Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Love and Sin

In our Relationship Tuesdays, we just started looking at God’s love, and today we’re going to continue looking at God’s love in relation to sin, and it’s going to be a relatively simple lesson.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

There’s a reason why we don’t have to be afraid of punishment when we abide in God’s perfect love, and the premise for this is summed up in the following verses of 1 John 4:

We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. 1 John 4:19-21

Paul says we know what sin is because of the law (Romans 7:7), Jesus says that the whole law is summed up in two commandments: love God with all your heart, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-32)  If love fulfills the law, then anything other than love is sin. 

Perfect love = Not sinning against God or anyone else

If we don’t sin aka love, there’s no punishment.  Thus perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  If you’re afraid of punishment, it means you’re not living in a loving way in every area of your life. 

Now you can get all sappy and say, well the enemy attacks us and tells we’re not good enough and push the blame onto the serpent just as we’ve always done since the garden, but because I love you, I’m going to tell you the truth: 

That’s a lie. 

Pushing the blame of ungodly fear off onto Satan is an unloving act toward God.  You’re basically saying, “God I don’t think you’re big enough to protect me from the lies of the enemy.  I don’t think this armor you’ve given me is strong enough to deflect those fiery darts.  In fact I think you’re a liar because all those promises you made about the devil fleeing when we resist just aren’t true.”

And yet by giving in to the lies, you’re not resisting, so why would the devil flee?

Do you want to know if you’re loving God and others perfectly?  Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and replace the word Love with your name.  “Stephen is patient, Stephen is kind, Stephen is not jealous, Stephen does not brag, he is not arrogant” . . . I’m already falling short of perfect love, and I’m not even a quarter of the way through it.  I’d wager no one, save Jesus, could read 1 Corinthians 13 this way and not be lying through their teeth.  It’s called a sinful nature.

But there’s good news.  We even call it The Good News, and we’ll talk about it in our next Relationship Tuesdays: The Gospel of Love.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven

What exactly is worship?  That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.  Nearly every passage in the Bible that uses the word worship uses it in context of the bowing down before God, a king, or a ruler; Paul says that working as unto God can be worship, but in our modern worship services we attribute worship as music. 

Honestly, I’ve felt a disconnect with modern praise and worship but haven’t been able to put my finger on what it is, until reading this book.

In Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven Rory Noland makes the assertion that worship is the physical part of praise.  I’m generalizing a major study and explanation when putting it that simply, but that pretty much sums up where the disconnect has been for me.  

I’m not always physically engaged in my worship.  Sometimes I get so moved in adoration and love of God that I lift my hands, and there have even been times where I’ve been so awed and afraid that I’ve fallen prostrate in His presence, but I never got that these were moments of worship.  

To some extent these feel like moments of natural worship, I mean everyone will eventually bow their knees and worship Christ as Lord, we cannot help ourselves when we’re overwhelmed by His presence, but now that I know what worship is, I want to choose to do it.

Rory Noland makes a lot of other awesome observations about praise and worship in relation to music, but this is the one that stuck with me the most.   Here are some of the others I thought were really potent:

  • Next time the decibel level of a worship bothers you, take a moment and look at what worship in heaven is going to be like: flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, people shouting at the top of their lungs, and the lead worshipers (seraphim) around the throne shake the ground with their cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  If loud worship makes you uncomfortable, heaven certainly will.

  • We should include young people in their twenties in our worship teams.  They are the future of the church and need to be discipled in worship not just pushed away because they have different tastes in music.  The Levites who led worship were required to retire at age 50, so they could mentor the next generation to lead the congregation. Numbers 8:23-26

  • Worship in heaven will be multi-ethnic and multi-generational.  We’ll be worshipping alongside people from every tribe and language and every generation that’s ever existed.  If style and taste in music were really an issue in God’s eyes, that would never work.  Real worshippers worship in Spirit and truth, not according to tastes in music.  If you can’t worship God in a range of music styles from Country to Rap to hymns to tribal chant, you’re missing the point.  We worship Him because He’s God, not because the music moves us or even because we can sing better in one style over another.  You give god your best no matter what.

  • Worship is participatory.  There will be no pews to sit in in eternity.  The only one who sits in heaven is God on His throne.  He’s the only spectator.  Everyone else participates. 

I highly recommend Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven if you can find it.  In fact I highly recommend worshipping on Earth as we will in heaven.  God is worthy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

8 Thoughts on Christian Imagination

For the first ten years of my life, I was an only child, and during that time, my dad worked nights and my mom worked days, and I spent a lot of time alone.  During that alone time, I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and created a lot of imaginary worlds.  (I also set the house on fire twice, but let’s not talk about that right now.)
All that time spent imagining led me to be a fairly creative person, but it also led to an exaltation of my thoughts and desires above the real world.  Any time things got too real, I’d go watch a movie or start daydreaming about the life I wished I had. And worst of all, any time God tried to intrude in my life, I’d use my imagination to pretend He wasn’t and rationalize how God didn’t exist.
When I came to Christ, I gave up everything that used my imagination: all the movies, books, writing, drawing, painting, everything that I worried might engage my pride or divert my eyes from God.  But recently God has been telling me to reengage with those things for His glory, so I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how the imagination fits in our relationship with God.
Read today's Proverbs and Wisdom article for 8 things I've been thinking about when it comes to Christian Imagination.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wycliffe's "In Other Words"

Hey all,

I know I've been kind of lax in my blogging lately.  Life gets busy sometimes, and writing takes time.  However, I did want to write a quick post promoting Wycliffe Bible Translations new contest they're running right now called In Other Words.

The premise is pretty simple: there's a scripture in a foreign language that needs translating.  When you answer the trivia questions, you get hints.  The prizes in the contest are an iPad and a trip for four to Orlando.

While I'd love to see any one of those who read this blog win the trip or the iPad, what I'd really love to see is you all support the translation and delivery of the Bible to those in need around the world.  So, yes go play the game and try to win the prize, but also consider making a donation and keep in mind that we're striving to win another prize, one not of this world.

Let's press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Friday, May 4, 2012

8 Reasons Being a Christian Trumps Being a Superhero

My wife is planning on taking me out tonight to celebrate my birthday (last Monday), probably dinner and a movie.  I think we’ll go see the latest comic book adaptation, The Avengers, since I’ve been a superhero fan since I learned to walk.

Maybe I should rephrase that, I’ve wanted to be a superhero since I learned to walk, specifically Superman—the greatest superhero ever.  Yes, I’m talking to you Batman lovers.  Superman is sooo much better!

However, I have to say being a child of God trumps being a superhero any day, and today's Proverbs and Wisdom article has 8 reasons why.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

World History: Observations and Assessments from Creation to Today

Just to warn you in advance, I'm going to be harsh in the review that follows because I think this sort of thing is problematic for Christians today.

James P. Stobaugh’s textbook for High School students has a great premise, teaching a Biblical/God focused view of history from creation to the present.  I think if you believe in God; it’s important to look at history through His eyes and to teach that perspective to your children.  I will say that Stobaugh does a decent enough job covering major time periods and events and maybe his intentions were good, but . . .

The negatives of this history textbook far outweigh the positives and can be broken down into three major problems: accuracy, sources, and editing.

In terms of accuracy, not even secular historians can agree on the exact timelines of some of history’s major events; however often times this textbook doesn’t even line up chronologically with itself.

For example, Stobaugh gives a date of the 5th century B.C. for Herodotus and says, “Herodotus wrote The Histories at approximately the same time that Moses was writing the Pentateuch-the first five books of the Bible” (p 80).  However only a few chapters ahead of this, he gives the dates of 630-561 B.C. for King Nebuchadnezzar, who “attacked Judah, captured Jerusalem, and deported important citizens to Babylon” (p 24).

Apparently Moses and the Pentateuch came a century after Daniel and the exile in Babylon, confusing right?

Sadly, I can’t say I’m too surprised that there are strange chronological issues like this when the book frequently cites impressive scholarly sources like www.history101.net and The Complete Idiots Guide to World History. 

Add this complete lack of academic integrity to the frequent editorial errors like calling the sections of the Roman armies “legends” instead of “legions” on page 94, and you have what appears to be a High School textbook written by high school students, who probably wouldn’t even notice the errors because they wouldn’t know any better.

Books like this only serve to perpetuate the notion that Christians who believe in God and creation are nothing but ignorant country bumpkins.  The authors have done a disservice to their younger brothers and sisters in Christ and to their God and King by not putting in the effort to deliver a quality and factual textbook all while making the claim to glorify the One who wrote history.

Do all things as unto God in this case means putting in the hard academic work of verifying your information, going to a library or two, and combing the text until all the errors are gone. 

Honestly, I was truly looking forward to reading this set of books, but now I’m dreading reading the British History and American History texts sitting on my shelf.

I cannot in good conscience recommend buying this book and giving it to your children, at least not if you intend on sending them to college at any point.

I received this book from the publisher for review.  Obviously all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

In the last few Relationship Tuesdays, we have been looking at what it means to fear God.  It’s not just an awe and respect that we ought to feel.  It is an actual fear.  And that fear does not stem from a fear of reprisal and punishment.  It stems from this relationship of created/Creator.  As Creator, God is more than we will ever be.  And while we were created in His image, we will ever be only that, an image--a restored image in the resurrection but an image all the same. 

Every instance of a created being not fearing God comes from the idea of becoming more than a creation.  Even Satan’s prideful rebellion was based on a lack of fear of God.  If he had feared God, the idea of taking the throne and becoming like the Most High would have never entered his mind.  And he paid the price for not having an appropriate fear of the Creator.

But, it seems that with us, God often starts His conversations with the phrase “fear not”.   There’s no doubt we are to fear Him, but almost universally that fear comes about for the wrong reasons. 

Look at what Isaiah says when he stands before the throne: “"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

That phrase “woe to me” it’s a translation of the word “oy”.  This word has lost some of it’s connotation over the years.  You’ve probably heard this word in the movies somewhere from some grumpy old Jewish person saying,  “oy, it’s humid out” or something similar.  “Oy” when Isaiah was using it was the equivalent of our “ooohhh”; it’s passionate grief or despair.

Isaiah is in despair because of his sin.

But God says, “fear not” because He doesn’t want our fear of Him to stem from a fear of reprisal or punishment for sin.  Remember in 1 John 4:18, John writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

For the next few posts in our look at having a relationship with God, we’re going to talk about God’s love, a much more agreeable topic than fear to be sure, but I wanted to start with the fear of God so that we keep in mind who it is that we’re talking about when we talk about God’s love.  He is not our equal in this relationship, like say a husband and wife for example.  And we’re never going to grow up and be equal to Him, like with our parents. 

He is beyond us in every way and worthy to be feared, and yet He loves us, and He wants us to love Him.  And within that context, He doesn’t want our fear to derive from the fear of punishment because we’re sinful people.

Up Next: Love and Sin


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