Friday, May 16, 2008

Who or What are we trying to save?

I have an important question. What should we try to save, people or our "American Christian culture"? In answer to that question let me pull out a great cultural canard and twist it. What did Jesus say/do? Let's look at a couple of passages from God's Word where Jesus talked about our mission
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
John 18:36-37

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:18-20

Unless I misread these statements somehow, Jesus didn't tell us or His disciples to go and create a nation that follows Him. He told us to go and make disciples of all the nations. He even said that His kingdom is not of this world. But frequently we find believers, especially in America, attempting to redeem our culture and make it Christlike.
America is a unique experiment. It began with a group of men who believed in God and believed that He had led them to that place and that time in history to do something truly unique. They founded a nation on Godly principles and I believe that God truly did bless that nation like no other in history. It is a testament to the faithfulness of God that He has blessed a nation that honored Him and sought to give Him glory. Some people have gone so far as to apply the promises and warnings that were given to Israel to America, but that is not Biblical or proper. God has not changed and He will continue to deal with wickedness. So that brings me back to the original question; does God want us to save people or create a "culture" that honors Him? Let me add another piece to the puzzle for thought.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:18-32

Now let me take this into modern mainstream Christian thinking. Yesterday, the California courts declared gay marriage acceptable in the eyes of the state. What should a Christian's response be? Should we lobby to get better politicians who will appoint better judges who will overturn a decision that wasn't even a good one to begin with? Or should we weep at the plight of the millions who are still living their lives blind and unaware or worse fully aware and approving of these things? And if we can be moved to compassion for the plight of those who are facing God's wrath the same as we were; perhaps we will be willing to share with them the truth of God's standard that shows us to be guilty in His courtroom. Then we can share the Good News (Gospel), that God has done something for all of us who rightly deserve His wrath.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6-11

We should certainly speak the truth and be willing to call sin, sin! But if we lose our focus on making disciples(people acceptable to God) for the sake of fighting to make our culture acceptable to God, we will be fighting a losing battle, distracted from the main objective.


I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I have been doing a lot of studying and searching in Scripture. For some time now, I have been examining the work of people in the Hebraic/Messianic Christian realm. I have been fascinated with this for any number of years now. Really, the first spark was seeing a Jews for Jesus presentation of the Passover meal and its relationship to Messiah. A while back, God brought someone into my life who was deeply passionate about this same vein of thinking and brought me closer to examining some of the things I had been curious about but not pursued or studied. I am sure that Eric gets a good chuckle these days as he realizes how much God used our time together to help us both in our journey. I kept asking him tough and thoughtful questions that gave him an avenue to flesh out his thoughts and he kept giving me answers that brought me deeper into study and searching. I have noticed more and more the goodness of God. I always told my youth that God never did anything halfway and He told us everything He was going to do before He did it. One of the most powerful things that has strengthened my faith over the years is the amazing amount of prophecy that He gave in Scripture and fulfilled in history already.
Isaiah 48:3-5 -
3 I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
4 For I knew how stubborn you were;
the sinews of your neck were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
5 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
'My idols did them;
my wooden image and metal god ordained them.'

The pattern of the Passover is just scratching the surface of what God has done. But unfortunately, it is hidden from many if not most of us. The vast majority of churches don't take the time to teach and may not even be aware of the amazing things that God has done and said in His Word. I say this as a guilty party. I have been guilty in my own ignorance, but as God continues to shed the light of day I am determined to follow Him and learn and teach what I find.
Let me give you an example. Look at this passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16
15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

And also this passage - 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Have you ever heard of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets? This is some information about the Feast of Trumpets that I found:
Because of the Diaspora it was celebrated for 2 days and was known as one long day.
Why is it 2 days long? It fell on the 1st, the new moon, and they wanted everyone to know, especially in the Diaspora. It was regarded as One Long Day. This Feast fell on the first, consequently it was known as the Feast where no one would know the day or the hour it came! It was to be a day symbolically hidden even from Satan so he would not be 100% aware of its arrival.

1Cor 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Because it’s the first day of the month, was 2 days long, and was based on the sighting of the New Moon by two witnesses it’s known as the Feast where no one knows “The Day or the Hour“ it would begin!

On the Feast of Trumpets the Shofar is blown 100 times
There are three sounds made with the shofar:
Tekiah - One long straight blast.
Shevarim - Three shorter blasts.
Teruah – 9 quick blasts in short succession
This series is blown 11 times for a total of 99 blasts and the final blast is known as
“The Last Trump” !

Do you think that Paul (a Pharisee) knew about this Jewish festival and its terminology? Have you ever heard a preacher talk about this when speaking or preaching this passage? Have you ever heard your favorite "prophecy" teacher speak about this? Is it possible, maybe even likely that God has told us what He is going to do more specifically than we ever imagined and we have simply missed it because we didn't know what we thought we knew? Have you ever wondered why the Magi showed up at the right time? They knew what to look for and when they saw it; they acted! Jesus said, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (Matthew 16:2-3) We are not asking God for signs. He is already giving them. In Matthew 24, He tells His disciples the signs of His return. The thing that disturbs me is that we seem unaware and undiscerning about what He has told us already in His Word. I am not going to pretend that I have all the answers(I know better than that!), but I am going to try and start asking better questions.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/14/08

Psalm 13
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Have you ever gotten mad at God? I used to tell my youth that if they had a problem with God they should tell Him about it. The truth is He knows about it already and you aren't going to hide it from Him. David knew what it meant to be honest with God and more importantly honest with himself about how he felt when didn't go like he thought they should. Too many times, we draw back from expressing our feelings to God. He knows how you feel. He has been there before. Christ came and experienced what it is like for us to live this life. He knew lonliness and despair and rejection and betrayal and you get the picture. Do you think He had done something wrong to deserve those things? Of course He didn't. Do you think you are better than Him? Not a chance. So have a little talk with Jesus. Tell Him all about your troubles. Go ahead you know the words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/13/08

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

One of the hardest parts of Scripture are these blanket statements made by Paul. It isn't that they are hard to understand really; it is that they are very hard to do. With words like always, continually and all, there isn't any room for wondering what Paul was trying to say. But don't miss the real point of these verses either. Paul isn't saying that we have to walk around perpetually smiling as we mumble words to God. He is telling us that we need to have real joy. Godly joy that isn't dependent on our circumstances or the moment, but on God's love for us. Continual prayer is an attitude of communion with God moment by moment through all of our lives. And giving thanks in all circumstances isn't some flippant thing. Remember this was written by the guy who sang from his prison cell and watched the chains break free. He might know a thing or two about the power of thanksgiving and joy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Christianity for Sale

As if we needed any further proof that Christianity itself is becoming commercialized. Today I ran across a story that highlights a new "holy water" project.
The instructions are simple: Read the Prayer . . / Drink the Water . . . / Believe in God! / Believe in Yourself!

It's just that easy to be a "good" Christian. Make sure you use only Christian products. Make sure you drink only "Christian" water. What have we come to really? I am at a point in my life that I am trying to simplify what Christianity really is and what it means to be a Christian. God didn't intend for the Christian life to be a complicated ordeal full of lists of what you can and cannot do. He didn't seek to free us from sin so that we could chain ourselves to the next best thing - self-righteous isolation. As I sit here typing in my Christian message T-shirt, I ponder what has gotten us to this point. In countries where allegiance to the Gospel of Christ means real persecution, do believers go out of their way to display their faith on their stuff as it were? Do we in America find the need to display our Christian message on everything as a way to "be bold" about our belief? What compels us to act this way? I am not saying that you should go and cleanse your closet of all of your Christian message apparel, but have we separated things a bit too much? Now we have Christian radio stations and Christian book stores and Christian TV stations and so on. Certainly these things are helpful and can be a great boost, but are we selling God short?
Taieb, who spent several years in the pest-control business, had been thinking about a faith-based venture for more than a decade. He looked at several products through which to deliver his message of spiritual enrichment.

Wear-your-faith T-shirts already had exploded in the market, along with jewelry and candles, even candy -- all products used for evangelism and/or profit. The New Jersey firm that makes Testamints offers berry, spearmint and peppermint mints wrapped in a verse of scripture. Bible Gum promises consumers they can can chew their way to spiritual enlightenment. Each box comes with a scripture verse.

I am not going to be presumptous here (maybe it is already to late for that), but I think we need to take a step or two or three back. Maybe we should focus more of our time, efforts and money on the Kingdom of God itself and not so much on the merchandising. It is apparent that we have much bigger fish to fry in our churches than what water we are drinking. Let's work on helping people know the Truth training them to be disciples of Christ. The rest of this will take care of itself.