Archive for August, 2012

Well, it is about that time.  It’s that time where millions of people gather together to watch large men run into each other, sweat, and sacrifice their bodies for entertainment.  It’s time for ESPN to seemingly only cover the NFL and NCAA football even though baseball is at its peak time of season.  It’s time for church members to check the television to see when the Cowboys or Texans play (or any team) and decide whether they want to attend Sunday night church or not.

Yep, it’s about that time.  It’s time for pastors, youth ministers, and church leaders to pull their hair out trying to come up with dates and events that will not interfere with school functions.  It’s time for strategic meetings where church leaders gather together to try and put Jesus back in the forefront of lives.  It’s time for partial church attendance to be awarded with praises like, “Well, at least they made it this week.”

Since it is about that time, I though a reminder may be in order.  The God we serve is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14 “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:24 “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

1 Corinthians 10:22 “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?”

God’s jealousy is out of his pride.  His pride comes, deservedly so, out of the fact that he created all things and controls all things for his own glory.  Every time God’s jealousy is mentioned in the Bible it is used within the context of putting something before God.  Be it an idol, an idea, or a false god.

In our world today, entertainment can be placed in that category.  There is a desire to be entertained that even stretches to churches.  The desire for worship to become more of a concert atmosphere and the speaking to be motivational more than truthful.

Why do we feel as though we need entertainment?  I believe part of it is that we have more time on our hands.  Not that days have become longer, but there is not as much of a need to work at the house, provide food, or educate children because there are places and people that do those things for us.  Therefore, our days and evenings are left open and we must fill them with something.  Another could be that we forget to be entertained by God himself.  We place outside entertainment on a pedestal because all we have to do is watch, but maybe we should spend more time in the Word and growing in our faith.  Maybe we should spend more time being missionaries.

Now let me be clear, football is not evil, it is not from Satan himself, it is not even forbidden.  Paul says, “Everything is permissible-but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible-but not everything is constructive.”(1 Corinthians 10:23)  This verse directly follows Paul’s question asking if we are trying to make God jealous.  Football, school, and family, are not bad things in themselves.  It is when they are placed before God in our lives that they need attention.  They need to be rearranged.

It’s not time for school and school activities to be underway.  It’s not time for families to become busy.  It’s not time for football to be played on every channel.  It’s not time for arguments about church attendance to surface.  It’s not time for us to make our God jealous.

It’s time for us to place God back in his rightful place in our lives, first.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh

This idea is becoming more and more popular as the days and years go by.  While this is certainly not a new idea or thought, one thing is causing its growth.  Tolerance.  Tolerance has become crucial throughout the world.  The countries that are looked down upon are looked down because there is little tolerance for religion, ethnicity, or gender.  The most basic definition of tolerance is simply acceptance.  Not necessarily personal acceptance of something, but an acceptance that does not bring attention to diversity.  Everyone desires acceptance.  It starts in kindergarten recess.  Everyone wants to be picked to play kickball, soccer, football, or even red-rover.  No one wants to be the outcast kid in tag that no one ever tries to run after.

So here is where the problem starts, acceptance.  Acceptance of viewpoints, activities, and ideas.  Taking a look at the ministry of Jesus gives us a clear picture of his acceptance.  Did Jesus accept all people?  Yes…and no.  What I mean is, he did not look at social status, wealth, health, or otherwise.  He searched the heart for a desire to know him.  Did he seek after all people?  Absolutely.  Jesus sought after the “righteous” as well as the unrighteous.  John 4 shows us that barriers were not in Jesus’ ministry.  Here he witnessed to a woman.  And this was not just a woman, it was a Samaritan woman.  And it did not even stop there, he witnessed to many Samaritans that the woman brought to him.  He also spoke freely in the temple where Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes could hear the Good News.  In fact, I am sure he got all of their attention when he overthrew the tables and proclaimed the temple a house of prayer.

Acceptance of people is crucial to sharing the gospel.  The hesitation comes in when we accept people and whatever their views are because we do not want to offend them.  Can you imagine Jesus’ ministry if he worried about offending people?  It makes me laugh!  He would not have ended up on a cross.  He would not have been beaten.  He would not have had a large impact at all.  Thank goodness he did not worry about offending people, just about speaking the truth.

So too, we must worry first about speaking the truth.  Tolerance of ungodly ideas can lead to people believing they can earn their own salvation.  That they can be good enough to get into heaven.  That if God is a good God, then we must only be good and we can be in the “club.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 speaks directly to this, “For it is by grace you have been saved, trough faith-AND THIS NOT FROM YOURSELVES IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD-NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.”  The idea that there is a path of good works that leads to heaven is completely false.  Not mostly false, not partially false, but completely.  We cannot tolerate anyone that preaches or teaches this idea because they are leading others down the road of destruction.

Another false idea about salvation is that because God is a good God, no one goes to hell.  It is the idea that God is not out to punish anyone, he simply wants them to live life to the full, and be good people, and then when we die we get to go to heaven.  Of course this is not biblical.  I would say that God is not out to punish people, but there are certainly consequences to our actions on earth.  The Bible speaks clearly of a place called hell.  We will stand before the judgment seat.  Romans 14:12 says, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  And through this we will enter the pearl gates or be thrown into hell.  Jesus warns the Pharisees in Matthew 23:33 about their selfish faith and that it can lead them to hell, “You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Another popular idea in the world, not so much America, is that we all believe and worship the same God.  Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Mormons, and other religions that hold to a god are all connected because it is the same person.  I read a true story about a pastor that went and talked with a bunch of different religious leaders at a conference.  They talked about the need for tolerance in the world of religion.  They began to talk about how they all worship the same God, just in different forms.  The pastor let them talk for a while and then said, “Ok, what it seems like you are saying is that God is on top of a mountain and there are many different ways to get up that mountain.  Some may be harder than others, but they all lead to the top of the mountain.”  The other leaders shook their heads and smiled as though they were all on the same page.  The pastor continued, “What if God decided not to stay at the top of the mountain, but decided to come down the mountain to us?”  They began to express how wonderful that would be.  The pastor then said, “Then let me tell you about Jesus.”  See, God is not up on a mountain waiting for us to reach him.  In fact there is no path that we can take to reach him.  We know that there are not many different paths that we can take to get to God, because there is no path we can take that gets us there.  It is only through the power of the Truth, not our own that we can reach God.

So here is the truth, or should I say, Truth.  John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  There is only one way we will ever live eternally with the Father; through faith in the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, the great I Am, Jesus of Nazareth.  John 3:16 says that we just simply believe in Jesus to receive eternal life in heaven.  Romans 10: 9 says that if we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess it with our mouths we will be saved.  God has come down from the mountain and made it incredibly simple to know and have a relationship with him.  It is through Jesus the Messiah.  There is no other way.  If we say there is, then we are liars.

Again, tolerance of people is crucial to sharing the gospel with them.  However, we must stay true to the Word.  No matter the cost, we cannot twist the truth and make it our own.  If it offends someone, so be it.  If it kills us, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  We must not tolerate or accept false teachings.  It will lead only to destruction.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh

   I recently found, stashed away safely, some old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cookie cutters at my parents home.  See, I am a lover of all things TMNT.  I have somewhere a large plastic tub of old Turtle toys.  Anyone that is around me for very long can tell of the joy that comes when I think about the Ninja Turtles.  After making some delicious cookies, and biting the heads off each Turtle, I decided to watch the first season of the Ninja Turtles, which I have on DVD.

Who knew that these turtles could be so theological.  In the second episode they are up against the foot clan, Shredder, and a giant brain called Krang.  In this episode we find out that Krang has been giving Shredder the knowledge of a different dimension, Dimension X.  He is also behind all of Shredder’s evil plans.  Here we have a classic battle of good versus evil.  But taking a closer look we see that evil believes that through their “mind” they can overpower the turtles and take over the world.  Obviously the turtles do end up winning the fight, or else there would be no second season.

This can parallel our lives.  At times, as humans, we believe that our mind can get us through whatever we may face.  We believe that the mind is the strongest muscle.  Maybe because we used it most often, although that might not always be a good thing.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but 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.”

We must transform our mind because until we do, it cannot discern the will of God.  Our minds are set in auto-pilot with the world.  It is natural to logic out situations and even be selfish.  But this is not the end goal.  The goal is for God’s will and our minds to be alike.  Until we renew our mind, we cannot trust it.  We cannot rely on it to get us through hardships.  We cannot rely on it to guide our lives because if we do we are sure to fail.  It is only when salvation has entered our lives that we are able to trust our mind.

We trust it not because it is ours, but because we are able to discern the will of God.  The mind is crucial.  We have trusted in the minds of many great people.  Those whose minds got us through wars, created industry, and evolved technology.  But see, these things are useless if we do not seek God’s will in them.  The smart phone, the computer, the television, blogs, the internet, and music are all wasted if God’s will is not perfected in them.

Do not make decisions based on human knowledge and know-how.  Make them based on the will of God.  Krang believed his mind would get him through.  He failed and was not happy. 

Just a little theological lesson found in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I knew I liked them for a reason.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh