This Stuff Is For Real!

Finally, brothers and sisters, draw your strength and might from God. Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:10-12 (VOICE)

The Temptation of Christ, 1854
The Temptation of Christ, 1854 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The greatest advantage any adversary can have is to convince their opponent they do not exist. Once that is accomplished, they can “slither” in and attack from within. Too often, the modern church fails to talk about the devil in a way that leads anyone to think he is a real, formidable adversary whose job is take you [the Christian] down and out and to keep as many people from God’s kingdom as possible. Society in the 21st century views Satan as the subject of a good horror flick or a source of Halloween fun and little more than that– certainly not to be taken seriously. I have to believe that is exactly the way the devil wants it. Please don’t be taken in by this deception. If you believe in salvation through Jesus and the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God, then believe the rest of the Bible and stay alert! The evil one is on the move, especially in [what I think may well be] these last days. Put on the whole armour of God! Resist the devil and he will flee from you! (James 4:7)

Behold!

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! -John 1:29 (ESV) 

“Behold” is a word used in different versions of the Bible that I wish was employed more often in all of our English translations. It conveys a real sense of the need to pay attention to the truth that is about to be presented! Some things deserve more than just a “hey, look at that”–especially the wonders of an almighty God who loves us so much. As much as I like the NRSV, it misses the boat when it comes to removing words like “behold.” I get the reasoning– I just don’t agree with it. That’s why I chose [in this case] to quote from the English Standard Version (a conservative re-making of the Revised Standard Version, which keeps the word “behold”).

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”-Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

 

 

The Effectiveness of Prayer

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)
I recently became part of the prayer chain at my church and receive daily email prayer requests. In my walk with Christ, I have become painfully aware of my need for more prayer and as I respond to that conviction, I see my life blessed in ways that simply add to the overwhelming proof of God’s love for me and all of His children.

Fragmented Christianity

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity! –
Psalm 133:1 (NRSV) 

I have been to many different types of churches from Roman Catholic, Charismatic Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist (American, Conservative, Southern and Independent), Congregationalist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Fundamentalist… the list goes on and on. Every one of them (with the exception of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who I visited *only once*) professes belief in the Trinity and the fact that Jesus came to die for us and rose from the dead in the promise of life everlasting for those who know Him. Today, I attend a non-denominational church that is big on God’s grace– as it is available to anyone who will receive it through Jesus.

I understand that Roman Catholics have some beliefs that others don’t consider biblically grounded and claim authority that others would deny. I myself have some serious disagreement with more than one doctrine they teach. But, the core of the faith: who Jesus is (and what He did) is essentially the same, as far as I can tell (with limited exposure to Catholic teaching). Therefore, I do know some Catholics on a personal level who I consider brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of where they attend church on Sundays.

I refuse to go off into some theological discussion or argument of the merits or liabilities of any one way of thinking or believing; however, I will remind my brothers and sisters of the simple criteria outlined in the Bible that will determine the eternal destiny of anybody:  So if you believe deep in your heart that God raised Jesus from the pit of death and if you voice your allegiance by confessing the truth that “Jesus is Lord,” then you will be saved! -Romans 10:9 (VOICE)

I can fellowship with anybody who sincerely believes and adheres to the tenets of faith as outlined in the Apostle’s Creed. Beyond that, whether it is a Roman belief in Papal authority, some other ritual, the Lutheran practice of infant baptism (they are not alone in that practice) or the Pentecostal traditions of speaking in tongues/faith healing, I personally leave it up to the individual understanding and conscience of the believer and for God to evaluate, not me. What I like to look for are the born-again believers who are therefore part of that “invisible church” that exists within most churches. As a friend used to say, “those who understand the red letters.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have a core set of beliefs and values that I will not bend to fit the scene of the day. I consider the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and take the authority of the Scripture very seriously. I also believe that the answers to the theological questions we may ask [and God requires us to understand] will be found within the pages of the Bible. That said, I look to God’s Word to discover what makes a Christian a Christian and find it is summed up quite nicely in Romans 10:9– no matter what translation you read it in.

What is Good and Beautiful?

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. -Romans 8:28 (VOICE)

This is one of the most quoted verses from the Bible that I hear. People who push prosperity theology sometimes roll this one out as part of the documentation for their claims that simply believing will produce material prosperity here on Earth. Sometimes, it seems like they think that God is their personal butler, ready to come running when the bell rings.

I guess it depends on how one defines “something good and beautiful.” I think that what is good and beautiful is what pleases God. When He is pleased, it certainly will benefit us and bring real, lasting happiness– not like the thrill of a new car that is shiny and smells new, but quickly gets dull, rusty and smelly in a few short years before reaching its final destination in a junk yard. The value of things that please God are eternal.

A Righteous Nation

English: I took photo with Canon camera.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. -Proverbs 14:34

People used to call the United States a righteous nation. Oh sure, we have always had enemies (those who seek to subvert our way of life and change us to their way of thinking). Any serious student of history knows that the United States was founded as a Christian nation with Christian principles. That fact is not really debatable. Some have sought to rewrite history and, furthermore, make those who defend her principles and Christian morality to members of some sort of ‘hate group.’ Sadly, it makes one wonder if we’ll ever be the great nation we once were again? I used to believe wholeheartedly in the idea of American exceptional-ism as I looked at all the great and wonderful things we accomplished in the world and the way we stood up to tyranny. The answer (as all of them are) is to be found in the Bible: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14


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What Are Your Motives?

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been thinking a lot recently about ‘prosperity doctrine’ and those who teach it. The Bible tells us that we will know false teachers by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). Perhaps some or many of them really believe what they are peddling. It’s a little hard to justify some extremely rich T.V. evangelist’s extravagance with the message of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ, isn’t it? There is no doubt that Matthew 7:1-2 is there for a very good reason. The Bible clearly teaches us that He searches our hearts and, therefore, knows our motives for what we ask Him for:  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. -1 Thessalonians 2:4 

We know that we are stewards of the Earth and that what we see as our possessions belong to God. Psalm 24 reminds us that the Earth is the Lord’s. He owns it and everything in it– lock, stock and barrel.  That includes, of course, us.

Here’s another example of what I am writing about:

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. -Hebrews 4:11-13