Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Warning from 1 John

1 John 4
1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

With so many heresies bombarding the church today, it is somewhat encouraging to read John’s words from the end of the first century. Somehow I imagine that we’ve done something wrong; that we went to sleep and forfeited the high ground of sound theology. But if the apostles weren’t successful in getting the infant church into the second century untarnished, what makes us think we’ll have pristine orthodoxy?

Paul “marveled” that the Galatian church had abandoned the true gospel (Galatians 1:6) and said he would turn over to the devil "Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred."

The Bible warns us “Do not believe every Spirit”. Not everyone holding a Bible is a true teacher.
Interestingly, behind the voice, every doctrine, every teaching, there is a spirit. False spirits give false teachings; only the true Holy Spirit of God teaches us the Word of God.

“Many false prophets have gone out into the world”. Rob Bell is one of the current abusers of God’s truth. I could name 100 more.

Notice that John did not say we can tell false spirits by their works. He said we can identify that they are false spirits by their message. This was the acid test of a false prophet under the Old Covenant as well (Deut. 13:1-5). And the primary message false teachers avoid is a discussion of Jesus Christ. He is come in the flesh to save us from our sins. That message is likely to be avoided by many.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

KFC Launches $390 Dollar Giveaway

Oh wow! I just received an email from Kentucky Fried Chicken. They are giving away one free $5 lunch meal every day in May...and, hold on there partner, they're even giving away one free $10 chicken bucket each Sunday. There's a small catch. You have to subscribe and follow their Facebook and/or Twitter page.

Now I'm not opposed to free food. But doing a bit of quick math, KFC is investing $195 in this national blitz for each website. That's a bit odd. I know everyone is cutting back a bit, but I find it Scroogishly laughable that a multi-million (probably billion) dollar company has pulled together a total budget of $390 to entice America to join their Facebook and Twitter pages. Maybe they only have a couple of dozen folks as their Facebook friends, so your odds of winning may be greater than I expect. And if you join Twitter, you've doubled your chances.

Of course, KFC's miniscule May reward program prompted my reflection on a lack of generosity in general. I vaguely remember they tied into Oprah a couple of years ago when they we're promoting their new grilled chicken. All you had to do then was download a free certificate from Oprah's website. Maybe they are still recovering from that fiasco. I downloaded one and the local KFC said they weren't honoring them anymore.

Christians, in general, do not reflect the great generosity of their Lord Jesus. He gave lavishly and extravagantly. But we share so little of our resources. Little money, little time, little thoughts of others and their struggles through life.

KFC's $390 May reward program seems out of place for a company of their stature. What's out of place in your life?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Still Contemplating...Still Rejoicing!

Charles Spurgeon commented on the celebratory nature of this solemn day. The entire sermon can be read here.

The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God. We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even to-day? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect. Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. The bread and the cup most fitly set forth the death of our Lord and Saviour, and the mode of that death, even by the shedding of his blood; but as they stand before us now, they evoke no tears, they suggest no sighs. The memorial of Christ's death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts, ay, and go away from it with praises, for "after supper they sang a hymn." At both ends it was psalm-singing. The great Hallel of the Jews commenced it, and another psalm, full of joy and gladness out of the hallelujahs of the psalms finished it. Oh, what hath God wrought! We crucified the Christ of God; but in that crucifixion we have found our ransom. With wicked hands he was slain by us; but his blessed sacrifice hath put all our sin away for ever.

A Good Passage for a Good Friday

One is the most powerful passages in the Bible enunciating the benefits that we’ve received because of Jesus’ voluntary death on the cross is Romans 5

1 Therefore,having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according
to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore,as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in
condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
According to the passage, we’ve been “justified” (a legal term declaring us righteous even though there is substantial evidence against us); we have “peace”—even though we’ve warred against God and assailed His holy character; and we have access—even though we have no merit, worth or standing. All of this because Jesus embraced the cross.

Even more, this passage tells us we were “without strength”(verse 6)—a word revealing our powerlessness and paralysis. We were “still sinners” (verse 8) and “enemies” (verse 10).

So why should this not be a Good Friday? This reconciliation does indeed cause us to “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly, it caused Him much pain, humiliation and anguish. So I stand in awe and reverence…and joy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Maundy Thursday Meditation -- Judas the Betrayer

Matthew 22

Notice first, that Judas was one of the Twelve. Judas was an insider, not an outsider. He was "in the know" and "on the team." He was entrusted with sensitive information. Often the greatest harm done to the cause of Christ is from within. Consider for a moment Jesus's opposition in Israel. You may recall the four major groups that opposed Him--the Temple priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians. Throughout His ministry, Jesus was barraged by their theological and political traps but had always successfully outmaneuvered and outwitted them. Matthew's 22nd chapter bears light on this public conflict. The outsiders are once again banging away at Jesus.

The Pharisees and Herodians form an alliance and ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. (This tax question is particularly interesting to us at this time of year). You understand this question is a catch 22. If Jesus says it is lawful, then He appears to be supporting Rome and will lose the support of the people. If He says it is not lawful, He would probably be arrested for insurrection against Rome. But Jesus says clearly to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God the things which are God's. After that attack from external forces, the Sadducees come asking about the resurrection of the dead. Immediately after that, the Pharisees are back in Jesus's face laying a trap about the greatest law. (And you think you've had a hard day!). At the end of chapter 22, Matthew says "and no man was able to answer Him, neither did anyone dare from that day on to ask him any more questions." Get this picture! For the past three years, Jesus has been battling political groups. Finally, three of them have surrendered; they've given up! Jesus can relax a bit, or can He?

The one group remaining to oppose Jesus is the priests and elders of Israel. Verses 3-4 of our chapter under consideration make clear the intention of the chief priests and elders of Israel--they wanted to secretly arrest Jesus and kill Him. Their hatred is still strong and their resolve is still robust. But as the passion drama unfolds, the danger comes not from without, but from within. We would do well to meditate on this passage. The ravenous wolves are easy to recognize--those who argue against Jesus being God, those who advocate homosexuality as an acceptable alternative to a man/woman relationship, those who trust in their goodness and benevolent works for salvation, those who chant "eat, drink and be merry"--these are easily recognizable as a threat to our faith. Often, the danger is not from outside our walls but from among our pews. The church has great trouble in recognizing wolves that eat like sheep, sound like sheep, look like sheep and smell like sheep. Judas was one of the Twelve! He was a professing sheep outwardly, but he was a despicable wolf inwardly.

The wolves among us profess the same. They pretend and profess to serve the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. But inwardly they are selfish, fleshly, and deadly. These people would never say the Bible is just an ordinary book; they simply ignore the Bible. These folks would never say abandon the church; they however, give as little of themselves as is necessary to keep pretending they are true disciples. They would never assert that God is not worthy of our praise and worship; they simply sing His praises lackadaisically--without passion, without volume, without conviction. You'll never hear these people say prayer is irrelevant; you will, however, hear these persons use vain repetitions in their insincere recitations or vocalize incessantly their worries and anxieties. And ever so gradually, their thoughts and their actions begin to rub off on true disciples and the Church is pulled into their vicious net of superficial and meaningless faith. Judas was one of the Twelve.

The greatest threat to your living a life totally for God may lie within--within the Church or within yourself. As we reflect on the Betrayal, may we recommit ourselves to total loyalty to Christ, sincere devotion and steadfast faith. May we guard ourselves against the Judases in our lives and even more importantly may we guard our own self against becoming a Judas. May we abandon mediocrity and reach for greatest heights. May we not be satisfied with just another meeting, but may we long for a life-altering encounter with the Holy One.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where'd This Come From?

This quote dropped into my life today:
"The respect that leadership must have requires that one's ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, but stays well clear of the gray areas." G. Alan Bernard-President, Mid Park, Inc.

I have no idea who G. Alan Bernard is (and no time to Google), but this is a saying close to my heart. We're always trying to walk the line, and no offense to Johnny Cash, but that's no where for a Christian to be. Sadly, many Christians live on the line. No wonder they too often step over it.

Do you?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Continued Thoughts from John’s First Letter

Since I’m teaching through 1 John at my local church, I thought I’d pass along these ideas from the beginning verses of chapter 3.

First, it is incredible that we are the children of God!
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Right on the heels of 2:29 where John first introduces the very famous phrase from his gospel “born of Him”, is this burst of praise that a) God’s love is foreign to us; b) God’s love is lavished upon us; c) God’s love makes us His children. We’re fairly (and unfortunately) inoculated to this truth. It is so common to us “that we should be called the sons of God” that we’ve lost the grandeur and phenomenal-ness of this simple truth.

The word “manner” stems from a somewhat obscure Greek word that means “of another world” or “foreign”. It’s what the disciples said of Jesus when He calmed the storm in Mark 4:41 “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They clearly indicated that what they had witnessed from Jesus was not normal, not of their world. And that is exactly what John is trying to convey here. What manner of love is this?

Second, ongoing sin is an indication that you are not a genuine Christian.

The reason this is so is because: 1) sin’s nature is lawlessness and 2) sin’s origin is of the devil. True Christians are at peace with God (through the sacrificial blood death of Jesus) and are born of God. To war against Him (sin is lawlessness) and join with the devil (sin’s origin) makes no sense and cannot be.

John fires away in rapid succession with his “whosoever” statements:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law…(3:4)
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: (3:6)
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin…(3:9)

There is simply no room for justification of sin here. Of course, the Bible is here conveying an ongoing, continued pattern of repeated sin, no the occasional or infrequent sin.

So, sin is to have hardly any presence in the life of a truly born again, Christ-loving Christian. It’s one of the ways you can know whether you are genuinely one of God’s children.

Friday, April 01, 2011

What I'm Reading

Here's a quick disclaimer--it's not the only thing I'm reading! While some of my intellectual skills have degenerated to a fourth grade level, I still manage to read SOME stimulating literature. But I did manage to grab this whimsical book on a recent trip to the library.

I don't mean any disrespect to author Tom Burns, but the book does give me hope for becoming an author some day. I mean, how hard can throwing together some very common, pithy colloquiums along with some animal photographs, be? And again, no disrespect intended to Mr. Burns, but his 2005 book that retailed for $8.95 is going for the illustrious $0.01 used on ($.0.50 new).

Here's some that caught my eye:

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home...
...even if you wish they were.

Borrow money from pessimists--they don't expect it back.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

These piqued my interest:

42.7 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.

Research shows that 14 out of 10 people like chocolate.

A recent survey shows that three out of four people make up 75 percent of the world's population.

I think those last three underscored for me, the reality that truth can be ridiculously subjective, unless, of course, it is grounded in something bigger than you or me, or a Republican or Democrat. It's way too common to be watching a talk show with opposing heralds bantering back and forth and one will state something along the lines that we can make statistics say anything we want. The notorious political polls have biased questions designed to illicit a certain outcome.

Not so with God's Word, the Bible. It is truth. It will save you from eternal damnation. It will teach you the mind of Jesus and the holy ways of God. It is truth.