Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Heart of Legalism

          Why are so many Christians legalistic?  As far as I can tell, legalism is only legalism when it involves convictions and christian liberty.  Of course there are things in the Bible where there are clear distinctions, however, it seems that most cases of Christian legalism is in regards to Christians having such strong PERSONAL convictions that, in their mind, it's wrong for anyone to participate in that "sin".  It also may come across as legalistic, not because the person intends to be legalistic, but they may not be sure how to express that it's their conviction. 
          The  easiest way to make this point is by way of illustration.  According to the Bible,  it's wrong to have babies out of wedlock and live together.  Though the Bible does not specifically state this, the doctrine of separation clearly and strongly supports this conviction, there are many, many unsaved couples that choose to live together and also have children, without being married.  For some Christians, that's hard to fathom and it's clear that these couples are living in sin.  This is a clear example of legalism because the Christian is trying to force unbelievers to do something that does not bother them nor does it make sense to them. To the unbelievers, it's cheaper and there are some real and immediate benefits.  Not to mention that unbelievers do not have a relationship with Christ.
           Christians act similarly towards one another, however the difference is that all parties have a relationship with Christ.   There are still many cases where Christian liberty is just that.....liberty to do what you want without offending God.  The doctrine of separation is layed out in scripture and one principle of this doctrine is to avoid all things that may have a negative impact on your spiritual growth.  There are some things that have that effect on some Christians and those same things may not have the same effect on others.  For instance: watching television may be wrong to some christians because it is an obvious floodgate to laziness and complacency and therefore a sin.  We'll call them Christian A.  On the other hand, there is a young Christian family where there are 6 children, all of which are being homeschooled, and this family may see watching television as giving the mother a little bit of a break and they may even monitor how much television is allowed.  Maybe only allow the kids to watch Christian animations or other harmless cartoons. We'll call them Christian B.  Christian A rightly sees television in there lives as a sin for them because they are aware of the potential detriment of it.  Also, of course the Bible warns of letting evil in through the eye gates and ear gates.  It is also a sin because this Christian would be violating their conscious if they did watch television.   For these reasons, they may be led to warn Christian B of these detriments.  Christian B has completely opposite views of television and sees it as a break for the mother, and maybe the kids too, and also have no issues with letting their kids watch selected material.  This is where legalism is a very clear case.  Christian A feels very strongly about Christian B watching TV, but the Bible does not specifically state anything about television, and most certainly couldn't have because it was not even a thought to be invented. 
           The point of all this is simple.  Do our personal convictions have such control over us (the good control) that we need to make others abide by OUR convictions instead of trusting that they are at peace with God? Certainly,  if we feel led to talk to them, as a concerned friend, we should.  But to become legalistic could start to push people away and ruin the fellowship we have with that brother or sister in Christ.  Convictions help us to stay in line with Christ, but our convictions......are just ours.
            This reminds me of the one another verses. Receive one another as in Romans 15:7; Admonish one another as in Romans 15:14 and Colossians 3:16; Submit yourselves one to another Ephesians 5:21 and I Peter 5:5 and having compassion one of another and being tenderhearted as in I Peter 3:8 and Ephesians 4:32.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Never say these things to a single person.

1.  “Well maybe you should work on your relationship with God. How can you have a girlfriend if you’re not fully satisfied in Him?”
--Yeah, because everyone in a relationship has it all completely right and all fully satisfied in God.
And yes, this is a very good time to work on your relationship with God, but there are some things that a spiritual relationship doesn't provide.
2. "Just keep praying about it"
--More prayer won't bring a woman into my life any sooner, and of course I pray, every day.
3. "Study/read the Bible more"
-Every person needs to hear this, however there comes a point when EVERY activity being done alone, is depressing.  Yes, I try to read more, but same as above.
4. "It'll happen quick, when it happens"
-This is probably my favorite.  Relationships,  any relationship,  takes time.  I know that there are people that have courted and got married in less than a year, but don't remind me of that fact, it's the LAST thing I want to hear.
5. "Well, when I met my husband/wife..."
-REALLY!?  Your going to use this time to rub it in and, once again, remind me of what I'm missing.
6.  "You must like your alone time"
-Simply put, NO.  Stop reminding me that I have a ton of alone time.
7. 'Why don't you go out and meet people? "
-OK so, are you saying I don't socialize?  There's A LOT more to this than just socializing, and I do.
8. "So and so had to wait until they were this age"
-Are you saying I have to wait until I'm that old?  I realize I might have to, but PLEASE don't remind me of that. 
9. "Your standards are too high"
-So.......there's no woman out there for me? Are you saying lower your standards? I think it's obvious why this one is confusing.
10. "She'll come along when you least expect it."
-First of all, it's hard to be single and to not be aware, to some degree, of every woman that comes into my  life, even just the acquaintances,  (Never knowing how God will work exactly. ...) Secondly,  relationships don't just fall into your lap.  I know they take time, so don't lie and tell me that it'll be unexpected and sudden.
So what DO you say to a single person?   Ask them about......THEM, not there status or something you know will depress them.  I know a lot of marrieds and couples that complain because this single person doesn't talk to them or seems distant.  It could be that whenever they talk to a married person or couple, they seem to only know how to remind them of their loneliness.   In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul says to take heed lest ye become a stumblingblock.  The reason a single person may not talk to marrieds may be that the marrieds or couples are causing them to stumble into depression.  Of course this isn't the intention of the couple, but it's just the fact of how you could be talking about this in a completely innocent way and even the single person may seem fine on the ou5side, but most often, that person is feeling heart wrench all over again. This is a simply a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the thinking of some single people, guys of course, but women too I'm sure.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Book review for "A CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN DECLARATION

        This book review will be simple, compared to God's Word.  Each article will be seen from a nondenominational and fundamental viewpoint of the Holy Scriptures. Only articles that are listed are found to have some confusion, however this is just a review and not a critique of the whole declaration.  This book can found at the following link: http://religiousaffections.org/publishing/a-conservative-christian-declaration/

        There are some distinctions I would like to make in how I will be using certain terms.
         

DEFINITIONS

       Gospel, used in description of one's belief, specifically in the Gospel of Christ, or in a more general sense is in reference to that great act of love displayed on the cross, that is central to God's plan of salvation.  

       The term christian, whether used independently or in description to worship, fellowship, or behavior is in reference to the Biblical premise of those actions.  

INTRODUCTION

"We would affirm as a foundation to this declaration the system of doctrine expressed in the early creeds of Christianity (see the Appendices for the full texts of these historic creeds):"


   In the introduction of this book, is found the above statement.  Although it is good and many times beneficial to refer to other sources, I find it unwise to utilize those sources for the foundation of such a declaration. 

2 Peter 1:3 states "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue."

     It is clear what is meant in 2 Peter, ALL things that pertain to life and godliness are found through the knowledge of God.  Of course, going outside of scripture is necessary for additional understanding from the viewpoints of wise men, but it is contestable that such declarations utilized for church organizations or statements of faith.  All declarations and other official documents would be more aligned with scripture, if founded on the principles of scripture.

PREAMBLE

"At it's core, conservative Christianity aims to follow Pauls example..."


      I would argue that a true believer will strive to follow the example of Christ, not Paul.  The believer's ultimate example is found in the earthly ministry of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 11, it is true, of coursr, that Paul told the Corinthians to be followers of him, however he makes sure that they are aware that he is a follower of Christ.  All things in the believers walk is to be brought up against the example of Christ: including evangelism, personal and corporate practice and worship, and our testimony to the world and other believers. 


ARTICLE 1

"We also affirm that to ignore this boundary by granting Christian recognition to those who deny the gospel is to demean the gospel itself (2 John 1:10)."

       Although the verse referenced in 2 John is certainly referring to the doctrine of separation,  it is not referring to a complete avoidance of unbelievers.  If that were true, there would be no point in seeking to evangelize the lost.  The essence of the gospel is God showing his love to undeserving sinners and to say that believers shouldn't try to show that love to other undeserving sinners, based on this verse in 2 John, is a misinterpretation of the gospel and of God's love.

Romans 5:8 "But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

   
"We deny that Christian fellowship is possible with those who deny the fundamentals of the gospel..."

      The doctrine of separation is losing it's validity in today's culture.  There are certainly very Biblical reasons for Christians to separate themselves from other believers, and the fundamentals of the gospel need to be preserved, however it is still necessary to maintain some sort of communication if possible with those other Christians....for the hope that they will see a Christ-likeness in you.  As long as there are two believers, there can be Christian fellowship.  Conversation may not be able to go too deeply into God's Word, but there is an opportunity to fellowship around the finished work of Christ and also to share more truth from God’s Word.


ARTICLE 2

"We affirm that the center and apex of the Christian faith and fellowship is the whole counsel of God, including right belief, right living, and right affection.(Deut. 6:1-9)"

      The only item that is of bother to me, a dispensationalist, is that Deuteronomy is referenced and though it may be applied to support this statement, it was intended for Israel.  The interpretation of the Bible passages need to remain within the surrounding context of the time of that passage and who it was written too. 


ARTICLE 3

"Beliefs are true when they correspond to God's understanding; acts are good when they correspond to God's understanding of virtue; objects are beautiful when they are fulfilling there God intended purpose in a God pleasing way in accordance with their God-given nature." 

     Isaiah 55:8 states "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."  This verse in Isaiah and the above statement seem to be contradictory in the sense that believers can not understand God.  If this is the case, then how can the above statement be true?  God’s understanding of virtue may be different than ours.  Yes, the Bible addresses virtue and so we can have a limited understanding,  but we may never have a full and complete understanding of God’s thoughts.  Some objects were clearly not invented to have any purpose in pointing people to Christ.  For instance, a car was solely invented to transport men from one place to another.  A car can be utilized for quicker results in ministry of course, but does not have a "God-given" nature.  Objects don't have a "God-given" nature, the objects purpose and nature is assigned to it by a person, or group of people.   Objects can be beautiful when a God pleasing purpose is assigned to it, but objects do not have a nature, whether secular or sacred.  They are neutral.  A television does not have any of the abilities that humans have and therefore is amoral.  All objects are amoral, and only a human can assign a moral purpose to it.


"We deny that right belief is sufficient to please the Lord." 

      This statement seems to address the way believers might percieve the supposed ignorance of others. A person can rightly and accurately interpret a passage and please the Lord, however their actions, as perceived by other believers, may not be.  1 Samuel 16:7b says "...for the Lord seeth not as man seeth,; for man look et on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."  To say that someone who doesn't practice the same we do can not please the Lord is a tight rope to walk.  There are certainly some compelling movements within Christendom that need to be avoided, but on an individual basis, only God know their heart. 


ARTICLE 6

"We also deny that people of twisted judgements and perceptions can rightly know and love God."

      John 3:16 states that WHOSOEVER will believe shall be saved.  A person with twisted judgements and perceptions may have a very hard time coming to know Christ, but it is not impossible.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Abiding

       John chapter 15 teaches the utmost importance of the believer abiding in his/her relationship with Christ.  There is another truth about abiding in Christ that is a key to living the Christian life.  Christians often seem to struggle with finding comfort and joy in there lives, especially when Jesus said that believers will face much tribulation.  So how is comfort, joy and peace provided and sought after amidst tribulation?

      Comfort

John 14:16 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;"

2 Cor. 1: 3-4 "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

       Both of these verses teach believers a very important truth about comfort.  First, Jesus tells us that God the Father will send us a Comforter (referring to the Holy Spirit) at the moment of salvation.  What is interesting about this is that this word is capitalized and it is logical to conclude, for this reason and others, that this refers to a person.  It is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the comfort we need.  It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to be our comfort in this life.  As long as a believer has the Holy Spirit, access to an abundance of comfort is available.  Jesus is also reiterates this in the last part of this verse, "that he may abide with you forever".

      This verse in 2 Corinthians is an acknowledgment and adoration of the comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit, by way of recognition of God the Father.  Similar Greek words are used for "Comforter" (John) and "Comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3) are used, paraklētos and paraklēsis, respectively.  These 2 words both have an idea of being "summoned" or "called", while God the Father summons the Holy Spirit to be a Comforter in John, Paul writes that believers are summoned to be comforted.  According to these verses, the Holy Spirit is a minister of comfort to the believer, all the days of his spiritual life, but the believer needs to (not only take advantage of that ministry) realize his call to be comforted.

      Joy

John 15:11 "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

Col. 1:11 "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;"

       Joy is also obtainable through knowing what God has said in His Word.  In John, in the context of teaching on abiding in our relationship with God, Jesus says that he's teaching these thing so that his joy might remain in us AND that our joy might be full or be a perfect supply.  What a blessing!  Joy....true joy comes only from Jesus and that joy is perfect.  Whatever trials come our way, the joy of the Lord will always prevail.  The first thing that comes to mind is the exclamation of Habakkuk's joy.  Hab. 3:17-18 states:

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."

        One of my favorite Bible writers is Paul and just reading through the prayers he had for others is edifying.  Part of his prayer for the Colossians included that they would be joyful, but not only in general, but joyfulness during trials.  Patience and longsuffering are needed most during trials, but to add to that, to be joyful during those times is something that we can only obtain through the strength of our Heavenly Father. 

         When we learn to abide in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, all the comfort and joy we need is available. 

John 15:4 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day

     On this great day in 1776, there were so many key events to leading up to the freedoms of this country and to secure that freedom after that decision was made.  Here are a few of them.  

Historical Events for Year 1776 (taken from 
http://www.historyorb.com/events/date/1776) 

Jan 5th - Assembly of New Hampshire adopts its 1st state constitution
Mar 2nd - Americans begin shelling British troops in Boston
Mar 17th - British forces evacuate Boston to Nova Scotia during Revolutionary War
May 4th - Rhode Island declares independence from Britain
Jun 11th - Continental Congress creates committee (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston) to draft a Declaration of Independence
Jun 12th - Virginia adopts Declaration of Rights
Jun 28th - Charleston, SC repulses British sea attack
Jul 4th - US congress proclaims the Declaration of Independence and independence from Britain
Jul 6th - American Declaration of Independence announced on front page of "PA Evening Gazette"
Jul 8th - Col John Nixon gave 1st public reading of Dec of Independence (Phila)
Jul 9th - Declaration of Independence is read to George Washington's troops (NY)
Aug 2nd - Formal signing of the US Declaration of Independence by 56 people
Sep 9th - Congress officially renames the country as the United States of America (Was the United Colonies)

      There is another freedom that is even more important, yes, more important than the freedoms of this great country and it is certainly a blessing to live in this country.  In addition to the great freedoms wrought by men and women over the years for the freedoms we so selfishly enjoy, is the freedom to know Christ as our personal savior.  Our founding fathers endured hardship, torture; both physical and mental, and of course the loss of loved ones.  Not even these experiences could compare to the ridicule, torture, and feeling of loss that Christ suffered for you and I.  The Bible says that we all deserve to die, simply because of the sin curse of this world.  Romans 6:23 says:

 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life 
through Jesus Christ our Lord."

      Mere men loved the thought of freedom from Britain so much and wanted there to be freedom for generations and generations after them that they put their lives at risk. I'm sure many men and women felt that it was well deserved, and I'm sure many still do, however the fact is that the Bible claims otherwise.  Christ is the Only true Victor from the tyranny of sin.  Christ died on the cross for to be that full and complete payment of our debt, that no mere man could pay.  Romans 5:8 says:

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, 
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

      The Bible says to "Believe and thou shalt be saved."  Believing on the finished work of Christ on the cross is the only way to obtain true freedom, freedom from sin.  Yes, the sin nature will still be there, but there is now a choice of sin or righteousness....the righteousness of God. 

Independence Day in this wonderful country is a blessing for all, but to have independence from the tyranny of sin is the greatest blessing one could have.  Today is independence day in this country, you could make it independence day in your heart. Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and be saved. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Knowing God's will

KNOWING GOD'S WILL

   Striving for the knowledge of God is, not only a most noble endeavor, but God has revealed in His Word all we need to know for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) and His will for believers. 

     Believers often want to know God's will for their lives and most often what college to go to, or what car or house to buy, or perhaps where to live.  The believers goal in life should be to pursue God.  Before we pursue anything, are we pursuing the knowledge of God?    

     A believer first has to determine, by God's grace, if a certain pursuit is right and pleasing in God's eyes.  Some things are, without question, right or wrong and therefore quickly able to be determined.  The pursuit of knowing God's will for that situation comes into question when it it hard to determine whether it is a right and pleasing pursuit. 
    To begin, prayer to God is always needed.  Prayer is the way that believers are drawn closer to the Lord, no matter how assured they may feel, but one never knows how the Lord will work.  Prayer is also the way that God comforts us.  Somehow believers are more assured of God's sovereignty in our lives through prayer. Being assured of God's sovereignty also humbles believers and helps believers to give that situation over to the Lord, not that He needs our permission to take control, but it is a sign of the submission of our will to the will of God.
     Reading God's Word is the way to know God's will.  God has revealed Himself to mankind through the Bible.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 states clearly the will of God for His children.   

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
   
   God uses all of Scripture to reveal His will and there are many that clearly state God's will, as in the verse above.   Praying, asking for wisdom and discernment in that situation, is necessary, however, consistently and continually reading the scriptures is needful.   Most Christians, when wanting to know God's will, will skip around to different passages that have to do with what they are faced with.  God will always use His Word and so that is not a bad idea, but it is not how God intended his children to read His Word.  Believers need to remember to read God's Word in an uninterrupted manner.  New events in our lives, trials, or even a desire to change the routine is part of human nature and most times those instances even influence our Bible reading.  For instance, when believers need comfort, they usually go to Psalm 23 or for understanding trials, James 1.  Those are great passages, however our Bible reading should not be influenced by our worldly circumstances.  If one is reading through the book of Romans and a situation comes up, it may be a good idea to continue reading Romans and in addition to your regular reading, read Psalm 23.
    The more time spent in God's Word, the more understanding God will give, for life and godliness.  Proverbs was written to give understanding and that book may be a good start.  It is filled with life's situations and is a great start to obtaining the knowledge of God.  No doubt that God will use His word to draw his children into a deeper level of understanding of who He is, and that should always be our goal in life.   Philippians 3:7-14 is a declaration of Paul's life's goal and is a great exhortation for believers to press on for the excellency of the knowledge of God. 
    Patience is a vital part of knowing God's will.   As mentioned above, a believer may know right away whether a situation is good or bad, but it may take months of praying and reading to have that piece of God that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) Even in a situation that seems good and right, but a change may be needed, prayer is necessary along with reading God's Word. For instance, my churches youth leader had to move.  Of course someone else was given the responsibility of youth leader. The question that popped into my head was whether or not the Lord wanted me to continue as assistant youth leader.  Of course I wanted to serve the Lord, but felt (and I mean there was a sense of me being prodded by the Holy Spirit) that a change in my role there needed to be made.  I needed wisdom in what the Lord's will was in that situation.  In this particular case, knowing God's will took months of praying and reading.  At the close of this time period,  I was asked to take charge of the sound of ministry.  I knew that was the answer to prayer, however prayer was still needed for the peace of God to be given. 
         Knowing God's will can either be known right away or take months, and even years in some cases, but in every situation, spending time with God, in prayer and in His word, recognizing the need for patience in that pursuit, is vital.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Desensitization SINdrome

In my high school, for the drama club, there was a desensitization class. This class's aim was to desensitize an individual to certain things that he or she may have to do during a play. For example, in a scene that involved a kiss, this course would desensitize the emotions of those kids. Sin has the same effect towards righteousness and holiness, but no one needs to take a class. It is in human nature to sin. The Bible warns believers over and over again of the perils of sin and one danger in practicing sin, is that it causes desensitization towards righteousness and to be more Christ like and Satan loves when a believer engages in sin because that believer is one more step to practicing sin more and more. The reality is that the Christian life is a mindset, and so also sin is a mindset. Of course, the believer acts out a physical sin, but that is only in direct reaction to the premeditated sin of his or her heart. Psalm 119:11 tells us clearly that the Psalmist hid God's Word in his heart so that he might not sin. To be desensitized to righteousness and holiness is an indication of spiritual apathy towards God. Spiritual apathy and being desensitized of righteousness go hand in hand and to prove that is not hard at all.

Let's quickly think of a Bible example. Jonah was not happy to do the Lord's will. In fact, he fled to Tarshish, the furthest point in the opposite direction that he could think of. Jonah had made a conscience decision to dis obey God. Herein is the premeditated sin of Jonah found. That mindset is what desensitized Jonah and Jonah rested in that decison, so much so in fact, that he fell asleep on the ship. Although falling asleep was an outward show of his inward spiritual apathy and complacency towards God.

So often, believers rest in there premeditated sin. The outward action is simply the fruit of that mindset. There are fruits of the Spirit that are described for believers in Gal. 5:22 and 23. Those 9 fruits (and there are more in other scriptures)

are only shown in the believer's life first through a conscience mindset of yieldedness and humility to God, in everything.