Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Apocalypse Post

As I write this, it is the afternoon of December 20, 2012. The day before the Mayan calendar ends, and according to some, the world ends in war. Or the aliens return and we enter a new era of enlightenment. Or the black hole at the center of the universe rips us apart. But I digress.

There are two absolute, undeniable facts regarding the planet we call Earth: it had a beginning, and it will have an end.

As a Christian, I state as a fact that the world will not end tomorrow. Scripture tells us in Matthew 24:36 that “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (NASB)  So if Scripture tells us that no one knows when it will end, the date that someone tells you it will end is a time you can be certain that it WON’T end.

Also, as a Christian, I state as a fact that the world will end. You might not still be alive, but the world will end. Revelation 21:1 says “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

But back up a bit, and it doesn’t matter if you are alive when it ends or not. You will be at the same place, regardless of when you died. Revelation 20:11-15 tells us that John saw  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Now I don’t know about YOU, but I want to know how to make sure that MY name is written in that Book of Life. There are a lot of religions out there. There is Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, Baha’i, animism, polytheism, Wicca and many more. But again, Scripture tells us the words of Jesus in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Regardless of what anyone has ever told you, there are not “many roads to God”. There is one Way. Jesus. Not your church membership. Not your good deeds. Not your faith in Mohammed. Not that your father was a deacon, your uncle was a pastor or that your grandfather was a missionary.

So then, how does Jesus save us? He saves us by taking our penalty for our sins upon Himself. That’s why He came, the celebration we call Christmas, and why He died and rose again, the celebration we call Easter. In Romans 10:9-13, the Apostle Paul tells us “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Trust IN Him. ASK Him to save you. Confess Him before men, so that others can be saved also. Live the rest of your days honoring Him and learning to obey His commands as your way of thanking Him for saving you. And then both you and I will have our names found in the Book of Life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Surely not him!

Some Christian brothers and I were discussing the story of Zaccheus from Luke 19 the other day, and something came to my mind that I had never considered.

When most church-raised Christians think about Zaccheus, they almost immediately start head-singing a song about him being “a wee little man, a wee little man was he”. He was indeed a short man, but he was also a publican. That is to say, he was a tax collector for the Romans. That meant that he was shunned and despised by almost everyone.

Of course, there were those that were more than just unfriendly to the publicans. They hated anything Roman, but absolutely and totally hated anyone that was working with the Roman occupiers. This group was known as the Zealots. The Zealots known as Judas the Galilean and Zadok the Priest actively opposed the Jewish census ordered by Cyrenius (or Quirinius). The Zealots were the ones who barricaded themselves in the mountaintop fortress of Masada in AD 73 and ultimately killed each other instead of allowing themselves to be captured by the Romans.

Of course, the most famous of the Zealots was a man named Simon. Referred to in the Bible as “Simon the Zealot” to keep him from being confused with Simon Peter. That is, to keep one apostle of Jesus Christ from being confused with another disciple of Jesus Christ.

Scripture doesn’t mention the disciples in this passage, but as this scene takes place almost immediately before Jesus enters Jerusalem for the Passion, it is doubtful that any of them were missing.

Imagine Simon the Zealot’s reaction to seeing Jesus talk to another publican. As a man, I do not doubt that he would wish to drive Zaccheus from Israel entirely, if not just kill him where he stood. But Jesus showed Simon the Zealot through publicans what He showed Simon Peter through a vision: no one is too sinful or too unclean to hear the Gospel or to respond and be saved.

Most importantly, it is not our duty, nor our right, to decide to whom we should and should not interact, relate and witness. It doesn't matter if they are a leftist, liberal, progressive, pro-abortionist, socialist, atheist, whatever, they can be convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sin and be led to repentance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A double minded man

Like a lot of Americans, I was very passionate about the 2012 presidential election. Even trying to frame this post, I have to fight myself from listing the topics and reasons that I chose my candidate and why I did not choose the other candidate. I read multitudes of articles. I followed the posts of political pundits on Facebook and Twitter. I read and re-posted dozens of memes on Facebook. I engaged in political humor, sarcasm and caricature. Several of my online friends were for the “other guy”, and we frequently crossed foils about the issues, media coverage, and the candidates.

I would vent to my bride about how hard-headed some of them were, and about how infuriating it was trying to convince them that they were wrong. To which, she quietly said, “Honey, did God call you to convince people on Facebook about politics?” WHUFF! (That was the sound of the Holy Spirit knocking the wind out of my sails.)

Politics is important. But it’s never going to be more important than honoring Christ and sharing the Gospel. So if I can’t do both, politics has to be the thing to go.

Some might think that this no longer relevant, as the election is over. However, I have to disagree. The nation is actually fairly evenly split about our political direction. And we are more polarized now than ever. If the right makes it through the next four years and win the White House, the left will be just upset as we are right now.

I pray that I never shy away from speaking Truth. But it must be spoken in love, not anger. The focus must be on pointing to Jesus as the reason for my beliefs. And if a person disagrees, I must choose to love them and respect them. THEN, I'm not being double-minded.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Christian Man's Guide To Viewing Pornography

I don't think that anyone would deny that we live in a society that is permeated by explicit sexuality and pornography. Whether on TV, movies, print or the internet, nudity and sexual content is available continually. Women routinely wear clothes that leave more uncovered than concealed. Commercials and advertisements show as much as possible to sell their wares.

We are surrounded by the temptation to submit to sexual sin. I know the music for the lingerie commercials without looking. The decision then becomes, do I not look, or do I view a sexually arousing image? There are several TV shows that I enjoy which are set in Miami, which means beach scenes. When those scenes come on, I am faced with the choice to look away, or to view a sexually arousing image.

Then there are the times that I am tempted to go FIND something to view. These seem to line up very well with the HALT acronym, Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

But what does the Bible say about viewing pornography? Matthew 5:28 says that I should view myself as an adulterer when I do "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (NASB) Also, Proverbs 6:26 tells me that I should view myself as selling MYSELF, and as being hunted for gain, "For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, And an adulteress hunts for the precious life" (NASB)

What about the actual person being viewed? When I view explicit images, do I see a person who might very well be a slave? What we have sanitized into "human trafficking" in today's language? Do I view a person who is so destitute for food and shelter that they have decided to sell the only thing of value they have left, their very body? Do I view a person who might be so consumed by addiction that they sell their body to escape the burden of the mind? Do I view a person who thinks so little of themselves that selling themselves is just a meaningless action to them?

Better yet, do I view a woman in person that is dressed immodestly, do I see a woman who has been told that there is nothing precious about her to be kept? Do I see someone who has realized that she can get a tiny part of the void in her heart filled by attracting male viewers to herself?

Setting all that aside, when I view a woman sexually, do I see her father standing behind her? The popular movie Taken tells the story of a daughter who is kidnapped and goes through an army of men to rescue her and save her from a life of slavery. Kind of like what Jesus did to deliver ME from a life of slavery. And what He did to offer them deliverance from a life of slavery. To addiction, loneliness, emptiness and from sin and death. If only someone would tell them.

So how SHOULD a Christian view pornography, sexually explicit images and revealing dress? By viewing the Holy Spirit crying over our return to bondage in sin. By viewing our Savior standing beside that person, wanting them to turn to Him for fulfillment and salvation. And by viewing our Father shaking His head and saying "I didn't make either of you for this purpose".

That's how I want to view any sexual arousing thing, with the exception of my bride. What about you?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ministerial Harlotry

First, let me clarify that my position is based on my current understanding of the recent series of events at FBC Crystal Springs, MS. As I understand the facts, an engaged black couple commonly attended services at FBCCS. They were not members, but intended on joining after their marriage, which was scheduled at the church. Two days before the wedding, a few senior members of the church happened to see family members setting up for the wedding. Upon finding out that a black couple was about to be married at the church, several members approached the pastor and told him that there had never been a black marriage at the church, and that he would lose his job if one did happen. Faced with the threat of losing his job, the pastor decided to conduct the marriage at a predominately black church down the road. IF one or more of these facts is incorrect, I will determine if my position should be changed.

REVISED ON 7/31/12, after gaining further information about the pastor's reasons:

The pastor has traded his authority, his pastorate, his respect and his obedience to God's Word out of fear of conflict. While I cannot and will not judge the founders of FBCCS or those who are no longer alive about their racism, I have NO tolerance for it in today's society. The sin of racism that lives in the hearts of these seniors has made local, state and national news. The names of FBCCS, the Mississippi State Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention and Christ Himself have been sullied by their sins.

However, even worse than the sins of the members is the failure and capitulation of the pastor. Threatened with his job over obeying God's Word, he had TWO choices: 1) Inform the objectors that he would be conducting the marriage as planned, and that while they were free to get him fired, they were acting in complete opposition to God's Word. 2) Inform the congregation that he we resigning immediately, since they felt that their traditions were more important than God's love.

The WORST possible thing that he could do was capitulate to their racism, either by cancelling the marriage or by moving it. He has become a harlot to peace instead of obeying his call to preach God's Word. We must guard our hearts from selling out our obedience to any cause.

The FBC of Crystal Springs must continue to totally and repeatedly denounce the actions and attitudes of the racists in their midst. The pastor should reveal the individuals who approached him regarding the wedding. Those members should be given the option of confessing their sin in front of the entire church and asking the Wilsons to forgive them. IF they refuse, they should have their membership revoked until they are willing to confess and ask forgiveness. We as Christians and Baptists take enough fabricated damage by the media without allowing member churches to do such things.

There are certainly aspects of Scripture that we of the catholic church can and should continue to discuss and give grace to those who disagree with our position. Eschatology immediately comes to mind, as well as spiritual gifts. However, absolutely no mainline denomination believes that racism is allowable, indeed, it is condemned by Scripture. Therefore, we must not be hesitant to condemn it, even if it causes conflict.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bringing Family Skeletons Back To Life

While studying Joshua 2 for my small group Bible study, I had an epiphany about Rahab. You remember her, the woman almost always referred to in Scripture as "Rahab the harlot". The woman of Jericho who hid the two Israelite spies and asked for deliverance for herself and her family. The woman who joined the tribes of Israel and eventually was married to a man named Salmon. Who then had a son named Boaz.

Can you imagine the taunting that Boaz took as a child? He was the half-breed son of a Canaanite woman. Even worse, that Canaanite woman was a former prostitute. In today's world, a kid might be taunted with the phrase "Your mamma wears combat boots!" or the timeless "Your momma's so fat.....". But Boaz's tormentors could truthfully say "Your momma's a pagan!" or even worse, "Your momma's a whore!".

But pan forward a few years, and skip over the Book of Judges.... Rahab's family comes back into view in Scripture. A Moabite woman named Ruth returns to Israel with the mother of her dead husband. She winds up gleaning from the fields of Boaz, he notices her, inquires about her and he winds up being her kinsmen-redeemer and marrying her. And for those of you who remember Old Testament lineage, they have a son named Obed, who has a son named Jesse, who has a son named David. Yep, THAT David.

I have to think that when Boaz found out that Ruth was a former pagan who had married into Israel, he immediately thought of his mother. That he remembered the difficulty, the discrimination and the taunting that his family endured. And that he knew that HE was possibly the only man in the land that could understand, sympathize and empathize with what she was feeling.

Your darkest family secrets: the felony conviction, the suicide, the abortion, the pre-marital pregnancy or whatever embarrassing history you have, God can use it. Your darkest hour was ministry-prep, if you will give it over to Him and act when you are brought into contact with someone passing thru the valley that you already left.

If you skip forward to the first chapter of Matthew, you see Rahab & Salmon and Boaz & Ruth mentioned again. In the lineage of our LORD. What if Boaz had held on to his pain and shame instead of being used? Our LORD would certainly have been born anyway, but what a shame to get to eternity and see the opportunities that you MISSED.

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Friday, April 6, 2012

Have you met my bride?

My failures as a husband are many and varied. As Stan Lee would add, 'NUFF SAID. But I do have one total success as a husband. That is the fact that after 20 years of marriage, I refer to the mother of my children as "my bride" instead of "my wife".

It may seem trivial, and it is sometimes just thought of as me trying to score points with her. But it isn't. It demonstrates a fundamental view of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, that is the entirety of believers in Him throughout human history. Jesus Himself referred to His followers as His bride. In the Old Testament, Israel was rightly called an unfaithful bride by God. The way God loves me is is the way that I should love my bride.

I'm writing this on Good Friday, thinking of how Jesus was falsely accused, illegally tried, wrongly convicted, in-humanely beaten and cruelly crucified for ME. And for YOU. That He spent SIX HOURS on the cross in agony because He loved me that much.

He didn't have to go to the cross.

He didn't want to go to the cross.

He didn't deserve to go to the cross.

He didn't need to go to the cross, personally.

But He CHOSE to go. Because of love. Agape love. Selfless, sacrificial love. Love that is defined as "the deliberate, conscious choice to put the needs, wants and desires of another over your own, without counting the cost or remembering that you made the payment." Expensive love.

I should always love her more than I love me. I don't, but I should, and desire and intend to. My bride. Not my wife or the old ball and chain. My bride.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

How faithful a friend are you?

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 NASB

I sat in the office of the education minister at my church. He and I had only known each other for a few months, but had become fast friends. We share several common passions, ranging from music to God's Word and seeing men become true disciples of Christ.

As we talked, he asked me if he could speak plainly about some things that he'd seen in my life. I looked him in the eye and with a wink told him that I remembered reading "faithful are the wounds of a friend" somewhere.

He told me that he thought that I had an overall solid grasp of the Christian life and God's Word....but that he saw signs of arrogance in me. It hurt my pride to be criticized, but I knew it was true. Since he told me that, I've tried to be aware of it. Quicker to listen and slower to speak. More open to the words and ideas of others.

I'm very grateful to my friend and to God for bringing him into my life. But I can't help but ask if I'm as faithful to my friends. We have a responsibility to our brothers to speak the truth in love and help them identify the specks in their eyes. But I think most of us are AFRAID that they will lovingly do the same.

Would you let a fellow soldier go into battle if he didn't wear his armor correctly? Or if he consistently shot 3' high and 5' to the left, would you tell him? It is time for the men of Christ to put aside our FEAR and love our brothers enough to be faithful!

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