Monday, May 28, 2012


Today, Sunday May 27th, we Christians celebrated something unique.  No other religion has a celebration of such a day as this. Pentecost. What is it? What does it mean? Why is it unique?

Pentecost: it is the fiftieth day after Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus!  It correlates to the Hebrew celebration of Shavuot (the feast of weeks) also harvest time. In the Jewish (Hebrew) calendar, there were several days where [ALL] males were required to attend services and present themselves before God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Shavuot was one of those times, therefore many people from all over the [known] world were in Jerusalem for this time of celebration.
Painting of the Apostles @ Pentecost by El Greco

The Christian celebration changed on that day, because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 [main] followers of Christ who were hiding in the upper room for fear of the Jews and Romans. As they were praying, and worshiping God they began proclaiming God's praises and worship loudly and publicly.  Enough that it caused a commotion. People from all over the known world heard them speaking in their native languages, and were amazed.  They were also acting so joyously, that the people thought they were drunk.  The visitors to Jerusalem, and other residents there knew these men to be uneducated people, common workers for the most part, and several of them merely fishermen.  This meant that they were very unlikely to have learned the languages they seemed to be speaking.  [Makes me wonder if they were speaking foreign tongues, or if the people just heard in their language -- Perhaps God changed their hearing? -- Nah, the Bible said they spoke in the foreign tongues, so we'll stick with that.]   

Peter then spoke up in a loud voice and explained to the people that they were not drunk, as the people supposed.  He explained that the same Jesus they had seen crucified a few weeks ago, had risen from the dead, and had promised to send the Holy Spirit to them.  This was the fulfillment of this promise.  Peter, the same one who had denied even knowing Christ on the night of his betrayal and trial, was now speaking boldly, proclaiming Christ to a horde of strangers and fellow Israelites, as well as any Romans present.  He explained the speaking in tongues was an effect of the filling of the Holy Spirit in order that they might all understand the followers and hear the good news [Gospel].

Over 3,000 people were added to the group of believers that day.  What an amazing example of the power of God's love and Holy Spirit. The apostles were no longer afraid, they began meeting in the Temple and synagogues again, and proclaiming the love of Jesus publicly and unashamedly.  What is unique about this is that the disciples changed instantly from being afraid to being bold.  They spoke in foreign tongues as if they had spoken them all their lives, yet they were unfamiliar with the languages. Many times the number of followers of Christ became converted due to this miracle.

May God fill all of us with His power, that we may live boldly for Him, and help others to love and accept Him as well!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Freedom in Christ

Jesus said, "...If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 (NIV)

I have been struggling lately.  I wonder how much freedom we should allow others. How much freedom should I have? What is true freedom? Where does one draw the line between freedom and responsibility? If Jesus has set me free from my sins, why do I still dwell on them? Why can't I forgive myself?

Part of this is easy.  I have a hard time forgiving myself, because since I am aware of God's love and forgiveness, and His call to "Go forth and sin no more," I should not continue.  Because I am keenly aware of His mercy, I should accept and give mercy, and dwell not on failures, mine or others.  This does not mean that I accept sin, but rather that when I, or someone else repents, the sin is forgiven, and thrown as far as the East is from the West.  That is pretty far. I am grateful.  

Now the more difficult parts... I believe true freedom is internal. No one can make me do anything. It is all my choice. I don't even have to pay taxes. I can choose jail if I wish.  Personally this is not the option I choose, so I shall continue to pay my taxes.  To extend freedom to others, I must decide how much freedom do I pass on. Since I am not the one who granted freedom, I cannot limit freedom.  Jesus has granted freedom to all who call upon His glorious name.  I further believe that Christ limits freedom only in how much it impacts on my relationship with Him, or with others. I cannot tread on other people and call it freedom. 

As it is written (in the Scriptures):
  Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.a Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But the man who loves God is known by God.
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

a Or “We all possess knowledge,” as you say
The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Co 8:1-13

Of course, this does not pertain only to eating certain foods, or about false gods.  The principles can be applied universally to our lives.  To draw the line between freedom and responsibility, I must realize that I have to consider others as more important than myself.  This is the difficult part of life.  Christ said if anyone would follow Him, he must deny himself daily, take up his cross, and follow Him! 

Therefore, as a follower of Christ, I have freedom to do what I want. I do not have the freedom to trample on others' freedoms. I must extend at least the same grace to others as I want to receive from them, and from God.  For God does not hold blameless those who do not forgive others.

To make this more real, let's look at one practical application:

I like  beer, wine, and various other alcoholic drinks.  I also like the flavor (and effect) of coffee.  There are people for whom alcohol is a stumbling block. I once was so addicted to coffee that I could not live without it.  Now, I can take it or leave it. I can drink, or not drink.  If I am with someone that does not drink alcohol, I do not drink either. I know there are many who are still addicted to coffee, alcohol, or other things.  The grace is passed by allowing others to make their decisions as to whether they will drink alcohol or coffee or not.  I do not believe there is anything wrong with drinking either one in moderation.  However, if there is anyone who has a problem with drinking, or thinks it is wrong, I do not drink around or with them. Nor do I bring up matters of conscience by talking about drinking around them.

This post kinda took on a different twist as I typed it than I was thinking when I started, so I hope it makes sense to someone other than me.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Last Days?

The Bible says that in the last days, men will gather for themselves teachers that will tell them what they want to hear, and will abandon sound teaching.(see 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Titus 1:9) Men will be lovers of men, and abandon natural relations with women.(see Romans 1:18-32)  There will be many false prophets and false Christs.(see 2 Peter 2:1-16, 3:3) Let's look at some examples...

I recently heard a pastor of a large church say that there is really no difference between Christianity and a certain other church headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.  After all, they believe in Jesus (or do they?) The Jesus that is of Biblical Christianity is one with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and was and is God Himself (known as The Holy Trinity)!  This other religion believes that Jesus is a created being, that in the "pre-incarnate state" (before becoming man), was a "spirit brother" to Lucifer (a.k.a. Satan) and the only reason Jesus is the Savior instead of Lucifer, is Jesus said yes to "Heavenly Father" and Lucifer said no. So how does this shake out as far as no difference? It is false!  

There are those who would have us believe that all paths lead to the same destination: Heaven!  After all, God loves us, and since He loves us, He would not send anyone to Hell! Yet, the Bible is clear that Jesus said He was "The way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except through Him!"  Doesn't sound to me like Jesus would agree that it does not matter if you are Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, or whatever else you want to be.

There are many pastors that are preaching and teaching that it is okay to be homosexual. That God didn't really mean it when He said that those who have such lifestyles will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  I disagree.  I think God meant what He said.  However, the Christian Church has failed in its mission to love all men, regardless of the problems and sins in our lives.  It is no more acceptable to be homosexual than it is to cheat on one's spouse or "live in sin." Let's call a spade a spade.  God is clear on His requirements--holiness! It is a very good thing that He has forgiven me! The Bible clearly teaches that we are only saved through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  There is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. (see Acts 4:8-22)

There are many who would also tell us that we can "do this 40 day program," and be happier, healthier, more successful, blessed, etc.  The thing is, Jesus did not promise His disciples an easy, or trouble free life. In fact, He actually promised the opposite. "In this life you will have trouble..." "If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you..." (See John 15:18-25, 16:29-33).  People have a tendency to see riches as success, but God measures success differently.  If riches and/or success in this world is a measurement of our success in God's eyes, then Tiger Woods, or the Emirs of some foreign lands are more acceptable to God than I am.  They have obviously attained God's favor.  I don't think so!

I think we truly are in the "Last Days," but then again, so did the Apostles back in the days immediately following the resurrection of Jesus. So what does this mean for us?  We should be sure that we do what we can to love God more than men, and love others as much or more than we love ourselves. The best thing to do is live as if we might go home to meet Jesus tonight, yet realize that we are saved through grace and this by faith. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Mincing Words

In the past couple of weeks, I have watched a few videos on the subject of Jesus and Religion.  One is by a guy who says he loves Jesus and hates religion. Then, I have watched some that are responses to his rant.  One is from a Catholic priest, one is Lutheran, then I read a response to his rant from an Orthodox priest. I also watched a couple videos in response that make little or no sense.  I liked the responses of the Lutheran and the Catholic Priest

Now my beloved wife tells me that people are misunderstanding the guy.  That he says "religion" as a metaphor for all that is evil in the church. I am not certain. I do think that if this guy is ranting about the evil present in the church, and not the church as a whole, he suffers from the same thing I do.

I sometimes say things that do not come across the way I want them to, or think that they will.  If we want to be taken seriously, we need to be careful of what we say and especially, of how we say it.

Anyway, the guy has a few good points, and he has a few points that are contentious.  I will leave it up to you to watch and decide what you think. The following  is what I think.

  • I think if we are going to portray ourselves as experts/poets, we should ensure we are clear on our defiinitions.
  • I think we should extend grace to others, and not require perfect doctrine. (by this I do not mean that we should allow false doctrine to go unchallenged, but there are many things that are left up to individuals to decide for themselves, and these we should not quibble over.) --statement in ( ) added 2/5/12
  • I think we need to remember that Jesus founded a church, and said there would be false teachers and false Christs that we would need to watch out for.  The question is wise discernment of who is and who is not false.  In the Old Testament, God said the test of a prophet is 100% accuracy when they claim to speak for Him!
  • Romans 14 says that we are all responsible to our Lord. Perhaps we should remember that He is the boss!
The bottom line is that we live in a fallen world, society is made up of people and people are inherently evil. So there will be flaws even in the church.  So maybe the rant about religion is a good thing.  It has gotten people thinking, it has people talking.  Let's all let this bring us closer together, not tear us apart.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Law versus Grace - and ramblings

I read a very interesting and candid interview with Bono, the lead singer from U2, regarding grace and karma this evening.  It is well worth the read.  It is actually an excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

So what does this have to do with the topic: Law versus Grace?  Well, in a way, karma is like the Law.  Both teach that we get what we deserve.  What goes around, comes around.  I know, trite cliches that annoy many people -- sorry about that.  However, it is important to note that God offers grace today.  Yes at one time, He required sacrifices and the Israelites were bound to the Law. Then Jesus came to Earth, lived as a man, suffered at the hands of the Romans (because of the Pharisees), died on the cross for the sins of the world--which means each one of us!

Paul, who was once known as Saul, was one of the strictest adherents to the Law when he was a Pharisee. In fact, he was one of those who made it his mission to persecute the followers of "The Way" as it was first known shortly after Jesus was killed and resurrected. 

Once converted to Christianity however, Paul became one of the strongest advocates for Grace!  He went so far as to state that those who wanted to go back under the Law should go ahead and emasculate themselves when they try to be circumcised. (see Galatians chapter 3)  Now that is harsh! Paul himself points out that none of us can be righteous and earn forgiveness. "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Gal 2:21.

So where do we go from here?  Some would say that since we cannot be good, why even try? Well I say that although I cannot be worthy, I can be grateful.  The Bible also warns us that those of us that have tasted God's forgiveness should not remain in sin.  We should live as good a life as we can, not that we earn His mercy, but rather to show Him our gratitude.

Thank You, Jesus!  

I have said it many times in this blog, and I will say it many more times.  This is the truth that separates Christianity from all other religions.  God loved and loves us, He sought and seeks us, He paid the penalty for our sins.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

When Things go Wrong?

Some people tell you that a Christian will have a great life and that if you live in accordance with God's laws, everything will go well for you. God will heal your sickness, keep you safe and bless you in every aspect of your life.

So what does one do when these things do not happen. What happens when a Christian is sick, has cancer, has financial problems, his marriage falls apart? Does this mean he is not a good Christian? Did he fail to give God his entire heart and life?

Let's check a few facts... Jesus warned His disciples that, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Jn 16:33. The apostles did have troubles especially a few years after Jesus' death and resurrection. They began to be persecuted strongly by the Jews. Jesus had also told them that if the Jews had persecuted Him, the Jews would also persecute them.  

I have known many Christians who have had serious illnesses, that for whatever reason--only God knows--they were not healed despite many prayers and great patience. 

The questions are not always easy to answer. Here are some thoughts that I believe are Biblically sound. 
  • We live in a fallen world. Sin is rampant, not everything/everyone submits to God's authority. 
  • Disease and death entered the world due to man's sin. None of us are immune.
  • God DOES heal. 
  • Some people DO NOT get healed. 
  • 11 of 12 Early Church Apostles were martyred. John, the only one not martyred was exiled to Patmos after being boiled in oil, to live the remainder of his days in relative isolation.
  • The promise of God for Christians is that in the NEXT LIFE, there will be no sickness, death or even tears.
We believe that God has everything under control, but does not necessarily protect us from ALL harm. He promised that He would give us strength when times are tough and give us the words we need when we are put on trial for His sake.

I have personally known people who have been miraculously healed of diseases, drug addictions, cancers, and self-destructive habits. Therefore, I know God DOES heal! I just do not know the answers why some are and some are not.  I guess that is why I am NOT God!

So what do we do with the questions? We TRUST GOD. He promised that He would be with us through all our circumstances, trials and tribulations even to the end of time. We hold to the truth that God loves us. We CONTINUE to pray for healing for those we know, and hear about that are sick, injured or are going through hard times.  We rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. 

I believe that those who claim that our lives should be trouble free when we are Jesus' followers need a reality check. What do you think? 

What We Hear and Who We Are

This past Sunday, two of my friends attended the same worship service, heard the same sermon, in all ways external, had the same experience.

One was excited by what she heard--the message, the speaker's illustrations/experiences, and his dedication and involvement in his message. The other one was not as excited by what he heard--the message or the speaker's experiences and illustrations. 

How can this be, and what does it mean for those who follow Christ?

I have wondered this for years, as I grew up Roman Catholic and a Christian, and I know many others who are similar.  I also know many people who are Roman Catholic, or generic Protestant, that do not seem to know Christ [be a Christian].  I think it is the same as when two or more people witness the same accident. They generally see something different than one another. 

We all filter things [everything] through our own filtration systems, our thoughts, beliefs, philosophies, desires, etc. One person attends church and finds Jesus, another finds nothing. Many people attend church, love Jesus, and yet differ in their experiences at similar or the same worship service as others.  

I believe the bottom line is not what we see or hear, but what filtration process we use.  It is all about the heart of the individual. Even Christians who are similar have different filters because of what they have experienced, learned, read, etc.

We must, if we call ourselves Christian, submit ourselves to Jesus! We must strive to see things His way. Does this mean that we cannot have differences? Absolutely NOT! God did not create robots, and He does not want us all exactly the same.  He DOES want us to be sincere about our faith, and it MUST BE an active faith. His word declares that faith without works is dead.  So, we should as it says in Romans 14, allow people to have some leeway in how they practice their faith. We need to accept people that see things differently (as long as it is not contrary to sound doctrine). 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Standards we Hold

Recently a good friend and I were talking about the standards by which we live our lives. I mentioned that I was trying to get back on track with my relationship with God, and he questioned what I meant. By that, I did not mean that I was trying to earn God's love, forgiveness, or anything else, but rather that I was trying to live the way God wants me to. Jesus forgives us of our sins, not because of anything we do, or can do, or could do, but only because He paid the penalty for us. He calls us to live for Him, and to "Go forth and sin no more." However, it is worth mentioning again, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Eph 2:8-9.

This is the crux of the message of Salvation, indeed the Gospel message.

Anyway, the standards, how to get back to the standards...

The Apostle Paul, probably the best at reminding the early Church about living up to standards, was also very free with his grace. He figured that he had been forgiven much, so he must also forgive much. I have to agree with that. The hard part is to raise up a standard that makes some people cringe, yet to forgive them when they fall short. Jesus told us to be holy, even as He is holy. Now that is a tough standard.  We can never live up to that one, however we should do our best to do so. I am continually reminded of the warning to be careful how we judge, for the same standards we use will be used to judge us.

Some people misuse the verse to say that we should not judge at all, but that is not accurate. we are called to judge right from wrong, and to make correction where we see the need.  HOWEVER, we are reminded to be careful, as already stated, the other shoe will drop on us someday!  

So. Standards. Gotta have them, gotta live them. But why, if there is grace, do we need to obey standards? Out of gratitude.  God created us. God redeemed us. God loves us. God asks us to live by certain standards. I, for one, plan to live by them.

Monday, January 02, 2012

New Year's Resolutions and Coffee

New Year's Resolutions - some make them, some don't. Does anyone keep them? I do not know of anyone who makes and keeps their resolutions. It is possible, but I do not know of them. Yet many of us continue to make them. Why?

I think it is the same reason that we tell our God, other people and ourselves, that we are going to change. We intend to change, but old habits die hard.  Does that mean that we cannot change? I don't think so, it is just difficult.  It requires effort. A lot of effort.

Some years ago, I was addicted to coffee. Really addicted. I tried to quit and endured a headache for about 18 days give or take a couple.  So I gave in and had a cup of coffee, and BAM, the headache was gone in about an hour.  Then a few years later, as I was driving to work, merging onto the freeway, with my coffee cup in hand, as I was being passed by people on the freeway with coffee cups in their hands, I thought to myself, "If America was half as addicted to Jesus as we are to coffee, we wouldn't have half the problems that we do!"

So, I asked God to help me break my addiction to coffee. I started cutting down on the coffee consumption, and in a couple months, I was only drinking a couple of cups a day.  So I quit. No headaches and no coffee for about three months I had no coffee and I was fine.  Now I can take it or leave it.  Every couple of months, I even quit for a few days just to be sure.  I like coffee, always have, probably always will, but now I don't have to have it. Thank you Jesus.

The point is -- and I know I kinda meandered a little -- New Years Resolutions are like choosing to end a coffee (or any other) addiction.  We CAN do it, we just have to be persistent, and forgive the pun, Resolute!

So, if you have a New Years Resolution, whatever it is, I am sure it is to improve some aspect of your life. So ask God to help you, ask others to help you, resolve to do it, and go for it. If you fail at first, just keep trying.  With God all things are possible.

Remember, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Php 4:13.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Man in the Mirror

The other day, I saw some gravestones on Facebook, that had friends names, and birth and "death dates and causes" fictitiously posted, so I accepted the app and allowed it to create one for me as well. Well, it said that I lived 96 years and died by looking in the mirror. Anyway, that got me thinking (actually it got me laughing hysterically, but then I got to thinking.) 

Potential gravestone!
When I look in the mirror, what do I see? Do I see the same thing others see when they look at me? Or more? I have heard it said that the eyes are the window to the soul. I am not sure what this phrase means, but I do know that no one who looks at me, really sees what is inside my soul. Only God and I know what goes on deep inside. 

So who is this man in the mirror? Why would looking in the mirror kill me? And the most important question of all, how does this relate to Christianity? I shall attempt to answer and relate all these questions together in the lines that follow.

The Bible states that every inclination of man's heart is evil from childhood. Genesis 6: 5, 8:21. Note in the context of these passages it is not singling one particular man out, but emphasizing that we are all evil from childhood. In the New Testament, it states that there are none righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10.  Fortunately for me, other people cannot look through my eyes and see the depravity in my soul. Nor can I look into your eyes and see the depravity in you.  It is generally through our actions and words that we are judged by others. However, there remains the mirror.  When I look into the mirror, I can look at my reflection, or I can look deeper. Sometimes it scares me to look deeper.  Maybe someday it will kill me, but for now, not really. 

Fortunately, for the Christian, there is forgiveness. It is not that we are better than others, although we SHOULD be, given what we have been given by our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus forgave us by the shedding of His blood. He willingly paid the debt that we had for our sins.  He did ask us to stop sinning, so we really should. We should do as Christ asks, esp. since He has done so much for us. "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." James 1:23-25
The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984). Jas 1:23-25.

So to wrap this article up, let me say that although looking in the mirror will not kill me or you, it should cause us to think of what is happening in our hearts and double check our motives. We should evaluate our lives as we begin the year of 2012 and ask ourselves if we are doing what God wants us to do, or merely gazing at our reflection in the mirror and forgetting what we look like when we turn away?