Archive for September, 2012

Well, it has been a while since the last blog.  I apologize for that.  However I have learned something in the time away from blogging.  Not about blogging, but about God.

See, I have grown up in the church.  I have attended the Sunday services and Wednesday activities and special events since the beginning of time (my time).  After I left high school and the “nest” I went to a private Baptist University, which was great, and continued to be immersed with Bible teaching.  Even while in college I attended church, chapel, worship nights, and helped at the church in the children’s ministry.  After college I was married and moved to Avoca and became the youth minister.

The point of this life story is to show that I have never really been away from the word of God, the Bible.  There really has never been a time in my life where I was not able to find a Bible in my house, read it if I so desired, and know it.  There has also never been a time in my life where I did not hear the Bible preached less than 2 or 3 times a month, at the bare minimum.

Some of you may be saying, “Well, good!  You have grown up in the Bible and been able to avoid many traps that the Enemy tries to set.”  And you would be right.  I have certainly been blessed to never have to go without.  God and his word have always been readily available and I have known this.  So too, I have learned the stories of the Bible well.  I can tell most stories in the Bible except for a few.

But what I am getting at is that recently there came a point in my life where the Bible did not mean anything anymore.  It was a book.  There were words on thin paper that made a funny crinkle sound when turned.  Stories that happened so long ago that the names of many of the places have changed or been forgotten.  It ceased being the very living and breathing word of God (to me).

So I took a leave of absence.  Of course I read some of the Bible in preparation for Sunday and Wednesday lessons, but other than that my 20+ Bibles at my house remained unopened.  Instead I chose a different route.  I chose to try and experience God in the fictional, symbolic writing of C.S. Lewis and his books, The Chronicles of Narnia.  This 7 book series took me much longer than it took my wife to read.  I believe there was a point when she was on the 7th book I was on the 2nd or 3rd.

I chose to do this because I wanted to see God through the eyes of another person.  The way C.S. Lewis wrote, I believe, is the way he sees God and his relation to the world.  Not necessarily with magic and multiple worlds, but how the characters interact with one another and with Aslan, the “heavenly figure.”  By the way, if you know nothing about the books except from watching the movies, you are greatly missing out!  No comparison.

I have just finished reading the last of the books this past week and began to read the Bible again.  I have started in the book of Judges, one that I have never read through.  In this book there are amazing stories, both funny and some gross.  Some days I substitute at the local schools and one day I was reading my Bible in class and one of the students asked me what I was reading.  So I told them the story of Ehud and how he stabbed a guy and the whole sword went into this guys stomach, causing dung to come out!

Well, of course, all of the 8th graders really liked that story.  And ever since I have had to tell them of different stories in the Bible because they are truly interested and find the Bible fascinating.  So I also told them of the story of Deborah and of the real 300 and all of Gideon’s history.  Also David and Goliath and David’s encounter with Saul in the cave.

And to be honest, they knew very little if anything about these stories but their excitement and eagerness to know more put me to shame.  They were more interested in what the Bible had to say than I was.  And I believe God allowed this to happen so that I could grow in my own faith.

By taking a break from reading the Bible, God has allowed me to appreciate it more and even begin to glean more truths and applications from the stories to my own life.  From the creative mind of C.S. Lewis to the eagerness of 8th graders, God has shown me himself in a new and refreshing way.

I encourage you to take a break from the Bible if it is becoming more of a head knowledge than a heart knowledge.  By not reading daily I never lost my faith in Jesus Christ and never doubted that God was not there and was not still the same loving, compassionate, just God.  But now that I have been refreshed I am reading the Bible, not because I am supposed to, but because I want to know more.  I want to grow closer.  I want to thirst after God.

Take time away and try to experience God in a different way.  Try serving at a local homeless shelter, church, or non-profit organization.  Try simply talking about God more to others.  Or even try reading some C.S. Lewis or other quality Christian authors.  But I will bet that no matter what it is you choose to do, you will be brought back to the word of God.  I know I was.

“For the word of God is living and active.”  Hebrews 4:12a  We will always be drawn to life when we truly seek after God and seek to have our soul, our heart, know him.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh

Cain and Abel.  A story that is told in the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis.  One that many are familiar with even if they are not familiar with the Christian religion.  For those that do not know, let me give a brief telling of the story.

Cain was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve.  “Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.” (Genesis 4:2)  Abel was in charge of the livestock and Cain was to work the soil.  Most likely, every harvest Cain and Abel would bring portions from their work to sacrifice it to God as a gift and an act of worship.  On one occasion Abel brought the best livestock he had and Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil” (3) to be an offering.  God was unhappy with Cain because Cain chose to keep the best for himself.  He was looking out for numero uno.  God did not look upon Cain’s offering with favor and this made Cain very angry.  God then began to talk with him and urge him to master sin and not let it control him.  Cain did not listen.  He chose to take his brother out to the field and he killed him.  God called Cain and asked him where Abel was but Cain lied to God saying that he did not know.  Of course, God knew where Abel was and told Cain that “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (10)  As a punishment God sent Cain away and told him that he will not be able to work the soil because it will not produce anything for him.  So Cain traveled east to the land of Nod (where he slept a lot…just kidding).

So, I am sure you can see the comparison between Cain and Abel and Democrats and Republicans.  Before you denote one party as the victim and the other as the criminal, consider this.  Within Cain there was a little Abel.  There was the knowledge that he was to give the very best to God, but he chose not to.  Within Abel there was a little Cain.  At any time Abel could have made the same mistake that Cain did by not providing the very best for God.  The ability to say “yes” or “no” to God at any time was within them both.

So too there is a little Cain and a little Abel in both political parties.  There is the mindset that “right” must be done, be it in the eyes of man or the eyes of God.  There is also a stronger mindset that says, I must do whatever benefits me most, or what benefits my party most.  See more often than not both parties are continually killing Abel.  Abel tries to do what is pure in the sight of the Lord and then suddenly Cain destroys him.  The idea of self becomes the most important factor when making decisions.  Why can bipartisanship never be attained?  Because Cain always succeeds.  Not only does he succeed in politics but he is praised for his success.  Am I talking about the murdering of the American Dream or the Constitution?  No, I am speaking about the murder of Christ in the decisions that all people make.  The overarching display of selfishness that has grown since the time of Adam and Eve.  To look out for self more than care about the needs or wants of others.

The worst part about the whole thing, besides the actual murder, is that Cain knew it was wrong but chose to become blind to the real issue.  When asked by God where Abel was, his reply was simply “I don’t know…Am I my brother’s keeper?” (9)  Yes.  We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.  We must look out for one another.  America is one of, if not the best, at caring about other countries and peoples.  Aid is given at an alarming rate.  However, within our own country we support one another only in times of tremendous trial like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and fire.  But with greater needs like faith, family, compassion, neighborly assistance, we choose to take ours first.  Then whatever is left can be used.

Whether Democrat, Republican, or one of the other hundreds of parties, I caution us all to take a closer look at the story of Cain and Abel.  Within Cain there was a little Abel.  Within Abel there was a little Cain.  Let us not reach to fill our own pockets, mouths, and stomachs first, but give glory to God above all and be our brothers’ keeper.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh

Homosexuality is a popular subject these days.  It is also becoming more of an accepted idea worldwide with laws for same-sex marriage and adoption.  It is very probable that you know at least one person that is a professing homosexual.  If you are like most, you recognize this but rarely does it come up in conversation.  You may even turn a blind eye toward it.  This is a topic that we recently discussed in Sunday School with youth and I wanted to share it with you.

To tackle this biblically we must understand it first.  There are many homosexuals that believe they are born desiring the same sex.  That they do not have a choice in the matter; that it is almost mandatory for them.  And there are many that encourage this thinking.  There are also some that are turned to this lifestyle because of acceptance issues.  There are still some that believe because they are not, “manly enough” or “lady like” then by default they must be homosexual.  My goal in all of this is to show that it is a choice.  And the Bible does speak to this issue clearly.

First, we must separate the sin from the sinner, and yes homosexuality is a sin.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Here Paul lists off some sins that keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God.  Among them he names homosexuality as well as greed, slander, and idolatry.  See, this is where the majority of the problem lies.  As people we view sin through our own eyes and believe that some sin is greater than others.  When in fact, any sin separates us from the kingdom of God.  There cannot be sin or sinful people in the perfect and holy kingdom of God.

We must remember the true definition of sin.  1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”  Sin is disobedience to what God has deemed pure, right, and holy.  Therefore, in his eyes homosexuality is just as wrong, impure, and unholy as greed, jealousy, and envy are also.  So, as Christians, we do not need to put homosexuality on a large pedestal of unrighteousness that towers above all else.  It does belong in the category of sin, but as equal with all other sin.  As the verse above indicates, sanctification and justification can come to all who are washed in the blood of Christ.  It is not a permanent place, sin, but one that only Jesus can pull us from.

Secondly, we must look at the person.  Instead of viewing homosexuality as mandatory or a born-into idea, with the knowledge that it is in fact sin, we must simply look at it as a temptation.  I do not want to over simply this heavy issue, but this is what I believe is biblical.  Homosexuality is nothing more than a temptation or sin that needs to be resisted.  Luckily, the Bible does tell us that we have the power to resist it.

James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

This resistance is certainly not a one-time resistance, but a continual resistance when the temptation arises.  It can be easily compared to someone that has an anger issue.  Anger toward another, if not for the glory of the Father, is also a sin.  When one feels anger building up inside of them, they must find a way, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, to repress the urge to have an outburst against someone.  So too, when someone feels lust for someone else, be it same-sex or not, they must repress that feeling because God has deemed it as unholy and not of Him.

Jesus experienced temptation.  He also overcame it as well.  He knew temptation greater than any of us ever will because he never gave in to temptation which ultimately required him to feel the full effects of the temptation.  Too often we do not go so far to feel temptation’s complete sting because we give in before it flees from us.

No doubt you have heard the saying, “hate the sin, not the sinner.”

Romans 12:9-10 “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.”

This verse shows this idea that we are to “hate what is evil,” sin, and “cling to what is good,” God and his perfect creation.  Sin has tainted the perfection that God created.  We are not called to accept the act of homosexuality; however, we are called to except the person that is struggling with this sin.  We are not called to hate homosexuals, but show them the love of Christ and direct them to the kingdom of God.

Now, there is an issue that few are talking about.  Homosexuals and church.  There is always a desire to bring people into the Body of Christ to experience true fellowship.  However, practicing homosexuals should not be allowed to become members of a church.  Before you say anything, neither should practicing liars, cheats, idolaters, and adulterers.  There must first be an acceptance of the new creation that we are in Christ.  A turning away from our old self and putting on the cloak of righteousness of our new self.  It goes without saying that sin and temptation will continually be at our doorsteps and that we will fall into those traps.  Excommunication from the church would not be the best reaction to this.  If so, there would be no one left in any church.

Acceptance of people is a must, acceptance of sin is an atrocity.

I hope that if you are entrusted with the responsibility of knowing someone who is stuck in the sin of homosexuality, that you will not turn a blind eye to the situation, but you will see it as necessary to love them and show them the truth that is Jesus.  One that requires us to die to ourselves, give our desires to him, and accept the gift of salvation and the Lordship of Christ Jesus over our lives.

In Christ’s Love,

Josh