Monthly Archives: September 2012

Turning 50; worse than the alternative?

So I have noticed something about birthdays…if you live long enough, another one comes your way! (It only took me 5 decades to figure this simple fact out.)  Surprisingly, people, as we approach 25 or so seem to want to deny their age. I, could, for example simply deny being 50. I might say “I am 18 with 32 years of experience.”  Of course, that doesn’t change the fact. 🙂

My favorite way people use to cope with another birthday is to say “Well, it’s better than the alternative.” This is a clear indication that the alternative is death! I might even agree with this if death were, indeed, the alternative. However, when one thinks about it, what is the alternative? Life here is good. But the alternative?

For the Christian, one who follows God faithfully, the alternative is eternal life. So, is living worse than the alternative?

This was the dilemma that Paul found himself in when he wrote to the Philippians while he was in jail waiting to see if he would be executed.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Php 1:21-24)

Faced with an uncertain future, Paul was torn between his desire to depart this world and be with Christ (“which is far better”) and the desire to stay in this world to help encourage those in Philippi (‘which is more needful for you”).

The clear lesson to be learned is that there is work to do in this life. However, this life is not the best we will have. When we act, say, or think that dying is not preferable to living we miss the whole point of being in Christ!

One of the things we say is, we want to go to heaven but not today. We have more life to live. One friend (many years ago) said “The Lord can return but I hope he waits until after I get married.” Marriage is an honorable institution but really, are the joys of being married to be compared to being in Heaven?

In many ways, we are this short-sighted. We are told to set goals and most of the time, those goals are earth bound: Job, marriage, possessions, travel, etc. We want to go to Heaven but how much of a goal do we make of going to Heaven?  Three things should be on our mind in relationship to going to Heaven.

  1. Make sure we get there-Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Are you seeking God’s ways or your own pleasures? If you are poor in this life, you will still be rich in the life to come. You may, or may not, be poor but let God bless you in ways He knows you can handle and be content on your journey.
  2. Make sure others get there-Not all of us are preachers and teachers but we can  till the soil for the evangelist through hospitality and by letting our light shine in the way we live our life.  We can also support the preaching of the Gospel. If you were to send $20 a week to someone who preaches the Gospel, it may not be a lot but when coupled with 10 others, it would have an impact.
  3. Long to get to Heaven. Develop the desire that Heaven is where you want to be and the sooner you can get there, the better! Live like you are going to Heaven at any moment. Be like Fred Flintstone (who, while working hard) waited for that quitting time whistle so he could head home. This longing will help you to refrain from doing some things in life that you might otherwise engage in while thinking, “I can repent later”. It will allow you to tell Satan to take a hike when he whispers how much more fun his way is than God’s.

There are other things to keep in mind, of course, but mostly we need to learn to think, eat, drink, and sleep going to Heaven.

So the next time someone says “I woke up today, I guess that is better than the alternative”, you might ask them if they are sure about that! (and if they are…tell them about Christ!)

Photo Credit: takomabibelot

You can’t handle the truth!

While there are many classic lines from movies that make it into the American vocabulary and consciousness, the title of today’s blog comes from the movie A Few Good Men and I am sure most of you know that line delivered in typical Jack Nicholson brashness.  (I don’t recommend the movie due to it’s R rating, a televised version would clean up most of that language, however.)

Can we actually handle the truth depends on whether we want to handle the truth. It is, therefore, completely up to us to decide if we can handle it, or not! It is a decision of the will.

Truth can be used in many ways, but at the heart and foundation (no pun intended) of “truth” is a foundation that you can build on. Can you imagine what would happen if “truth” changed? Right now, some are saying that truth does change. No, truth does not change but circumstance can. As I write these blog, my wife is not with me. This is truth but the circumstance might change in 10 minutes. If she comes into the room, she is now with me. The circumstance has changed but the truth has not. Through all eternity, it shall always be true that she was not with me when I wrote that sentence.

Gravity is a truth. If you drop a hammer from a tree in Texas, it falls just as fast as if you drop it in India. There is a relationship between that hammer and the planet that causes it to fall. It never rises! It will fall on the moon too, although a bit slower. Gravity is a truth you cannot ignore.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue, if NASA tried to send a man to the moon only to find out that gravity stopped working at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere? What if gravity quit working every other Tuesday, unless the sky was cloudy overhead? It would be circumstantial then, subject to change and not a truth.

Here are some good things to remember about Truth that are based on a book called I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist:

Truth is discoverable but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t yet discovered it.  (Jupiter’s moons were there before we saw them.)

Truth does not depend on culture. Math works just as well in the U.S.A as it does in China.

Truth does not change based on our beliefs. Many used to believe  you would lose your breath if you ever exceeded 60 miles an hour in a car. This was not true before we did it and suddenly, no longer true. It was always a mistaken belief.  If I believe a bottle to contain medicine but it contains deadly poison, I will not be able to avoid death simply by believing hard enough the opposite of the truth.

We expect truth from our doctors, parents, spouses, children, and politicians. (O.k. maybe we don’t expect it from our politicians. That might not be true. LOL) However, we want the truth about the house or car we go to buy. If an archeologist tells us that the skull we are about to buy is the skull of a famous Aztec king, we do not expect him to try and sell us a smaller sized skull and tell us it is the same Aztec King’s skull when he was a child!

So why is it that we do not ask for the same thing in our religion? Why are we willing to buy into the idea that what someone believes to be true can be true for them and not for us, and visa versa?

Here is a truth claim, from the Christian Scriptures: Speaking of Jesus, Peter says ” Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)

Now that may or may not be a true statement! Let’s look at that statement though and what it means.

IF IT IS TRUE, it states that there is only one way to Salvation. It states that Jesus is the only way. It is is exclusive of other names, roads, means of salvation. It says, that only by going through this name, may one be saved; if it is true.

IF IT IS NOT TRUE, then perhaps other names are valid means of obtaining salvation, if, that is, that there is a salvation. One might also say that if it not true, that Peter lied, which in most circles is not a good way to obtain salvation. So the door is open to other means of salvation, if salvation exists.

So, can you handle the truth? If Jesus is the only way to salvation, can you accept it? It is not good enough to say “I don’t believe it to be true.”, nor is it good enough for me to say “I believe it to be true.”  That statement cannot be both true and untrue, it cannot be true for you and not for me, it makes a claim to be true and it either is, or it is not!


What is truth?

In the Gospel of John, there is a discussion between Pilate and Jesus.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  (Joh 18:37-38 ESV)

Indeed, what is truth? There are some people who don’t think there is truth about anything. Some think that truth is relative. Truth however, is real and objective. It is  something so precious that it cannot be simply overlooked.

Of course the statement that “Truth is relative” is not true. It is stated as a truth and yet if all truth is relative then how could that statement be true. I may say that I hate coffee and that is truth. It is not true only for me but it is true for others. Steven hates coffee is true to other people also. Where one can say I have a preference and my opinion of coffee is not the opinion of others, this does not change the truth: I hate coffee.

Jesus said that those who are of the truth listen to Him. There is much in the Bible to indicate that God speaks the truth and that His words are what we need to listen to.  These scriptures say that those who refuse to listen to him are those who suppress the truth or have not received a love for the truth.

Truth: There is a God. But some deny this.

Truth: The Bible is God’s word. But some deny this.

Truth: Jesus is the son of God, God in the flesh. But some deny this.

In one post, you cannot possibly explore all of these truths to validate them or disprove them but I hope to tackle them over the next few weeks. A few at a time, a bit at a time. However, one illustration may help show how useless it is to dispute something when it is true.

In my last post, the original post (before I corrected it) referred to a fellow preacher and blogger by the name of Eric. I referenced his blog, I thanked him for his comment, and I used his comment in my blog. The only problem is that Eric’s name is not Eric. It is Eugene. While it is certainly true that in the overall scheme of things, a mistake in calling someone by a different name is minor, it still needs to be corrected.

Now I could have told him that his name is not Eugene. But that would not have changed the truth, as his birth certificate, friends, parents, and drivers license would show.

I could have asked him to change his name so that I was indeed correct. Yet, I am sure you can still see that even if he had changed his name to Eric, that would only mean that it had not been when I mistakenly called him Eric.

I could fight it or…I could acknowledge the truth. Why so many people would rather say “Hey, you look more like an Eric to me….” and lie against the truth is curious. It does not have long-lasting implications (although perhaps a friendship would suffer) in the matter of a simple name but when it comes to things like God’s existence, or Jesus’ deity…why stand and beat your head against what is true?

Even worse are those who don’t even care to take the time to investigate. They can’t be bothered with the facts, their mind is made up.

As a means of full disclosure, I will be following a couple of works by others and adding what seems to me to be common sense. The book called “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” and a study book called “Indestructible foundations” (Peter J. Wilson) are going to help guide me in some of the order things are presented.

Stick around, Lord willing some of these posts will give us good reason to believe what we, as Christians, believe.

Question: Do you have questions, critiques, opposing viewpoints? Comments are welcome. Discussion encouraged. Respectful dialogue is required.

photo credit from Google images

3 things that cause us to neglect our salvation.

Neglecting one’s salvation would quite easily rank as one of the poorest decisions a person could make in this life. And even that simply sentence may rank among the biggest understatements in the history of blogging.As the saying goes, “Even an atheist does not want to go to Hell!”

Yesterday, we looked at four types of negligence: Passing by, ignoring, forgetting, and being careless. It is highly unlikely that those who consider themselves to be Christians would really “pass by” or “ignore” (at least not completely) their salvation. Those two items would belong to those who will not study to find out the truth for themselves. Much could be written on that topic but in this post, I want to talk about things that cause a Christian to neglect their salvation. This neglect will most likely come through forgetting and being careless.

Paul said: No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2Ti 2:4)

Christians need to remember that they died…to sin, to this world and to the rat race that so many get caught up in.

Sin is always lurking.

Just because we resist Satan once or twice and he flees from us (as the Scripture says), does not mean that he never comes back again! Even with Jesus, after all the temptations were completed in the dessert, Luke records that the devil left him until “an opportune time.” When we get caught up in sin, whatever form that may take, we become entangled and our salvation can become neglected!

Committing a Sin and living in sin are two different things but neither is what we are supposed to do. We need to be on guard so as not to sin more just so grace can abound. When we do that, we truly treat our salvation with carelessness and as if it has no value. (Romans 6)

The world is always pulling.

Our old friends, if we grew up in the world, wonder at why we do not carry on with them like we used to. The world’s morals and values are constantly being pushed on us and worse yet, they are quoting Scriptures at us to bolster their point. “Jesus said to love” may be a true statement but Jesus also said to “Love God first” was the great commandment. Besides, love does require pointing out the sins so that people can change.

The rat race doesn’t end.

Have you ever noticed that in a rat race, that the cheese is not truly the end? Nope! Those poor rats are pulled out of the maze and sent back in to do it again. Then they change the maze or move the cheese!

Lack of contentment with what we have is a big cause for us to neglect our salvation. We take more overtime or second jobs to pay for things we want. We fail to realize that food, clothing, and shelter is enough when coupled with God’s blessings. It isn’t that you are wrong just  for working more but the reason for the work is often ‘wants’ not ‘needs’.  Then you get so busy fulfilling wants that you get careless with and forget what is truly important.

While it might seem our duty to buy more and get more and upgrade more and travel more, that theme is from the world and not God. Huxley’s Brave new world and even our Newscasts would be appalled at my next statement: Buy less, be content with less!

You will not get all of it anyway and you will find at the end, that the maze gets changed, the cheese moved, or they now have new and improved cheese with a bolder taste (but you need to run the race again to get it).

One of my readers, Eugene, cited a good Scripture on yesterday’s post. (You can read Eugene’s blog here!)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3 ESV)

What we should do is “seek” and “set our minds” on those things that are above. If we do that, we will not be in danger of neglecting our salvation.

These three things, sin, the world’s pull, and the rat race are more general things that lead us to be negligent with our salvation.

Question: What are some specific things in your life that are innocent enough in and of themselves, but that you take to an extreme? Do those things cause you to neglect your salvation?

Photo Credit: antwerpenR

Are you neglecting your salvation?

The Hebrew writer, asks the question: How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb 2:3) It is a rhetorical question and the answer is an obvious “We won’t!”

There at least four shades of meaning to the word neglect. Do any of them apply to you and your salvation?

Neglecting can mean to “pass by” something.

Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. (Luk 10:31)

This verse from the parable of the good Samaritan uses the words “passed by”. Yet it means that he ‘neglected’  the man lying on the side of the road.

Do we observe the Pass over in some areas of our Christian life? Do we just pass by hard to understand Scripture because we don’t think we will like the outcome? Might some of those areas affect our relationship with God and our salvation? Whether it is examining our own lives to make corrections, or examining Scriptures to understand ‘hard to understand’ passages, we should not pass by (neglect) those things that can affect our salvation and relationship with God.

Neglecting can be done by ignoring.

Another word for neglect is ‘ignore’.  Much like you might ignore your shoe laces until they become untied, you can ignore your salvation until it falls into a state of serious disrepair.

The Priests in the days of Nehemiah committed to doing their part for the service of the house of God.

“We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:…We will not neglect the house of our God.” (Neh 10:32, 39)

I cannot help but think about what Paul wrote in 1 corinthians 3:17 that says “we are the temple of God” when he talks about the congregation. (Chapter 6 says the same thing and talks about the individual Christian). One of the ways you can destroy a house or a temple is to simply ignore it. Perhaps you have noticed that a building structure that is not lived in, will fall apart faster than one that is.

Neglecting can also be done by “forgetting”

Have you ever walked into another room and ‘forgot’ what you went in the room for? Sure, we all have. But what about those times when someone asks you to pick up something in town and, as you head back to the house, you slap your head and go “D’oh!” I forgot that. Sometimes those are very important things that we ‘neglecting’ by forgetting to to them.

Those things that are important to us are the things we will remember to do. In Hebrews 13, the writer reminds his audience to ‘not neglect to show hospitality in verse two and later in verse sixteen, “do not neglect to do good”.

I wonder if the rich man in the story of Lazarus and the rich man simply “forgot” to do good for Lazarus? Either way, he neglected to do anything and look where that landed him! God saved us so that we might walk in good works. Do not neglect by forgetting to do the good works for which we have been prepared. (Eph 2:10 and 2 Tim 3:16-17)

Neglecting can also be done by being careless with something of value.

This I think is the primary thought for this passage. “Pay special attention” to the salvation that you have received.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard… (Heb 2:1-3 ESV)

And why shouldn’t we pay more attention and take care to not be careless with the message of the Gospel. This message did not come by man’s doing! It came from God Himself. Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, revealed the message to man. It did not come through a mediator (angels).

In a family with many siblings, the older child(ren) are often put in charge of the younger ones. What they tell their younger brothers and sisters still is something they need to listen to. Yet, it is the same as when the parent comes in and tells them what needs to be done directly. There is a difference, yet it is the same. If you don’t listen to your brother, they are not likely to ground you or spank you but the punishment will happen when the parent gets home. (and sometimes you talk your way out of it) However, when the parent is home, punishments happen quicker and you should “pay more attention” to what you hear.

Question: What are some things that keep us from paying attention like we ought to do? Lord, willing I will have some answers to that question tomorrow.

Photo credit: jumpinjimmyjava

10 etiquette rules for Christians on Facebook

This post by Steve Higginbottham is well worth reading and sharing.   James, indeed, would have taken the brethren to task for an uncontrolled Facebook comments had he written in this century. Happy Reading.

Never has the devil been so successful than…

Never has the devil been so successful than….

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