Peace on Earth

January 8, 2011 at 2:11 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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The Christmas season is winding down (for me it really isn’t over til after the new year) and, in an effort to keep from completely ruining your Christmas joy, I’ve held onto this until after the holiday was over. I also wanted to see what everyone said during the week leading up to Christmas. I have been thinking more (wait! don’t go yet…) and there have been a few loose threads that I’ve been following. Oddly enough, when I began to think about the threads, they all seem to be interconnected. I’m going to go through them and would love to hear your thoughts on these different topics.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about comes from the songs that I’ve heard played over the Christmas holiday season. Things that talk about goodwill, peace on earth, and kindness. One that I heard very often throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas was the song Do They Know It’s Christmas Time At All. In case you haven’t heard it (although there are a number of remakes on Youtube), here is the original:

Continue Reading Peace on Earth…

A buried treasure

November 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Think of something precious to you. Not someone, some thing. Maybe this is a ring that has been handed down in your family for generations. Maybe this is a tool your grandfather gave you. It may be something from a loved one who is no longer here. Whatever it is, think about it. Could you describe it to me? What color is it? How big is it? What is it made of? Does it have any distinguishing features? Do you remember the day that you got it? Where you were? What was going on when you got it?

For most of us this exercise comes pretty easily. As humans, we hold on to those things that we hold dear. The things that are most important to use have a prominent place in our hearts. Now, think back on that object that is precious to you. See yourself holding it (if possible). Now imagine that you took the item outside; somewhere in your backyard. And you dug a hole, dropped that precious object into it, covered it back up with dirt, and tamped it down. Continue Reading A buried treasure…

How did we get here?

July 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Have you ever had a moment to stop and look at your life? Have you ever stopped, examined your life and where you are, and wondered: How did I get here? I’ve done that a few times and it’s always been eye-opening. I never seem to have been where I thought I was. Sometimes I was further along than I thought and other times I wasn’t as far along as I expected. As I looked back on the path that I trod to get where I was, when I began studying where I walked, I could easily see the things that had gotten me off track. Things like disobedience, willful blindness, and sin led me off of the narrow path and out into the weeds. Because of my lack of diligence or awareness I had to work harder to get back on the path. I had to push through painful thorns and cut through the vines of worldliness that were trying to hold me down and choke me out. Through God’s grace alone, I am here. I’m cut up, bruised, and worn out, but I’m here. As I was pondering these things, I couldn’t help but wonder if the body of Christ has ever done this. I can think of one time when I would say this happened, but other than that, I don’t think that something like this has ever taken place. I wonder why? Does the church not see where it is? Do they not care where they are going? Or are they afraid of what they’ll find? Regardless of the reason, I think that the church would benefit from taking a little time to look at where it is in the face of the state of the world. Continue Reading How did we get here?…

America’s Answer

April 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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As we watch the federal government grow to an unheard of size, taking liberties and freedoms with it, we keep hearing talk about answers. The president says that his plans are the answers for America’s problems. He tells us as often as possible how great his plans are and how lucky we are to have him as our president. The problem is that the math doesn’t add up when you look at the numbers and just about everything that the president has said to the American people has been a lie. He has broken almost every promise and took steps to make things extremely worse for not only us but future generations of Americans as well. Our grandchildren will have no idea what America used to be like (unless they have an honest history teacher) unless we stop this progression.
 
But, if the president’s plans aren’t the answer than what is? Many talk about cutting taxes and reducing spending. Those will both work economically, but they aren’t the answer to restoring the moral fabric of the country. Personally, I will be surprised if the Republicans do any better than the Democrats when they get the majority again. They seem to be Democrat lite to me… The answer to our country’s problems doesn’t lie in economic plans or government programs. It doesn’t fall on the president, Congress, or big business to fix our situations (they all proven many times over that they are too incompetent to do this anyway). America’s answer lies in One person. God. Continue Reading America’s Answer…

What’s the answer?

March 17, 2008 at 9:44 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I’ve been writing this blog to reach out to Christians and non-Christians alike with the truth of the gospel. That sounds funny even as I type it. Surely, if you were a Christian, you would know the truth of the gospel. And yet, from the stories I’ve read and the sermons that I’ve heard from all over the world, it is clear to me that people don’t know.

I’ve seen and heard churches that try to be relevant. They talk about sports, movies, and the latest Disney program, but they rarely (if ever) get to the gospel. I’ve seen others that are so busy with the agenda they’ve created that they neglect the one thing that could change the lives of their congregations. Still others are familiar with the Word, but only through bits and pieces. They pick out a verse or two here and a verse or two there and then make it say what they want. I believe that many, not all, pastors fit into this last category. Most of the sermons that you hear today are topical. They touch on one topic and are a conglomeration of numerous scriptures that are sown together with quips and anecdotes to make the scriptures all seem to fit. The topics that are talked about are usually uplifting and energizing. They range from things like finances, to spiritual growth, to relationships, to evangelism. They almost always seem to be focused on the “good” things that Christians can experience.

If this describes you or someone you know, you may be wondering, “How can I/they expound on all those scriptures when I/they only have so much time?” Here’s a tip from someone who’s heard plenty of topical sermons. STOP! There is nothing wrong with a topical sermon now and then. But if you can’t give those listening the truth and help them to understand it the way that God meant it, then you’re just adding to the problem. When I hear a topical sermon and there are 40 scripture references, I immediately begin wondering whether or not the pastor actually knows what he’s talking about (I’m exaggerating here, I usually start wondering at about 8, unless they’re explained). It’s like the pastor is trying to hurl elephants and just throw so much scripture at people that they give under the sheer weight of the amount of scripture. It’s like modern pastors think that if they just toss out enough scripture references, then the congregation won’t question the topic, even if the references have nothing to do with it! I find this to be deplorable. The weight of scripture comes from the truth found in it and if you don’t help them to understand that truth, then it’s meaningless. I have gotten more out of two verses that I’ve heard explained rightly than I have out of entire months of sermons so full of references that they seem ready to burst.

I think that this type of preaching is popular because there is no confrontation in it. The topics uplift those who hear them and they aren’t made to feel uncomfortable about sin or hell or judgment. It stems from a few things that shouldn’t even be happening:

We don’t know the Word – This goes for the congregation as well as the pastor. We casually glance at it. We read chapters of it. We read entire books of it, but we don’t know it. Sure, we can quote some of the verses because we’ve been told that they hold special meaning for us, but do we understand them? Are we sure that what we’ve been told they say is actually what they say? Nine times out of ten, the references that I’ve heard given don’t actually mean what they’re touted to mean…

We don’t understand the Word – This is in direct correlation to the first point. We don’t actually know the Word the way it is written, so we don’t understand it either. We don’t know anything about hermeneutics or context. We don’t actually know how to study so that we can get the meaning that God desires for us to have. Instead, we take the popular meaning that has been passed down as tradition. The sad thing is, we’re not taught how to study the Word either. Instead, we’re taught how to understand the verse in light of what “we feel” it means. “Well, I think that this verse means…” That’s not how scripture was meant to be used…

We don’t live out the Word – Again, this is a result of the two points above. Because we don’t know the Word, and because we don’t understand the Word, we can’t apply the Word. We misuse it like we’ve been taught to. Sometimes, it’s used to amputate a limb when it may have been better to just make an incision. Other times, we use it to poke around when there’s major surgery needed! Most often, it’s used to cut down others or to justify the way that we’re living, or how we’re doing things that are “scriptural” while others are disillusioned and blind to the “danger” they’re in. We use it to stab others in the back and lift ourselves up, and this is in the church!

  

So what’s the answer?

First, for those pastors out there who are copying sermons from the internet (yes, it’s happening), either take the time to study or step down. It amazes me that there are pastors out there who get up every Sunday and tell their flock that they have a Word from God just for them, when they actually just plagiarized the hottest sermon on the internet.

Second, whether you’re a pastor or a part of the congregation, learn how to study the Word. Learn how to use hermeneutics to get the context, the historical background, and other information that will allow you to correctly interpret what you’re reading. This may mean that you end up talking about a smaller portion of scripture, but it will also mean that God will reveal Himself in that scripture and honestly change people’s lives. For a person in the congregation, it’s imperative that you know what scripture says. If you don’t, then you will perpetuate this endless cycle of mishandling the Word. You need to know what it says so that you can be obedient to it!

Third, instead of all of the programs that I see out there that are “designed to bring you face to face with God” and “radically change your life forever”, just teach people the Word. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra the scribe is asked to bring the book of the law out. He brings it out and as soon as he opens it all the people stand and begin to praise God. He reads it to all of those who are able to understand it and explains it to them. There isn’t anything topical or “hip”. He just reads them the law and makes sure that they understand it. The response is amazing:

 Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. (Neh. 8:9) 

The people wept when they hear the law in a way they could understand! It’s not Ezra making it say what he wants! He was a scribe and considered the Word of God much to holy to ever do something like that! (Sadly, the Word isn’t given near the respect it deserves in our time). But Ezra didn’t stop there. The people were sent away and the Bible says that they rejoiced over the Word they heard and the fact that THEY UNDERSTOOD IT!  On the second day, Ezra calls together all of the heads of the households, the priests, and the scribes. They come together and Ezra begins to teach them, to “give them insight into the law”. Through this teaching, they were reminded of the Feast of Booths. Moses instituted this feast through the Levitical laws (Leviticus 23:34-44). The feast started on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. Ezra was teaching them on the second day of the seventh month. The insight they gained from the law being understood by them helped them to be obedient to it and to observe the appointed times, something that hadn’t been done since Joshua’s day!  

This is a part of Old Testament history but it has a lot of value for those of us who live after the sacrifice of Christ. We don’t need to be relevant. We don’t need to be hip and have the newest equipment or the hottest band or the most entertaining events. What we need is the Word rightly taught and rightly understood. When Ezra read the law to the congregation, all he had was a wooden podium. That’s it. But the effect that it had on those who returned from captivity was amazing. They wept and mourned but they also rejoiced and celebrated. They understood the very words that God had given Moses! They knew what it said and they understood how it applied to them. Because of this, they knew what they had to do and they did it. 

 There is one thing that I wanted to point out from Nehemiah 8. When Ezra read the law to the people on the first day, it was to all of the men, women, and children that were able to understand. I believe that there are a number of children who understand the Word (many of them better than a lot of adults I know) who are kept in “children’s church” or some other program when they are perfectly capable of hearing and knowing the Word.

On the second day, when Ezra began to explain the Word it was to certain groups of people. One group was the heads of households. If the head of a household doesn’t know the Word, understand the Word, and doesn’t know how to apply the Word; then his household is doomed. As the head of a household, it is extremely important for you to know the truth of the Word of God the way that He meant it.  

The second group was the priests. In the Old Testament, these were the ministers of God. They were the ones who took care of the tabernacle and the holy things. They were the ones who administered justice/judgment, oversaw the sacrifices, and were even doctors. There are many today who view the church the same way. But, that’s not the case. When Jesus shed His blood on Calvary and died the substitutionary death for you and I, it had an awesome effect. It rent the veil in the temple in two. The Holy of Holies was accessible to man. This is confirmed in the New Testament when Peter calls all believers a royal priesthood. We have a responsibility to understand the truth found in scripture according to how God says it and not according to what we want to make it say. Because we are all priests now through Christ, we need to rightly divide and know how to apply the Word to our lives.  

The third group was the scribes. These men were the ones who handled the Word of God. Ezra was a scribe. They were the copiers of the Word, but they were also the teachers of it. They needed to understand it more correctly than anyone else because they were the ones that were teaching it to others. In Jesus’ time, the scribes were corrupt because they hadn’t taught the Word in truth. They twisted it and added to it (which God specifically condemns – Prov. 30:5-6) and used it for their own purposes. In 2 Peter 2, Peter writes to warn us of the false teachers that will come among us and tickle our ears. They will introduce destructive heresies and exploit the people with false words. Those who teach the Word in churches (pastors, Sunday school teachers, etc…) need to make sure that they are teaching the truth of the Word and not introducing a false doctrine or destructive heresy. The only way to do that is to know the Word, understand the Word, and live the Word.  

I lament over the Body of Christ often. I see the potential that there is for those who believe in Christ to impact the world and change things. Sadly, that isn’t happening like it should because there are a small number who seem to respect and fear the Word of God. Many don’t know it and just as many don’t live by it. If you are a Christian, please put everything you have into studying the Word of God the way God wrote it. Please show God and His Word the respect that they deserve. And please learn how to apply that Word to your life and let it change you to be more like Christ instead of changing it to fit you how you are…

Our Heritage

September 22, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Not long ago, there was a meeting of over 2,000 spiritual leaders in Europe to discuss the effect of Christianity on Europe and to remind the European nations of the impact that Christianity has made on that continent. I knew from the stance of many of the nations of Europe they had a dwindling population of devout Christians, but I never realized just how small they were in some countries. In Great Britain, 33 percent of those polled said religion was “very important” in their lives, compared to 27 percent in Italy, 21 percent in Germany, 11 percent in France, and 11 percent in Czech Republic. This is compared to 60 percent of people in America saying that religion is “very important” to them.
Why the decline of Christianity in Europe? Why are so many turning away from the faith? Let’s get a little closer to home and be a little real. Why are so many in America turning away from Christianity? The numbers say that 60% of people believe that religion is very important to them, but is that accurate? And what about the ones who are leaving? Many of America’s professing atheists grew up in fundamental Christian homes.

What happened? Continue Reading Our Heritage…


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