Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Our Words Mean Things

What do your fingers and your tongue have in common?

Rush Limbaugh once said, “words mean things” and he’s right. Hurtful and harmful words are hard to take back, and even if acknowledged and forgiven, the damage can linger for a long, long time.

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James3:9-12 NIV

People can have a mean streak. We say and do some rather shocking things with the intention of hurting one another. We sometimes justify it, “I sure put him in his place” or “that was great, she had that coming.” Or, perhaps worse, we’re just cruel for cruel’s sake.

Observing our current leading candidates for president, I am quite disturbed by what I hear: name-calling, misrepresentations, overstatements, and even some outright non-truths. I watch the so-called “news” channels and see panelists interrupting one another and talking over each other as each believes his or her message is the only message of value. Rather than reporting the news, these channels spin a yarn in support of whatever political agenda each has chosen to support. Is any of this really helpful in forwarding our nation? Will any of this make us safer or stronger? Will any of it position us as a force for good in the world?

Sadly, many of us are taking note and following their lead. As I page through Facebook and Twitter there is much vitriol to be seen, much of it posted by Christians like me. As James writes in the passage above, this cannot be. As believers, we are to share the Gospel with this lost and fallen world. Our lives are our chief witness; everything we do and say points to something. If we sing praises in church and later speak evil of others, we cannot be an effective witness. We can’t.

Indeed, in this era of modern technology and social media our fingers are an extension of the tongue. Think about it. How many times over the last week have you lashed out on social media against a person, a cause, a disagreement or something else? I’ve been making a conscious effort in this aspect of my over the past few months. A salt spring cannot produce fresh water. With vitriol we do more harm than good and our credibility as a witness for Christ is tarnished; Something for each of us to consider as we engage our world today and every day.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Complacency: A Death Trap

Complacency. A business that grows complacent loses customers. A husband who grows complacent loses his wife. A nation that grows complacent will not survive.
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Amos 6:1 NIV

As I read about Israel’s history in the Old Testament I am often amazed at the parallels I see between ancient Israel and modern America. In this chapter of Amos, the prophet describes a people who are celebrating their self-reliance and wallowing in their wealth. They perceive no need for God as they lead their increasingly decadent lives at the expense of the poorest among them. Amos goes on to describe the dire circumstances that such an existence will yield.
 
We study history for a reason. We are to learn from it and seek to avoid the mistakes that those who have gone before us have made. Amos could be describing the United States of America in 2016. While it is not a pretty picture, it is not too late to wake up. My prayer each morning is that God would lead our nation and those who seek to lead it to a realization of its sin and bring us to a place of confession, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We must rise up from our place of complacent pride and seek the face of our loving God.
 
Soli Deo Gloria!

Equipped to Witness

Quite some time ago, my employer at the time conducted an investigation that involved me and several other employees. Outside attorneys were brought in, and we were called before them multiple times. The process was a tough ordeal, but through it all, I had no sense of worry; no sense of fear. One morning, as the interviews were approaching their  conclusion, a non-believing coworker came into my office and closed the door. He told me that he was impressed that I had maintained such a calm demeanor through the investigative process while others were short-tempered, lashing out at coworkers and visibly concerned. He asked me what it was that enabled me to maintain my calm. I told him that I trusted God for the outcome, and that I prayed every morning that He would see me through. My faith in Jesus Christ would not allow me to despair. He simply said, “oh” and left my office. We didn’t speak of it again.

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Acts 1:8 NIV

We Christians are commanded to share the Gospel with the world around us. This can seem quite daunting, and even rather intimidating. The world has thrown up barriers to witness in the very places we spend most of our time: our schools and our workplaces. But one thing the world cannot do is forbid us from leading godly lives that catch the world’s attention. Our actions and behaviors are, themselves, witnesses to something, and I pray each morning that every aspect of my life will point straight to Christ. I don’t always get it right, but my hope and prayer is that the Lord will open doors for me to share the Gospel with somebody who hasn’t heard it, or has heard it and rejected it just as He did with this coworker. And when God opens that door, we need not fear for Jesus promised in this passage that the Holy Spirit Himself will equip us to respond.

As we seek and await opportunities to witness, what should we be doing in preparation? Awhile back, Pastor Keith Sanders of First Baptist Church in Keller, Texas shared three ways to witness that I have sought to put into practice:

  1. Seek to become an expert witness by reading and studying God’s Word.
  2. Seek to become a character witness in the way I live my daily life.
  3. Seek to be an eyewitness by sharing what I have seen and heard.

As promised, the Holy Spirit will equip us to do these things if we simply make ourselves available and ask Him to do so. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this is unequivocally true.

We are in the process of relocating to Houston, Texas. We plan to join Grace Presbyterian Church, whose mission statement is “Making disciples by encouraging people to make Jesus visible in their daily lives.” You see, this is where the rubber meets the road. Our daily lives are where witness happens. This past Sunday, each of us were given a tag to place on our key chain reminding us that “We are Here” and this is where we are to start living to make Jesus visible. “Here” is wherever we happen to find ourselves at any given time.

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“You Are Here”gpch.org

I intend to honor God by seeking to follow Jesus’ commandment to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has used faithful pastors like Keith Sanders, Trey Hill and others to equip me to do so. He also equips me through my morning reading and study time. I am convinced that, by living my daily life in a manner pleasing to God, people will notice and some will ask what it is that I’ve “got”. God will give me the opportunities to speak and the words to say. I just have to be available and ready.

What about you? Are you prepared? Are you available? Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38) Friends, we live in the harvest field. It’s time to get to work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

God’s Promise in the Last Days

As we observe the goings-on in today’s world it is easy to become dismayed. The Bible is full of information on what the last days will look like, and many believe they are upon us. The Bible also tells us that they will come like a thief in the night, implying that people will be asleep, unprepared, or otherwise distracted from what is truly important. For those people, the last days will bring eternal disaster.

Sounds rather dreadful, doesn’t it? Don’t lose heart. Among all of the writings on the last days and the fate that awaits us sinners is this promise that pervades Scripture – the promise of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a promise of God-pleasing righteousness imputed on us through the sacrifice Jesus made in our behalf on the cross. It means that the dreadful eternity that awaits is not the eternity we who are in Christ will face. Our eternity in Christ will be anything but dreadful; it will be amazing. We will be in the awesome presence of God Himself. That promise is real; that promise is available. Do you believe that? Have you come to faith in Christ? Have you claimed the promise for yourself? I hope so. If not, I’d be honored to discuss it with you.

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Joel 2:30-32 NIV

The Prosperity Gospel: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Modern day Christendom is under invasion by a false teaching. The teaching is very attractive to a society whose members want to call the shots, desiring to accumulate for themselves increasing wealth and material possessions; a society in which the primary focus is achieving happiness in this life.

“You have a Bible right when you plant a seed to expect the God of the universe to give you a harvest; to give you a debt-free home, debt-free cars, jobs; to give you financial interest, to make you a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” ~ Televangelist Todd Coontz as featured on bennyhinn.org.

Known commonly as the “Prosperity Gospel”, this teaching and those who promote it are deceiving Christians all over the world into believing that God exists to meet our physical and emotional needs and wants in this temporal life, most notably physical healing and the accumulation of wealth. They attempt to support their doctrine with Scripture, albeit via significantly errant interpretations of several key passages of Scripture.

Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary David W. Jones wrote a piece entitled 5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel for The Gospel Coalition. Jones states that the prosperity gospel has its doctrinal roots in God’s covenant with Abraham discussed in the book of Genesis.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

According to Jones, Prosperity Gospel teachers misinterpret God’s covenant with Abraham to be about blessing him and his descendants with material wealth; that God’s blessing of Abraham and his descendants was simply that they would be rich! Both Orthodox Christianity and Prosperity Gospel proponents teach that all believers are children of God’s covenant with Abraham; thus, we all participate in the blessings that God promised in this covenant. Prosperity Gospel proponents err in their understanding of what construes a “blessing” in this context. This blessing is not about material wealth or personal happiness. The blessing is about our perfect rescue from the eternal consequence of sin; sin that each one of us commits daily. Sadly, teachers of the Prosperity Gospel have reduced God’s covenantal promise to nothing more than a large bank account. As a wise man once said, “you can’t take it with you.”

The Prosperity Gospel is a completely backwards understanding of God’s relationship with His creation. The “name it and claim it” ideal in Prosperity Gospel teaching says that one must have faith in order to receive the blessings of God – material wealth, physical health, and other temporal gifts. With enough faith, all one must do is “claim” or “expect” the blessings he desires and God will provide them. If the blessings don’t follow the claim, then the faith of the believer is said to be deficient – sort of like trying to buy a can of soda from a soda machine using a counterfeit coin. Since the coin is counterfeit, the machine won’t dispense the drink. Does that sound like the God of Scripture to you? God is not our cosmic granter of wishes. We exist to give praise, honor, and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Prosperity Gospel preachers tend to be very skilled in presenting their message. They speak with authority and charisma, often accompanied by colorful light displays, booming sound systems and emotional music. Todd Coontz, in preaching the message quoted earlier to a roomful of screaming admirers, was accompanied by organ music under full vibrato, as if that somehow validates his message. The package is quite attractive and the message is compelling on its surface; thus these teachers draw huge crowds. Jesus warned us about such teachers:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 ESV

Is calling Prosperity Gospel teachers “false prophets” and “ravenous wolves” a bit harsh? I don’t think so. In preparing this piece, I visited the websites of several known Prosperity Gospel teachers, including Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and others. Each website I visited offers a link to the teacher’s statement of faith. In a quick read, everything they say in their statement of faith appears copasetic with an orthodox teaching, but digging a bit deeper reveals the falsehood of their gospel. Benny Hinn’s statement of faith, for example, includes this statement,

“…all believers are entitled to, and should ardently expect, and earnestly seek, the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (bold text added for emphasis)

Sound good? Sure, it does! We Americans are some of the most “entitled” people in the world! No wonder people are flocking to this message in droves! Tie this statement of Hinn’s to his featuring Todd Coontz screaming “You have a Bible right…” on his home page and you have the Prosperity Gospel in a nutshell.

I have been burdened for the Christian Church in America for quite some time. As I read and learn more about the Prosperity Gospel, my burden is increased. Paul’s words to Timothy come to mind:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:3-10 ESV

Many good and decent people have been drawn into the falsehood of the Prosperity Gospel. My heart breaks for them, for the true promise of God – the promise that our sins are forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross and that we believers will spend eternity in His presence – is not the focal teaching in Prosperity Gospel churches today.

What is your church teaching you? Is it teaching you that God wants you to be rich, and that your faith entitles you to wealth? Is it teaching you that lack of wealth and lack of good health are the result of a deficiency of your faith? As Coontz stated in the quote above, is your church teaching that you can be “…a millionaire for the sake of the Gospel?” Friend, if your church is teaching these things, please hear me loudly and clearly: That is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ! If this is the teaching of your church, run through the nearest exit and never look back.

Here is the true Gospel: God created man in His image. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and has pervaded our existence ever since. Sin separates us from God, and because God is holy, righteous and just, He must punish all who are guilty of breaking His laws. But God is also loving, kind and merciful. Because He loves us so much, He sent His Son to die as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins. Only through faith in Jesus are we washed clean from the guilt of our sins, and only through Him are we given the hope of eternal life in God’s holy presence.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Jesus sacrificed Himself for you and for me, not so we can build wealth and gain earthly health, but so we can be saved for all eternity. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If this is the teaching of your church, you’re in the right place.

Ponder This: Which is truly the greater blessing: Health and wealth in this temporal life or life eternal in the presence our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your name is to be magnified through all the earth. Forgive our sins and grant us saving faith in the redemptive sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ. Open our eyes and our ears to Your Word. I pray for all who sit at the feet of those who preach a deceiving message. Give each of us discernment to recognize false teachings and lead those false teachers to true repentance. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Sources:

The Gospel Coalition

Got Questions.org

BibleStudyTools.com

20/20 Hindsight ~ John 2:18-25

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Thankful for the 20/20 vision I enjoy through these lenses!

Clarity sometimes comes long after events have unfolded. In the heat of the moment, we’re in the moment and, thus, God’s purpose for the moment can be somewhat elusive to us at the time. Once we are removed from the situation and take the opportunity to look back and ponder it, we begin to understand the gravity of the events we witnessed. We may even feel a bit foolish for having missed the real meaning until later, stating that the clarity offered by hindsight makes the gravity of the moment obvious. “How did I miss that?” we ask. Such is the limitation of the human mind, limited in scope and bound by the passage of time.

Jesus had just cleared the vendors and money changers from the temple courts, and with that, potential temple revenue had been thrown out with them. The Jews in charge asked Him to show a sign proving that He had the authority to take such action. Jesus replied, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2:19) Standing in the temple court and looking at the temple structure, it’s easy for me to understand why these men, and presumably Jesus’ disciples, took him literally, chiding Him that it took 46 years to build this structure; no way could Jesus destroy it and rebuild it in three days.

But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:21-22)

Fast-forward a few years. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead. The victory had been won. I can almost picture His disciples sitting around a table reminiscing about all of the things Jesus said and did. And I can almost see the disciples collectively slap their foreheads as the Holy Spirit revealed the gravity of this moment to them. “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (verse 21). “Aha!” They didn’t get it at the time, but it makes so much sense now! The Jews destroyed this Temple, and on the third day He made His point abundantly clear as He rose from the dead and appeared in triumph to His disciples and to many others. Sin and death were defeated once and for all. It was time to spread the word.

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

Friends, we weren’t there to witness the words and deeds of Jesus when He came to earth. But God has given us an amazing gift in His Holy Word. By reading and studying the Bible, we in essence are tapping into hindsight. We can sit in the comfort of our homes and in the pews of our churches and read the words inspired by God and recorded by the likes of Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James – every section and every book of the Bible is about one Man. It is about God’s relationship with us and the redemptive gift He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, Scripture in its entirety points straight to our Savior! The more we read and the more we study, we too will slap our foreheads and yell, “Aha!” as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring us closer to Him.

I’ll share a secret. I’m glad people read my blog, and I am overjoyed when they glean some nugget of wisdom or inspiration from something I’ve written. But the real reason I write my blog is completely selfish: it is the tool by which I read, ponder, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. God’s Word is an amazing gift. When is the last time you picked it up?

Ponder this: Is any section of the Bible more relevant today than other sections of the Bible? Some would answer, “yes.” I answer with a resounding “No!” Read it. Read all of it. Read it in an attitude of prayer and longing. And be prepared to slap your forehead.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Your Son, and thank you for revealing Yourself through Scripture. Bless my study and grant me the wisdom to discern and understand Your eternal, unchanging, and universally true message to Your creation through Your Holy Word. Help me to take what I learn and become salt and light to this dark world. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Wedding Crisis Averted ~ John 2:1-11

It’s a wedding catastrophe, the prospect of which can give a bride and her mother prenuptial nightmares as they painstakenly plan each minute detail of the big day. Picture this in your mind: The vows have been repeated and the reception is well underway. The bride and groom have started to breathe as the stress of pre-wedding planning begins to fade into the past. The band is cranking out some great country music (remember, I’m from Texas), and the wedding guests have filled the dance floor. As the umpteenth guest compliments the bride’s parents on the lavishness of the day, and long before the reception is scheduled to conclude, the bartender sidles up next to the mother of the bride to quietly tell her that the supply of wine ordered for the reception has run dry. Can you visualize the look of horror that appears on her face as she processes that news? The bride, her parents, the bartender, and the venue manager look at each other, “how in the world did this happen? And what do we do now?”

As it turns out, Jesus and His disciples attended just such a wedding – sans the country music of course. As the celebration is well underway, Jesus’ mother, Mary, learns that the wedding host has run out of wine for the guests. She tells Jesus about the conundrum, clearly in a tone that only a mother can convey:

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “they have no wine.” (John 2:3)

Taken in context, this is more than just an “oh, by the way” comment. This is a statement that expects action on the part of Jesus; an expectant statement that only a mother can deliver. Jesus caught the gist, for He replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) Jesus, honoring the wishes of his mother, commands that the wait staff fill six stone jars with water. They do so, and at His command they draw out a sample for the wedding host who declares, most likely with a huge sigh of relief, that the choice wine is now being served.

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

There you have it. With this, Jesus’ first public miracle, His earthly ministry is launched and His journey to the cross begins.

As we read John’s Gospel, it is important to remember that John, himself, was one of Jesus’ disciples and an eyewitness to the events he recorded for us in his account of Jesus’ time on Earth. Doubters and conspiracy theorists may dismiss this event as some sort of smoke & mirrors trickery, but nothing surpasses the credibility of an eyewitness account; just ask any trial lawyer.

I believe. Do you?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to live on Earth as a man and die on the cross in my behalf. Thank you for calling His disciples and for inspiring John to record his eyewitness account of your Son’s earthly ministry. I pray that You would bless my study of John’s Gospel, strengthening my faith and maturing me into the witness you would call me to be. For His sake and in His name I pray. AMEN.

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