this Earth. 

Now dear reader, let me ask you:  How willing are you to give up your worldly pleasures for the sake of the One who gave Himself for you?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chuck Swindoll’s Paws and Tales: Putting Others First

This DVD features two brand new episodes from the Paws and Tales animated series.  In the first episode C.J. and Staci learn the value of helping others in need even if doing so interrupts our plans.  The second episode teaches C.J. that even when those in power seem to hold all the cards, talking to our Father can bring everything back into balance. 

The lesson in the first episode seems a lot clearer than the second, but both are good stories that teach children right from wrong according to godly principles. 

Overall, I really enjoyed watching these two stories with my son, who is two.  The concepts may have been above his head, right now, but the story certainly kept his attention, and but soon he’ll be able to apply these lessons to his own life. 

If I had to look for things to critique, there would be two main areas: quality and scripturally. 

The quality was not at all comparable to other titles available, secular or Christian.  The animation is stiff.  Chuck Swindoll’s glasses and outfits sometimes reflect the green screen behind him, so at times parts of him disappear into the computer generated background.  The songs in the extra features are catchy, but the videos are just clips from the episodes haphazardly edited together without any context to the words of the songs.  And finally, the DVD case is pretty Plane Jane. 

The other area I thought was lacking was that there wasn’t a lot of scripture to cement the lessons being taught.  Maybe Chuck Swindoll could have done some easy teaching at the end to show why these things are important from God’s perspective, or at least a memory verse a la Veggie Tales.

Overall though, they were fun stories and would be worth picking up if you’re shopping for some children’s programming with a good message.

I received a copy free from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus

Jesus isn’t interested in having fans and fan clubs; He wants truly committed followers who will give everything for His sake. That’s the message of Kyle Idleman’s new book: Not a Fan.

Idleman writes one of the most serious books about what it means to follow Christ I think I’ve ever read.  In fact, much like Jesus, the author doesn’t pull his punches and cuts to the heart of the matter.  In following Christ, there are no “halfways”, “most of the times”, or “excepts”.  It’s all or nothing. 

If there are ever those times where you think “does this passage about the rich young ruler apply to me? Does it mean I should sell everything I have and give it to the poor?”, the answer is a resounding “yes”.  Don’t listen to a pastor who tells you that Jesus didn’t mean that for everyone.  If you are not willing to give up everything, you cannot be His disciple. (Luke 14:33)

The subject matter is so intense in Not a Fan that Idleman has to put some comic relief in the footnotes.  The first time I checked the footnotes, I thought, “This is inappropriate.  It’s serious stuff here.”  By the end of the book, I was praying for a funny footnote so I wouldn’t be crushed by the weight of conviction steeped in the message of the book.  And Jesus had some funny lines that helped alleviate the tension of His message too.  Just try to picture a camel going through the eye of a needle one time.

I have never read a book I would recommend so much as this one.  If you’re a fan of Jesus, get this book, and find out what a follower looks like.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Were Jesus’ Prayers Answered: Eternal Life

I was given the opportunity to teach the college group at our church once again this Sunday, and our topic of discussion was based on Romans 6:23.  If you grew up in church, this ought to be a familiar verse.  It says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This verse ties in very well to my discussion here on the blog about whether Jesus’ prayers in John 17 were answered or not, as you’ll see later in the post. 

I think there are two questions that ought to be addressed in understanding this verse.  1.  What is Sin?  2. What is eternal life?

Awhile back I wrote a post entitled: What is Sin?  I address the sin question in depth there, and I encourage you to read it if you want a more lengthy study, but sin basically boils down to anything that is not loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and anything not loving your neighbor as yourself.  If you do anything, and I stress anything, outside of these two areas, it’s sin.  You’ve fallen short.  You’ve earned death, and you’ll not find one person on Earth outside of Jesus Christ who can say they’ve lived that life.

So what’s eternal life?

It seems like such a self-evident answer.  Living forever, right?  In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, He begins by praying this: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.”  Again, there’s that idea of the gift of God being eternal life.

And yet we all die.  Do we have eternal life or not?  Is it just in the resurrection that we live forever, or did God answer Jesus’ prayer when He prayed it? And C.S. Lewis once said, “You have never met a mere mortal.”  Everyone technically lives forever; the concern is usually location.

But to really answer this question of “what is eternal life”, we have to look at verse 3, where Jesus defines in very specific terms what eternal life is: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Eternal life is knowing the One True God.

So, let me put Romans 6:23 in perspective for you: Sin is not loving God with everything you have, and the wages of this is death.  But the gift of God is that He forgave you for not loving Him, He paid the wages of sin at the cross, and because of His great love for you, He has made a way for you to know and love Him again through Jesus Christ; this is eternal life.

Eternal life doesn’t start when you physically die; it starts when you come to know God.  And when you know Him, He empowers you to love Him with everything you’ve got (aka stop sinning).  It’s the beautiful circle of grace freely given by God to all who call on His name and believe. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Come and Buy

“Hey all, the next round is on me!”  You hear that phrase a lot in movies when someone is celebrating in a bar.  In all my years of drinking in bars, I never once heard someone offer everyone in the bar the next round.  Does this really happen?

I guess it did happen to me once.  It wasn’t in a bar, mind you, and it wasn’t a round of drinks either.  But once I drank what this Guy was offering, I haven’t even wanted to go back to a bar or drink alcohol again.  His stuff was so much better.

He came up to me and said, “Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

And so I bought some of what He was offering, it was free after all, not cheap, but free.  I drank deeply of the Living water.  Ate my full of the broken bread from heaven.  I sipped from the cup of wine he shed for me, and grew from the milk of His word. 

Unlike the drink I was used to, indulging in what He offered didn’t cloud my mind; it made everything clear.  Maybe for the first time in my life, I felt like I could drive myself home, and He was kind enough to show me the path—I had wandered so far, and the road was a narrow one-way street, but it leads straight home. 

I asked the Man who gave me so much for so little how I could ever repay Him, and He said,  “As surely as you feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned in my name, you will have done it to me.” 

“What’s your name?” I asked desperate to know Him.

He face began to shine like the sun as He smiled deeply and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Beholding GloryBut I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. For the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:6-7/Exodus 34:6-7)

Like the men of old, I fell before the Ancient of Days and worshipped.  I’ve been worshipping ever since and will be worshipping forevermore.  Come, come and buy without money; the next round is on Jesus!  Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Were Jesus’ Prayers Answered: Joy

In this series we’re looking at Jesus’ prayer in John 17.  Did God answer that prayer? I think we can assume that He did.  It was Jesus praying after all.  When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, He prays, “"Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." (John 11:41-42

Likewise the prayer in John 17 is for our benefit, and its answer is for our benefit as well. We know this is so because Jesus says, “these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” (John 17:13

Jesus prays this prayer that believers can be full of His joys, so why is it that we mope about all the time without any joy?  Was Jesus’ request that we be full of His joy denied?  I don’t think so.  I think what we need to ask is what does it take to be full of the joy of Christ?  The answer to that is found a couple of chapters earlier when Jesus says,

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 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.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:1-11)

So, being full of Christ’s joy requires that you abide in Christ, that He abides in you, that you bear much fruit, that His words abide in you, that you abide in His love, and all of this comes by keeping His commandments.

In the simplest terms obedience shows love for Christ and loving Christ brings joy.  You’ll never meet someone more full of joy and obedience than someone who loves Jesus. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pastors: What's Your Dream?


Are there congregation members in your church that have a bigger dream for your church or for your city than you do?  Why?  That's the question posed by Darrin Patrick in the following video clip:

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Cost of Discipleship

This week I got to teach the college Sunday School class at church, and this post stems from the lesson I taught:

We are often taught that salvation is a free gift, and it is.  There is no amount of money or work that you could ever do to merit the grace of God.  Grace is defined as unmerited favor after all.   But salvation is hardly free.  It has a cost.  The cost is that we become disciples of Christ, and in order to do that . . . well I’ll let Jesus tell you how much that costs:  

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

"Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 14:26-35)

Jesus also says, “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62).

So while you could never afford salvation, it will cost you everything. 

If following Jesus hasn’t cost you anything or has cost you very little, I invite you to give up all that you know is holding you back in your life.  If it’s material possessions, sell them.  If it’s money, give it away.  If it’s family, surrender them to God.  If it’s success, become humble.  Whatever it is that leaves you unfit for the kingdom, there’s no time like the present to repent and turn your life completely over to God.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Response USA

A while back I posted about Governor Rick Perry's call to the nation to repent in prayer and fasting.  The Response USA begins tomorrow at 9:00 AM.  You can live stream it at 

I would encourage anyone reading this blog to participate in prayer and fasting wherever you may be.

I'd also like to point you to Joel Rosenberg's response as I think he sums up the need for such an event pretty well:

A CALL TO PRAYER & FASTING FOR OUR COUNTRY: The politicians don’t have any answers, but where is the Church?

Posted: August 5, 2011 by joelcrosenberg in Uncategorized
U.S. and global markets have been severely rattled in recent weeks by the inability or unwillingness of politicians in Washington to make the truly serious and dramatic reforms necessary to move our country back from the brink of bankruptcy. Our national debt now equals 100% of our GDP. That is, we will produce about $14.5 trillion in goods and services as a nation in 2011. Yet we have just hit $14.5 trillion in federal debt. We now owe to our creditors every single penny that we will make this year., yet we have no real plan to ever pay this deb down. It just keeps going up and up. America hasn’t faced a debt crisis this serious since we were fighting for our lives against the Nazis in World War II. Meanwhile, millions of Americans remain out of work. Millions are losing their homes. Nearly 46 millionAmericans are now on government food stamps.  No wonder a stunning 73% of Americans say our country is on the “wrong track.” We certainly are.
America is in trouble, morally, spiritually and financially. Yet no one seems to have any answers. The politicians seem clueless. The media certainly doesn’t have any answers. Academia seems more out of touch than ever. Sadly, far too many Church leaders are asleep, as well — or too timid, or drifting off course spiritually and theologically — just at the time they could and should be powerfully proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only real hope of mankind. God hasn’t failed us. We have failed God. Christ is ready to come help us, care for us, get us back on the right track, if we would only turn to Him en masse. The Church’s job is to be a light to the nations, ours and the world. But too much of the Church is sleeping. We need a wake up call.
America needs a revival — a dramatic spiritual renewal like the “Great Awakening” of the early 1700s, and the “Second Great Awakening” of the mid-1800s. But such a revival has to begin first and foremost with the Church waking up and asking the Lord to purify us, heal us, and re-inspire us with the life-changing truths of His Word. Only then can we truly love our neighbors with Christ’s love and be a blessing to our country in a time of severe crisis. The Hebrew Prophet Joel told us to, “Wake up, drunkards!” (Joel 1:5). He called us to “lament, O priests” and “wail, O ministers.” (Joel 1:13)  He urged us to “consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God” because “the day of the Lord is near.” (Joel 1:14-15). He told us to “blow a trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on My holy mountain” because “the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.” (Joel 2:1). This was the message I shared last night at an event in Denver last night. The Day of the Lord is coming, and as that day approaches, the Lord is shaking America, Israel and the nations to get our attention and persuade us to let go of anything and everything we are holding onto for peace and security other than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, this was the theme of our Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem in May. But it needs to be shared not just in Jerusalem but to the ends of the Earth.
Today, I’m flying to Houston to participate in tomorrow’s day of prayer & fasting for our country. The event was called by Texas Governor Rick Perry. It’s based on the Book of Joel. And despite enormous opposition from liberal groups and atheist organizations, I believe this is exactly what we need right now. We need to take a day out from our normal lives and stop everything we’re doing — stop working, stop playing, stop entertaining ourselves, stop texting, stop emailing, stop Facebooking, stop eating — and just spend it with the Lord. In His Word. With His people. In praise and worship. In prayer and fasting. Asking Him to show mercy to us….before it’s too late.
If you’re anywhere near Reliant Stadium in Houston tomorrow, I hope you’ll join us. If not, may I encourage you to take time out of your busy schedules to pray and fast tomorrow for a true, deep and powerful revival in America, beginning in the Church?
“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him?” (Joel 2:12-14)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Building Blocks in Life Science

Clear biological answers for how science and Scripture fit together to honor the Creator: that is the tagline from Gary Parker’s new book Building Blocks of Life Science: From Genes & Genesis to Science and Scripture. Dr. Parker has a Ed.D in biology and lectures for the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis.  The book, as you may have guessed, reads much like an academic biology book, except that rather than giving glory to Nature for the slow evolution of life, Dr. Parker gives glory to God as the creator. 

He has some interesting theories about bacterium and viruses that I had not thought about before, but otherwise it’s pretty straight-forward biology.  And biology alone doesn’t lead to an evolutionary explanation to the origin of life, in fact as we discover more about the cell and DNA; it’s harder to imagine natural causes for life’s origin on the planet.  So much so, that evolution’s grand champion, Richard Dawkins, believes it was probably aliens that kicked evolution off.  He refuses to believe in God, but he believes in aliens?

With that said, I don’t think you’ll find anything in here that’s going to revolutionize the debate between creation and evolution.  What I mean by that is that there are no facts presented that any educated atheist wouldn’t have already heard in debate and considered to be a faulty interpretation of the information available.  And short of Jesus rending the sky and descending, I don’t think there ever will be a consensus on that debate.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that even when Jesus returns, the world will go to war with Him, so even that might not be enough to convince the atheists that God exists. I’ve met a few who could spend eternity in hell and still maintain that it’s all from natural causes.

Anyway, I don’t want to start off a huge rant on this issue and start arguing with people about it.  If you want some of that action, I’d suggest visiting the site The Poached Egg.  There are lots of people over there that love to argue about this sort of thing.

I will say if you are looking for a simple biology book that gives a good argument against evolution, this book is a good place to start. 

A free copy was provided by the publisher for review.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Were Jesus' Prayers Answered: Sanctification

In this series, we’ve been looking at Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and whether certain parts of it were answered because it doesn’t really seem like they were, or at least not in the ways we imagine they ought to be.  Isn’t that always the case?

In this post I want to look at verses 17-19: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”

I once heard a pastor tell a story that went something like this, “Every morning I get up and shower and shave, then I have a cup of Sanka coffee, and my wife toasts some cinnamon raisin bread.  I don’t care much for raisins, so I spend a few moments poking them out of my toast before slathering on some butter and eating my breakfast.  I guess you could say that I’m shaved, sankafied, and filled with the holy toast.”

Humor aside, a lot of times the word “sanctification” is used to describe the process by which we are continually conformed into the image of Christ.  We sin less and less until we die, and then when we see Him face-to-face, we become fully sanctified and don’t sin anymore. If this is what sanctification is, why does Jesus say, “for their sakes I sanctify Myself”?

Why would Jesus, the One who never sinned, need to be sanctified if sanctification is a process of perfecting the saints?  Wouldn’t He already have been sanctified?  Also why would He pray that the Father sanctify us in the Truth of His word as we’re sent into the world if our finished sanctification only comes at death?

 A little digging shows that the word sanctification is never used in this context, at least not that I can find.  In fact the word is really just the verb form of holy, which means “to be set apart for God’s work.”  In that context, Jesus’ sanctification of Himself through obedience even to death on the cross makes perfect sense.  Our complete sanctification as saints through belief in Christ makes complete sense; we are set apart for God’s work:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-15)

When we sin as believers, we are not showing that our sanctification is incomplete; boo hoo for us; rather we are quite literally dragging the holiness of God through the mud.  His Truth has set us free, His Truth has sanctified us, and His Son Sanctified Himself and us through the cross.  Sin is not a bad habit that sneaks up on us; it’s a slap in the face to God Himself. 

Why do you think Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Jesus’ prayer was answered just as He prayed, not as a process.  Sin ought to be viewed more seriously than a process of sanctification allows for.  If we are sanctified, our response to sin can’t be, “oh well someday I’ll stop even if it’s in eternity.”  We must strive to protect the holiness of God within us that Christ’s sanctification made possible.  Flee from sin, and repent with tears when it catches you unawares, but don’t be flippant about God’s holiness.

Next in the series: Joy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Forget Going Green! Go Light!

Back in 2005, before I was even born-again, a group of evangelical leaders got together to talk about that all-important issue that has got every Christian on their toes and ready for action. No, no not evangelism.  It’s that other “E” word:  Environmentalism.

The New York Times quoted the Rev. Rich Cizik as saying, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created."

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never read that verse in the Bible.  Maybe I missed it.  Maybe somewhere in there Jesus said, “Even as you’ve done to the planet, so shall it be done to you,” or maybe it was even something like “And on that day many will come to me and say Lord, Lord, I recycled my bottles and cans in your name, I gave money to save the wetlands in your name, I even ran a half-marathon to raise awareness for the near extinction of the rainbow toad in New Zealand.”

Of course, I’m being completely facetious here, but on judgment day God will inquire of us something that is true.  It will not be how environmentally conscience we were.  It will not be how many species we saved.  Rather He will ask, even tell, us how we treated our fellow man and by proxy Jesus (Matthew 25:35-46)

People are the conditional of eternity, not the environment.  We are not called to Go Green.  We are called to be light in the world.  Addressing environmental issues that adversely affect people like polluted drinking water is definitely part of that, but it is not the over-arching focus for the Christian.

To be honest, I was so amused by the prospect of evangelical leaders presenting environmental issues in this fashion.  I started another blog with this topic as its focus.  Visit the link below to read more:


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