Dec 24, 2011

Audience of One

One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.” Romans 14:5-6
“For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”1 Corinthians 4:4
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” Colossians 3:23
Recently many of us have all attended performances of our children and grandchildren.  Whether they were singing, dancing, reading, or acting they were likely smiling and doing their best.  During one such performance at school, I reflected on these little performers.  Many of them stood still while waiting, and did everything they were directed on cue.  While other performers were very rambunctious, and did not follow the group as well.  Yet each time the song would end, each would look up in the crowd, searching for their relatives and their approval.  Once they saw a smile, clap, or sign of approval, the performers themselves would beam with delight.  It didn’t matter if little “Johnny” bothered me with his jolly antics, he was performing for an audience of one (family.)
An audience of one, Jesus our Lord, is what we should live for each day.  As Paul instructs us in the verses above, we should live for the Lord each day, and no one else.  If we seek His approval, according to our understanding of the scriptures, then we do well. 
As a church there are still times when we must step in and adjust someone’s understanding of the scriptures, by rightly dividing the scriptures, or enlightening them to unfamiliar scriptures.  This scripture is not a license to act as one chooses, and then call it “living for the Lord.” This judgment by the church (yes, judgment) is a careful, and prayerful act.
Once the scriptures are laid out and understood by the believer, it is their responsibility to give their service/work/life to the Lord daily.  There will be differences in interpretations, as the issues of food and holy days were for Paul in Romans; however each can be done in service to the Lord.  God knows our true motives, and will judge them in the times to come. (2 Cor 5:10)
On this day of celebrating the Gift of Jesus to the world, how have you acted?  Are you giving a gift of service to the Lord?

Dec 17, 2011

Evolution and Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
 “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:19-21
   Evolution as a process of change in species, or even of species can be found.  OK, I believe that.  The "theory" of evolution is a scientific fact.  There is God in heaven that created and designed the earth in its complexity (and age), and initiated life.  I believe this also.  Yet there are many teachings in the umbrella of Evolution which I do not believe.
   Most, if not all of us, have heard the issues and slanders thrown at Superintendent Line.   He raised issue with a new plan for educators to spend an expanded portion of classroom time, teaching about evolution.  As I mentioned above, evolution as a process of change is evidenced in science.  However there are many teachings associated with evolution which do not have the same support.
   One of the main problems is that educational mandates have forced Creationism out of the textbooks, and thereby excluded the idea of a creator (and the Bible.)  Attempts of evolutionist to explain the origin of life, without a divine creator, take more faith than believing in the Divine Creator.  Yet under the umbrella of evolution, these hypotheses are taught as having the same level of truth.  They have not received the evidence (nor will they) to be accepted as fact.
   Darwin’s writings included the phrase “breathed life into.”  There are many scientists today that still embrace Christianity, in a branch called “theistic evolution.”  (I would fall into this broad category.)  These scientists look at science through the eyes Christianity. God and science do not have to be independent, as many of the detractors to Mr. Line seem to advocate.  (One possibility would be that God created the earth to appear millions of years old.)  The Bible is not a science textbook, but is the handbook to life.  I do not know all the details of science, nor do I know how the evolutionary process and creation interact; and this is OK (his ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:9) 
   In the world we live, there are many groups of people who do not accept the Bible, or any theology.  As they find objections to the Bible, we must be careful not to close their minds completely by closing our minds to the advances in science and other knowledge, because we know where all wisdom comes from.  (Proverbs 1:7)

Dec 10, 2011

Persecuted for the Lord

Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies.” Psalms 119:157
 “Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” John 15:20
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—“ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 (see also Matthew 5:10-12)
Happy Holidays! Winter concerts/plays/sales, Merry X-mas . . .many of us have gotten a bit aggravated with modern marketing campaigns for Christmas, and their lack of the mention of Christ.  I have heard Christian calls for boycotts of stores, writing letters to corporations, and seen the campaign for “Keep “Christ” in Christ-mas.”  For most of us in America, this is the persecution we are called to bear that Jesus and Paul speak of in the verses above.  I first want to remind you to exhibit Christ’s love in your responses to retailers (yes I think you should let your voice be heard, peacefully.)  Second I want to introduce you to the rest of the world. (From War to Joy at Christmas)
Asia Bibi, Salman Taseer, have you heard these names?  Asia Bibi is a Pakistani woman, who in the summer of 2009 had a dispute with a Muslim co-worker.  That dispute led to her family being beaten by a mob, and the woman being sentenced to death for blaspheming Mohammed.  While she waited in prison for her death sentence, (she is still in prison awaiting an appeal,) Salman Taseer, a governor of her province called for her release and criticized the blaspheme code that led to this sentence.  A short time later, Salman Taseer’s own body guard shot him in the back 27 times.  Another government official showing support was killed in a drive-by shooting.  This story is one of thousands happening all over the world to Christians because of Muslim blaspheming laws or codes.  (Story Here)
Even here in America, we are warned to be wary of “hate crimes” laws.  These laws restricting free speech to criticize the views of others, are a stepping stone according to many, to harsher versions such as blaspheming codes.  We should continue to voice our views, and also protect our rights to share these views.  Also remember in prayer, and support the Christians across the world struggling to share the gospel in areas, where criticism of Muslims could lead to death. (Silent Victims: Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws Worldwide )

Dec 3, 2011

Family of God

 “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Acts 16:32-34

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” Revelation 7:9

This week’s reading brought thoughts of family to my mind.  We all have families, and most of us want to be around those families during the holidays.  Many of our fond memories link themselves to family members (such as Mammaw’s cranberry sauce, or Uncle Frank’s rendition of “Silent Night.”)  For those of us away from family during the holidays, we seek our extended family of friends and neighbors to enjoy the season with. 

With these thoughts in mind, I read a piece called “Marriage and Racism” by Andy Snider, in it a KY church voted to disallow interracial couples from joining its flock.  This reminded me of the international family of believers we have.  The church referenced decided that someone from another race could not marry and join their church.  These guys will have a major awakening when they reach the pearly gates of heaven and see that it is a gathering of all nations.  As you can see from Daniel & Revelations above, both New and Old Testaments prophesy of the great kingdom of Jesus reaching the ends of the earth.

I invite you to focus some of your prayers and thoughts to our international family of Christians.  Many face hardships and trials in life (like us) and many endure persecution for believing and sharing Christ.  However these hardships do not discourage them or missionaries from spreading the gospel, to the billions around the world who do not know Jesus.  Reflecting on the great gathering in heaven, praise God for the work he is doing both here and around the world.  Pray how you can help advance the Great Commission of Acts 1:8.  Give towards the Lottie Moon Offering, and work for the gospel here.

Nov 26, 2011

Feeding the Spirit

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead . This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof , and not die . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:49-51
Again, Happy Thanksgiving to all, even the poorest among us has so much to be thankful for!  Every Thanksgiving celebration I have ever been a part of has had lots of food (and I probably ate too much every time.)  This food is prepared to feed our natural/fleshly bodies, which our bodies then breakdown into energy and nutrients to sustain us.  Yet this is only half of our being.  We are also spiritual beings, having a soul which needs sustaining also.
We know that Jesus on earth had two natures, one divine and the other fleshly.  We too have a “dual” nature, only ours begin as both pointing away from God.  Then through the divine drawing of God, He gets our spiritual nature to point toward Himself through salvation/redemption.  Then our life spent in sanctification is trying to align the fleshly side with our spiritual side.  Our goal is to have both “arrows” pointing all glory and honor toward God. (read 1 Cor 2:10-16 again.)
When we eat at Thanksgiving we generally have many foods to choose from and fill our plates.  In order to feed/sustain our spirit, we have only one choice, Jesus Christ.  In John 6 (above) Jesus reveals that we must partake of his body and blood for life.  This is not only eternal life, but also our current life.  The Greek of this passage reveals both the noun for “life/eternal life” but also the verb of “live”.  Jesus gave himself no only for our future eternal life, but also for our current life.  He said in John 10:10(b) “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
If we are to sustain and grow our spirit, we must “feed” it with Jesus.  Our flesh gets weak and sick if it is not fed regularly, so it is also with our spirit.  Would you like to live on one meal a week (Sunday morning?)  or even just a couple per year?  This underscores the importance for us to feed ourselves.  A toddler learns how to eat physical food quickly, but many Christians never learn to glean from the Word of God for themselves.  If you would like to do better, take small steps adding 5-10 min per day, or adding breadth to your study.  The important part is eating regularly!