Thursday, August 12, 2010

True Faith?

     It seems necessary from time to time to revisit what we hold as core beliefs. I want to take a few minutes to examine the doctrine of true faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us “now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and that “without faith it is impossible to please Him (God)”. So then one must ask the question “Faith in what or whom?”
     Misplaced faith will always bring disappointment. One might place his faith and hope of joy on a new or rebuilt car, or that special vacation or hunting trip. Faith might be placed on having that big, beautiful house in a certain location or in getting hired or promoted to that position that one has always wanted. Other will place their faith in a spouse, parent or child. Some will place their faith in money or positions of power or influence. All these things, people and accomplishments will eventually disappoint. Things will rust, grow old, wear out and break, bringing more problems. Other people will never live up to your expectations, no matter how hard the try; and some, feeling the weight of those expectations, will go out of their way to make sure they don’t fulfill them. Money, power and position are never enough and are more addictive than the most potent drug. The biggest failing of all if the above is their inability to reach beyond this life and into eternity. Though they might bring temporal happiness, they can never bring joy and the miseries of misplaced faith far outweigh the few joys that may be produced. This is due to the fact that hangs over each of us that, because of sin, we are slaves to death’s power and that none of these people, things or positions can save us from its’ grip. “For it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.”
     Now we introduce the solution to the sin and death problem. His name is Jesus. He came to this earth and by the power of a sinless life and a substitutionary death He fulfilled the required appointment for us all. He came to give us hope in this life and in the eternity to come. That hope consists of Him giving us the power to become sons of God, that extends to all those who believe on His name. This sonship brings the blessing of forgiveness of sin and escape of the eternal judgment that is pronounced on the world. The scripture declares that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes on Him has everlasting life” and that “whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”. We now come back to our original thesis, the definition of true faith. What does truly believing on the Lord Jesus entail? Is it merely a mental or verbal agreement with the facts of His life or even to His claims that He was God the Son? Is it a system of practices that show piety? Is it denying oneself of any pleasure or modern convenience in order to show repentance from sin? Again, scripture has the answer to the question posed.
     Jesus Himself defined what it means to truly be one of God’s followers. He said “he that belongs to God hears what God says, the reason that you do not hear is that you do not belong to God”. In another place He taught “if a man love me. He will keep my words.” He is not speaking of merely possessing His words, but doing them as well. This teaching is expanded by the Apostle James, when he shows us that “faith without works is dead”. James example is a person that sees a brother that is cold and hungry and says to that brother “be warmed and filled”, but doesn’t do anything to feed or clothe or shelter that brother. That is dead faith and is declared that it cannot save. His example of true faith is Abraham. When he was told to offer his son, the son whom God promised him, he acted without hesitation. True faith is not a set of religious practices, or denials of self, or even just agreeing that Jesus was God. True faith is following. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved. Lord means master and a master has servants. The servants follow the commands of the master. This verse sums up faith in a nutshell.
     Paul tells us “the righteousness of God is reveled from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith. The just are those who have received God’s forgiveness through Christ. God’s righteousness is shown in us as we move from one situation that requires faith in Christ’s words to the next situation that requires the same. This will require us to be in abiding fellowship with God and to be an active study of His word. How else can we act in faith if we have no idea who we have placed our faith in and what He says? Remember the words of Jesus, “he that belongs to God hears what God says”. It is a daily walk with God. It can not be replaced with church attendance, giving offerings, self denials, keeping of laws or following of religious systems. Fellowship with Christ, through abiding in Him, is the only means of salvation and thus the basis of true faith. Paul declares “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
     We have seen that true faith is misplaced on people, things, power or position. We have seen that only something or someone, that has the ability to give hope both in this life and the next, is worthy of our faith. We have seen that Jesus Christ, because of His death in our place, is the one who is worthy to be the object of our faith. He can’t be bypassed, for He said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” Therefore, we each have a task and a choice. The task is self examination. Paul said to examine ourselves to see “whether we are in the faith or not”. Upon the result of this examination we then have a choice. If we find that our lives do not match the definition of true faith we must choose to either place our faith in Christ following Him from faith to faith, or to reject His claims and the Biblical definition of faith and continue on our own agenda. If we find that true faith exists in us, then we must choose to continue to nurture that faith and follow our Lord wherever He leads. It is the most important choice that we will ever make, for it will determine our eternity. Do you have true faith?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Daydream believer

As human beings we tend to play out scenarios in our mind. You know what I’m talking about! What I would do if I had been there, that type of thought. Maybe a news story we have heard becomes a screenplay on the stage of our mind. Maybe a co-worker is robbed, or a friend suffers an injustice. Maybe it’s a search for a missing person, or a plane hijacking. This event will play in our mind and we will thrust ourselves into the story as the hero. We will play out a scenario where we somehow become the center of the story, or save the day and avert the disaster we have just heard about.

As Christians this type of scene will play for us when thinking about the night Jesus was tried or our presence at his crucifixion. Maybe even a scenario where we see Him for the first time after He rose from the grave. We will think of the day when we meet Him face to face and what we will do when we stand before the throne of God for the first time.

Then there is the darker vision of the Christian that looks into the future and sees the time when the beast and the false prophet are in power on the earth. That person sees a scene where people are waiting in line for a mark and more specifically of themselves, at gunpoint, being given a choice to either deny Jesus and receive the mark, or die right there on the spot. They see themselves refusing the mark and giving a glowing testimony concerning Christ. Sometimes they envision a martyr’s death that causes everyone around to convert. Sometimes they see a conversion of the official that is offering the choice and then miraculous events happening to see them through the tribulation. While this scenario may play out similar to the daydream of the Christian, it will probably not happen that way at all.

Satan has been around a long, long time. He is a mastermind at getting what he wants from demons and people alike. I cite the angelic rebellion in Heaven and the Adam and Eve incident as proof. He was crafty then and is working to improve his deceit with each passing moment. The scenario to get people to take his mark and worship his name I think will blindside most Christians. I do not think it will be a scenario where denial of Jesus will even be mentioned. That is far too much of a frontal assault and wouldn’t snare near as many people. It will come as more of a common sense decision. Well, we are being offered health care, food, ability to continue making purchases and participate in business. We can still have electricity, running water, gas for our cars, clothes for our families and see our friends. All we have to do is have this chip imbedded in our hand or forehead, with all our personal and financial info. Makes sense, no more credit theft, no more robberies, no more cash to be taken. Just swipe the chip and all paid. After all, our leader can do all of these other great things. Or we can not take the chip and starve to death along with our families. Hmmm! It will be subtle and crafty and will condemn millions to hell. That is Satan’s plan; take as many of mankind with him as he can.

Christ offers another scenario; one where He provides our every need. Where He is trusted to be our health care plan, to feed and clothe us, to care for every detail. No chip, just trusting Him as our Savior first, and then trusting Him as our provider daily. Doesn’t make much sense to say we trust Him with our eternal soul, but we can’t trust Him to feed our temporary body. Hmmm! It as simple as saying Lord Jesus I believe, help my unbelief.
This was the same test that took place in the garden, do we believe and act on what God has said, or do we no believe and follow another voice. Read the account for yourself in Genesis 3. As for what God has said about that mark, he that has ears to hear let him hear.

1And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
2And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion, and the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
3I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed and the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;
4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?"
5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
7It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
9If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
10If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

The Beast from the Earth
11Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
12He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence and he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
13He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.
14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.
15And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
16And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,
17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18Here is wisdom let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Empty tombs and witnesses

A quick question on this Resurrection Sunday. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then why didn't the people that were following Him just go back to their everyday lives? Why didn't they get mad over being duped by a madman? Why would they commit their lives to a lie and not recant that lie as they were being tortured and executed? Why would they choose to be enemies of the countries they lived in and remain loyal to a myth? These weren't people that were believing some second-hand story or pie in the sky promise. They were people who had lived alongside Jesus everyday. They had eaten with Him, walked countless miles with Him, slept on the ground in the cold, dusty desert alongside of Him. If He had not risen from the dead, they would have slipped quietly away and denied Him, just like they did the night He was tried. They would have stayed hidden away and disappointed, just like they did the day He was crucified. But instead, they went to every place they could reach, telling people of the hope that was to be found by putting faith in Jesus Christ as the saviour, by trusting Him for the forgiveness of sins. Of the original 12 disciples, 10 were martyrd. They were given the choice to recant their story about Jesus or die. They all chose death. The 11th killed himself, because he had sold Jesus out to the authorities and then realized that he had chosen the wrong side. The 12th, the Apostle John, died in exile on the isle of Patmos, he wouldn't recant his story either, but God kept him alive so he could write the book of Revelation as an old man. By the way, the man that replaced Judas, the traitor, was a man that was one of those authorities that sought Jesus death, Saul of Tarsus. We know him as the apostle Paul. He wrote the majority of the New Testament. He was a learned man, in line to be a ruler in Israel. But, on the way to kill some Christians, he saw Jesus. He was convinced and never looked back. He was beheaded by the Romans because he wouldn't deny that Jesus had risen.
The law of God requires two or three witnesses in a criminal case. This is so the facts can be established. One of the ten commandments deals with those that would be false witnesses. God is serious about legal proceedings. The Bible provides us with the information that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection. Yes, He is alive and He is seated at the right hand of God the Father. His work was finished. He will return and if we believe that He is the Christ, the Savior of the world, then we will live with Him. But in His own words "if you believe not that I am He, then you shall die in your sins". There's no other time like the present to believe what God has testified of His Son.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Agape', Huh?

You are not a very loving person! Can you hear this phrase spat at Jesus or Paul or Peter or one of the other apostles? If they appeared here in our time and our churches they would hear it constantly. Along with several other words and phrases, it would be branded onto them as a label. They would be avoided and cut down behind their backs. Love has been unjustly transformed into a romanticized and flowery concept instead of an action. Contrary to popular belief, love is not a feel good proposition. When practiced it generally gets you ostracized and even persecuted. It cries out against the harmful and extols the good and helpful. It says no to its’ children and stands firm in the face of all the arguments presented, even when it is in danger of being hated and despised. It dies on a cross while the objects of its affection stand around and laugh and mock and say they’re glad it is dead and gone. It then endures the accusations that its work was all a fraud and done for personal motives. It patiently waits for those accusers to realize the truth and turn and embrace it. It doesn’t tell those accusers that they are going to be ok traveling the dangerous path they are on. It doesn’t depend on acceptance of the masses for it’s worth.
If you were speeding down a road and suddenly I was standing in your way, telling you that a bridge was out and you were seconds from plunging to your death, would you be grateful? Or would you speed on past and curse me until you were over the brink? Think of that next time someone who loves you tries to interject themselves into your self-destruction. And for Heaven’s sake don’t accuse them of hatred or bigotry. Just thank God that He sent them to help.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Good news and rocks.

So many things fly through my head…so many topics that seem important, at least to me. I find it very difficult to settle on one and write. Here is the one at the forefront tonight. The church in this century seems so far from the purpose we were created for. What was that purpose? It was to go into every part of the entire world and preach the good news from God to every human being. It wasn’t to make ourselves gatekeepers or develop checklists for the human race to follow, or immerse ourselves in social action, or lobby political parties or protest for or against various causes. Does this offend you and your cause? Good! Jesus said He was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. The Apostle Paul made it clear that no man who goes to war entangles himself with the affairs of this life. It’s a pretty broad and far reaching statement. It applies to all areas of life. To politics, finances, relationships and yes even religious observances. To offend means to cause to stumble, to be tripped and lose balance. The majority of us, including myself, need to trip and lose our balance. We need to fall down so Jesus can pick us up. The problem with so many of our conversions lies in the fact that we knelt of our own accord and then picked ourselves up and went our own way again. The only difference was a little Jesus speak added to our fa├žade. Then we wonder when we have to go through painful breaking processes. We wonder where God is and why this is happening to us. When all along He is refining us and setting us free from the existence that we mistakenly call life. Given a choice and with much hindsight, I would rather let God break me. I want stumble over the stone. Many reasons come to mind, but one stands out. Jesus finished the statement above by saying that whoever would fall on that stone, they would be broken. But upon whoever that stone fell, it would grind that person to powder. Have you stumbled? Are you offended?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just the facts ma'am......

You see it all the time, an email or flyer claiming special insight into end time events. Most of these focus on the question of who the Antichrist is. Some even claim knowledge of his identity or give “facts” concerning him in an attempt to identify him with a public figure or candidate for office. These lists really get under my skin due to the fact that they are usually either complete fabrications or have just a little bit of the Bible sprinkled into them in order to give them credibility. So, with a zeal burning in my stomach that people should know God’s full counsel on every matter and that the Bible should not be misquoted, here are a few documented facts, from the Bible itself, concerning the person known to us as the Antichrist.

Let’s first look at what the term means, for it is a term of description and not a title. The name Christ is a title. Christ means the anointed one and is used exclusively of the Jewish Messiah, or the Savior sent from God. The name Jesus is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means Jehovah saves or Jehovah is Salvation. Jehovah being the Hebrew name of the one true God. Mary was told by the angel Gabriel in a vision to name her son Jesus. Gabriel said this was because the child would save His people from the sins. His name and title together mean Jehovah is salvation, the anointed one. The title anti-christ means one who is against, or opposes the anointed one. This is defined for us, by the Apostle John, in the following passages. These are the only four verses in the entire Bible where the term anti-christ is used.

John gives us the term antichrist in 1 John 2:18. He writes: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know it is the last hour”. Interesting….John tells us that MANY antichrists have appeared. He goes on to say in verse 22 “Who is the liar, but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. In chapter 4 verse 2 and 3 he tells us: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of antichrist….”.
The final use of the term antichrist in the Bible comes in 2 John verse 7 where John says: “…..those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and the antichrist.”

Note that John says there are many antichrists and referred to the spirit that prevails in them all. This spirit leads these people to believe that Jesus is not the Christ, that He is not God’s son and that He has not come in the flesh. Those who perpetrate this belief are called antichrists.

Now to the Biblical definition of the one to come, who shares all of these beliefs and this spirit. He is one who will rise to world power and eventually world domination as shown in the passages that I will refer to. To keep it simple I will refer to the passages and hope that you will pick up a copy of the Bible and look up the scripture that I reference.

First let’s look at the clearest and most complete prophecy of the one who is to come. This is found in the book of Revelation, chapter 13 starting in verse 1. It reads “And the dragon (Satan) stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads……And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority…….All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb (Jesus) who has been slain.” This beast is a man whom we commonly call the antichrist. This passage is connected to the book of Daniel, chapter 7 concerning the rule of the world. Revelation 13:11 says: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth……and he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast….and he causes all….to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark…” This passage shows that their will be another man who will act as a preacher or priest to point everyone to worship the first man as god. This second man will also control the economy of the world and tie it to worshipping the first man. We generally refer to the first man as the beast and the second man as the false prophet. Together they will control the entire world for a seven year period which will take place immediately proceeding Jesus’ return to earth as its rightful ruler. So hint one…..he’s a leader and possibly a man who calls himself spiritual, not religious.

Second, he will be able to bring peace to the Middle East, where everyone else has failed. Daniel 9:24-27 tells us (in relation to the nation of Israel) that “he will make a firm covenant (pact, contract or treaty) with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering”. There are a lot of things that need to be said here to understand what this statement means. But with the need of brevity for those that don’t like to read, I’ll make some statements and ask you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 tells us, concerning the last days “While they are saying, ‘peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly…”. This leader will establish a peace pact that will give Israel control of their Temple Mount again. They will again begin to offer sacrifices, which they haven’t done since around A.D. 70 when their temple was destroyed by the Roman army. But halfway through a seven year period, represented by the term week, he will make them stop and declare himself to be god and set up a throne for himself to rule the world. This throne will be located in the Jewish temple. This is what Daniel refers to as the one who makes desolate. Desolate means unfit for worship and this speaks of the place where the offerings were taking place, i.e. The Temple in Jerusalem.

Finally, he will somehow be connected to the old Roman empire. This is discovered through a study of the book of Daniel chapters 2,7 9, 11 and 12. Daniel 9 refers to the beast as “the Prince that shall come”. It says that his people will destroy the temple and the sanctuary. Daniel was written between 605 and 510 B.C. The destruction he speaks of happened in A.D. 70 and was perpetrated by the Roman army under General Titus.

Another 50 pages couldn’t give all of the indicators and scriptural backing for this subject, so I’ll stop here and leave it up to you to finish the research. Concerning those who presume to tell you or hint at the identity of the beast; they usually are trying to get you to speak up or vote a certain way in order to prevent their “antichrist” from taking power. This is not possible. The beast and his false prophet are destined by God himself to be in power. They are also destined to be taken and immediately thrown into the lake of fire at Christ’s return. This is necessary in order to bring about the things that are going to happen at the end of this age. It all must happen in order to clear away this present “new” world order and make way for the kingdom of our God and His Christ. As a Christian you should have joy that these things are so close. If you’re are not a follower of Christ, these things should cause fear, but should also give you hope since you are here reading this and have a chance to turn to Jesus Christ as your God, Lord and Savior and begin to follow Him.

Maybe this cleared up any misconception you had about the beast or antichrist. Maybe you knew all of this. Maybe you are more confused. I’ll always answer any question you have about what I write, or at least give the best answer I can. In any case wish all of you the best and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Well this is the way I would have........

Well I can talk all day long about what gets under my skin....but when it comes to putting things on paper, I'm not so good. I always say that too many people have too much of an outlet for their thoughts and they always seem to come at issues from a perspective of their social bias or something similar. All opinions should be measured against a standard. In any building trade you have some kind of instrument to show a true measure. You may use a level, a tape measure, a plum line, survey instrument, etc. But if you don't use the correct tool or instrument, then you have a crooked, out of level, poorly built (and usually unstable) structure. Application of this principle is mirrored in life. We need a standard for our lives. Every opinion, thought, action or plan needs a standard of absolute truth to guide it. This truth must be rooted in what is really right and wrong, in the knowledge of how to go about our lives and how to know the one who created us. The standard exists, though it is much maligned. It is criticized as being out of date, a myth, just a lot of stuff written by a bunch of men, etc. These arguments always strike me as funny, seeing as how they are usually made by people who place great importance on ancient manuscripts from other cultures or plays or novels written by long dead authors. They will seek to define their lives by anything they find interesting, except the one thing that makes a definite claim to be God’s book .That book is of course the Bible. I attempt to measure everything I do by this standard. Sometimes I see clearly where I am lacking or not lacking. Sometimes I miss the point, sometimes I ignore what it says (by accident or otherwise), sometimes I flat out refuse its’ correction (always with a consequence that is brought home later). But I still seek to measure my life by it. That is the example set by Moses and Abraham and King David and every other saint whose lives it records. They kept coming back, even when they had messed up terribly. Just remember, life is full of Monday morning, arm-chair quarterbacks and self-proclaimed experts, and, there opinions are only as credible as people make them out to be. Measure them and their opinions against absolute truth. .It's true that God will use the Bible to show you when you're wrong and have sinned. You may be surprised to find that He will also use it to show you when you are on the right track and give you the peace and confidence to make the right decisions. Just a few thoughts...................