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The Relationship

Man and woman outdoors clasping hands, close-up

Connect. For the love of God, connect.

There is a person I know whom God has put on my heart, an unbeliever so far from Christ it seems impossible she could be saved.

But all things are possible for Him.

This person speaks out often against religion and is committed to atheism. I’ve been praying and waiting for the right moment to speak, for speaking at the wrong moment can spell disaster.

Recently, this person said something and the Spirit said, “Speak. Speak now.”

The person said, “Religion is destroying the world. People are ruined by it and they don’t need it or any other silly superstitions.”

I said, “So you have no beliefs at all beyond the natural? For you it’s just survival of the fittest? Your immediate needs and that’s it?”

“No,” the person replied, “I do believe in karma, that people end up getting what they deserve.”

“So? That’s a religion. There’s no “god” or whatever, but you believe in something more. Something beyond the natural, because science says that’s bunk. There’s just what’s in front of you.”

“Well, I’d call it a belief system. It’s not a religion.” the person explained.

“Oh, then we may have different definitions of religion then. Sounds like your definition is like rules and rituals and so forth.” I said.

“That’s right.” the person clarified.

“In that case I’m not religious either and I agree with you as well. What I am a part of is about a relationship. I believe there is a Being who transcends everything and Who created everything. I believe the most important thing in a person’s life is to have a relationship with this Person.”

“Oh,” the person said, “Well that’s different, that’s good then.”

For all the miles this person has to go before they are even close to responding to the Gospel, we moved an inch today. But I praise God, because due to our human nature, that person shouldn’t have moved at all.

But that’s not why I am posting this. I am posting this because as I drove home something hit me.

I am religious. I observe rules and rituals. I have not been pursuing God as a relationship.

A fire that had long lay dormant within me kindled, and I began to weep. I pray every day, but how long had it been since I was so enraptured with His presence that I had to be torn away from it? I read the Bible almost every day, but how long had it been since I opened my Bible with eagerness the way a wife embraces her husband after he has been on a long journey?

Too long.

Takeaways:

  1. Engage the Lost. You will learn as much from bouncing what you believe off them as anything else. We Christians are far too good at patting each other on the back.
  2. Forget your problems. God actually commands this of us. We should focus on our relationship with Him. All good works will flow from that relationship. We don’t do good to know God, we do good because we know Him.
  3. Check your affections. How much affection do you have for Christ? This is something we should check on a daily basis as we should with our spouses.
  4. Relationships are of highest importance. God first, and others second, but for the love of our Lord, connect. I feel like I’ve kept everyone, including God, at a distance. Do not do this. God is all about relationships. That is what matters.
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Sanctification

 

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The Master Sword

10521-link-the-legend-of-zelda-0915

Hint: this one is hidden behind a tombstone. You’re welcome.

“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”

Many people of my generation will get chills at these words. They are the words of an old man in a cave in the very first Legend of Zelda game. The cave is on the very first screen, and if you are foolish enough to ignore it, you will never survive.

The old man gives you a sword. Your first sword. There are two others of course, but without this first weapon you will never be able to defeat a single creature, let alone save princess Zelda and recover the Triforce.

The funny thing is, you do start with a shield. The shield is important because it allows you to deflect arrows and other missiles that might smite your character. But the shield cannot strike back. You can deflect attacks, but without the sword you cannot launch any of your own.

And attack you must, because the evil forces of Ganon will not hesitate to cut you down. The monsters of the dungeons will not give up their pieces of the Triforce until you pry them from their cold dead claws.

Along your quest, you’ll even come across a variety of useful items. A magic ring. An everburning candle. A ladder. A raft. A boomerang. But none of these things can clear away your true foes, only the sword can do that.

Paul the Apostle understood the importance of an offensive weapon. In Ephesians 6 he says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

Paul explains that we Christians are also at war. He explains we cannot fight this war with conventional weapons because our enemies are not of this world. Our enemies are spiritual foes, and so with spiritual weapons must we wage war against them. Paul describes the full armor of God, made up of many pieces which are all vital to our survival in the conflict. Paul however only describes one offensive weapon: the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is, the Bible.

Like our hero Link, it is the Sword that pierces the darkness. It is the Sword which will vanquish our foes. The rest of the armor of God can protect us from attacks, but it cannot put down the enemy. Unless we take up the Sword, our enemies shall multiply all around us until we tire and let down our shield and our guard. We will be defeated through attrition. To be victorious, we must take up the Sword and smote our enemies with the truth. Only then can we proceed to loot the treasure of the monster, the lost souls of the ungodly.

Christ has bound the strong man by His victory on the Cross and has sworn that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against our assault. But if we come empty handed before the gates of Hell, we cannot sunder them aside nor clear the path of the principalities and powers that dwell therein. Only with the Sword can we do this, and if we have the Sword it shall not fail us.

Therefore take up the Sword. Read the Word of God. Train with it by reading and meditating on it daily. Commit its sacred passages to memory and become as one with the sacred and righteous weapon of God that can demolish strongholds. Then no enemy can stand against you and the prizes that are human souls will be won to our God.

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Remember, it’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in The Bible

 

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My Friend in the Dungeon

dungeonIn days of plenty He has upheld and sustained me.

In hours of fortune He is there to prosper me.

I praise Him for the good days, the rays of sunshine on my face.

But it is not these days for which my praise knows no end.

There are days of darkness, times of deep shadow that stretch into night unending.

My time in the dungeon. The dungeon of my mind.

No escape from myself. No relief from the pain.

Tormented from within, fears without. I am rotting inside.

Then I cry to Him, “Abba, Father!”

And He comes to me in my dungeon, where no friend can visit and no loved one can bring succor.

He stays and comforts me in my time in the dark. He watches over me and cares for me.

He catches my tears. He cares deeply for my sorrows.

When the time is right, He speaks a word and the doors swing open. He leads me outside into the sunshine.

I breathe the free air, and I remember my Savior. His name is Yahweh. His name is Jesus. He is my King.

He is my Friend.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Sanctification

 

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Love and Marriage

wedding-_rings_on_bibleThe culture shift towards diluting the God-ordained institution of marriage should call out Christians to all-out war. Not fighting with words of hate, but by standing by our spouses and building God-fearing families in a world that says such things are foolish and irrelevant.

We say that God’s way works and the World’s does not. (1 Jn 2:15-17) Let us prove this by showing it to them. Put aside the petty arguments with your spouse. Stop ignoring your kids. Our marriages are the symbol of Christ and His Church. (Eph 5:32) Just as Moses ruined God’s message by striking the rock instead of speaking to it, we ruin God’s message when husbands do not love their wives and children and when wives do not respect their husbands.  (Pr 30:21-23, Eph 5:22-33)

If we live as God commands, and build our families upon the Rock of Christ, then our enemies in the World will be put to shame. They will be ashamed when they have no real accusation to bring against us. (1 Pet 3:16) And some of them may yet escape the snare of the Enemy who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim 2:24-26) Love the captives, rage against the captor.

Remember our mission, to take the Gospel to all the world and to make disciples in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. (Matt 28:16-20) We are not here to win political battles, but living souls.

This is a battle which will require sacrifice. We must love our spouses when they are unlovable, for Christ loved us while we were yet sinners and died for us. We must work hard and go the extra mile to raise our children: loving them, disciplining them, cherishing them, guiding them. This will mean sacrificing personal time, career goals, and heaven-forbid...money. But the victory will reach further than just our family, though that would be enough. It may make the difference in human souls.

“Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Sanctification

 

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An Unexpected Sermon

lectureIn 2009 I sat in a classroom at Tennessee Technological University under the teaching of a certain professor. The last thing I ever expected was a sermon on the ways of men versus the way of God, but midway through a lecture on public speaking my professor broke into this speech (paraphrased):

“You have your way. God has His way. God’s way don’t seem to work, it don’t seem to make sense to us. But it does work. I can testify to that. I’ve walked His way for many years, and it always works. Then you’ve got your way. It seems to work. It makes sense to you. But listen to me, it don’t work at all. You won’t get anywhere with your way, no matter how good it looks to you. It will leave you unsatisfied, but God’s way won’t. That’s the truth of it. You can do it your way, ain’t nobody gonna stop you, but it won’t work. It just won’t. Anyways, back to the lesson.”

Simple, true. I have never forgotten it.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Sanctification

 

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Eschatology Part Three: Know the Bible

Bible-ReadingThis post is part of a series. See part one here and part two here.

Rule One: It’s none of your business.

Rule Two: No one is right.

Rule Three: Know the Bible.

So you still want to study eschatology? Alright. So by know you realize and accept that you cannot figure it all out and no human ever has. Good.

Now read the Bible. All of it. Cover to cover. Genesis to the maps.

Unless you are willing to take in the whole counsel of God, you will never understand the End of Days. The great and glorious Day of the Lord is the culmination and consummation of all of God’s plans for humanity. It is a wonderful and complex event that will change everything, forever. Like the ending to any great novel or film, one cannot skip to the end and expect to understand what is going on.

First, most people believe that the go-to book is Revelation on the End Times, but this is not true. Revelation contains a lot of End Times information, but most of it is a rehash of more detailed information that was already inspired in earlier books of prophecy in the Old Testament. So trying to pull all your information out of Revelation is like trying to pass an essay exam on the Cliff Notes (hint: it won’t work). (If you do want a short version of the End Times, Jesus Himself laid out a concise view in passages like Matthew 24.)

Secondly, God is good to tell us plainly what we must know about things like salvation and the End Times in very clear language, but He tends to hide the deeper meaning within His Word for those with a thirst to actually seek it. For example, you can read just one Gospel and learn enough about Jesus and His work to be saved and spend eternity in glory with the Holy One, but if you read all four Gospels, you will be blessed with a deeper understanding of the Messiah. If you read the whole New Testament, you will gain more wisdom and an even greater blessing. And should you read the whole of Scripture, you will uncover that the entire codex is about Christ. From the moment of Creation through the Fall, the patriarchs, the Law, the judges, the kings and prophets, you will discover, to your blessing, that Christ is hidden in every page.
It is the same with the mystery of the End Times. There is important information in Genesis which is every bit as key to understanding the End of Days as the information in 2nd Kings as the information in Daniel as the information in Revelation. It’s all interconnected, and if you do not know it, you will not understand it. I will not sit down for a serious discussion of the End Times with anyone who hasn’t read the entire Bible at least once.

Thirdly, there’s this old proverb: “There’s a reason Revelation is in the back.” We chuckle at this, and while funny, it is also true. When the Church fathers gathered to make the final decisions on the Bible’s canon, they were torn over the issue of Revelation. It was a complex book that even they didn’t fully understand, and they feared that ignorant people would read it and draw terribly erroneous conclusions about it, creating heresies and leading people astray. In the end they were undeniably convicted that it was, without a doubt, the Word of God, and could not be excluded from canon. So they put it at the very end, hoping people would have enough sense to read the rest of the Bible first before reading it. Despite their best efforts, their worst fears did come true, and we suffer today from a near endless supply of madmen using Revelation as their weapon of choice.

While we have discussed much in earlier posts about how understanding the End Times is not essential to Christian life, it should follow than any serious student of the Word will have an opinion on the subject. Whenever I hear someone say “I really don’t have an End Times view,” I know that really means “I don’t study my Bible much.” Before my pastor challenged me to read the entire Bible, I too had no strong opinions on eschatology. “The major views all have merit, I don’t really know which one I believe.” was my reply. I did not begin my reading to uncover the answer to eschatology, I just wanted to know God’s Word and know His heart better. As I read, however, I uncovered something glorious. A story. A wonderful, beautiful story about a Hero who sacrificed everything to win the heart of a rebellious and sinful people. I also began (began mind) to understand something of how that story will play out in the end. I don’t know much, but what I know is glorious beyond reason. I also believe it will end just as it began, in suffering. For if we share in His suffering, we will share in His resurrection. (Philippians 3:10-11) I did not intend to build up my eschatology when I read through the Bible, but it happened anyways. You might not intend to try and figure out the plot to a mystery novel when you read it, but you do it anyways. It’s in our nature to unpack mysteries.

I’m not going to reveal my particular beliefs on eschatology here. That is just one of those things I will only discuss in a personal conversation face to face. What I have tried to do here is help you on your way to discovering the truth about the End. If my beliefs have any merit at all, then I can trust you to discover it for yourself in the Bible. Here are a few final bullet tips on studying eschatology.

1. Study eschatology as one not studying it. That is, you enter this study not to simply figure out the End of the story, but the truth about the Storyteller. Any venture I’ve made into Scripture to prove a point or figure out a mystery has failed. However, when I have studied the Bible to better understand God, I have often gained wisdom into those hard subjects I could not earlier discern.

2. Read the entire Bible without commentary. Don’t read any other books on eschatology either. Avoid any outside opinions and let the Holy Spirit teach you.

3. Pray often for discernment as you read.

4. Keep a journal on everything God teaches you while reading.

5. When you finish reading the entire Bible, I guarantee you will have your own, genuine opinion on eschatology, among other things!

6. Now, test your theories by comparing them to those of others. I strongly encourage you to seek out not only the latest authors, but those of bygone eras as well. There are many ideas which have only sprung up over the last 100 years or so that probably are nothing but hot air. Romanian Pastor Elijah Morar once told me, “If someone discovers something they believe to be totally new in Scripture today, then it is either not new or heresy.” It doesn’t hurt that many of the older books are also now free, either.

7. Never stop learning or reach a point where you become unteachable. Always be willing to change your views, but be unwilling that anything other than Scripture do so.

Those are my recommendations for approaching eschatological study. Enjoy the journey, remember all is for the glory of God.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Eschatology

 

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Spiritual Blindness

First, go and watch this video.

Did you go an watch it? If not, you must for this to make sense. I’ll wait.

What is happening to you in this video (as long as you’ve never seen it before) is called inattentional blindness.

Daniel Simons at youarenotsosmart.com says,

“What is inattentional blindness? It’s missing something right in front of your eyes because you are paying attention to something else. What makes that a great topic for You Are Not So Smart is that this blindness is always part of experience, but you can spend a lifetime without ever knowing it happens. You tend to have an intuition and a belief that you see everything you are facing, and if something out of the ordinary was to happen, it would instantly grab your attention. Not so. Science has revealed you are basically blind to that which you are not attentive, yet your conscious experience and your memories don’t reflect this.”

Humans are arrogant and prideful. We believe that if we could see it, we will see it, especially if it were odd or important. This test has proven scientifically that no, we would not. If our attention is focused elsewhere, we will never see it. Only when your attention is called away from the basketball players and onto the gorilla do you finally see him.

Humans don’t just have inattentional blindness when it comes to physical vision, either. The Scriptures tell us that humans also have a kind of spiritual blindness that prevents them from seeing God or understanding the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 3:11, 1st Corinthians 2:14)

I believe these three truths tell us that the reason humans cannot see or understand+ the Gospel on their own effort is similar to our problem with inattentional blindness in the physical realm. We see only that which our attention is focused on. Paul’s sweeping condemnation of all mankind in Romans 1 explains that when humanity threw out the knowledge of God long ago in the garden, we began to focus on the created things instead of the Creator, namely ourselves. Therefore, although the Creator is plain to us through His creation, we don’t see Him for the same reason we don’t see the gorilla in the video. Our attention is focused elsewhere. In this way, Satan has blinded us, not through some magic power, but by simply misdirecting our attention to selfish attitudes that prevent us from ever seeing God, even though He is plainly displayed before us in His work.

When evangelists try to point people to God, the reaction is similar to our reaction when the video first tells us there was a gorilla we missed. “Nonsense!”, we cry. Surely if there were a gorilla, we would have seen him, such an outlandish thing could not have danced before our very eyes unnoticed. But it did. When we tell people there is a God and a Savior and everything about the Gospel, men scoff. Surely if a god existed, especially one so involved in human affairs, it would be more obvious to us. Folks, God is as obvious as that gorilla, if not more. If you do not see Him, it is because you aren’t looking for Him. God must reveal Himself to humans in a similar way the gorilla is revealed in the video: first through proclamation (preaching), then through divine revelation (by God). Salvation is dependent on God, not on human determination.

But this spiritual blindness can happen to believers as well. I am convinced that God is daily putting on displays of profound truth for us believers that we often miss due to our misdirected focus. We are too focused on our jobs, hobbies, worries, concerns, and so forth and miss the displays of grace and truth that could be ours. God is always for us if we are His, yet we do not see it because we are not focused on Him. Perhaps this is why it was written “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” Such a Kingdom focus would ensure we see what is important, and not what is passing away. If this experiment proves anything, it is that we will miss things. We can’t focus on everything at once. It is best to see God and miss the world than to see the world and miss God.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Sanctification

 

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