Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm a Good Person, So What Do I Have To Worry About?

The devil works in so many crafty ways. Moral relativism, which is without reference to God's Holy Word in the Bible, is how some people justify their behavior. As long as I haven't killed someone and I'm just a little better than you, I must be okay. Some other religions teach that as long as the number of your good deeds is greater than the number of your bad deeds, then you are fine. However, there is really no way to qualify which deeds are bad and which are good, and are you really keeping score? From their perspective, one cannot really know that s/he is going to heaven. If Satan can confuse you into believing any of these or other deviations from the truth, he will rob you of the eternal fruits that can await you. Let's look at how God's Holy Bible addresses this whole issue.
Keep and Follow God's Commands
"Keep my commands and follow them. I am the LORD."
Leviticus 22:31 NIV
So what are God's commands? They are the Ten Commandments. 
 {Jesus and others reference the Commandments several times, including Matthew 7:8, 19:7, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, Romans 13:9, 1 Corinthians 7:19, 1 John 2:3, 3:21-22, and 5:3.}
Keep and Obey God's Commands
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
Joshua 22:5 NIV
Let's look at each of the Ten Commandments, see how Jesus responds to them, then examine if we are keeping them. Notice that sometimes Jesus extends the commandments.
1) No Other gods
"You shall have no other gods before me."
Exodus 20:3 NIV
Jesus said, "Worship the LORD your God and serve him only."
Matthew 4:10 NIV
If you have found yourself working longs hours for the almighty dollar, yet have little or no time for God, you have put God below your financial gain and/or career. You have sinned against God and are not a good person.
2) No Idols
"You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . ."
Exodus 20:4 NIV
Jesus said, "No servant can serve two masters."
Luke 16:13 NIV
If you have ever idolized anything, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
3) Don't Misuse God's Name
"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God."
Exodus 20:7 NIV
Jesus said, "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne . . . ."
Matthew 5:34 NIV
If you have ever used an expletive using God as one of the words, or said "Jesus Christ" when you were not calling on him in prayer or song, you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
4) Remember the Sabbath
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."
Exodus 20:8 NIV
Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is LORD even of the Sabbath."
Mark 2:27-28 NIV
If you have not taken a day each week (regardless of which day) for rest, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
5) Honor Parents
"Honor your father and your mother."
Exodus 20:12 NIV
Jesus said, "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me."
Matthew 10:37 NIV
If you have ever said any bad things about your parents or have not been respectful to them, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
6) No Murder
"You shall not murder."
Exodus 20:13 NIV
Jesus said, "Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."
Matthew 5:22 NIV
If you have ever murdered anyone or if you have been angry with your brother, you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
7) No Adultery
"You shall not commit adultery."
Exodus 20:14 NIV
Jesus said, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Matthew 5:28 NIV
If you have ever engaged in fornication (pre-marital sex), adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, or other sexual acts outside the marital covenant, or if you have ever looked at someone and thought about what it would be like to have sex with him/her, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
8) No Stealing
"You shall not steal."
Exodus 20:15 NIV
Jesus said, "If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."
Matthew 5:40 NIV
If you have ever stolen ANYTHING, even a pen, a piece of candy, money, or whatever from someone, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
9) No Lying
"You shall not give false testimony."
Exodus 20:16 NIV
Jesus said, "Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."
Matthew 12:36 NIV
If you have ever lied, even a small white lie, or talked trash (careless words), then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
10) No Coveting
"You shall not covet . . . ."
Exodus 20:17 NIV
Jesus said, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed."
Luke 12:15 NIV
If you have ever been envious of the spouse or possessions of another person, then you have sinned against God and are not a good person.
If you have sinned against God, you will be judged according to that sin.
No Mercy
" . . . Judgment without mercy will be shown . . . ."
James 2:13 NIV
Death For Sinners
"For the wages of sin is death . . . ."
Romans 6:23 NIV
This death is not the mortal death in this life. The death spoken of is the eternal death. Furthermore, some think that if they keep the commandments most of the time, then they are okay. However, this viewpoint is not Biblical. As a matter of fact, James tells us the following:
Break One Law - Break Them All
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker."
James 2:10-11 NIV
Has your conscience convicted you yet? God's Commandments are the perfect standard. Do you still feel that you have lived a sinless life? Are you still thinking to yourself that "I'm not that bad"? If so, you are deceiving yourself. There are no good people.
Don't Deceive Yourself
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
1 John 1:8 NIV
All Have Sinned
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:23 NIV
So what is a sinful person to do? How do we get right with God? There is only one solution. You have to get a substitute to take the punishment for your sins. Since "the wages of sin is death," someone has to pay. If you do not find a substitute, you will be the one who will have to pay. Praise God that He provided a substitute for you. All you have to do is repent of your sins, and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.
"But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Luke 13:3 NIV
Confess and Believe
"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:9 NIV
Jesus Brings Justification
"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [Jesus' perfect life, death, and resurrection] was justification that brings life for all men."
Romans 5:18 NIV
I pray that you turn from your wicked ways and desires. Judgment day is approaching, and you want to be armed with the robe of righteousness that only Jesus Christ can offer. Jesus is the "way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6 NIV)  May God convict your heart so you will hear His calling. Choose Jesus today!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How Should I Pray?

God loves us and wants a relationship with us. If we do not spend time with God in prayer, basically we are telling God that He is not worthy of our time or concern. As Christians, that is certainly not the message we want to send to God. As children of God, we will feel compelled to talk to God.

God Is Our Strength
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

So once we have the will to talk to God and express our love for Him, how do we tell Him? I've talked with people who claim either they do not know how to pray or that they don't pray. My question is "Don't or Won't?" There is a big difference. For those that choose not to pray are choosing not to have a relationship with God. If this is your case, you should explore your heart and determine if you really are a Christian. Be honest with yourself.

The Lord's prayer is Jesus' example of how to pray. His prayer is found in Matthew 6:6-13.

If you haven't ever prayed before, keep it simple. There are no magic words or phrases. Tell God how you feel. If you are scared, tell Him. Ask for His protection or deeper faith. A way to keep your thoughts organized might be as follows:

Dear God:
1) God is Holy.
2) Thank you for . . . .
3) Please . . . .
In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

An example prayer in this simple outline might be as follows:

Dear Heavenly Father,
1) You are an awesome God and heavenly father. Your creation of the heavens and earth are beyond my comprehension. Hallowed be Your Name. To you, I bow down and worship and trust only in you.
2) Thank you for all the blessings in my life. You have blessed me with 2 children, loving parents, a loving spouse, and good health. Thank you for my home, car, and food you provide for me on a daily basis. From you all blessings flow.
3) Please be with my Aunt (name), who is suffering from (disease). Please heal her body according to Your Will. I pray that you would minimize or eliminate any pain she might have. Please also be with the lost (people who haven't accepted Jesus as Lord). Please soften their hearts so they might hear your call and come to you. Please use me in any way you can as your vessel to accomplish works to bring glory to Your Name.
In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Talk to God in the way you would talk to your earthly parents. He is your Father and wants to hear from you. He loved you before He created the world. Then He created you. I remember being a child and wanting to sit in my parents' lap. I remember telling my parents how much I loved them. What a feeling of security and joy! Now that I'm a parent, my children want to sit in my lap to be close to me, and I understand what they are feeling and how I make them feel. That is exactly how God, your Heavenly Father, feels about you and the relationship He wants with you. He is your security and joy! And He wants you to come sit in His lap.

Sit With Me On My Throne
Jesus said, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne."
Revelation 3:21

Trust in Jesus today. Accept Him as your personal Savior and LORD. Say a simple prayer, and continue to pray daily in your relationship with Him. He loves you and wants to hear from you. God bless you!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why Did Jesus Speak In Parables?

Jesus Spoke In Parables
"Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable."
Matthew 13:34

Parable according to Webster means a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.

Jesus' disciples also asked this question.

Why Parables?
"The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?' He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.''"
Matthew 13:10-13

The Old Testament gives us some insight into the use of parables as well.

Teaching In Parables Fulfills Old Testament Prophecy
"O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old."
Psalm 78:1-2 (965 B.C.)

Godly Wisdom Allows Understanding - No Knowledge Without God

"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance -- for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."
Proverbs 1:5-7 (926 B.C.)

The simple short stories that Jesus taught were wonderful moments that both perplexed and enlightened. Many occasions in the Bible explain how the Pharisees or Sadducees were stumped by what Jesus said or questions Jesus asked (Matthew 9:11-13, 15:1-14, 19:3-12, 22:23-34; Luke 20:27-40). Jesus' followers marveled at His wisdom and yearned to remain close to Him to soak up as many gems of wisdom that they could. Parable teaching was a brilliant mechanism to communicate with Jesus' followers and those sincerely interested in following Jesus, yet not communicate with Jesus' enemies. Also, parables were easier for people to remember and reflect on.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Is It Okay To Raise Hands During Worship?

The various Christian denominations worship quite differently. Some choose to worship very solemnly, others choose to worship very dramatically, and the remaining worship somewhere in between. Without getting into denominational tradition, let's look at how God's Holy Bible addresses worship.

We are cautioned about ritualistic worship that is almost done out of habit, rather than heart-felt.

Worship Must Be From the Heart
"The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'"
Isaiah 29:13-14

We see that God sends the Prophet Jeremiah to the temple gates to confront the false belief that God will not let harm come to the temple and those who live near it. Jeremiah rebukes the people for their false and worthless religion, their idolatry, and the shameless behavior of the people and their leaders. The people followed a worship ritual but maintained a sinful lifestyle. It was religion without personal commitment to God. Attending church, taking communion, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, etc., are all empty exercises unless we are truly doing them for God (not because we ought to do them for the church).
Reference Reading: Jeremiah 7:1 - 10:25

So then, how are we to worship?

Worship the LORD With Gladness
"Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs, know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."
Psalm 100:2-4

Lift Up Your Hands
"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."
Psalm 63:3-4

"Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD."
Psalm 134:2

"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer . . . ."
1 Timothy 2:8

So clearly, raising hands during worship service is not only okay but expected because we should be filled with the Holy Spirit. I like to think of this as similar to getting news that you just won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes or a Lottery. You just won $50 million. Are you going to just mumble something mundane, such as "Ah, cool" and go on about your business? Or are you going to be jumping up and down with excitement? God has given us a free gift of mercy. This gift of eternal life is far greater than any possession or amount of money you can ever receive on this earth. When you recognize this awesome gift, you will be beside yourself and unable to contain the joy and happiness. However, each person's level of expression is different as God made us unique. So while I might be more or less dramatic in worship than you, I should not judge you nor should you judge me.

Don't Judge How Others Worship
"Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."
Colossians 2:16

If you do not feel anything when you attend church, please search your heart. Are you really a Christian?

If you've not accepted God's free gift of salvation, please do so now. God's free gift is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. He was the perfect blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. When you do that, you will become a child of God. I pray for your salvation. Praise God!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

What Is The Gospel?

According to Webster's, Gospel has several meanings.
1) The message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation.
2) One of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3) Something accepted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle.
So based on these definitions, is the Gospel a message, a book, the truth, or a combination of some or all of these?
Jesus Christ was the Son of God. The Gospel is clearly shown as recorded by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.
Jesus Died For Our Sins, Was Buried, And Raised
"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . ."
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
So the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the good news message of Him dying for our sins. Jesus' life events were recorded in the first four New Testament books, each of which include the account of His death, burial, and resurrection. And Jesus being God's Messiah and sacrificial Lamb is the infallible truth. So in this case, Webster's did a good job of capturing the Biblical context of what Gospel really means. The Gospel is the infallible truth of the message of Christ dying for our sins, being buried, and rising again on the third day according to the Scriptures and as recorded in the first four New Testament books.
What Is Your Gospel?
"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel."
2 Timothy 2:8
So what should people do with the Gospel?
Accept the Gospel
"He [God] called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Thessalonians 2:14
Spread the Gospel
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Matthew 28:19
Teach the Gospel
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:16-17
Devote Yourself to the Gospel
". . . Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching."
1 Timothy 4:12-13
Suffer For the Gospel
". . . But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."
2 Timothy 1:8-9
Pray For Words When Presenting the Gospel
"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."
Ephesians 6:19
God loves you so much that he wants to bless you beyond imagination. But that will only be possible if you trust in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Accept the free gift of Jesus Christ today!