Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy 400th Birthday!

~ From 1611 and Still Going Strong ~

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible also known as the Authorized Version (AV).  The actual birthday is May 5, 2011. 

The King James Version holds a unique position in Christian history, secular history, literature, and technology. It has often been described as the single most important publication in all of history.

Importance ~ Without doubt it is the most important English translation of the Holy Bible. 

Impact ~ It has made a profound impact on the English language and on literature! 

Uniqueness ~ There were in fact other English Bible translations prior to the KJV and many since. It is also interesting to note that it was not the most popular translation when it was published. But no one translation nor one book has impacted the world like the KJV. 

Longevity ~ The KJV is nearly twice as old as the United States. The Declaration of Independence, our national Constitution, and our Bill of Rights are youngsters compared to the KJV Bible. 

Popularity ~ For many decades it was the best-selling book in the world. Estimates are that somewhere between 2.5 and 6.5 billion copies have been sold. 

Survival ~ Arguably no other book has suffered such ferocious attacks or has been so closely scrutinized. Attacks have continued for four centuries by many enemies. Most of those foes are gone but this book lives on. 

Debate ~ Avid readers have always discussed its meaning. Some take it at face value for what the words say. Others have gone to significant lengths to find a secret code locked in its pages. An extreme example is when some speculated that William Shakespeare—who was 46 at the time—was one of the master translators of the KJV. Their reasoning: The 46th word of the 46th Psalm is the word “shake” and the 46th word from the end of the 46th psalm is “spear.” 

On-Going Fan Club ~ There are many Christians alive today who believe the KJV is the only acceptable Bible version. Virtually all theologians hold the KJV in high regard. 

Errors ~ Conservative Christians believe the Holy Bible to be the God-inspired (literally “God breathed”) Word of God without error in the original manuscripts. But that does not mean that translations are flawless. The KJV we read today is not identical to the original KJV. Literally hundreds of changes have been made to the vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Also printer errors have been corrected. 

Probably the worst printer error occurred in 1631 when the royal printers left out the word “not” in the seventh of the ten commandments. It read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

Another famous error was what became known as the Vinegar Translation which instead of including the parables of the vineyards it included the parables of the vinegar. 

Selected passages from the KJV ~ “All Scripture [original manuscripts] is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17). 

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged 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 4:12-13). 

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23). 

Closing Questions ~ Are you born again? Do you possess eternal life so that you will also live and abide forever? If not click here

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Tree Miracle

~ It’s All In The Seed ~ 

Christmas is near and the family is sitting by the fire. As the young daughter looks at the Christmas tree she asks, “Where did our Christmas tree come from?” Mom begins to tell her where they bought it…  “But where did it come from?” interrupts the child. 

To the best of her ability mom explains that pine trees have pine cones—which contain seeds. These seeds contain the essence of a pine tree. The pine cone falls to the earth and from the seed we get a pine tree! Mother confesses that she doesn't fully understand it but she believes it, and knows it is true. She goes on to explain that a significant portion of our food comes from seed and most of our remaining food comes from animals that eat seeds and/or products of seeds. 

The seed is an extremely fascinating and miraculous part of God’s grand design of creation. In a tiny seed there is life! Some seeds are so small we must use a microscope to see them, others are quite large. Seeds reproduce their own kind of life—a tiny orchid seed will never produce a coconut, and vice versa. Virtually all seeds can live in a dormant stage for years. Scientists have found some seeds over four thousand years old which they believe still contain life.

On several occasions Jesus Christ used seeds in His parables. “God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge pine tree, and eagles build nests in it” (Matthew 13:31b-32, The Message).

Jesus took time to explain some of the parables in which He used seeds, for example: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:37b-43)

This year as you look at Christmas trees think of Jesus Christ—the One who died for our sins on a tree at Calvary! Consider Jesus Christ the Creator of all seeds and the sustainer of our lives (both physical and spiritual). By Him all things consist, are held together, and produce after their own kind (Colossians 1:17). 

This CHRISTmas season consider how Jesus Christ came as a baby to Bethlehem that He might bring us to eternal glory with Him forever and ever. How strange it is that when we see a pine cone fall from a tree to the earth we know it contains seeds which contain the essence of a pine tree, yet we lack the simple faith to understand that the Creator of the universe could come to earth as a man. Although Christ was a true human being, He also contained the essence of God—in fact was truly God!—as well as truly man. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holy – 3 of 3

~ Implications ~

What Is the Opposite of Holy?

As previously noted, the word "profane" (or common) is used in many translations of Scripture to denote that which is the opposite of holy. For example in Ezekiel we read, "Her priests do violence to My law and profane My holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common: they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (Ezekiel 22:26-26). Later we read, "They are to teach My people the difference between the holy and the common" (Ezekiel 44:23).

Earlier in Scripture the Israelites were clearly told not to treat that which was set apart to God as common. The twentieth to twenty-second chapters of Leviticus is a rich area of study with regard to holy and profane. For instance, in these chapters our LORD repeatedly warns about profaning (or making common) His holy name.


In the New Testament, the word "saint" is used as a name for all believers. Those who know Jesus Christ personally are called saints. The word saint simply means "holy one." Returning to our primary definition of holy, that of being "unique," or "set apart," or "distinctive," we see the radical implications of how we are to live our lives.

We are to be those who are in the process of sanctification. Those who are becoming more and more distinct (unique) as we become more and more like our master, Jesus Christ. "We ... are becoming transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Or as Paul exhorts us, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2). From this passage it is clear that we have three choices; we can be transformed into a distinctive human being, we can remain conformed to the world, or we can be "double minded" (James 1:8 and 4:8) and end up being deformed. The choice is ours.

Jim Elliot, one of five young missionaries martyred for the cause of Christ by Auca Indians in Ecuador, once prayed, "Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God."

COMMENT: There are many quotable phrases from Jim Elliot in the book “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You” edited by myself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holy – 2 of 3

~ Definitions ~

What Does Holy Mean?

Like many words, the word "holy" is used in more than one way in Scripture. If you were to ask a number of Christians in your local church to define holy or to give some synonyms, the typical responses would be such words as pure, righteous, immaculate, and sinless. While those words are all encompassed in the concept of holy, they are very limiting as opposed to the use of the word holy in the Word of God.

In a very fundamental sense, holy is a description of the uniqueness of God. It is interesting that most people have a different reaction to the word holy than to omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, or any of the great attributes of God. And we also know that Scripture nowhere commands us to "be ye eternal for I am eternal," nor do we read that we are to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and so forth.

There is no adequate way to convey holy in the English language (or any other language), and there is no way to begin to grasp the depths of this characteristic of God. Some theologians have rightly pointed out that the word holy encompasses all of God's attributes. At the same time, since we are commanded to be holy—we must seek to understand what it is we are to be.

A primary and basic meaning of the word holy in the Word is "separate," that which is "set apart" or is "a cut above." In Christian circles we often talk about sanctification as being "set apart" and as being the process of becoming holy. While this is a correct concept, we may have oversimplified to the point of losing the significance of the meaning. Holy is that which is so different and "totally unique" as to be a magnitude above the highest!

Holy means "peculiar." Something which is holy is "very special." Holy is unique and not ordinary. In this regard we find that in contrast to holy, the King James Version (and others) uses the word "profane" to describe that which is ordinary or common.

When this key aspect of the meaning of holy is comprehended, the mysterious idea that holiness somehow encompasses all of God's attributes becomes quite clear. God is holy (unique) with regard to His purity and righteousness. God is also holy (unique) with respect to His all-knowing, holy (unique) by His ever-presence, and holy (unique) in His eternal nature.

This connotation of "separate from the rest," of uniqueness, provides insight into why many physical objects in the Scriptures were referred to as holy. Why, even the ground is termed as holy (for example Exodus 3:5). Additionally, the Scriptures mention holy anointing oil, holy water, holy house, holy place, holy bread, holy instruments, holy seed, a holy ark, and of course the holy of holies; many things and places are described as holy. The nation Israel was termed a holy nation because they were God's people, a unique people, set apart for God.

In the New Testament we read regarding Christians that they are "a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5). Perhaps the use of the word holy to describe many ordinary objects is one reason we have tended to let go of the primary definition of holy when it comes to describing God and instead to emphasize the concept of purity and righteousness. In doing so, we have lost much of the richness of the meaning.

It is also instructive to recognize that many things that were set apart and deemed holy in the Old Testament were set apart in order that they be undefiled, or kept pure. This provides more understanding of how we have drifted to the meaning of purity.

It should also be noted that the word "Pharisee" connotes the meaning of "one who is separate." Certainly we would not want to associate our God with the Pharisees—the Pharisees were unique in some negative ways. The emphasis of a holy God is clearly that of "positive uniqueness" or "above all else."

When we understand holy as uniqueness, we see that the holiness of God really is a summary attribute which represents God's deity and exclusiveness. The word holy calls attention to who and what God is—totally different than anything or anyone else. God's knowledge is holy knowledge. His justice is holy justice. His mercy is a holy mercy. His spirit is the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holy – 1 of 3

~ A “Unique” Concept ~

Holy. It is hard to imagine any other single word so closely coupled with the nature of God. Perhaps it is equally as hard to imagine any other single word which has such a strange reaction in the hearts of mankind.

It is also difficult to imagine a more critical concept for the Christian to come to grips with than the holiness of God—and its implications! There is no other attribute so central to the very character of God than the fact that He is a holy God. For example, we are told, "Holy is His name" (Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 57:15; Luke 1:49), and God is frequently referred to as "The Holy One" in the Old Testament.

One key reason that understanding the meaning of a holy God is so critical for the Christian is that we have a direct command to "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). This is actually a reference to many Old Testament Scriptures. How can any one of us obey that command until we first understand what holy means?

It would be a drastic mistake to think that because someone has studied holiness or written about it, that they have somehow achieved a level of holiness which is above the normal. In fact the experience of many of the saints of God has been that the more they begin to understand the nature of the holy God, the more they realize their awful sinfulness. The effect is similar to the effect of shining a brilliant light upon a fine diamond which has been placed against a dark background. The more we see His nature, the more we see the blackness of our own hearts.

God's people, the Jews, understood the majesty of the holiness of God. The early translators of the Bible understood His majesty. The Old Testament translates the word "Adonai" as "Lord"—the name of our sovereign God; but when it comes to "Yahweh"—the name of our sacred God, it uses the word "LORD" in all upper case in order to signify the majesty of the holy God. Lord is the title of God, while LORD is the name of God.

Uniqueness of the Attribute of Holiness

Holiness provokes a defensive response in mankind, even a hatred in the minds of some. The greater the holiness, the more natural unredeemed man recoils from it because man is defiled through and through with the sin nature. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

It is true that man often admires goodness and high moral standards—but only at a distance! The Jews admired their prophets at a distance. Today, many men and women admire Jesus Christ from a distance. He was a good man, they admit.

God would not even allow the Old Testament saints to see the face of the Holy One. Remember when His faithful servant Moses—who had seen God perform some astonishing miracles—asked to see His face, his request was denied.

"And the LORD said, 'I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,' He said, 'you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.' Then the LORD said, 'There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen’” (Exodus 33:19-23). When Moses returned from the experience of seeing God's back side (literally: hind quarters), his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29-30).

The Christian awaits that ultimate experience, to see our Lord Jesus Christ face to face when He welcomes us into our heavenly dwelling place. In that future day we will see God as He is. We will see Him in all His fullness. In all His brilliance and radiance, we will see God face to face! In that day we will understand fully for the first time a "holy" God.

In heaven we will become whole, we will have integrity, we will be "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:9). In that day we will for the first time have it all together. But we won't even be cognizant of it because we will be so enthralled, so enraptured, so completely fulfilled with Christ, our bridegroom.

Friday, November 26, 2010

EXTRA: The First Entry in “The Journals of Jim Elliot”

~ Guest Blog from Derek Ashton ~ 

The following is used by permission from Derek Ashton, host of the excellent THEOparadox blog site. To view his full post, “The First and Last Entries” click here. He writes: 

Below is an excerpt from the first entry in Jim Elliot's Journal. 

January 17, 1948 ~ What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself.  For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies…

Help me, Lord, not to "mourn and weep" only for those things, once precious, which You teach me are but dead (whether desires, pleasures, or whatever may be precious to my soul now), but give me a willingness to put them away out of my sight (Genesis 23:4).  Burying places are costly, but I would own a Machpelah where corpses (dead things in my life) can be put away. 

…Out of such humility came fierce preaching and a willingness to die for the cause of Christ.

Certainly a passionate, Scripture-saturated preacher! Some thought-provoking things here. And some real challenges, too.

[Within Mr. Ashton’s blog are three parts of a sermon preached by Elliot in 1951. The Jim Elliot sermon which you can listen to on Derek Ashton’s site is entitled “The Resurrection.”]    

BLOGGER BOB’S COMMENT:  I had the privilege of knowing Jim Elliot very well when I was a young boy. Years later it was my privilege to transcribe and edit some of the messages he spoke prior to leaving for the mission field.  They were transcribed from an old wire recorder (a forerunner to magnetic tape).  These messages really show Jim’s love and zeal for God as well as his insight and wisdom.  For more information on the transcriptions entitled “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks To You” (ISBN 9781615797646) click on the JE tab at the top of this blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

America’s Abundance

~ A Timeless Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln ~

“It is the duty of the nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subject to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justify fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins; to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us.

“It has seems fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

BLOGGER BOB’S COMMENT: It certainly would appear that our 16th President knew and appreciated the source of America’s blessings!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does God change His mind?

~ The Answer Might Surprise You ~

This is an interesting and complex question. Scripture is clear that our God is an unchanging God; however, on one hand we read that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), but there are some other accounts in the Word of God which appear to contradict this. We read passages which state outright that God changed His mind (Exodus 32 for example).

Comparing these and other passages could cause one to question some of the beliefs of the Christian faith. For example, we believe the Bible was inspired, literally “God-breathed,” and is without error in the original manuscripts. We believe that God is completely consistent and cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). We also believe that God is all-knowing—“omniscient.” God is not bound as we are by time and space—He can move forward through time instantaneously.

Another aspect of this question is with regard to prayer. If God does not change His mind, then why do we pray? What is the purpose of prayer if everything has already been determined?

The Explanation ~ It is important to recognize that while the Scripture is perfect in its original form, it has been translated by imperfect humans over the centuries—sometimes with gross errors, sometimes with minor problems, and often with difficulty in transferring the correct thought from one language to another. This is key. In many instances where modern translations say God changed His mind or that God repented of His prior decision, it is due to translation problems. The Hebrew word nacham (“nawkam”), often translated into English as “changed His mind” or “repented,” is an incomplete translation. A more correct English wording would be “made a change in direction.” In other words while the original manuscripts are faultless, translators and language equivalency can be faulty! This can make a huge difference. To say someone changed his mind is quite different than saying someone changed direction.

Another key is to realize that when God says He does not change He is referring to His nature and His absolute decrees. Since He has given free will to mankind, He often allows us the choice of obeying and being blessed or going our own way and reaping the consequences.

God will not change His mind in reference to His oaths or outright decrees (Psalm 110:4 is an example). In instances of God providing direction, He often states the results of disobedience. In situations where human free will is involved, He leaves open a “change in direction” if there is obedience. This concept also provides insight into why we are commanded to pray. James 5:16 tells us prayer can achieve much.

Exodus 32 and other similar passages should be understood with these factors in mind. In the original language God tells Moses he may as well get out of there because at this point God planned to destroy the people because of their ongoing worship of idols. Such worship was something He had previously said was a capital offense (Exodus 22:20). It was as if God was providing a test for Moses.

Moses’ actions showed he did really care and love the people. Moses responded in prayer, earnestly pleading with God for the lives of the people. He responded with spiritual leadership and took his responsibilities seriously. It was on this basis that God instituted a change of direction—from what He had warned Moses was going to happen.

Earlier God had not made a final decision but had outlined to Moses the course of action currently in place. Moses responded appropriately, and therefore God was able to change His direction while remaining true to His nature. Part of the mystery in all this is that we know that God knows the end as well as He does the beginning—yet interwoven is the free will of man, in this case the free will of Moses.

Rather than a case of God not following through with His commandments, Exodus 32 actually shows a fulfillment of God’s earlier promises to show love and kindness to His people when they turn from their sin and approach Him in humility and obedience.

Consider two additional factors. First, God through His Word sometimes communicates with us through the use of anthropomorphism—using illustrations that fit our human understanding. Second, God, by definition, is so complex and above our full comprehension that we will never completely understand Him this side of heaven.

Summary ~ Does God change His mind? Not in the sense in which the question usually refers!

Does God change His direction and His actions based on the choices we make? Yes.

Does God know ahead of time what decisions and actions we will take? Yes.

Is God’s nature and character absolutely constant and unchanging? Yes!

Friday, November 12, 2010

EXTRA: 3 Great Christmas Gift Suggestions

~ Everyone Appreciates a Great Book ~

Here are three great book suggestions for three kinds of people.

(1) For those who enjoy a truly inspiring book, consider…
ONE PRECIOUS PEARL: God’s Design for His Church (ISBN: 9780741462329)
This ground-breaking book provides a clear interpretation of a misunderstood and rarely taught New Testament parable. Fascinating analogies teach profound truth in simple language. Written in short easily digestible segments, it is ideal reading for the person on the go. After reading this book, the reader will never look at a pearl or the church in quite the same way.

Early reviewers say: “…content is superior throughout… I have learned a great deal about the concept of a pearl and have appreciated more the concept of the Church as the Pearl of Christ.” (Ronald Barclay Allen, Senior Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary) ~ “I will never think of a pearl in the same light again. I absolutely love the way you have drawn a parallel between the pearl and the Church. This is inspired!” (Elizabeth Hightower, Women’s Ministries Leader, Laurelwood Baptist Church) ~ “We have been Christians for over 40 years, but never have been so enlightened and enriched as we have been by the in-depth study of the One Precious Pearl. You have given us new meaning and insight.” (Jerry & Maureen Shoop, retired Senior Pastor)

Just released November 12, 2010.
Currently available from Infinity Publishing (soon available at Amazon and other online sites).

(2) For those who want to increase their intimacy with God or to be more confident in decision-making, consider…
THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH: Understanding God’s Will for You (ISBN: 9781606474303)
For more information check out the TWBDOE tab at the top. The latest independent review of this book is by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Check it out here.

(3) For those who have an interest in Church history or Christian missions, consider…
JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You (ISBN: 9781615797646)
For more information check out the JE tab at the top.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Everyday Christian Life

~ Quick Check: How Are You Doing? ~

The “normal” Christian life—life as God wants it—includes a number of everyday activities. Unfortunately the “average” Christian life falls short of God’s desire for us. Here are a few of the daily activities of a normal Christian.

Daily reading of the Word of God ~ “Ezra read from God’s Word daily, from the first day to the last day” (Nehemiah 8:18). ~ Are you growing daily in your knowledge of God because of a regular pattern of being in God’s Word?

Constant prayer to the Lord about everything ~ “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere” (1 Timothy 2:8). “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). ~ Are you in continual prayer?

Constant praising of the Lord ~ “There will be constant praise for Him. His people will bless Him all day long” (Psalm 72:15). ~ Are you in a constant worshipful attitude? Are you continually aware of all the blessings God sends your way?

Daily exhortation of one another ~ “Exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). ~ Do you regularly go out of your way to seek opportunities to encourage another Christian? Are you mentally and emotionally helpful to your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Daily cross to bear ~ “Then Jesus said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels’” (Luke 9:23-26). ~ Is it your habit to put God’s will ahead of your own will?

Daily renewal of our spirituality ~ “We do not become discouraged—utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though our outer man is progressively decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being progressively renewed day after day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). ~ Did you grow in your spiritual strength yesterday? Are you today? Will you tomorrow? Essential parts of the solution to spiritual growth are the regular activities listed above.

CONTEMPLATE: How are you doing in your Christian life? Would God evaluate your progress the same way? If you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

EXTRA: The Little Old Lady From Pasadena

~ Guest Blog from Greg Laurie ~

The Bible tells us that, one day, all Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. Don't let that frighten you, because this particular judgment happens in heaven, which means you made it!

The Bible says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV).

It will be about how you lived your life and what you did with your time and resources.

Perhaps we can better understand this judgment if we compare it to an awards ceremony like the Oscars, Emmys, or Grammys. Rewards will be given out for faithfulness on this day.

We may expect that the great saints whom God has used over the years will reap all the awards—people like Corrie ten Boom, Jim Elliot, and Billy Graham.

But we may be surprised by the rewards won by "the little old lady from Pasadena!"

Yes, there really was one, and her name was Pearle Goode. When Billy was doing his crusade in Pasadena, he attributed the success of these events, going back 56 years, to prayer.

If the Graham team had anything close to a personal intercessor, it was Pearle Goode of Pasadena. For many years, she prayed in secret for Graham until he heard about her and made provision for her to attend his crusades so she could pray on-site.

Goode lived to be 90. At her funeral, Billy's wife, Ruth, paid her this tribute: "Here lie the mortal remains of much of the secret of Bill's ministry."

Pearle Goode wasn't a preacher, missionary, or author. She didn't have a hit song on Christian radio. But Pearle did her part, just as surely as Billy Graham did his.

While Billy was out preaching, Pearle was praying. While Billy was doing his part, Pearle was doing hers.

Don't worry about what God has called someone else to do. What has He called you to do?

We all have a part to play in getting the gospel out. Make sure you do yours.

Used by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Pray

~ Prayer Principles – Philippians 4 ~

Packed into six short verses of Philippians 4:4-9 we find Six Attitudes of Prayer.

Rejoicing ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). In prayer we should always be rejoicing. We do this by focusing on our Father rather than our problems. It is a great practice to start prayer by focusing on God, His love, and His attributes. “Rejoice always … for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Humility ~ “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand” (4:5). The very act of prayer should be a humbling experience. By focusing on God we realize how inept we are and that we have no right to approach the Father—except by the blood of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. “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).

Expecting ~ “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). Anxiety has no place in prayer—expect God to do what is best in your long range interest. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-29).

~ “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7). Focus your thoughts not only on God the Father but also on His Son Jesus Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus … He humbled Himself … and became obedient ” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Realism ~ “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (4:8). As you pray, try to see things as they are, not as you perceive them to be. Never assume motivations for others. Remember that you are not as bad, nor as good, as some people tell you. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).

Application ~ “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (4:9). Just do it! Feelings follow actions. Do what you know to be the will of God for you while waiting for any further specific instructions. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

ADDITIONAL COMMENT: The book Thy Will Be Done On Earth (see the TWBDOE tab at the top of the page) contains an informative chapter on prayer from a different perspective including God’s four answers to prayer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shepherds – Types of Christ

~ 5 Old Testament Shepherds ~

A Biblical “type” is like a word picture. It is a “foreshadowing” or image of something which is yet to come (Colossians 2:17). There are a number of shepherds in the Old Testament which the Holy Spirit uses as types of the coming Good Shepherd. Here are five examples:

Abel was a sacrificing shepherd, who gave his life and shed his blood at the hands of his own brother. Abel was rejected by his brother and put to death. This resulted in his brother Cain being banished from the land and becoming a wanderer. But God in grace supernaturally preserved him against his enemies. In the rejection of Abel, we see a type of the Lord Jesus. His death was also at the hands of His brethren, who were then scattered around the earth, but God has preserved them for centuries.

Jacob was a toiling shepherd, who left his father’s house to dwell in a distant land. He fled from the wrath of his brother. Because of the hated of his brother, he was driven into exile where he married and then returned to claim his possession.

Joseph was an exalted shepherd, who was rejected by his brethren – yet he became the savior of men. His brethren thought they had killed him. He was exiled to a distant land where he was exalted to the throne. There he obtained a bride, and later he returned to redeem his brethren who had sold him.

Moses was a delivering shepherd. He also was rejected the first time by his brethren, banished into a distant land where he found a Gentile bride before returning and being accepted by his own at his second coming.

David was a royal shepherd who reigned. David was anointed king, but rejected by his own. He was forced to flee into the land of the Philistines, where he received a Gentile bride. He returned after the death of Saul, to be accepted and acclaimed by his own nation.

In each of these Old Testament personalities we plainly see the record of the One who was rejected by His own the first time He came. While in rejection Jesus Christ is assembling His Gentile bride (the Church). When the Church (universal) is complete, He will return and be accepted by His own people (Israel), and He will set up the glorious millennial Kingdom.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EXTRA: 1-Year Feedback

~ A Big Thank You To All ALN Readers! ~

Wow!!! It is amazing to see what God has done in my first year of blogging for Him. I am truly humbled at your response.

Biggest Surprise ~ The breadth of readers including a Buddhist and a Muslim who stated that he was “interested to know about [the] Christian way to God.” I have also been pleasantly surprised at all who have taken time to write a comment—it has been a blessing to my heart and soul. Especially encouraging have been the comments which make note of a blog that has caused a desire to study a topic further on their own.

Another interesting note is that the particular blog entries which I personally thought would generate some comments almost never did. Some of the blogs which I did not expect a comment generated multiple comments! It is one more evidence that we are only channels and it is the Holy Spirit that causes the stirrings of the human heart.

Statistics ~ Another “wow” from the depths of my being! Abundant Life Now has been read in some 68 known countries plus some unidentified ones (a listing is on the right side bar). It has been translated into at least 22 languages. Within in the United States it has been read in all but one of the states as well as the District of Columbia (no one from Wyoming unless they are in the “unidentified” category).

Schedule ~ From the start my intention was to write a weekly blog. I would like to blog more often but I wanted to be predictable and not be under the pressure of a more frequent blog. My first blog “Introduction to Abundant Life Now” was on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. By the end of that week I decided to make it a Tuesday morning blog which it has been since. When I feel compelled to insert additional blogs, I insert a prefix of “EXTRA” in the title (like this entry). During the 52 weeks of my first year there were 61 postings with 40 comments added by readers.

Miscellaneous ~ Throughout the first year the format and appearance of the blog underwent a somewhat continual evolution regarding layout and side content. On March 25 ALN underwent a major visual transformation.

Biggest Satisfaction ~ There are a handful of happenings which show that God has been pleased to use my simple words to bless others and cause spiritual growth in their lives.

Looking Forward ~ If Abundant Life Now has been a blessing to you, please pass the information along to your friends and acquaintances so that more individuals might be blessed by the simple concepts and truths presented here.

May God bless all of you as you seek His face and we seek to minister for Him together in these last days.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christ Our Shepherd

~ A Biblical Trilogy – He Satisfies All Our Needs ~

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd of Psalm 22, the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23, and the Chief Shepherd of Psalm 24.

The Good Shepherd (Psalm 22) ~ The Good Shepherd died to save us. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, see verses 1-18.) Psalm 22 is a picture of God’s Prophet and our Suffering Savior. It is a past event!

Psalm 22 is also a Messianic psalm—a psalm with clear prophecies of Jesus Christ. It is The Psalm of the Cross.

The Great Shepherd (Psalm 23) ~ The Great Shepherd lives to guide us. “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21). Psalm 23 is a picture of our Living Savior and Present Priest. This is current—now!

Psalm 23 is known as The Shepherd Psalm. Every angle of our needs are supplied by our Great Shepherd (note the Abundant Life Now blog on December 15, 2009).

The Chief Shepherd (Psalm 24) ~ The Chief Shepherd will come for us and we will be glorified at that time. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4). In that day He will truly be the Sovereign One and exalted King of Kings. This is still future!

Psalm 24 is one of the royal psalms. It is a Psalm of Praise to the King of glory.

These three psalms can be thought of in the following additional ways:
22 a Dying Savior ~ 23 a Living Shepherd ~ 24 a Coming Sovereign.
22 our Savior’s Cross ~ 23 our Shepherd’s Crook ~ 24 the Sovereign’s Crown.
22 a soldier’s Sword ~ 23 our Shepherd’s Staff ~ 24 our King’s Scepter.
22 gives His Life ~ 23 gives His Love ~ 24 gives His Light.
22 God’s Grace ~ 23 our Shepherd’s Guidance ~ 24 our King’s Glory.
22 God’s Provision ~ 23 our Protection ~ 24 our Prospect.
22 yesterday / past ~ 23 today / present ~ 24 forever / future.

SUGGESTED FOLLOW-UP: Read John 10:1-30.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Christ in the Pentateuch

~ Jesus Christ is the Theme of the Entire Bible ~

The Bible is a book of the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ (John 5:39) and contains many “types” of things to come. Biblical types are metaphors or symbols of something else. Types are not only interesting but are part of the reason why the Bible is such an integrated whole. While a collection of 66 books, the Bible is in a very real way one book, one story, and one integrated package. For example, there are many amazing parallels between the Old Testament contents and that which is found in the New Testament writings.

Jesus Christ can be seen in every book of the Bible. Consider for example the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.

Genesis ~ In chapter 22 (many consider it one of the top ten chapters of the Bible) we see a father (Abraham) offering up his mature son (Isaac was not a small boy but was in his 30s) as an offering for sin. It took them three days to arrive at the place of sacrifice. Isaac was dead in Abraham’s mind for three long days! Isaac carried the wood for his death and Christ carried His own cross. Isaac was spared after the three day journey. Christ rose from the dead after three days.

Exodus ~ In chapter 12 we find the lamb slain and its blood sprinkled upon the houses as a shelter for men who are facing the judgment of God. The blood of the slain lamb is a type of the future blood of the Lamb of God. Each individual family member was required to receive a part of the lamb (12:4)—a picture of how every individual must accept the sacrifice of Christ for themselves—it is a personal decision. No one was saved because of being in the right house. Today no one is a child of God because they have Christian parents or live in a “Christian nation.” The fire (12:8-9) represented judgment which is still ahead for those of us living today. Bread made without yeast (yeast symbolizes sin) represents Christ, the bread of life. It is important to note that no one was saved because of “doing good” or “doing the best they can.”

Leviticus ~ Chapter 16 presents the ordinances of the Day of Atonement, which is a type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God did not remove sin but covered it, waiting for the only truly acceptable sacrifice—Jesus Christ. Only the high priest could provide this atonement and in doing so he laid aside his beautiful garments. Christ our great high priest laid aside His glory in heaven to come to earth to provide a sacrifice for us.

Numbers ~ The serpent of brass which is lifted up for all to see in chapter 21 is a picture of Jesus Christ who would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary for all to see. To be saved they were required to look up at the serpent in faith just like today we must look up to the Cross in faith. To be saved one must begin by acknowledging their need if a Savior because of their sin.

Deuteronomy ~ In chapter 21 we find a man who was murdered outside the city—Jesus Christ was murdered outside the city of Jerusalem. You and I and the entire human race are responsible for His death. He died in our place so that we might live eternally.

Additional Comment ~ Jesus Christ while on earth quoted from all five books of the Pentateuch.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

7 Symbols of God’s Care

~ God Cares for YOU ~

We serve a caring God who meets all our needs.

Like a hen He gathers and protects ~ Our Lord stated in reference to His chosen people, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

Like an eagle He protects and leads ~ “As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the LORD alone led him” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).

Like a shepherd He watches and delivers ~ “As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day” (Ezekiel 34:12).

Like a father He pities and shows compassion ~ “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).

Like a mother He consoles and comforts ~ “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).

Like a nursing mother He is gentle and provides ~ As His disciples we are also to love others as He loved us (John 13:34). We are to gently care for and provide for the needs of the Christian community. “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

Like a bridegroom He delights and rejoices ~ “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). One day Jesus Christ will return to gather His bride, the Church, to be with Him forever!

SUMMARY: “So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; He'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you. Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does” (1 Peter 5:6-11, The Message).

QUOTE: Being in church does not make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car! (Original source is unknown.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 Kinds of Spiritual Warfare

~ The Tri-fold Christian Fight ~

The Christian soldier is unique in that every individual Christian soldier is fighting on three different front lines—actually fighting three different wars—at the same time. In other wars individual soldiers are only on one front line at a time!

We know that our military has different weapons for different wars. Even their uniforms change—for example there is a vast difference in the camouflage uniforms used in a jungle compared to the camouflage uniforms used in open desert. Fortunately we too have different provisions including three armors for our three wars.

Internal War ~ We have ongoing, everyday, skirmishes with our old nature which is called “the flesh.” Our sin nature which we inherited from the first Adam tries to take control of our lives. The Bible tells us that “our sinful nature fights against our spiritual nature” (Galatians 5:17). But this war can never be won by the old nature and its tactics, but only as the new man is possessed by the Spirit of God. To win this war we need to rethink our strategy (2 Corinthians 10:3). But we can win this war by putting on “the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).

External War ~ Meanwhile we are also waging a battle with the world around us which is constantly seeking to mold us into its pattern. As we fight this war it is easy to be stressed—almost to the breaking point—but in the midst of it all we can have peace (John 16:33). This war cannot be won by the brute force of our human resistance, but only by submission to the new nature which we received from our Savior, the Last Adam, and spiritual realities (James 4:7a). This war must be resisted and can be won with the “armor of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 6:7).

Infernal War ~ Simultaneously Christians are fighting on a third front in a war with the devil and his warriors (Ephesians 6:12). In one sense this infernal war is opposite of our external war in that this battle cannot be won by submission but rather by resistance through the aid of the Holy Spirit (James 4:7b). To win this most crucial war we must put on the “entire armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13) which we have been provided.

CONTEMPLATE: “You spiritual adulterer! Don't you realize that being a friend of the world and its lifestyle makes you an enemy of God? Let me say it another way: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Bible means when it says that the Spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy, greed, and all kinds of sin? But remember that God gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Bible says, ‘God opposes the proud but He favors the humble.’ So humble yourselves before God” (James 4:4-7).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Onward Christian Soldiers

~ Don’t Go AWOL ~

The Bible uses many word images of the Christian and the Christian life. One common image is that of a soldier. Consider what the Bible tells us about our life as Soldiers.

Our Captain ~ Jesus Christ is our Captain, actually our Commander-In-Chief, and He leads the way for us (Hebrews 2:10).

Our Equipment ~ We have been provided with all the provisions we need (Ephesians 6:10-18) but we must utilize them wisely. One of the most important aspects of equipment for a foot soldier is proper footwear—provisions for our feet are provided (Ephesians 6:15).

Our Armor (defense) ~ There is a secular saying, “that a strong defense is the best offense.” Armor, by its very nature is defensive and we have been given all the protection we need to endure the battle (Ephesians 6:11, Psalm 18:32).

Our Weapon (offense) ~ Our offensive weapon is truth and we find it in the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17b). Truth is the only weapon we have been given and the only weapon we need. When our Commander fought with our enemy He used the Word of God in each of His battles (Matthew 4:1- 11, note especially verses 4, 7, and 10).

Our Comrades ~ The battle has been raging for centuries. Other believers are fighting alongside us (Philippians 2:25). The battle may soon be over—but it is still intensely raging today.

Our War ~ We are in a very unusual battle—one against spiritual rather than physical forces (Ephesians 6:12).

Our Enemy ~ The commander of our opposition is the devil himself and with his multitude of soldiers is bent on our individual destruction along with obliteration of our cause (1 Peter 5:8).

Our Fight ~ We are on the right side of the battle. We are fighting the fight of faith. Our fight is for truth, right, justice, and the kingdom of God Himself (1 Timothy 6:11-12).

Our Requirements
~ We are to maintain our endurance—we must maintain our focus as soldiers and not become tourists (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

Our Discharge ~ Throughout most of history “no one is discharged in time of war” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Our Responsibilities
~ Unfortunately during times of tough battles, some soldiers go “Absent Without Leave” and by so doing are actually traitors. The Scriptures urge us to continue fighting the faith in a strong and worthy way (1 Timothy 1:18).

Our Secret of Success ~ The Spirit of God who indwells the Christian has given us faith, continues to give us faith, and will complete our faith. Faith will give us the victory (1 John 5:4-5).

CONTEMPLATE: Sometimes being AWOL is simply hiding from the front lines. Have you remained on the front lines of the Christian battle?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The First War

~ A “Religious” War ~

There is one true World War! The longest war in history. The casualty count is truly staggering! This war consists of two major battles within the larger battle. Daily skirmishes, fighting, local battles including hand to hand fighting, continue today on front lines around the world.

The first ever declaration of war was made by God in Genesis 3:15 when He declared war on Satan. This small verse is full of content including the first promise of a coming Savior for sinful mankind.

Because it includes the first suggestion of a coming Savior and the opportunity for redemption, it is often referred to as the proto-evangelism. Fortunately, the verse not only declares war but also states the ultimate victory will go to Jesus Christ.

This great war named the “War between the Seeds” pits the seed of Mary, Christ, against the seed of the serpent, the antichrist. The declaration of war was spoken to the serpent, the evil one, soon after Adam and Eve fell into sin—it was not spoken to Adam or Eve. In His love God did not declare war on fallen man—but rather on behalf of fallen man!

Of the two most significant skirmishes or battles, one occurred in the past and the other will occur in the future. The past “Battle of the Heel” was not fatal. Christ died on the Cross in order to provide salvation for fallen man—Satan at first appeared to be victorious. However, Christ rose from the grave conquering death and Satan was wounded (but not destroyed). The future “Battle of the Head” (Revelation 20) will be fatal to Satan. Christ will then have complete victory! (Romans 16:20)

Between these two climactic battles is an unbroken series of wars and conflicts made up of greater and lesser battles, all of them but skirmishes in an effort to gain advantage for the final showdown. If you are a Christian, you are a soldier of the Cross engaged in this ongoing war.

The proto-evangelism is also interesting as it contains the first mention of the virgin birth. In Scripture the seed is always traced though the male line with this one exception. Jesus Christ is called the seed of the woman! It was by a woman that sin entered into the human race and it will be by a woman that a Savior will come.

An important implication of this verse is that since the seed of the woman is a real person, the antichrist by logical extension is also a real person!

The Word of God declares that all Christians are involved in this war and that there is no discharge from the war (Ecclesiastes 8:8). Fortunately we are provided with an offensive weapon (the Word of God) and all the defensive armor we need (Ephesians 6:10-20, 2 Corinthians 10:4).

The Battle of the Seeds began in Genesis 3:20 and will end in Revelation 20.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

EXTRA: Burn the Koran?

~ No One Can Change God’s Character—But They Sure Can Damage His Reputation! ~

The Situation ~ Two individual religious leaders have been at the center of recurring major news stories. First, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who plans on building a Muslim mosque near ground zero in New York City. Second, a Christian pastor Terry Jones who plans on publicly burning copies of the Koran.

Both men claim to be religious leaders. Both plan to do something perfectly legal and allowable. Both men are correct! They both are holding to their principles. But are there actions right?

Since this blog is about Christian living, we will discuss the issue from the Christian perspective. What does the Bible say that is relevant to this situation?

On one side many will point to the fact that God is a God of love (1 John 4:8, 16). But others would point to Christ overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple (Mark 11:15) as evidence of Jesus taking strong in-your-face action.

Christians are to operate according to principles rather than methodically following a guidebook. To do this effectively two things are necessary. First, a grounded understanding of the entire Word of God, and secondly, sensitivity to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

The key issue which seems to dominate the discussion is the concept that it is “my right” to move forward with my planned actions regardless of the counsel of others or the consequences of my planned actions. Both men talk of their “First Amendment Rights.”

One View ~ The book of 1 Corinthians was written to local Christians who were having trouble applying Christian principles in everyday situations. The book may be summed up as directions regarding Christian conduct. While the following passages are not about burning the Koran or where to build a mosque, the principles contained in these passages are quite relevant.

“I say this as bluntly as I can to wake you up to the stupidity of what you're doing” (1 Corinthians 6:5 The Message).

“All you're doing is providing fuel for more wrong, more injustice, bringing more hurt to the people of your own spiritual family” (1 Corinthians 6:8 The Message).

“Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean that it's spiritually appropriate” (1 Corinthians 6:12 The Message).

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NKJV).

“…do everything that way, heartily and freely to God's glory. At the same time, don't be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren't as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone's feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 The Message).

“Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14 NKJV).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Divine 2+2

~ Two Down & Two To Go ~

Consider four major divine accomplishments—two which have occurred and two which will yet happen.


(1) Creation ~ “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

(2) Redemption ~ “Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:29-30).


(3) The End of Sin ~ “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ ” (Revelation 16:17-18).

(4) The End of Pain and Physical Death ~ “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’ ” (Revelation 21:3-8).


The first two of these divine works are done—creation and redemption—they have been accomplished. When the final two divine works—sin and death—are fulfilled, Christians will be enjoying their Savior forever without the complications of sin and failures. What a glorious future, “blessed hope,” and absolute certainty awaits those who truly belong to God!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our God-Assigned Responsibility

~ Will We Be Unashamed to Meet Christ Face-To-Face ~

Service, or ministry to the body of Christ, is not optional for the Christian—It is something which is expected of a Christian who is walking worthy of his calling (1 Peter 4:10). At physical birth we were all born with various natural abilities. At spiritual birth we were all born with various spiritual gifts. We use both in our labor of ministry to those around us. Look at some aspects of the realities of our position and calling.

Our Appointment ~ We serve in Christ’s place as His ambassadors while He is away preparing our future mansions. – “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Our Task ~ We are to be consistent in our witness to others about the Truth, even in this day when so many do not believe there is any ultimate truth. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). “This is the Truth and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe it, for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted His salvation” (1 Timothy 4:9-10).

Our Goal ~ We are to grow in maturity as we work towards enlightening all people about the Truth of Jesus Christ and His saving work for us on the Cross of Calvary. “We preach about Jesus Christ, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the Truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15).

Our Responsibility ~ We are accountable for making the riches of salvation through Jesus Christ known to those around us. But it is God Himself who is responsible for the results. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Our Resources ~ We are “complete in Him” and have been given all we need to accomplish the task which He has given us (see Colossians 2:10 and 2 Peter 1:3). “If any lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” ( James 1:5). “Our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Our Special Helper ~ The Holy Spirit provides direct assistance as we minister for Him (and in other areas of our lives as well). “The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groans which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Our Tradeoff ~ We minister on His behalf in response to His love to us—however, it turns out to be a great bargain on our part. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Our Reward ~ God is light and we will be with Him forever without any night or darkness of any kind. In that day nothing will ever diminish in its brilliance and glory. “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). “When the Chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

CONTEMPLATE: Since God has provided all of this to help us accomplish the tasks He has given us, what excuse could we give for not following through when we meet Him who gave His all for us?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship

~ Must You Leave All? ~

Within Christian circles there is much confusion about the meaning of discipleship. At the heart of this confusion is a misunderstanding of Luke 14:26-27: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Analysis ~ Any look at discipleship should begin with the most basic of fundamentals. The word “disciple” simply means pupil or learner. It is rather startling to some when they realize there is nothing in the word that implies sacrifice.

The word “disciple” occurs in the four Gospels 240 times in both singular and plural forms. In the book of Acts it occurs 32 times. Interestingly, the word “disciple” is not found at all in any of the epistles. We should keep this point in mind.

The four Gospel writers use the term in both a broad sense and a narrow sense. In the broad sense it is used of those who in varying degrees became Jesus’ followers—followers of His teaching and of His miracles (Luke 6:12-18). For examples, consider Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (John 19:38-39).

In a narrow sense, the term is used of those who followed Jesus physically (Mark 1:17-18). In other words they were disciples who literally and physically left their families and possessions in order to follow Jesus. The twelve disciples are the clearest illustration of this group.

Certain conditions had to be met in order to follow Jesus in this narrow way. We read, for example, that one must hate his family and bear his own cross (Luke 14:26-27). The word “hate” denotes a relative term—to love Christ even more than family. “His cross” in this context carries the idea of willingness to bear whatever comes as a consequence—even death if necessary—for Christ’s sake. This high-intensity level of discipleship was not unique to Jesus’ followers since we know it was practiced by others as well. Examples would include John the Baptist and the Pharisees—they had disciples who literally followed them through Palestine (John 1:35; Matthew 22:16).

In the book of Acts, the word “disciple” is primarily used to mean a member of the local Christian church. In Acts 14:21 the verb form is used in reference to making converts. There is no occurrence in the book of Acts that indicates a disciple was one who must sacrifice family, or finances, or bear his cross in order to be called a disciple. This coupled with the fact that the word “disciple” doesn’t occur in any of the epistles strongly suggests that “forsaking all” in order to be a true disciple was limited to the days of the historical Jesus.

Lessons ~ In Biblical times there were disciples who followed Jesus in the narrow sense of the term—who were uniquely related to Jesus’ earthly life. To follow Christ in this way meant one would leave family, home, friends, occupation, and possessions. These “disciples” literally followed Jesus on an itinerant ministry. To follow Him in that sense Jesus stated they must forsake everything. The disciples of Jesus knew very well what the expectations were. They knew that it could cost them their lives. They were prepared to take up their cross and follow Jesus. These expectations were conditions for following the literal and historical Jesus.

To impose this kind of expectations on Christians today is to have a misconception of discipleship and to distort what it means to follow Christ.

Application ~ Consideration of the above does not change the Christian’s responsibility for following Christ. It simply shifts the emphasis from a physical following type of discipleship to a mental, emotional, and spiritual following of Jesus and His commands. When we understand this vital difference, it reduces the gap between some false expectations and Christ’s desire for us today.

Today we do not have a literal physical Jesus to follow. Therefore, there isn’t the same demand to physically leave home, loved ones, occupations, and possessions. Today, there is a spiritual demand to follow Christ—in some cases that is more difficult than physical separation. But we are not called to separate ourselves from our family, occupations, or possessions. We are called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) as we live with our families, carry on our occupations, and in the use of our possessions. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Here is the paradox, while we are in the process of loving the Lord as transformed people, it is quite possible our love for God will cause our family and friends to leave us, or for us to change our occupation, or to forsake our possessions. However, if we do this, it will not be a condition for discipleship but rather a result of discipleship.

Summary ~ Discipleship today involves seeking God’s rule and righteousness in all aspects of our life (Matthew 6:33). Jesus is not reigning physically in the world today. But we are assured that one day we will be able to witness a great event when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Until then, Jesus reigns spiritually in the hearts of those who love and obey Him. The rule of discipleship today is “if you love Me keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Our response to what God has done for us through Christ on the Cross is to make a presentation of our life to God (Romans 12:1).

A point not to be missed is that this presentation is not a decision to leave family and friends or to forsake all. It is a presentation of a life. It is a presentation to be. Discipleship therefore is a process. This process includes a negative struggle with the world, “do not be conformed to the world” and a positive experience of transformation, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

CONTEMPLATE: “The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God's glory. It's that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me” (Colossians 1:27-29, The Message).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Can’t Find a Good Church?

~ If You Find a Perfect Church, Please Don’t Join It! ~

Many sincere Christians in North America and other “developed” countries are having a difficult time finding a local church which meets not only their needs but more importantly fits the New Testament pattern of what a church should be! They are not seeking a perfect church but rather an acceptable church.

This subject received national attention recently when well-known Roman Catholic novelist Anne Rice announced on Facebook (July 2010) that she had given up on organized Christianity—but maintained her Christian beliefs. Her decision mirrors a national trend in North America. Does the Bible speak to our current situation? I believe it clearly does.

First, God designed Christians and the local church as being interdependent and needing one another. This is a key element of the Biblical teaching that the Church is made up of one body (Colossians 1:18), one building (1 Corinthians 3:9), and one bride (2 Corinthians 11:2). Each is incomplete without all its components. Anyone who is serious about following God’s will (God’s desires) will earnestly seek to find a local church of which they can be a meaningful participant.

The church is a gift from God for which assembly is required. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25, emphasis added). In other words during the end-times, just prior to the Second Coming, the Word of God says that it is all the more important that individual believers be a part of a local church.

Second, the Word of God recognizes the decline of the local churches prior to the end of this day of grace in which we live. That is the message to the last of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. … To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"'" (Revelation 3:14-22).

It is my conviction that given these two passages of Scripture (and the whole of the Word of God) it is the responsibility of every Christian to make every possible effort to find a local assembly of believers where they can fellowship, pray, worship, and serve together. If you are having trouble finding a local church, pray earnestly and keep searching—God may be teaching you something special during this time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

7 Consequences of Sin

~ Lessons from Genesis 3 & 4 ~

Man’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden upset his relationship with God, and today a Christian’s disobedience interferes with the joy of his fellowship with the Lord. Sin also disrupts peace in society by breaking human relationships. A common example in our society is sin in the life of a husband or wife, destroying the atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence that is so essential in making a truly happy home.

You and I were born with a propensity to sin because of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Sin always has devastating results in one form or another—sometimes the results are not evident immediately. Below are seven consequences of sin found in Genesis chapters three and four.

Shame (Genesis 3:7) ~ “And as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, suddenly they became aware of their nakedness, and were embarrassed and ashamed of what they had done. So they strung fig leaves together to cover themselves around the hips.” Prior to sin there was no shame.

Fear (3:10) ~ “Adam answered God by saying, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” Suddenly, a great relationship had deteriorated and a barrier existed. Today our fellowship with God is broken by unconfessed sin (see 1 John 1:9).

Buck Passing (3:12) ~ “Then Adam said, ‘The woman You put here with me—she is the one who gave me some fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.’” Adam is not only blaming Eve but indirectly blaming God for giving him a partner! Sin has a very real way of distorting our thinking.

Pain and Sorrow (3:16) ~ “To Eve God replied: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Sin has consequences! One day the results of Calvary will be complete and sin and its effects will be forever gone.

Pride (4:3) ~ “After the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD.” Cain’s pride is seen in offering his gift to God. One of the distinctions between the offerings of Cain and Abel is that Cain did not come by faith but rather in his own strength. Cain came to God on the basis of his own works—he came on the basis of his accomplishments. (Abel’s offering was a sacrifice which looked forward to the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God.) Pride is one of the roots of all sin and pride is what keeps man from confessing sin.

Anger and Depression (4:5) ~ “But God had no respect for Cain’s offering. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and became sad and depressed.” Cain throws a pity party and becomes distraught. His shenanigans were not successful. Instead of learning at this point and making corrections, his sin continued to carry him into even greater sin.

Murder (4:8) ~ “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let's go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and murdered him there.” Unconfessed sin leads to greater sin.

Do you understand why bad things happen to good people? Do you know why our society has so much crime, unjust suffering, and pain? God’s Word has a one-word answer: sin!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sin and You

~ Sin Effects Your Body, Your Soul, and Your Spirit ~

Comment: The following was spoken by Jim Elliot prior to his leaving for the mission field, and is quoted from the book “JIM ELLIOT: A Christian Martyr Speaks to You” edited by myself.

Background: In early 1956 Christian missionaries Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot lost their lives on “Palm Beach” on the banks of the Curaray River in a steamy jungle in Ecuador. They were brutally killed by an unreached tribe they had worked long and hard to reach with God’s love.

Many thousands of individuals have come to know Christ in a personal and living way and thousands of others have altered the direction of their lives as a result of the shocking massacre and the many articles and books written about it. Even the Auca Indians (Waoni) who thrust those fatal spears have seen a significant portion of their number come to know Jesus Christ.

“Well, what does sin do to your spirit? Just as sin is a cancer in the body, so it is corrosion to the soul, and to the spirit it is a callus. Sin makes us callous. Sin solidifies our attitudes.

“The book of Hebrews provides insight. Notice verse twelve of Hebrews chapter three. ‘Take heed, brethren, lest there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief and falling away from the living God. But exhort one another, day by day, so long as it is called today.’ Catch this. ‘Lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’

“Hardened. Your spirit will become solidified. In other words, it won’t be pliable to the will of God. The will of God will have no effect upon your spirit. God’s desire for you will just bounce off your spirit like a rock. Sin can do that to your spirit, so that your mind can’t apprehend the truths of God. It will harden your spirit. It solidifies your thinking.

“Sin will just make you go out and grit your teeth against everything that is righteous. Sin can do that in a Christian. Therefore, Paul tells us, brethren, exhort one another while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

“Notice ‘the deceitfulness of sin.’ Sin is deceitful, that is it fools you. When you think you haven’t got any sin, mark it down, you’re sinning.

“You say, ‘I have no need to fight sin.’ Be careful, sin is a deceiver. Sin is an awful deceiver, a great deceiver. He’ll tell you he’s not there, and reside in your heart. He’ll harden your heart and say you’re becoming well-balanced and well-rounded. Sin will stifle your affections for Christ, and tell you that you’re growing up and maturing and getting away from kids’ stuff such as being sentimental about God. Sin will take your body and ruin it!”

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fragrance or Stench?

~ As an Obedient Christian You Will Give Off Both! ~

Our society uses many phrases which imply two opposites at once. Examples include: black and white, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, give and take, through thick and thin, and others.

The Word of God tells us that Christians who are fulfilling their calling emit both a lovely fragrance and an awful smell. An obedient Christian has a dual odor? We emit both a fragrance to our fellow pilgrims and a stench to some of those who oppose Christ. Putting it differently, there is a divine dissidence in the life of an obedient Christian! We are both inviting and repulsive! There is a built-in tension in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, someone has remarked that a good preacher should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Fragrance ~ As Christians we are to become increasingly like Christ. “And the Lord—Who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we become like Christ in first our thinking and later our consistent actions, we are a pleasing sweet-smelling offering to God Himself. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Stench ~ As Christians we are to live in the world but not be of the world (1 John 2:15-17). Spiritually we are pilgrims passing through—not tourists! The world today is a place of great spiritual warfare where some find salvation in the name of Jesus Christ—the name which is above all other names! Others find the name of Christ and His work on the Cross as offensive—they do not want to accept the reality of their sinful nature. “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Summary ~ “In the Messiah, that is in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory after another. Through us, He brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite scent of Christ. And because of Christ, we give off a sweet fragrance rising to God, which is recognized by our fellow Christians—an aroma teaming with life. But some of those headed for destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. What a great responsibility we have!” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, emphasis added).