Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day! - October 31, 2012

2 Timothy 3:16-17(New Living Translation)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Today is Reformation Day, the birthday of the Protestant Church. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, wrote to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, protesting against the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences," which came to be known as The 95 Theses. These he nailed to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany, and began the events that changed the Christian world forever.

The most important theological truth that the Reformation was the belief that Scripture alone—not human traditions or the rulings of a church—held complete authority for Christians (“sola scriptura”), and that salvation was a free gift of God that could not be earned by good deeds. The Catholic church at the time was "selling salvation" and profitting from the poor by doing so. They also made sure that the Bible remained in Latin, and the common man of the day was unable to read it for himself.

As a result of the Reformation, and the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox, the Bible was translated and printed in the language the common way, opening the way for generations and millions of people to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

His Pre-determined Will - October 30, 2012

Ephesians 1:4-6 (New International Version, ©2010)
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:4-6 (The Message)
3-6How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Have you ever thought about why you are here? I am sure you have, because we all have. Many of us spend our entire lives wandering around fairly aimlessly, without a clue of what we are destined for. I would venture to say that, although many of us know what we would like to do in life and work and other things, we really don't know what tomorrow will bring us. We don't even know if we will have a tomorrow, and for some, that can be pretty scary.

Do you realize that when you woke up this morning and headed off to work or school, when you had lunch or a break, or when you drove home to see your family, that it was all part of God's plan? Seems pretty incredible doesn't it, but nothing that you do, or that happens to you is a suprise to God. He knew your beginning and He absolutely knows when this all will end for you. Personally, I wouldn't want that kind of knowledge, but for our all-knowing God, it is all part of His plan.

What's so amazing about all of this is that before the earth and everything in it was created, God knew you! He made you and knew when you would be conceived (Psalm 139:13-16;Jeremiah 1:5). He knew when you would be born, and first walk, and go to school, when you would rebel and turn away, and when you would come back to Him. He pre-determined, because He wanted to, that you would exist today! He purposed in His heart to create you, to rescue you from the world of sin and all of your junk, and to lift you up by His grace to be redeemed by Him.

If you know that you are a Christian, you need to continually praise Him for allowing you to be "in His will", and for rescuing you to serve Him.

Photo "Determination" by thadz,11-10-2006 from stock.xchng

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Brevity of Life - October 29, 2012

Psalm 39:4-6 (GOD’S WORD Translation)

4“Teach me, O Lord, about the end of my life.
Teach me about the number of days I have left
so that I may know how temporary my life is.

5Indeed, you have made the length of my days only a few inches.
My life span is nothing compared to yours.
Certainly, everyone alive is like a whisper in the wind.


6Each person who walks around is like a shadow.
They are busy for no reason.
They accumulate riches without knowing who will get them.”

James 4:13-14 (New International Reader's Version)

13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city. We will spend a year there. We will buy and sell and make money." 14 You don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while. Then it disappears.

On a day like today, as a hurricane pounds the East coast, you have to take pause and think about how short life can be. In one moment it could all end for any of us; in one moment it will be either the best of times or too late. We only have one chance in this life to make sure that we have taken care of what comes after. Jesus gave us the way when He said He was "the truth, and the way and the life".

Take a moment and remember those whose lives were impacted today. Pray for God's grace and mercy for those who may be hurt by this, and His comfort for those who are left picking up the pieces. We do not know this side of heaven why things happen, but it is all in vain if we who remain do not get the message of how short and difficult life really is. If a disaster were to happen where you live and you were involved, would you be ready?

Photo "Mist on Pike's Peak" by myarrito, Summer 2009.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Janitor - October 28, 2012

Psalm 84:1-4;10 (New International Version, ©2011)
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!

2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Before I truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, I had a very limited understanding of what God and salvation was all about. Sure I believed in God, but at the same time I was trapped in the thought that what I did, earned my way into heaven. With this mind set, I would often fall into sin, and when the guilt would really burden me, I would throw up a prayer to God pleading that He would forgive me, and allow me to at least be a janitor in heaven.

Nothing wrong with janitors, but I had a true fear in the knowledge that what I was doing angered God, and this was my plea for Him to somehow look away from my sin and accept me. It made me "ripe" for any works based religion where my own actions would be the final determiner of whether or not I would go to heaven when I died. Let's face it; I was totally lost with no clue of what would happen to me if I died.

The Psalter expresses his anguish of being kept out of the house of the Lord, and in the same psalm he makes a plea that he would do anthing meanial in the courtyard of the Temple, just to be near God's presence. He even shows some jealousy in the ability of the birds to get closer to the altar, the presence of God in ancient Israel, than he was able. In the same way, I was standing outside of the "Temple of the Lord", His kingdom in Heaven, jealously looking in, without a clue of how to get closer to God.

Thank God for His mercy and grace that allowed His Holy Spirit to clearly show me my wrongdoing, and the way out of my situation. He showed me that Jesus Christ was the bridge between my sinful self and a Holy God. Only with the shed blood of Christ could I be cleansed of my sins and allowed access into God's kingdom. That was a beautiful revelation that lifted the burden of my "junk" and brought me the relief of salvation. God no longer saw me as a "janitor" kept outside of the kingdom, but He now welcomed me as His son.

We all can become sons and daughters of the King. There is no reason to stand outside and just look in. Surrender yourself, find salvation from your sins by accepting the work of Jesus and be welcomed into His kingdom.

Photo "Clean Well" by nazreth, 5-4-2006 from stock.xchng

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Praise! - October 27, 2012

Psalm 146 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, my soul.

2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chip Off The Old Block - October 26, 2012

3 John 1:4 (New International Version)
4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Proverbs 22:6 (New International Reader's Version)
6 Train a child in the way he should go. When he is old, he will not turn away from it.

Over the years, I have enjoyed watching my children come to faith in Jesus and the exercise that faith in their day-to-day lives. The best thing is that they came to their faith on their own. It didn't take hours of dogma, ritual or confinement in a convent. All that happened was that they were exposed to the Bible and the witness of authentic Christians around them. They chose to believe Jesus when he said that he was "The truth, The way and The life".

There is an old expression that dates back to the 17th century. When a child would follow in the ways of his father, they used to describe that child as a "chip off the old block". For Christian parents, there is no greater joy than to see our children grow and make the decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Sure they may have a streak of rebellion, but if they have been exposed to the supernatural life of the One who gave Himself for our sins, the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and we will have to do very little else but support them.

Thank God for His mercy and grace and the opportunity to share in the joy of their salvation. Image source: Imgur via Reddit

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keeping Your Eyes On Jesus - October 25, 2012

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Living Translation)
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We are often faced with the trials and storms of life, and most of us try to make do things ourselves. We struggle against the "heavy waves" of life and our spirits take quite a pounding as we stubbornly go our own way. Usually the harder we try the more difficult the challenges become, until we find ourselves crying out for help.

The story of Jesus walking on water deomstrates a few things to us. First we see where Jesus sends his disciples ahead, while he stays behind to pray. I believe that Jesus sent them out by themselves to test them He allows a storm to come up to see what they would do. Notice that in the midst of the storm, when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they were slow to recognize him. In fact they looked first for an impossible explanation rather than to think that Jesus was capable of this action.

Next we see that Jesus is quick to alleviate their fear, by telling them not to be afraid. Then in a step of faith, Peter steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. But instead of focusing on Jesus, Peter lets the storm around him get the better of him and he begins to sink. Jesus as the eternal Savior reaches out to help him, but he is disappointed that Peter's faith is not strong enough to believe that he could do the impossible.

We like Peter are often limited in how we overcome the difficulties of life, because we will not totally surrender to Jesus, and in deep faith know that He will help us do the impossible. We would rather try to do it on our own. My call to you is this, you need to grow your faith to the point that you are completely committed to the Savior. You need to be confident that in everything, Jesus will help you through. Most of all, we need to never give up our faith when the "wind and waves" beat down on us. Instead we need to strengthen our faith even more, and be assured that God will help us through to "calm waters".

Are you facing a storm in your life right now? Reach out to Jesus and ask him to save you. He will take you by the hand, lift you into the boat and take you to safety. Figurative as this might seem, if you truly believe you will overcome the storm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seeing Dimly - October 24, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:9-12 (New International Reader's Version)
9 What we know now is not complete. What we prophesy now is not perfect. 10 But when what is perfect comes, the things that are not perfect will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

12 Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.

There was a time in my life when I had very little understanding of what I was hearing and occasionally reading. I had no clue of what real Christianity was all about. When I finally understood the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, I began a journey trying to know what God wanted to tell me.

First and foremost, God's Spirit is the One who brings us to the knowledge of what we are before God, and He is the One who helps us to finally surrender our will and accept God's. He "illuminates",reveals, the word of God, and helps us in applying it to our daily lives. He guides us and is the One who "moves in our hearts", convicting us of our shortcomings and prompting us to live a righteous life.

He then becomes the One who helps us manitain our witness and directs us to share what has happened to us. In turn, He then reveals the gospel to the person who sees our example and seeks after God. God's word is living and breathing through believers and assists us in helping others find Jesus.

As far as I have come in understanding God, the more I realize that I have only scratched the surface. I truly only see a "dim likeness of things, as if I were seeing them in a mirror". Although I am no longer a child in the faith, I have to admit that as long as I look into God's word with a child-like faith and I don't try to over analyze it, the more I fully understand what God is trying to show me.

My encouragement to you is to get into the word of God. Take the time to seek God in prayer as you study and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in understanding the will of God. Someday God will make everything perfectly clear to us and answer every question we may have. In the meantime, accept Him at His word and believe His simple offering to us. Accept the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and look forward to someday seeing Him face to face.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Persistent Prayer - October 23, 2012

Luke 18:1-8 (New Living Translation)
1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

In the passage above, Jesus illustrated through a parable the importance of persistent prayer. The point here is that none of our prayers gets unanswered. We may not feel that way sometime, and there are times when we feel that God has abandoned us, but God does answer in the time that will benefit His children most.

There are circumstances that may hinder your prayers. If you are in sin and non-repentant, God will not listen to your prayers. Notice that I didn't say that He will not "hear" your prayers, because He is aware of everything, even your sinful state. If you will humble yourself, and ask Him for forgiveness, it will open up the line of communication.

What we pay for does have to be in His will for us. If we are frivolous in our prayers, or we are asking for things that are not within His plan for us, God will not gives us what we ask for. We need to always pray for wisdom and make sure we seek His will in our requests.

There are times when the answer you get is NO. Yes, we don't get everything we pray for, for God did not promise us everything when we came to Jesus. He did promise that he would meet all of our needs. In fact, as we mature in our Christian faith, we will ask for personal things much less frequently. If we focus on the needs of others and try to meet those needs, we will find that the very things we might have wanted we will get.

The New Testament talks alot about prayer, and this parable is just one example. Bottom line is this, we need to pray about everything all the time, because this is how we communicate with God. Jesus extended his love to us, now it is our turn to love Him back.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Going The Right Way - October 22, 2012

John 14:1-4,6 (New Century Version) 1 Jesus said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father's house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you.3 After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."...6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

I have often wondered what would happen to me when I died. What would become of all that I had done, good and bad? Would my life have had a positive impact on others? Would I have accomplished what God put me here to do? When I made the decision to not go my own way, but to follow God's plan for me, I started to find out the answers to these and many other questions. God revealed to me the wonderful life available in following Jesus.

As Jesus and his disciples were celebrating his final Passover Feast in Jerusalem, just before his crucifixion, he sought to comfort them with the words above. It is here that he gives clear teaching of what followers of Jesus Christ can expect when they die. To me it was encouraging news, that Jesus was going before me getting things ready, and he would come back for me. God had a place for me! He then went on to make a very profound statement; and to me it meant this, that every other religion, philosophy, action, or thing that I might have followed could not offer me the same opportunity. Nothing else or no one else could show me the way to God but Jesus.

Once I had answered the question of what would happen to me, and I knew where I would go when I died, I was free to pursue what God had in mind for me. I realized that I can do nothing without Him, and for me to accomplish a life that serves others and helps to build what God has in store for my eternity, I would have to seek Him each and every day.

Jesus offers all of us the way to follow, and he tells us that there is something that awaits us at the end of the journey. Have you taken the opportunity to trust God and to trust in Jesus?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Do You Believe? Now What? - October 21, 2012

Colossians 2:6-15(New Living Translation)
6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

We have explored several proofs for your belief in Jesus Christ, and you have accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior. Now what should you do? How can you take your new found faith and make it work for you? And, if you have been a believer in Jesus for a long time, but you have just now had your faith "clarified" and you now understand the full extent of your relationship; now what?

Paul in writing to believers in Colossi gave wise counsel to help answer those very questions. In the verses above, he made it clear to them what they had experienced, and he warned them about what the world and people of other faiths would throw at them. He also gave them sound instruction of what salvation had done for them, so that they would not be easily swayed by what others would tell them.

God has given us a tremendous gift! He has done what no other faith or religion or human philosophy could do; He has given you new life in Jesus Christ. He has taken your old sinful self, and taken away the just penalty for your sin. Jesus Christ has personally paid the price so that you wouldn't have to, and now you can be free from the burden you once had to carry on your own.

Now that you believe and have been given such a gift, you need to build your life on that truth. Stand up for Jesus and make sure that you help others to stand with you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Do You Believe? Are You Ready to Defend It? - October 20, 2012

1 Peter 3:13-17(New International Version)
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”[Isaiah 8:12]

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

For centuries the Christain faith has withstood scrutiny, criticism, heresy, slander and every attempt to destory it. Other faiths and religions have tried to fill the vacuum that is in people's hearts, but no other can measure up as the faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. No other belief can stand up to the fact that God the Son has done the work necessary for us to be reconciled to Him for eternity.

The other belief systems are weak humanistic attempts to have us earn our way to God, or they choose to ignore Him and replace God with fantastic tales and other gods. Even people's feeble attempt to replace God with the material trappings of this fallen world, fail to bring ultimate peace to all those who seek after it. Only belief in the salvation of mankind through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can free the human heart from the weight, guilt and shame of sin fill the heartfelt vacuum and bring true lasting peace.

As you consider what you believe, I would pray that your belief would be in the God that has reached down in His love to those He has made. I would pray that you would surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and commit to following Him in humility and obedience. And when you do, you need to be ready to defend your belief in Him, by doing the study necessary to know what is real and what is a counterfeit.

The wonderful thing is that when you do commit your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in your heart to  reveal the truth and confirm your belief. In doing so, God's love comes full circle in drawing you to Him, revealing Himself, and helping you to understand the nature of His love. Only then can you be ready to take a stand for your belief in Jesus no matter the outcome for doing so.

The Apostle Pauls Trial by Bodarevsky , Nikolai Kornilovich ( 1850 1921 ) , Russia , . Regional Art Museum , Uzhgorod , oil on canvas

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Do You Believe? God Speaks for Himself - October 19, 2012

Isaiah 44 (Amplified Bible)A Revelation to the Prophet Isaiah from God, 2700 years ago.

1YET NOW hear, O Jacob, My servant and Israel, whom I have chosen.2Thus says the Lord, Who made you and formed you from the womb, Who will help you: Fear not, O Jacob, My servant, and you Jeshurun [the upright one--applied to Israel as a type of the Messiah], whom I have chosen.

3For I will pour water upon him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit upon your offspring, and My blessing upon your descendants.(John 7:37-39 NIV)

4And they shall spring up among the grass like willows or poplars by the watercourses.

5One will say, I am the Lord's; and another will call himself by the name of Jacob; and another will write [even brand or tattoo] upon his hand, I am the Lord's, and surname himself by the [honorable] name of Israel.

6Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last besides Me there is no God.(Revelation 22:13 NIV)
Do you realize that this is Jesus speaking through an Old Testament prophet?

When you are determining what you believe, it is important to listen to what God has to say about Himself. Each and everyday I have tried to pass on the things that His Spirit places upon my heart, and sometimes I may not say it exactly as He would want me to. So, I am letting God let you know what He thinks. We are indeed living in exceptional times. No one can say that they have ever experienced times like these before. I really feel that we need to listen to God's word for explanations and answers for how we should handle what we are going through as a Nation and as individuals.

The verse by verse dissection and interpolation is from the Amplified Bible. They do a great job of helping us understand the meaning behind the text. I would encourage you to take a few minutes in a quite place, pray for understanding, and read and reflect on what God is saying. You will be amazed how clearly you hear His message to us today. I will take the liberty of adding my thoughts in a few places. Oh by the way, be sure to follow the bible reference links I have added and read the accompanying passages as well. This blog is a bit long, but the excercise and reading will be worth it.

7Who is like Me? Let him [stand and] proclaim it, declare it, and set [his proofs] in order before Me, since I made and established the people of antiquity. [Who has announced from of old] the things that are coming? Then let them declare yet future things.

8Fear not, nor be afraid [in the coming violent upheavals]; have I not told it to you from of old and declared it? And you are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no [other] Rock(Matthew 16:13-20 NIRV); I know not any.

God speaks with His own authority; He alone determines and knows all things!

9All who make graven idols are confusion, chaos, and worthlessness. Their objects (idols) in which they delight do not profit them, and their own witnesses (worshipers) do not see or know, so that they are put to shame.

10Who is [such a fool as] to fashion a god or cast a graven image that is profitable for nothing?

11Behold, all his fellows shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen, [how can they make a god?] they are but men. Let them all be gathered together, let them stand forth; they shall be terrified, they shall be put to shame together.

God now is describing those today who run after the "idols" in their lives and do not seek Him.

12The ironsmith sharpens and uses a chisel and works it over the coals; he shapes [the core of the idol] with hammers and forges it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.

13The carpenter stretches out a line, he marks it out with a pencil or red ocher; he fashions [an idol] with planes and marks it out with the compasses; and he shapes it to have the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, that it may dwell in a house.

14He hews for himself cedars, and takes the holm tree and the oak and lets them grow strong for himself among the trees of the forest; he plants a fir tree or an ash, and the rain nourishes it.

15Then it becomes fuel for a man to burn; a part of it he takes and warms himself, yes, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. [Then out of the remainder, the leavings] he also makes a god and worships it! He [with his own hands] makes it into a graven image and falls down and worships it!

16He burns part of the wood in the fire; with part of it he [cooks and] eats flesh, he roasts meat and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire!

17And from what is left [of the log] he makes a god, his graven idol. He falls down to it, he worships it and prays to it and says, Deliver me, for you are my god!

That is just like us human beings! We fashion "idols" for ourselves of a job, or possessions, or money, or relationships, etc., without realizing that all we are and all we receive is only because of God. He has made all things and He alone determines our path.

18They do not know or understand, for their eyes God has let become besmeared so that they cannot see, and their minds as well so that they cannot understand.

19And no one considers in his mind, nor has he knowledge and understanding [enough] to say [to himself], I have burned part of this log in the fire, and also I have baked bread on its coals and have roasted meat and eaten it. And shall I make the remainder of it into an abomination [the very essence of what is disgusting, detestable, and shamefully vile in the eyes of a jealous God]? Shall I fall down and worship the stock of a tree [a block of wood without consciousness or life]?

20That kind of man feeds on ashes [and finds his satisfaction in ashes]! A deluded mind has led him astray, so that he cannot release and save himself, or ask, Is not [this thing I am holding] in my right hand a lie?

Because we fail to recognize that God has given all to us, we unwittingly take credit and assume that what we have and do is because of our own efforts, and we rely on ourselves at our own peril.

21Remember these things [earnestly], O Jacob, O Israel, for you are My servant! I formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you shall not be forgotten by Me.

22I have blotted out like a thick cloud your transgressions, and like a cloud your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.

The New Living Translation says it this way,"I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Do you realize what you are reading here? Here is a prophecy about what Jesus would come to earth and do for us 700 years in the future from this writing. This is amazing stuff!

23Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, you depths of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and He glorifies Himself in Israel.

24Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He Who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, Who made all things, Who alone stretched out the heavens, Who spread out the earth by Myself [who was with Me]?--

25[I am the Lord] Who frustrates the signs and confounds the omens [upon which the false prophets' forecasts of the future are based] of the [boasting] liars and makes fools of diviners, Who turns the wise backward and makes their knowledge foolishness,(1 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

26[The Lord] Who confirms the word of His servant and performs the counsel of His messengers, Who says of Jerusalem, She shall [again] be inhabited, and of the cities of Judah, They shall [again] be built, and I will raise up their ruins,

27Who says to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers,

28Who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd (ruler), and he shall perform all My pleasure and fulfill all My purpose--even saying of Jerusalem, She shall [again] be built, and of the temple, Your foundation shall [again] be laid.

This is another prophecy of the Jews returning to Jerusalem at some future time, and the rebuilding of the Temple. ...The words are God's closing salutation and His statement that He alone is in charge of the affairs of mankind and He will determine all things.

Photo by Gautam Basu, Idol maker, Kumartuli, within Kolkata,India, is the main centre for idol making and thousands of idol making artists throughout the year, particularly in the season of "DurgaPuja", the biggest festive and religious occasion of Bengalees. Here one of such artists is seen busy at work.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Do You Believe? The Living Water - October 18, 2012

John 4:7-14 (New International Reader's Version)
7 A woman from Samaria came to get some water. Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" She said this because Jews don't have anything to do with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered her, "You do not know what God's gift is. And you do not know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would have asked him. He would have given you living water."

11 "Sir," the woman said, "you don't have anything to get water with. The well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

12 "Our father Jacob gave us the well. He drank from it himself. So did his sons and his flocks and herds. Are you more important than he is?"

13 Jesus answered, "All who drink this water will be thirsty again. 14 But anyone who drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give him will become a spring of water in him. It will flow up into eternal life."

John 7:37-39 (New International Version)
37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the [Holy]Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the [Holy]Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

According to sources at, "Your body is estimated to be about 60 to 70 percent water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. Your body needs water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all your organs. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs."

Since water is so essential for healthy operation of the human body, we have built in mechanisms to regulate and insure that we take in enough water. All of us have experienced the primary symptom from lack of water, thirst. Once we become thirsty, we focus on nothing else but getting something to drink. Nothing is more refreshing than a glass of cold water when you are thirsty, and because we are always active and our bodies are always using up the water that we are taking in, we seemingly have an unquenchable thirst that is never satisfied.

Jesus was used this the example of our unquenchable thirst for his illustration of the spiritual condition. We are born with a thirst in need of satisfaction. This thirst is described in these verses from Solomon:Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 (Amplified Bible)10I have seen the painful labor and exertion and miserable business which God has given to the sons of men with which to exercise and busy themselves. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

We are constantly looking for fulfillment in our lives, and to quench this "thirst" for something more. Many of us spend years lost in a pursuit of our own desires, only to find that the things of this world cannot satisfy. The more we pursue these things of the world, the deeper we fall into our sins, and the more desperate we are for relief. It is when we arrive at our time of deepest dispair and greatest "thirst" that we realize that we cannot be satisfied on our own. We have a need for something more and our true desire is to be ultimately loved by God.

Jesus offer us the "living water", the "living water" of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of our lost condition, and brings us ultimate satisfaction by revealing to us that God loves us. It is the spring of "living water" that constantly guides us through this life, showing us God's will and purpose. It leads us into a new and eternal life with God, and quenches our thirst for fulfillment and satisfaction.

But we cannot take the cup and drink from the "living water" until we first accept God's provision for our fallen spiritual condition. Jesus came to take away our sins by dying on the cross, and he rose again to prepare a place for us in eternity. Come and drink from the "living water" and satisfy the thirst in your soul.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Do You Believe? Jesus Is Lord - October 17, 2012

Psalm 110 (New International Version)

1 The LORD says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.

3 Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

4 The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

7 He will drink from a brook beside the way ;
therefore he will lift up his head.

Over 1000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, David, inspired through the Holy Spirit, wrote this prophetic psalm about Jesus. Here you can see the relationship between the God the Father (YHWH) and God the Son (Adonai). Even before the time of Jesus, this was thought of as a Messianic psalm by the Jews. It is generraly thought that in this psalm David speaks prophetically about the coming Son. It is a coronation psalm for the coming King-Priest, and the later judgement to come as you can read in this passage from the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 19:11-18 (New International Version)

The Rider on the White Horse
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:


17And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Although difficult to imagine, someday Jesus will be revealed to everyone, those who believed in Him and those who did not. Whose side do you want to be on when he does?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Do You Believe? What Jesus Claimed - October 16, 2012

John 10:22-33 (New International Version)
22Then came the Feast of Dedication(Hanukkah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

25Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"

33"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

Now I could probably site all kinds of research that has been done into Jesus' claim to be God. Any search engine can find plenty of information, both for and against the fact that Jesus is God, a distinct person of the Godhead. How can God consist as three persons? I do not have the understanding or wisdom needed to explain it. All I know is that the Bible that I believe is the indisputable, infallible and inerrant word of God tells me so, and I believe that if God can create the Universe, He can do something fairly easy, like keep His word straight.

People have sliced and diced the Bible for centuries and yet no one has really been able to disprove what it claims. Not that people haven't tried to twist the words through translation, in fact many of the religions that claim to be Christian and yet deny that Jesus is God, rely on their translation and changes rather than authoritative translations. Others have claimed that the Scriptures were corrupted in the 1st Century and subsequent translations have carried forward errors to this time. You might ask then, how can we rely on the translations that we have? The answer is that authoritative translations have been scrutinized and validated over time, and have been heavily supported by manuscript and other evidence(see my post from April 11, 2010).

If you have problems with what Jesus claimed as the Jews did in the verse noted above, that he was "mere man, yet claimed to be God", I would challenge you to do your own research with an open mind. I would go further and challenge you to research not only the positive but the negative claims. I can confidently say without a doubt that if you will honestly research the validity of the Bible and the claims therein, you would come to belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

I like the way C.S. Lewis, the author of the well-known children's book series, The Chronicles of Narnia, said it in his book Mere Christianity. In Mere Christianity, Lewis makes this profound and logical argument:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse."

"You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.":

Painting Jesus Teaching in the Temple, by James Tissot

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Do You Believe? Who Is Jesus? - October 15, 2012

John 1:1-5,14,17-18 (New International Reader's Version)
1 In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him. 4 Life was in him, and that life was the light for all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not understood it.
14 The Word became a human being. He made his home with us. We have seen his glory. It is the glory of the one and only Son. He came from the Father. And he was full of grace and truth.
17 Moses gave us the law. Jesus Christ has given us grace and truth.18 No one has ever seen God. But God, the one and only Son, is at the Father's side. He has shown us what God is like.

Philippians 2:6-8 (New International Reader's Version)
6 In his very nature he was God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something he should hold on to.

7 Instead, he made himself nothing. He took on the very nature of a servant. He was made in human form.

8 He appeared as a man. He came down to the lowest level. He obeyed God completely, even though it led to his death. In fact, he died on a cross.

The single most devisive issue that has always faced Christianity is the existence and nature of Jesus. This sets Christianity apart from all of the other faiths, and it has even led to divisions among those who call themselves "Christian" as well. This dispute is what ultimately caused the execution of Jesus, because although Jesus was fully a man, he represented himself to be equal to God:

John 5:17-19 (New International Version)
17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

There is no question in my mind or the mind of scholars over the past two thousand years that Jesus existed. Although there is some dispute that the entire passage is genuine to the author, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote in the late 1st Century about Jesus in his Testimonium Flavianum, as it is popularly called:

Antiquities 18.3.3 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.

I have linked to the comments to the passage and the criticisms for and against authenticity, and I would suggest that you read the foundations for this secular reference to the existence of Jesus.

In addition to this and other secular references, the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an, supports the existence of Jesus. Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Qur'an and although Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet from God before Muhammad, the very fact that Islam chooses to define Jesus' nature validates his existence. The Qur'an was written in the 7th Century, and if you take time to read the passages, you will find many parallels to Biblical writings about Jesus, with a slight twist to conform to their theology. Wikipedia does a good job of covering this topic, and you can find great links to English versions of the Qur'anic passages about Jesus to study for yourself.

Where am I going with this? Well, to study and comment on the nature of Jesus, you need to first agree that he exists and walked this earth, and in providing extra-Biblical support I seek to answer any arguments that someone might have against this fact.

(A careful study of these and other secular and Christian sources can be found referenced at

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Do You Believe? Skeptics &Scoffers - October 14, 2012

2 Peter 3:3-5 (New International Reader's Version)
3 First of all, here is what you must understand. In the last days people will make fun of the truth. They will laugh at it. They will follow their own evil longings. 4 They will say, "Where is this 'return' he promised? Everything goes on in the same way it has since our people of long ago died. In fact, it has continued that way since God first created everything."

5 Long ago, God's word brought the heavens into being. His word separated the earth from the waters. And the waters surrounded it. But those people forget things like that on purpose.

Think about it. Why do you think that anything about Christianity is constantly under attack? Why is it that every Christmas and Easter season, especially in the United States the belief in the God of the Bible and the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross is always under attack? This past Easter season the Discovery Channel aired a program questioning the validity and accuracy of the events of the crucifixion and resurrection, and you can always count on Newsweek and other magazines to have a cover story that seeks to diminish or criticize our belief.

I watched recently on the National Geographic as skeptics and very "learned" men studied and speculated the validity of the Shroud of Turin. Right after that program was one stating that the story of Noah's Ark was a myth. Programs like this disputing something concerning our faith can be seen almost daily on television and the assault on Christianity does not let up. Then there are the movies such as the Da Vinci Code, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Golden Compass, Religulous, Jesus Camp, Dogma, and many others. It seems at every turn anything Christian is ridiculed, slandered and discounted.

Why do other major religions, such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism get a pass? Have you seen any program doubting the prophetic visions of Mohammed, or that he traveled to and from Heaven from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? Have you seen anything criticizing the Buddhist belief of re-incarnation and the endless cycle of suffering and rebirth? Did you see any program that called into question the Hindu moral law of cause and effect called karma? The many programs about these faiths tend to lift them up, venerate and revere them, and yet anything having to do with Christianity unless its produced by Christians is always presented in a negative light.

I see it like this...the reason Christianity is always under attack is because it must be true. Our faith believes that we are all fallen sinners in need of a personal Savior. God hates sin and we cannot have any hope of being reconciled to Him on our own efforts( if you study all of the other religions, they are about how you have to do something to be made right with God, or you get numerous do-overs until you get it right). Jesus Christ, became a man and led a sinless life preaching, teaching and healing, and although he was innocent of any crime, he was executed on a cross on our behalf(of course this does not make sense, because how could anyone give up their own life to save the lives of others?) Then proving that He was God, he stepped out of the grave and appeared to over 500 of his followers before returning to Heaven. And if we put our faith, hope and trust in Him for our eternal salvation our lives will be radically changed here on earth and for eternity. Wow! Now that is something wild to believe in!

John 15:18-25 (New International Reader's Version)
18 "Does the world hate you? Remember that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you like one of its own. But you do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
20 "Remember the words I spoke to you. I said, 'A servant is not more important than his master.'—(John 13:16) If people hated me and tried to hurt me, they will do the same to you. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you like that because of my name. They do not know the One who sent me.

22 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Those who hate me hate my Father also.

24 "I did miracles among them that no one else did. If I hadn't, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen those miracles. And still they have hated both me and my Father. 25 This has happened so that what is written in their Law would come true. It says, 'They hated me without any reason.'—(Psalms 35:19; 69:4)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What Do You Believe? The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - October 13, 2012

Genesis 1:26 (New American Standard Bible)
26Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

Genesis 3:22 (New American Standard Bible)
22Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"--

Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Now this is a hard one to wrap my head around, but it is essentially the most important doctrine that defines true Christianity. Essential, because how you treat this subject determines whether you believe in truth or a heresy.Understanding this essential of Christianity determines whether or not you are following the truth that saves you, or an inerrant doctrine that condemns you. Wow! That is pretty strong, but it is very important that you know the difference between truth and error when it comes to the very nature of God.

What I am talking about is the doctrine of the Trinity or Tri-unity of God. For Christians this is probably a term you have heard about, and you may have a limited understanding of the concept. Since I have complete confidence in the inerrant and in fallible word of God found in the Bible, the verses I give above settles the question for me. In every translation and the original languages the contexts are the same. Our Triune God was present at Creation, and Jesus as the second person of the Trinity commanded all disciples to baptize in the names of all three persons of the Godhead.

In trying to explain how the Trinity exists, and I hope you will excuse me in noting this, but I have always used the very weak and simplistic analogy of a chicken's egg (How can you really explain the complex and inexplicable nature of our awesome God?). A chicken egg has three distinct components (actually you might divide an egg even further, but hang with me on this one), the outer covering of shell and shell membrane, the egg's white, and the egg's yolk. Each of these components are separate and essential to the egg. All co-exist together and together they are the egg.

Ben Rast with Contender Ministries puts it this way in an article he writes on the ministry's website,"We may never fully understand the nature of God until we get into heaven. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal. Our finite created minds are unable to fully grasp these characteristics of God." He further states, "The doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up as follows: Within the one Being that is God, there exist eternally three co-equal and co-eternal Persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In order to prove this doctrine we must prove the following, there is only one God, the Father is God, Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons."

This doctrine is upheld in the Nicene Creed which we studied a few days ago, and you may want to take a look at the creed and study it further. I have also provided the links to study further the proofs for the Trinity. You will also find information on various cults that call themselves Christian, but do not believe in the same nature of God as we do. These include Mormonism, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witness, and what I believe is the very dangerous Oneness Pentacostalism, Jesus Only or Holiness Churches.

In fact many well-intentioned evangelical pastors today embrace Oneness pastors, which has been the criticism of T.D.Jakes,Phillips, Craig,& Dean and others. I am concerned that many new Christians may be led astray if they do not fully understand the differences. Before embracing the teaching of any pastor or church, you need to examine their beliefs in reference to orthodox Chritian theology that has been with us since Jesus and defined by the church fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries. If you have any questions, please be sure to study the links and to send me any questions that you might have.

Bottom line is this, to be a true Christian, you need to believe that our God is a Triune God, and within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three co-equal and co-eternal Persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Any other doctrine out there should be considered as incorrect.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Do You Believe? Blinded From The Truth - October 12, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:1-5 (New Living Translation)
1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

3 If the Good News (The Gospel) we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.

This is not an easy subject. Sometime it is really difficult. What I am saying is as much as people try to believe in the God of the Bible, and to accept the gift of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross for mankind's sins, it is a tall order for people who are unbelievers to suddenly give up their skepticism and become believers. Why is this?

The main reason is that the lifestyle that is promoted by the world and the values it espouses blinds people to the wickedness in which they are trapped in. That is what is meant by "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe". Our world has been so blinded by what is called "relativism"("what is right for one person may not necessarily be right for another", "that's true for you but not for me"),that absolute truth and what is morally right and wrong has been distorted, "veiled", from those who are perishing, dying in their sins.

My making the statement that people are "dying in their sins" is considered very controversial in our culture today. Why? Just a few decades ago, especially in the United States, moral absolutes were very easy to identify, and everyone was measured against a Judeo-Christian standard of right and wrong. But because of the failure of Christians to become engaged in the culture during the last several decades, this worship of relativism slowly crept in and the belief in God's absolute truth began to be diminished, until today these Judeo-Christian values are in danger of being eliminated from our culture. We may even see a day when upholding and speaking out for these values in our country will be considered a crime, as it is in many countries in this world.

A good way to test this theory about the erosion of values can be found by watching the Turner Movie Channel. On it you will find screenings of movies from the 1930's,1940's and 1950's. Compare those movies to those made today. The values portrayed by Hollywood then are not the values portrayed by Hollywood today.

And you need only look into the lives of most popular actors of today, and you will see the "fall-out" this has caused in their lives. It has also caused massive fall-out in the lives of those who mimic their lifestyle. Today you also see these same problems creeping into the lives of our politicians, professional atheletes, and other "famous" people that the culture idolizes.

I would probably be safe in saying that the majority of people would not want to see their children or grandchildren exhibiting these lifestyles or behaviors, whether they are believers or not. Today's cultural values, exhibited on television and in the movies, in our schools and halls of government, are not those that will ulitmately sustain our culture.

This is my message. If you are a Christian and you believe in the plan of God, you need to become engaged first in what you believe and then get engaged in the culture. Take this research and study into "What Do You Believe" and answer that question for yourself. Pick up the references and your Bible and become solid in your faith. Know what you should know.

If you are a non-believer, you need to take a close look at yourself and see if the life you are leading is really one that you can be proud of on your deathbed. Hate to sound morbid, but a hundred years from now everyone reading this will physically be in the same place. You have an opportunity to get your life on the right path; the path God has laid out first for your salvation and then for your lifestyle. As Paul says it in his letter to the Corinthians,"You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake." Turn your life over to Jesus Christ today.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Do You Believe? The Nicene Creed - October 11, 2012

John 12:44-50 (New Century Version)
44 Then Jesus cried out, "Whoever believes in me is really believing in the One who sent me. 45 Whoever sees me sees the One who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world so that whoever believes in me would not stay in darkness.

47 "Anyone who hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge, because I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for those who refuse to believe in me and do not accept my words. The word I have taught will be their judge on the last day.49 The things I taught were not from myself. The Father who sent me told me what to say and what to teach. 50 And I know that eternal life comes from what the Father commands. So whatever I say is what the Father told me to say."

On most Sundays in churches around the world, countless Christians make a profession of their faith using the words of the Nicene Creed. As a teenager I went through the "rigors" of confirmation and had to memorize this an other creeds. Did I understand what I was stating? Probably not; it was just one of those things that young people that attended denominational churches were required to do to be considered a "member" and professing Christian. Unfortunately, many who recite this creed do not clearly understand what they are saying, and it has become so ingrained into the memories of church members, that it has lost much of its meaning in the hearts of prophesing Christians.

In the face of heresies that began to arise in the young Christian church, there arose a need for the leaders of the church to come together and commit to writing what Christians believed. A council of bishops, the Council of Nicea, was called by the Emperor Constantine in the year 325 A.D. and served to repudiate the heresy that had arisen and confirm the nature of God, and the relationship of the Trinity.

Immediately after this council, additional challenges arose and necessitated more definative additions to the creed at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. This has given us in essence the creed many denominational Christians profess today. While not necessarily rejecting the Nicene Creed as erroneous, some evangelical and other Christians, on the basis of their "by scripture alone" view, consider it as in no way authoritative because it is not part of the Bible, and do not recite it in their services.

Over the next few days, as we dig more deeply into what we believe, we will dissect this creed along with other believer's creeds and look into biblical support of what these creeds state. Here is the text of the modern version of the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,begotten, not made,of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Do You Believe? Is the Bible Reliable? - October 10, 2012

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New International Version)
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Do you believe the Bible verse above? Originally I intended to go through a long discourse in order to present the proof texts and historical evidences for the reliablity and validity of the Bible. This can be easily found through careful study of books on the subject. But, if you call yourself a Christian and you truly are a believer, the truth is easier to discern because of your personal experience, and the confirmation you receive from the truth that lives in you.

"All Scripture is God-breathed." - This statement is true for me because I have experienced a whole new life that can be found in Bible. During my many years, I studied the world's religions and surveyed a number of religious texts, and none of them had "life" in their words as the Bible did. I would challenge anyone seeking the truth to go to the library or bookstore and study the other religious texts. You will understand what I mean.

When you have reached out and surrendered yourself to God, and you have asked for Him to reveal Himself to you, the Bible takes on a whole new character. Rather than just being words on a page or historical text, it "comes alive" and reveals things to your spirit that you never knew. And each time you read a particular verse or passage, it can take on a whole new, deeper meaning. To me, that confirms that the Bible is "God-breathed".

"Is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"- As you open up the pages of the Bible, and as you prayerfully read with and open mind and an open heart, the Spirit of God will reveal things to you in the verses that are useful and helpful for daily living.

For those of you who believe yourselves to be a Christian, have you ever had a problem that really bothered you, and as you read through your Bible, you suddenly found the answer you needed to resolve that problem? This has been the case for me on countless occassions. To me, that confirms that the Bible is "useful".

"So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."- As I try to live out my Christian life in this world, I need to know that help is their when I need it. I need to know that I can count not only on knowing the rules, the do's and the don'ts, but I need to know that I can find the stuff that really matters. The stuff that changes lives and helps other people.

I need to be able to rely on something to help me find the right answers. The word of God found in the Bible does that for me; it "equips" me for each and everything I do as I try to pattern my life after the life of Jesus Christ. It teaches me how to love and how to live. To me, that confirms that the Bible is "reliable"

Those who have a difficult time understanding the Bible need to do two things. First, approach God in prayer and surrender yourself completely to Him; give up your selfishness, your arrogance and your stubbornness. Then pour your heart out to Him, and "clean yourself up", leaving all your junk with Him. Admit that you can't live this life by yourself. Second, ask God to reveal Himself to you; ask for his Holy Spirit to open your mind to how He wants you to lead your life. Ask Him to give you direction through His word. I know for a fact that He will do this for you.

As we seek to understand what we believe, we will need to rely on the solid, truthful, word of God found in the Bible as our most treasured proof text. You have to be confident that you believe what it says completely. You can't pick or chose just because some of what it says may be "convicting". Yes, as you dig deeper in the Bible, it will make you uncomfortable, and it may even annoy you. But this revelation is for your benefit. It is God's Spirit telling you what is right or wrong for your life. Once you have this firm foundation, understanding what you believe will be much easier to know.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Do You Believe? Why Bother? - October 9, 2012

1 Peter 3:14-16 (New King James Version)
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”[Isaiah 8:12]

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

You may be wondering why I am focusing on the topic of "what do you believe", rather than on other things in this blog. You might find this a little boring, and it might not be that important to you. The reason I chose to spend time on this is due to a prompting I received by the Holy Spirit. You know, those thoughts or impressions that you feel are from God about what you should do. I learned long ago that when I have those, I need to pay attention and listen to what God is trying to tell me.

Some time ago I became aware that many people were going through the motions of being a Christian. The world around us would choose to ignore what we believe and fight Christianity at any cost. Each and everyday our Judeo-Christian heritage comes under assault and in many cases it is being removed from public places by the secular and politically correct activists.

In many churches today, there are many people going through the motions,and because of lack of knowledge, and of what it truly means to be a Christian, they succumb to false doctrines and liberal interpretations of scripture. These many well meaning believers are ill-equipped to carry on an intelligent defense of the hope that is in them. There are people who may read this blog that may not be certain of what they believe, and this uncertainty can lead dangerous consequences when faced with a growing and oppressive opposition.

My goal is to provide information that will help confirm your faith and equip you to be able to handle yourself when faced with questions from skeptics, or to assist you when you share your faith. It is meant to give you a clearer understanding of what it means to truly be a Christian, to take a look at the basis for the truth of Christianity. Once you examine the doctrines needed to understand, to believe and to uphold, my hope is that you will have a more solid foundation with which to face the future and defend what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Oh, by the way, there are many today in this world that are having to defend their faith in Jesus Christ, and they are being persecuted and even killed for doing so. The photograph above is of a Pakistani Christian woman that we all need to pray for; here is her story:

Global Petition Drive Launched To Save Pakistani Christian Woman on Death Row - "A global petition drive to stop the execution of a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges was launched this week by a Christian persecution watchdog group. Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) joined an existing petition drive that already collected more than 150,000 signatures from Christians in Pakisthan to plead for the life and release of Asia Bibi, 45, a wife and mother of five. If a current appeal of her case is rejected, Bibi would be the first woman to be executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Her death sentence was handed down nine months ago. She has been in prison for two years since the initial blasphemy charge. Bibi was arrested by police on June 19, 2009, and charged with blasphemy after she engaged in a discussion about her Christian faith with co-workers. She is currently confined to a prison cell near Faisalabad, according to VOM."

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Do You Believe? Manuscript Evidence - October 8, 2012

Psalm 33:4 (New International Version)
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

If you are going to base your belief in a faith, what better way to do it than to trust in the manuscripts and texts that contain the narrative about the faith you believe in. Many skeptics discount the Bible based on things they have heard or the rantings of professors in schools and universities, but very few have taken on the task of investigating for themselves the validity of the Bible. I bet if you have someone who criticizes your faith in Christianity and the Bible, they most likely have never studied the Bible, much less even taken the time to read it.

A criticism that arises about the Bible from skeptics and many evangelicals of other faiths is that the Bible is unreliable as a text. They claim that it has been "corrupted" over the centuries, and translated so many times that what we have today is far from the original text. Did you know that there are more surviving manuscript copies of the Bible than any other ancient book in history?

Principle to this is the New Testament which was originally written in Greek. Although it has not been shown that any originals have survived the almost 2000 years since its writing, it has over 5,656 surviving manuscript copies in Greek, and over 19,284+ in 14 other languages. The first fragments of copies have been dated to 114 AD, just 50+ years after the original was written. When you study the copies for the accuracy of the translation for meaning, context and doctrine, they are essentially the same.

In comparison the closest other writing of antiquity with the greatest number of surviving manuscript copies is the Roman author Homer's Iliad which has 683 surviving copies, the first having been written 400 years after the original was written. (There is more historical manuscript evidence for the people of the Bible than there is evidence for the existence of Julius Caesar, and yet I have never heard of anyone that disputes that he was a historical figure?)

We are very fortunate that Josh McDowell and other researchers took the time to document and investigate the Bible. He has carefully documented many of the historical sources for the manuscript evidence. Please take the time to pick up his book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Lee Strobel also covers his investigative study of the documentary evidence in his book, The Case for Christ. You will benefit from these two books for the references that they provide.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What Do You Believe? Atheist; Skeptic; Believer - October 7, 2012

Titus 2:7 (New Living Translation)
7 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

2 Timothy 2:25 (New Living Translation)
25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

There is nothing better than the example of a changed heart and life to act as a witness to the truth and validity of Christianity. For many of us it was a wonderful Christian witness, whose life and example led us to embrace and follow Jesus. As we study the truth of Christianity, we will also look to a source whose desire to examine these truths were due to a close personal example.

"For much of my life I was a skeptic. In fact, I considered myself an atheist. To me, there was far too much evidence that God was merely a product of wishful thinking, of ancient mythology, of primitive superstition."
"Let's face it: even a cursory examination of the evidence demonstrates convincingly that Jesus had only been a human being just like you and me, although with unusual gifts of kindness and wisdom.

But that's all I had ever really given the evidence: a cursory look. I had read just enough philosophy and history to find support for my skepticism- a fact here, a scientific theory there, a pithy quote, a clever argument. Sure, I could see some gaps and inconsistencies, but I had strong motivation to ignore them: a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus."

"It wasn't a phone call from an informant(reference to an earlier story)that prompted me to re-examine the case for Christ. It was my wife.

Leslie stunned me in the autumn of 1979 by announcing that she had become a Christian. I rolled my eyes and braced for the worst, feeling like the victim of a bait-and-switch scam. I had married one Leslie- the fun Leslie, the carefree Leslie, the risk-taking Leslie and now I feared she was going to turn into some sort of ...repressed prude who would trade our upwardly mobile lifestyle for all-night prayer vigils and volunteer work in grimy soup kitchens.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised- even fascinated- by the fundamental changes in her character, her integrity, and her personal confidence. Eventually I wanted to get to the bottom of what was prompting these subtle but significant shifts in my wife's attitudes, so I launched an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding the case for Christianity." - Lee Strobel(Excerpts from The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus)

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, is a former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of nearly twenty books and has been interviewed on numerous national television programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News, and CNN.

Lee was educated at the University of Missouri (Bachelor of Journalism degree, 1974) and Yale Law School (Master of Studies in Law degree, 1979). He was a professional journalist for 14 years at The Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, winning Illinois’ top honors for investigative reporting (which he shared with a team he led) and public service journalism from United Press International.

After a nearly two-year investigation of the evidence for Jesus, Lee received Christ as his forgiver and leader in 1981. He joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, in 1987, and later became a teaching pastor there. He joined Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, as a teaching pastor in 2000. He left Saddleback’s staff in mid-2002 to focus on writing. He is also a contributing editor and columnist for Outreach magazine. (Bio from

From the above noted and other books by Lee, we will gain the benefit of his journalistic approach in examining the truths for what we believe.