Our God is UNfair!

April 6th, 2012

This morning I woke up with a ton of things on my mind. This week has been particularly busy. I worked late last night, and woke up eager to get back to it. There was not any time to stop to spend time with the Lord. “The Lord will understand”, I thought, before reminding myself that time with Him is not an obligation for which I need a “pass” from the Lord to skip. It is a privilege and a joy to bask in the presence of Almighty God!

“You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:11)

So, I stilled my mind, and intentionally entered into a relational dialog with God while reading some Scripture. Now, I admit, there are times I “stop to spend time with God”, but my mind does not settle down – I’m still in the obligatory mode. I put the Bible down, go back to “my” business and promptly forget whatever it was that the Lord tried to show me. But there are other times, like this morning, when I discipline by thoughts, surrender my anxieties, and breath in His greatness.

What does this have to do with fairness? My heavenly Father once again proved the unfairness of His love. No sooner did I connect, truly connect, with Him, did He unleash my mind from the tangled non-productivity of worry. Immediately after worship, He returned to me such clarity, purpose, joy, peace, and efficiency! His return to me far exceeds the small token I gave to Him.

I have witnessed this unfairness time and time again in my life. How about you? Share in the comments below.

What’s the Deal with Baptism? Part 2.

October 6th, 2011

There are many, widely differing views on water baptism.

  • Is it necessary for salvation or not?
  • Is it by sprinking or by immersion?
  • Is it for infants or those of have come “of age”?
  • When and how, by whom and in whose name should one be baptized?
  • Is it required for church membership?
  • Then you have several other baptisms mentioned in the Bible –
  • what about baptism for the dead?
  • baptism of fire?
  • Holy Spirit baptism?

Many who hold a particular view have a long church and family history in that tradition.  Furthermore, each view claims to have strong biblical support.  Two people arguing about baptism can each come up with various “proof” verses for their position.

All of this is a recipe for any discussion about water baptism to be very emotional and divisive.

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Life IS Short

April 1st, 2011

Twice today I heard news of someone passing away suddenly.  One a friend and one a stranger.

This morning someone told me of a car accident they witnessed and of the young woman he had administered first aid to.  She did not make it.

Then tonight I found out that a young man I had been speaking to this week died just last night.  I was planning to drop in on him at his place of work tomorrow and catch a late lunch once he got off at 2pm.  I’m sure he also had plans for today and tomorrow and the weekend.  His facebook post earlier in the day Wednesday said “so ready for friday!!!”

No doubt the young woman who died from the car accident also had plans for her weekend.

These deaths were so sudden, so premature for their young lives, affording no goodbyes or closure for their family and friends.

There are a few biblical concepts which come to my mind in the midst of the shock and disorientation which I feel.  First, I have to say that my own difficulty in processing the grievous finality of death pales in comparison to those closest to the deceased.  It is tempting for us as Christians to rush in with soothing words, yet those who feel the full weight of the loss know all too well that it does not diminish the pain the way we think it ought to.  This is why my first recollection from Scripture is that death really is terrible.  There is no softening it: death stings.

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“enlivened together with Christ”!!!

January 27th, 2011

Ephesians 2:5 (NKJV)
   …even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

In Ephesians 2:5 the phrase “made us alive together with” is one word in the original Greek manuscripts: συνεζωοποίησεν. “So what?”, you say. Well, I’ll tell you!

The first three letters of the word are a prefix “together with”, in other words, not apart from but united with, joined, together, with, etc. Skip a letter, then the next three mean “alive/enlivened”, the next three mean “to make”, then the last three (among other things) show that the action is completed, point-in-time action.

So what? So, if you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you are part of that little prefix and are *together* with Christ. You are spiritually ALIVE, he made it so in a single instant! If not, please receive Christ today, by grace you are saved IN Christ!

51 Things…

January 27th, 2011

There are many wonderful things which happen to a person at the moment they place their trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. 

I heard once that someone counted 51 such things!  After searching a while I found that a man named Jim Brettell had catalogued just such a list on www.markkwilliamson.com.  I’ve posted them below rather than simply referring you to that site, because we have this cool little feature where the Bible verses will show up if you hover over the reference!

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Thoughts on Church Attendance

November 8th, 2010

It’s a good time for me to post this since the members of The Point have been attending church very faithfully lately :-).

I absolutely do not want people attending out of pressure, guilt, because of what others might think, or what the pastor might say.
I would rather people consider instead the spirit of the matter, not the legalism of it.  I feel it’s a good time because our people are doing well in this area, so you’ll know I’m not trying to guilt anyone out by sharing this! 

In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:24-25 states:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

A short “rabbit trail” about the Sabbath.

This discussion is not one about the Sabbath, but the association may come up for you, so let me offer a few brief thoughts.  If you want a more complete discussion of the sabbath, post a comment below.

Keeping the Sabbath is the 3rd commandment.  I do understand that church attendance is not the same as “keeping the Sabbath”; and it is true we are not under law but under grace.  Yet, I don’t know any Christian who argues that it’s ok to violate the other 9 commandments on the basis of “we’re not under law anymore”.  In addition, keeping the Sabbath has many underlying principles which are of benefit to us, regardless of the technical, legal details which were given to Israel and not to us.
God himself certainly has no need of being legalistic or bound to any law, yet He Himself demonstrated the Sabbath principle on the seventh day of creation.
Incidentally, the first two commandments are: have no other gods before me and don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.  If we do these first two, this third one is easier.  If we aren’t doing the third, are we really doing the first two?

I don’t believe we must follow the Mosaic legal code regarding the Sabbath, (which, by the way, called for the stoning of anyone who violated it!).  However, I do believe God knew what he was doing and had wise principles in mind when setting up this law.

Some Questions about Church Attendance:
(be honest!)

  • What do you believe about the Sabbath, or a day of rest?
  • Are your actions consistent with that belief?
  • Do your actions agree with the “spirit of the law”?
  • How frequently do the “just this once” diversions really occur for you?  Be honest, what does your attendance record really look like?  What sorts of things replaced this sacred time?
  • How will you hear what the Lord so lovingly prepared through the diligence of his workers if you aren’t present?
  • How will others receive the benefit of your presence if you are not present?
  • If you are not giving the Lord the firstfruits of the week, what are you giving him during the week?
  • If we can’t figure out how to give Him something so small, in obedience to Him, are we really giving Him anything?
  • At the same time, what are we still expecting from Him?
  • Is it really that hard to schedule around such a small window of time – only 2hrs, and it’s consistently scheduled week-in and week out?

The Beauty of God’s Design

When we obey God in this matter, trust Him with our time and give it to Him faithfully, He rewards us with many benefits.  Here are some of them.

  • The Lord has something for the body from you every single Sunday Even a “warm body” can still raise the temperature of the room!
  • The Lord has something for you every single Sunday!
  • Ephesians 4:16 “…Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
  • The workers/volunteers are especially energized when you are blessed!
  • Celebrations are more enjoyable when everyone is there!
  • A crowd draws a crowd
  • Visitors want to be part of a living/breathing vibrant ministry
    • This is true regardless of size! Raw numbers do not matter here, but the % participation does.  A church of 5000 with only 2500 in attendance is not fully alive and visitors will know it.  A church of 50 with only 25 in attendance is half dead and people will sense it!

Whatever your track record, make a committment today to make some extra time for the Lord this coming Sunday.  If you come for the sermon but not the Bible study, you are missing a big part of church life.  If you come to church but immediately leave to get back to your busy life, you are missing out on God’s principle of rest and recovery.  If you are faithful in all these areas, praise the Lord!  Keep up the good work and tell others why you think it’s worth it!

Can’t Find Your Way?

June 18th, 2010

John 14:6 is the oft-quoted verse where Jesus says,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Have you ever considered the context of that verse? It is Jesus’ answer to Thomas’ question:

“Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Thomas asked this question after Jesus had just said he did know.

“Where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas’ problem is a classic case of a person having too much of an earthly, physical perspective and not seeing things with spiritual, relational eyes. Thomas keyed in on the words “where” and “the way”. He thought in physical terms. If I say “where” or “the way”, you will think of a location, or a route. This was what Thomas did, but that’s not what Jesus meant! Jesus answer redirects Thomas to himself, the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself. Jesus IS the way. Knowing HIM is the key, not some mapped out route or location. How well do you know HIM? Isn’t a relationship with Him the point being emphasized here? We would do well to check our level of intimacy with Him, rather than always checking our circumstances, or our knowledge.

The next conversation solidifies this point. Now, it’s Philip’s turn to be human! He says,

“Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

I believe Philip was also speaking from a physical point of view. He wanted to see the Father with his eyeballs. Jesus’ answer again points us to a relationship with Christ. Jesus said to Philip,

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?'”

The rest of Jesus’ teaching in John 14 explains an interrelationship between God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and his followers.

Praise God that, through Christ, anyone who believes in Him has been reconciled to the Father, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and now has access to the level of intimacy Jesus spoke of in this chapter. Keep your spiritual eyes centered on the Way, the Truth, and the Life today.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you into a lifestyle of having this perspective and remind you when your physical perspective is getting in the way of seeing the Way!

The “Right” Method of Evangelism

May 21st, 2010

Telling someone the good news (gospel) of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ certainly is the most important message we can give anybody. For this reason, it is important to discuss the various methods, although the best method is simply the one you use!

Years back I read a book that helped me tremendously when sharing the gospel. It’s called “Engaging the Closed Minded” by Dan Story.

In the opening chapter Dan Story acknowledges the full range of methods from friendship evangelism to street preaching. Some methods emphasize the grace of God (Gospel), while other methods emphasize the law of God (Law), and still other methods emphasize proving the things of God (Apologetics). He argues that the application of Law, Gospel, or Apologetics depends on the person to whom you are speaking.

We must be aware that not everyone will benefit from the same approach. Since different people go through life with different views of God and different views of salvation, we must adjust our methods to reach them more effectively. This is not to be confused with changing our message. The message does not change, only the method.

When it comes to their understanding of God, people typically fall into one of four groups.

  1. They believe in God, but do not understand or believe in Jesus as their personal Savior
  2. They consider themselves to be “spiritual” people or “religious” but do not necessarily believe in the God of the Bible.
  3. They do not believe in God at all or question His existence (atheist, and agnostics)
  4. They are “Christian” in name only – by family, or morals, or worldview.

And when it comes to their understanding of salvation, a person typically:

  1. Feels unworthy of salvation or doesn’t know how to be saved.
  2. Believes there are many paths to God.
  3. Doesn’t believe in or rejects their need for salvation, or even the concept of salvation.
  4. Understands and believes the gospel but chooses to rest on their own merit. They haven’t made the gospel personal.

Which method best fits each person in these different groups? Spend a few minutes thinking of different scenarios and whether Law, Gospel, or Apologetics would be appropriate. Pray that God will speak to you through his Holy Spirit to show you how to best share the good news of salvation to those around you. If you feel weak in one of these areas, please tell someone about it today who can help you grow in that area.

The Ambiguity and Certainty of Scripture

April 20th, 2010

Many years ago I was admiring the knowledge of a trusted teacher. He said to me,

I’m still confused, just at a higher level!

Sometimes I feel this way in my studies of the Bible. I have been reading the Bible regularly for 32 years and studying it seriously for 21 years, and there are so many things that I still can’t explain. Don’t get me wrong, hard work and diligent study has paid off. I love knowing the Word of God as I do. It is transformative, life-changing. It is sharper than a two-edged sword. Every Christian should study the Word passionately. But I’ve also seen that there are many things in Scripture that are ambiguous, confusing, and hard to explain.

It used to bother me when people talked about the difficulties of understanding the Bible, because oftentimes the people seemed to me to be lazy, or unwilling to diligently study. It is true that many people use the complexity of the Bible as an excuse, but I’ve discovered that, like my wise teacher, there are people who understand an important truth about Scripture. It is both ambiguous and certain.

If you say the Bible is “too hard to understand” and don’t study, you are missing many of its wonderful riches.

But if you say the Bible “can be completely understood by hard study”, you too are missing many of its wonderful riches.

Expert theologians work very hard to remove ambiguity. Translators of many of the modern English Bibles in attempting to create an “easy to read” version have intentionally removed ambiguity that was there in the original language. Again, don’t misunderstand me, much confusion IS cleared up by proper translation and good theology. However, an honest student of God’s word will confess that tensions remain. When I am honest, I must admit that even my most solid doctrines contain some elements of uncertainty. In fact, if we don’t admit that, we run the risk of developing strange, even ungodly, ideas. And on the other hand, if we cannot admit that there IS certainty in Scripture, we also run the same risk. There is both ambiguity and certainty in Scripture.

The proponents of study often quote 2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

And on the other side, many quote Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

But both are true! These are both quotes from the same Bible.

Consider Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

and Ephesians 1:17-18 where Paul was praying

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints

So what of it? What can be said in conclusion? God wants us to relate to HIM. The facts of scripture tell us something about HIM. But He leaves enough ambiguity there that we should not put our faith in facts, but in Him. The ambiguities also tell us something about Him, but He presents enough facts about Himself that we are not lost in confusion. So, study hard, read diligently, pursue wisdom and knowledge, but never forget that His ways really are higher than your ways!

The Context of God

March 16th, 2010

The Hope

Click on the picture to the left and watch the first 7 minutes or so of the video (if you’re in a hurry, skip ahead to chapter one “In the Beginning” and watch for just a minute or two).

My favorite spot is shortly after chapter one begins where it shows the universe exploding into existence upon God’s command!

Pretty amazing, huh?

But, have you ever wonder where God came from? Let’s look at what the Bible tells us:

God was there in the beginning

“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God” (John 1:1)

In fact, God was the beginning

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

And He was before the beginning, no god existed before him.

“Before me there was no God was formed, nor shall there be any after me” (Isaiah 43:10)

“I am the first and the last, besides me there is no god” (Isaiah 44:6)

How do we wrap our minds around this? Of course, it is impossible to truly comprehend, God is spirit, but we are spirit and body. Our entire human existence has been in the context of physical matter, space, dimension, time, and limits, where things have beginnings and ends. So, to imagine or understand something beyond those parameters is inherently difficult.

Some try to explain this by describing a fictitious man who lives in Flatland. This is helpful indeed but it’s still difficult to understand where the sphere came from. What was its beginning? Who or what created it?

When thinking of God, sure, I can imagine my eyes being opened to another dimension and suddenly understanding more clearly the nature of God. But it’s still hard for me to imagine somehow understanding the origin of God.

There is something I believe we do without even knowing we do it, which makes this topic so difficult. We assume a context outside of God. We imagine a space in which God exists. A timeline into which He began. A measure of power against which His power is measured. Our difficulty in understanding a limitless God is that we assume there must be something beyond Him which defines those limits. We imagine a limitless God as being HUGE or an eternal God as being really OLD, but can’t truly comprehend words like “limitless” or “eternal” because words like “huge” and “old” imply a context. Those words are always pictured from a point of view outside the thing being measured.

So, when we attempt to “size God up”, we do our best to picture the biggest, most powerful being ever. It goes something like this: imagine all the power in the whole universe, then imagine someone more powerful than that, that’s God. The problem with that is that we imagine Him as if He is an envelope around all that power. The problem is that envelopes still have limits. Our mental picture is still take from outside, and hence from a vantage point beyond God. We don’t even recognize our arrogance in assuming that perspective!

How can we get back to the proper vantage point? We have to understand that there is NO “IS” beyond God. There is no vantage point beyond God. No power exists beyond God’s. We only struggle with this because we envision the empty space after “beyond”. Do you see how that puts God into a context? But the context isn’t there. God IS the context.

In fact, to even say that God has power is a bit misleading. God is power (1 Tim 6:15).

To say that God has love implies a source of love outside of God. The Bible says “God IS love”. (1 John 4:8)

God IS light (1 John 1:5), truth, and life (John 14:6).

God does not have a beginning, He IS the beginning (Revelation 22:13).

The key to our understanding of God is to worship Him for who He really is. He IS the context. Everything we know and can measure came from His essence, His character, His nature. It is a truly terrifying adjustment of perspective to meditate on this. To imagine that the thing we call “power” is something that came from God, that He himself IS the context for “power”. It isn’t something he just has a whole bunch of, HE IS!!!

It’s interesting when Moses asked God what he should say to Pharoah when Pharoah asked Moses who sent him. The answer: “tell him ‘I AM’ sent you.”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Let’s hear your thoughts and questions on this! Leave a comment below.

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