God’s Sovereignty Over Obama

Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama

If there is one thing that I really do not care for in life it is politics. Politicians claim that they are working for the people and doing what is best for the people and keeping their minds on the best interests of the people, but from the outside looking in politics seems that it is all about politicians filling their own pockets and gaining as much man-centered prestige as they can in this life. I know that some may disagree with me on this topic especially my friend Skylar Flowers who will be the President of the United States at some point within his life time. But, nonetheless, if you show me a politician that is not crooked, I will give you $10.

With that being said, I can assure you that our current President, President Barack Obama, is not at the top of my list of people that I truly like. I can assure you that he and I differ on what appears to be every single issue known to man. I can assure you that I do not agree with, nor like, the way that he has handled the business of this nation while he has been in office. I can assure you that I do not believe him to be a Christian as his views on certain topics are clearly unbiblical. I can assure you that I think he has made more mistakes that I think have hurt this country and will continue to hurt this country as it moves forward. I can assure you that I have some opinions of how he got into office and why he is in office that I will keep to myself because they are probably sinful and I must repent if I sit here and think about it for too long.

But, here is what I know about Barack Obama. As much as my flesh wants to kick against this fact and as much as I do not like it, President Obama occupies the office of the President of the United States because God has seen fit within His sovereign will to put him into that position. You see, Romans 13:1-7 tells us that God is the one who institutes our governing authorities. It tells us that no matter how much we like or dislike the people that occupy these different positions, God’s sovereign will is being worked out through these various leaders. Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except form God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

This is a tough pill to swallow. When we sit back and think about a good portion of the bad that governing leaders have done, it hurts. When we think of all of the heartache that leaders have caused, this is a tough truth to digest. When we think back to Adolf Hitler and apply this truth to him, it stings. There is no doubt that this is a very personal thing to a lot of people, but the truth remains the same, every governing authority that has ever existed has been instituted by God. The passage points to our responsibility as Christians to be subject to and obey these authorities as they have been ordained by God. This of course means submitting to government as long as it doesn’t mean disobeying God. There are several passages in Scripture that show God’s approval in disobeying government, but this is only approved when it means that the Christian would be disobeying God.

I write this for one purpose. Even in the midst of uncertainty with governing authorities. Even when there are authorities both in the U.S. and in other countries that are doing bad things and clearly rebelling against God. We can always be assured that God is in control. We can always be assured that no matter the circumstance and what is taking place within our country or others, it has not surprised God or caught him off-guard. You can trust that God knows exactly what He is doing within our judicial system and you can trust that God has a sovereign plan that will work for His glory. He raises up vessels of wrath for destruction and He raises up vessels of honor. Yet, in the midst of both the vessels of wrath and the vessels of honor, He uses both for His glory. Read Romans 9. I hope that as you watch the news or keep up with politics, it doesn’t necessarily enrage you at what is taking place, although it does so often. But that it encourages you to look to God on a more frequent basis. I hope it urges you to pray for the people who run this country and pray that God would steer the heart of the leaders in a direction that would be more God honoring. Always know, God is sovereign over Obama.

Grafted In

lois-olive-tree

Have you heard the phrase “grafted in” as it pertains to spiritual matters? If you have read Romans chapter 11, or a sermon on Romans 11, you have probably heard the term “grafted in”. But what does it mean? What does it mean to be grafted in to the fold of God?

To begin with, the Jewish nation of Israel were God’s initial chosen people. They were the people that God had chosen to delight in, take pleasure in, and give the opportunity to have a relationship with Him as He provided for them in various ways. This was a big thing. God had given Israel the Law (Torah) which was His instruction to them about His ways. This allowed them to act in obedience to God and have a relationship with the God of the universe, which in itself was a tremendous grace. They were given the Promised Land that God had promised to Abraham years before the possessed it. God was everything that Israel needed and He was their provision in various ways. They were indeed His people.

Yet, what we see in Romans 11 and in the whole of the New Testament is a different era. We see God opening up salvation not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles also. As the Jews rejected Christ and began a hardening of their hearts, God, within His infinite wisdom and great mercy, has opened up salvation to Gentiles. This is good news for those that are not Jewish as it gives people like me the opportunity to know the God of the universe through Christ. In this salvation, Gentiles are now “grafted in” to the family of God. What does that mean? It means that they are brought into Israel, the chosen people, and the new spiritual Israel is filled with all who trust in Christ both Jew and Gentile. This is a tremendous grace and mercy to all Gentiles and Jews alike as there is a separation between us and God. Gentiles were brought into a family that they did not rightly belong to and God has extended His mercy upon them and given them every benefit that a member of God’s family has. He has granted them the grace to have a relationship with Him, He has granted them the grace to know Him, He has granted the them the grace to have communion with Him, He has grafted them into His lineage despite the fact that they were not rightful heirs of His kingdom, yet through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, they are now rightful heirs if they place their faith and trust in Him.

What a beautiful grace. God has given the opportunity to you and I to know Him. Salvation is not about you and I having fire insurance that promises us an eternity not spent in hell. Salvation is about knowing God through Jesus Christ. We should live everyday of our lives basking in the grace of God as we have been grafted into the family because of Christ’s righteousness and not our own.

Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone).

Is Sin Serious?…..Just Ask Achan

nietzsche quote

We live in a day in time in which people to not like to be offended. You can’t say this because you might offend someone. You can’t say that because you might offend that person. You can’t wear this because it has something on it that is offensive. I just heard recently, either yesterday or the day before, that there was a person that had an American flag hanging from the balcony of their apartment and they were asked to remove it because it may offend someone that is of another nationality. Nonetheless, it is ridiculous. Much of what I see as offensive these is anything that has to do with God or someones saying that another person is wrong. This is textbook in establishing that we live in  Post-Modern, relativistic era.

Relativism is the way in which our country functions. Whether you choose to acknowledge this or not, our country functions upon the idea that there is no absolute truth and whatever is good for you is good for you and I in no way whatsoever can tell you otherwise. I know that this goes against what many people here in the ‘good ole’ Bible belt believe, but the fact of the matter is that we are not a Christian nation any longer. Yes, many of our principles and the ideas of our founding fathers were based upon Scripture, but if you look around us today with the rise in homosexual marriage, abortion, modern day feminist movements, and many other issues, there is no longer a yielding to the word of God within the leadership of our country. Say what you want, but turn the news on and you will see reality being played out.

If you want to see a huge push back from the media and a good chunk of the country, start to say the word SIN. You see, within relativism, you cannot say the word sin because the word sin is practically non-existent. You see, no one likes to be told that what they are doing is wrong or against God’s word. But, this is only one sided. Media and Hollywood can take the Lord’s name in vain, they can talk badly about Christian’s, negatively about God, nail you to the wall if you say that they in sin, and on and on it goes. But, the minute that a Christian desires to offer their ideas about a certain subject, you are a bigot and an intolerable idiot. It’s frustrating but believers must remember that this is not our home and that we are foreigners walking this earth.

So the point that I want to make is this, even within the church sin has been reduced to something that is almost non-existent. It has become something of a preference that no one desires to bring up because we would never want to hurt someones feelings. So what do we do? Unfortunately the church has just let sin be sin. We will let people continue in their sin and say that we are loving them by not pointing it out. We will just keep putting our arms around them and hugging them and telling them everything is going to be ok without every pointing out the sin that they may be taking part in. This is something serious within the sight of God and serious within the church.

joel-osteen

Culturally speaking, there is a man that calls himself a pastor. His name is Joel Osteen. Now to begin with, Joel Osteen is not a pastor. Joel Osteen is a heretic. Joel Osteen does not preach the gospel. But, for some reason, Joel Osteen is looked to for “spiritual” insight and answers. When asked by Larry King about homosexuality, Osteen decided to let the world know that it was not a sin. But, because of the backlash that he received from many within the “Christian” community, in his next interview on Larry King he said that homosexuality is just not “God’s best.” But, he would happily attend the wedding of two homosexuals that desired to get married. Thus, he would be endorsing homosexuality. Bottom line, I have never heard ole Joel say the word “sin”(maybe he has but I have not heard it or read it), but do not beat around the bush Joel. I guess I can’t expect any less from a guy that seemingly does not believe the Bible.

I say this to show that “Christian’s” and the church do not take sin very seriously. As believers we are called to imitate Christ and we are called to pursue holiness in our lives. Let’s take a look at the Bible and how serious the Bible takes sin. In the book of Joshua there is a very popular story. The battle of Jericho is something that every child that has ever darkened the door of a church is familiar with because of the famous song about Joshua fighting this battle. Elvis Presley also did a rendition of this song and I love it. But, nonetheless, God told Joshua to take the city but take none of the devoted things from it. Well of course, there is always going to be “that guy” and there was “that guy” within Israel.

Well “that guy” was Achan. Achan took the devoted things and Israel was subjected to discipline for it. So what happens with Achan? Joshua goes to Achan and confronts him about taking the things, or in other words, confronts him about his sin. This is something that should take place much more within our day and time. So Achan responds and seems to be very remorseful for what he has done. He say in Joshua 7:20, “And Achan answered Joshua, ‘Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.'” We automatically want to have sympathy on Achan and say that he is truly sorry for what he has done. We may even put ourselves in his shoes and say that we would have taken all of the gold and silver as well. Well what does God say about his sin? How does God respond?

God is holy. God is just. With this being the case, there are always consequences to our actions. Here is how seriously they took Achan’s sin. Joshua 7:24-26, “And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stone them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”

Does God take sin seriously? It appears to be so. Here is how seriously God takes sin. He has always demanded a blood sacrifice for sin. Within the Old Testament law, there always had to be the shedding of blood for sin, and now it is no different. But, there has been a blood sacrifice once and for all. Before we want to “judge” God and say that He is angry or that He has over-reacted in this case and that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament(which He is not), let’s look at the gospel. God has always demanded a blood sacrifice from us for our sin and we have received one. Yes God is just, but He is also love. Romans 5:8-9, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Christ was that blood sacrifice. Christ suffered the death that we all deserved. We deserve to suffer the same death as Achan, but Christ took that from us. He took the death of Achan from all of those who believe upon Him.

So Achan is no different than us. He sinned against a holy God and we have done the same. He suffered for his sins in a way that, apart from Christ, we are all to suffer. But thankfully, God has not left us without a blood sacrifice. Because we are justified by faith in Christ, we will not have to suffer eternal wrath for our sins. Thus, God takes sin very serious, even in a world that says it is not serious. Yet, He has offered us freedom from our sin and I hope that you will take it today.

If Tupac Would Have Known

Tupac

Yes, I am writing about Tupac Shakur. If you are unfamiliar with Tupac Shakur, he was a very famous rapper in the early 90’s until he was fatally shot and killed 1996. He was very good at what he did. He took rap lyrics to a deeper level as he would often include the struggles of life and his deep feelings to communicate a message that he wished to put out to his audience. I can say this with full confidence, if Tupac knew what the secular rappers of today were putting out lyrically, he would be greatly ashamed. But nonetheless, I am not going to write about Tupac Shakur’s life, or his music for that matter. I want to talk about the God of all grace and the God of the Bible that I hope that Tupac knew, but from the outside looking in, he did not know. I want you to read this poem written by Tupac:

Sometimes when I’m alone
I Cry,
Cause I am on my own.
The tears I cry are bitter and warm.
They flow with life but take no form
I Cry because my heart is torn.
I find it difficult to carry on.
If I had an ear to confide in,
I would cry among my treasured friend,
but who do you know that stops that long,
to help another carry on.
The world moves fast and it would rather pass by.
Then to stop and see what makes one cry,
so painful and sad.
And sometimes…
I Cry
and no one cares about why.

This poem communicates deep emotion. It communicates the longing desire to have someone close that will hear the inward struggles of a man and that would be a comfort in time of need. You see, as Tupac began to climb the rap ladder, he had everything. He had money, he had fame, he had girls, mansions, cars, and everything else that our world communicates fame to be. Yet, how can someone who seemingly had everything write something like this? How could a guy that has seemingly gained the whole world, be so broken inside that he has no one close to him that will see him through hard times.

I immediately think of the words of Jesus when I read this poem. Mark 8:36-37, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” You see, Tupac had gained it all, but seemingly lost his soul. He lost his soul to the point that he even felt alone here on this earth. We can do all that we can do in order to have others view us through the lens of the world, but ultimately what is this result? Loneliness. Loneliness in this life and wrath for eternity. Tupac had people around him all day everyday that would have done many things for him, but were these people around him only because of his status? Were these people around him because he was a famous rapper and had lots of money? Would they have been around him if he was just a regular dude that worked at the convenient store on the corner? I do not know but my guess is probably not.

Let’s look at this from another angle. Maybe you are a believer and you find yourself echoing the same words that Tupac has penned. Maybe you find yourself so lonely and having no one to hear your deepest struggles and to comfort you in your sorrow. I would first begin by asking about your church family. Are you actively involved with the people of God? Do you find yourself gathering with God’s people on a regular basis? If so, are you involved or are you at a distance? Are you trying to pursue relationships with Gods people or are you standing on the outside looking in because you do not want people to know you? One way that believers can avoid such feelings as Tupac’s is to be active with God’s people. During times of heartache, stress, and depression, the people of God can play a tremendous role in a variety of ways in order to minister to you and to those around you. Be involved and build relationships. It is godly relationships that are truly meaningful and that will last.

Also, more importantly than that, know that you have God. If you are a believer you have a direct connection to the God of the universe. Not only do you have the connection through Jesus Christ, but you have a God that knows you intimately and that loves you despite your inadequacies. This Great God has promised not to leave you or forsake you. In Joshua chapter 1 as God Joshua is being set up to lead God’s people into the Promise Land, God gives Joshua some comforting information that is also true for His people today. He tells him in verse 5, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” What a comfort this would have been for Joshua as he was given the task of leading God’s people into the Promise Land. What a comfort this is to born-again believer’s as well as they are given the same promise. Along the same lines, Paul writes this in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” If you are Christ’s, He is for you. If He is for you, no one can be against you.

I wonder what Tupac’s life would have looked like if he understood these truths. I wonder if he would still be alive? I wonder if his music would have brought glory to God, and in turn, others would have given their lives to Christ. But, the sad reality is, Tupac used his talents for his own personal gain. His own gain which led to a life of seemingly misery and ultimately murder. Believer, if you find yourself struggling with wondering if anyone cares, God cares. His love in infinite, His mercy is sweet, and His grace is everlasting. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

The Impossible God

impossible

Has there ever been anything in your life that you deemed impossible? For you, I am sure that you could come up with a list of things. It would be impossible for me to do this, or it would be impossible to do that, and on and on it goes. But, have you ever thought that anything was impossible for God? If you are like me, you have more than likely believed that there was something to big for God to accomplish, or to great of a task, or a work that there is no way He can do. Now, you may not have said this with your mouth, but somewhere deep down in your heart, if we are honest, you have believed that there are some impossibilities with God.

Even though I struggle with this on a daily basis, I want to make a claim that there is nothing impossible for God. I know that we have said it over and over again in Sunday School classes and small group Bible studies, but truthfully, there is nothing impossible for God. You may say, “well if God can do all things and nothing is impossible for God, can He make a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” My only response is that this is a dumb question. It is also completely meaningless for what we are looking at today.

In the book of Genesis, God initiates and generates a relationship with Abraham. I am sure that if you have any knowledge of the Bible, you have heard of Abraham. Abraham and Sarah were old and had not yet had any children. Although this was the case, God came to Abraham and told him that He would give him a son and that his offspring would be multiplied and that he would be the father of many nations. Also from this Abrahamic line would come the Messiah, the Savior of the world. So what did Abraham do? Well, Abraham told his wife and they both had a good laugh about it because they were very old. Without going into great detail, the primary reason they laughed it off as impossible is because as you age, especially reaching the age of Abraham and Sarah, there are certain parts of the body and the reproductive cycle that just stop working. Trust me, if you have ever been in a human anatomy class or biology class, or any other science class for that matter, you would probably have laughed this off and counted it impossible as well.

Old man laughing

Looking to Romans 4, Paul begins to recount the faith that Abraham had in God despite what logically and physically seemed impossible. Romans 4:19-20, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

As good as dead? Ha. No wonder Abraham laughed. Here is this old man, never able to have any children, as good as dead, his wife is barren, and God shows up and says “you are going to have a son.” Impossible? Not with God. Despite the fact that every circumstance that surrounded Abraham and Sarah said that this wasn’t happening and that it was impossible, their faith never wavered. You see, Abraham knew God. Abraham knew that God cannot tell a lie and that God would make good on all of His promises. Abraham knew that when God said He was going to do something, regardless of what seemed impossible, it was going to get done. Not only does it say that Abraham believed it would happen, it says that he was “fully convinced.” No room for wavering.

Why was he so confident? How was he so sure that God was going to do what He had promised? Let’s look a little further down at Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Abraham was fully confident because he had peace with God. How did this peace come? Peace with God for Abraham came through faith. As you can see, Abraham was justified before God by his faith in God. This is no different than you and I today. We are justified before God based upon our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that as we believe in Christ, our standing before God is of someone not guilty because we have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness that we possess is not our own, but it is Christ’s. As this righteousness has been given to us by faith, we too can have a peace with God and a confidence that God is going to fulfill His promises.

What seems impossible in your life? Is it a job? Is it school? Is it debt? Is it life itself? Here is what we know from Abraham’s story and from the Word of God: God is faithful, God is going to fulfill His promises, God cannot lie, and God can do the impossible. Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Maybe this is a verse that seems impossible. In the midst of my circumstances, in the midst of this season in life, in the midst of my surroundings, in the midst of my impossibilities, how can God work all things together for my good? Well ultimately it is this, He is doing that right now. This good may not be seen here on this earth, but if you are in Christ our good awaits us in heaven. No matter what takes place on this earth, we can know that it is all working to move us to our inheritance that is being guarded by God as 1 Peter tells us. Look at it this way, before you were saved, it was impossible for you to have a relationship with God because of your sin. As this was impossible, it was not you that made this relationship happen. Just as Abraham’s relationship was initiated and generated by God, so was yours. Therefore, God did the impossible by sending Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins that would place their faith in Him, and then He gave you faith because faith is a gift. Therefore, God did the impossible. Now, live out everyday of your life seeking the One True God, through Jesus Christ, as He is the One who can truly do the impossible.

 

Mormons Don’t Work In The Nursery

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On Sunday nights at First Baptist Church Oloh, where I am an Associate Pastor, I have been walking our students through some everyday apologetics. We spent several weeks looking at our current culture as it operates with a Post-Modern worldview and how to combat various skeptics and some arguments that they bring to the table. Most recently, we have begun to look at various religions, their history, their beliefs, and ultimately why they are false and why Christianity is true. I can assure you that once you begin the research and hold these different views up to Scripture, they begin to break down rather quickly.

Last night, we continued our study of Mormonism. We have been looking at Mormonism for several weeks now and have been researching their history, beginning with Joseph Smith Jr. (their founder) and other aspects of their religion that the modern day Mormon missionary will not know about when they knock on your door. The study of this is very important for every believer because Mormons can be very persuasive in their speech and how they present their “truth.” It is not uncommon, at least where I live, to see Mormons out riding their bikes or walking the roads on their 2-year mission sharing what they call the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” This makes it all the more important for believers to be rooted in their beliefs, knowing how to combat Mormonism because after talking with a Mormon missionary you may find yourself thinking “maybe we aren’t that different.” Well, I can assure you that if you are a born-again believer, you are operating in a completely different hemisphere than a Mormon.

I do want to share one aspect of Mormon theology that breaks down and is not in line with the Bible. If you know anything about Mormonism, you know that they have 4 books that they refer to as Scripture. One of these book is the King James Version Bible, as well as The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. Mormons believe all 4 of these books to be divine revelation from God. From the start, you can recognize that they are way different than Christianity as we operate with the closed canon of Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. But, if one is to study Mormonism a little deeper, it does not take long to realize that there are some major discrepancies within the Mormon Scriptures and the Bible. I am not going to elaborate on all of them because it would take days, but if you want to get a pretty good idea of all of the falsehoods within Mormonism and within their Scriptures, I recommend Walter Martin’s book Kingdom of the Cults.

Specifically today, I want to address a small portion of a Mormon’s understanding of sin. The Book of Mormon in Moroni 8:8 states, “little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me.” Now the traditional Mormon perspective is that children are incapable of sin until the age of 8 when they are baptized. I didn’t say they are sweet and innocent, I said that they are incapable of sin. Yes, incapable of sin. I want you to think about this. I have 2 daughters. They are about to be 5 and 2. According to the Mormon view, they are incapable of sin. But, I promise you, they have been totally depraved since day one. If my children are incapable of sin, why is it easy for them to tell a lie? If my children are incapable of sin, why is it easy for one of them to slap the other in the face just because she can? If they are incapable of sin, why are they so selfish and get angry when the other plays with a toy that is not hers? Mormons are famous for having a bunch of kids and you would think that they would pick up on this rather quickly.

But it is more than a simple observation. The Holy Bible is in direct opposition to this view that is held by Mormons. In Psalm 51, David is relenting from the adultery that he had committed with Bathsheba, and in verse 5 he says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David is saying that from day one of his existence, he was a sinner. This is the doctrine of Total Depravity. All of mankind of inherited the nature of Adam, that of a totally depraved sinner. It’s not that you wait until you commit a sin to be a sinner, it’s that  we were born into sin, totally incapable of doing anything about it on our own. This is why Jesus was born of a woman, conceived of the Holy Spirit. Had he been born of 2 human parents by the seed of man, he would have also inherited the nature of Adam and would have been born totally depraved but he wasn’t.

If this is not enough for the everyday Mormon, let’s look further. In Romans 3, Paul begins his defense of total depravity. He is putting forth the truth that there no one righteous. He doesn’t say, nobody is righteous except for little kids 8 and under. No, he says that there is none righteous. In Romans 3:11-18, he begins to quote the Psalms when he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” As you can see, Paul leaves no room for children to be excused from unrighteousness.

I could go on further with some more theological and biblical evidence but I think that you get the picture. I do want to mention one thing further on this topic. Tradition has taught Christianity something that goes along these lines but is also not true. I am unsure of this understanding in various other denominations, but within Southern Baptist life (that which I am most familiar with) there has been something called the “age of accountability.” This is something that is often times thrown out there in an attempt to excuse children from the judgment of God for their sins. Yet, there is no biblical evidence that supports the “age of accountability.” What is the age? I have heard 7, 8, 10? The fact is that there is no age of accountability and we must excuse this from our minds. We must teach and implore children, just like adults, to repent from their sins and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, I do want to say this. The question always arises, “what happens to a baby, or a child, when they die?” This is a question that theologians and pastors have wrestled with, and will continue to wrestle with, for many years. I am not going to attempt to answer this question in great detail because it is a tough question and it requires and extensive answer. But, in short, I will say that when this happens, God will do the right thing. God is righteous, He is loving, and He is faithful, and at the tragic death of a child, He will do the right thing and I can rest in that. I do want to recommend a resource if you desire to read further on the topic of infant/child death. John MacArthur is way smarter than me and he has written a book entitled Safe in the Arms of God that will give much more biblical insight into this subject.

Nonetheless, Mormons have it biblically wrong when it comes to children. Not only do they have it wrong in regards to children, they have it wrong in regards to tons of beliefs. But, what I have come to the conclusion of when it comes to Mormons and children, Mormons must not work in the nursery.

Go Into The Land

rest-area

At the beginning of the book of Joshua, Moses has died and Joshua has been commissioned to lead Israel into the Promise Land. This is the land that God had promised to Abraham, it is the land flowing with milk and honey, it is the land that Israel had been looking for and waiting for as they continually walked in circles through the wilderness, it is the land where they would find their REST as they would DWELL in the place that God had prepared for them. So, what was it going to take for them to occupy the Promise Land? Nothing.

If you will notice throughout Israel’s journey into the Promise Land, God states time and time again, and He does it again here in Joshua 1:2, that He is giving them the land. He is giving it to them not based upon anything that they have done, but only based upon His good pleasure. He has chosen to give the land to Israel and all that they must do is take it. In Joshua 6 when they fight the famous battle of Jericho, Israel doesn’t even fight. God fights for them and before they lift a finger, God tells them that He has already given them the land. The horn that they blew was the “horn of jubilee” or the “victory horn”, because God had already told them “I have given Jericho into your hand” before they had even approached the city.  You see, the victory was already theirs. So it is with the Promise Land, it’s already theirs all they must do is dwell/rest within the land.

Translating this into our day and time, I feel that too many Christians act in a similar fashion. There are too many sermons and churches that put forth nothing but moral perfection and works based salvation that sucks the joy right out of believer’s. It would be safe to say that there are many “Christians” that seem to be the most unhappy people on the planet. But, ask them how they are on a Sunday morning and they will never think twice but to smile brightly and say “Better than I deserve.” But are they? Have we been conditioned, based upon our surroundings, to act and believe a certain way just because we think we have to? Have we been convinced than in order to be a Christian we have to be some of the most unhappy people in the world? Or maybe we think this because churches have communicated that if you are not doing this, or that, or this or that for God then you are not a good Christian. Maybe churches have communicated that if you struggle with sin, then you are not a good Christian because church people never struggle with sin. Maybe you have been convinced that you have to be angry and un-joyful because when the preacher preaches it seems that he is the most unhappy and angry person on the planet because he is always yelling and screaming at how we need to do a better job at being holy.

Regardless of where you find yourself in your spiritual journey, I feel that I have missed it for so long. I feel like I have been conditioned to believe a certain way for my entire life and now as I continue to grow I am finding a greater joy in God than I see a lot of churches attempting to reproduce. Through my sanctification and discipleship process, I have found that God’s greatest desire for His people is the same desire that He communicated to Israel, REST. God’s greatest desire for Israel was that they possess the land that He had promised them, not so they could be unhappy, not so that their joy could be sucked right out of them, but because His desire was for them to REST in Him as they DWELT in the land.

Our greatest joys in life will come through us RESTING in Christ. RESTING in the finished work of Christ and knowing that there is nothing that we can do in order to make ourselves better in His eyes. RESTING in who He is and what He has given to you through His own blood. You see, we have an eternal inheritance, a promise land, that awaits us. If we as Christians truly believe this and we know that there is nothing that we can do in order to make that disappear, then we of all people should be some of the most joyful people on the planet. If we truly believe that God has redeemed us, will never leave us nor forsake us, then we can REST in Him and live with great joy in this life.

You see, I feel that Christians have deprived themselves of some great joys because they think they have to work, work, work in order to please God. Maybe you will not say it with your mouth, but unconscionably you believe it. Why do I say that? Because I have been there and still struggle with it. I have been to the point to where if I am not doing this for God or doing that for God then I feel that I am being an ineffective Christian when the Bible time and time again tells me to REST in Christ. As I REST in Christ, I enjoy the things that He brings to me on a daily basis, I take part in the work that He has already prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10) and I do everything for His glory and His glory alone.

I think that believer’s miss out on some great experiences in this life because we have been conditioned to believe that we cannot enjoy this life here on earth. I think that Christians miss out on some of the graces that have been given to us because we think that if we do this or that God will not be pleased and the only reason we believe this is because we have been conditioned to believe this. This is especially prevalent within the Bible belt. There are many freedoms and joys that many believers miss because the “Christian” society has molded them in such a way that they think that any pleasure in this life is not encouraged by God. I think John Piper has penned the best phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” We can find satisfaction in God through a variety of ways and I do not want anyone to miss it. I want everyone to REST in God and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is where true joy comes in. Knowing that God does not need you and that He has chosen you to be a part of what He is doing, this is where joy comes in. Enjoying the good things in life as you are satisfied in God, this is where joy comes in.

Do not neglect the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” REST in Christ. Enjoy things through Christ. Live as a redeemed people.

Is The Father Of Jesus The God Of Muhammad?

Is The Father of Jesus The God of Muhammad

 

If you are anything like me, Islam is something that you have always somewhat known about,  but never put much effort into learning about. It seems that it has gained much more attention following the 9/11 attacks in which Radical Muslims high jacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and attempted another high jacking that was taken over by some brave passengers that ended up taking the plane down in an open field. Regardless, all the the passengers on the planes were killed, along with thousands of others that just so happened to be carrying on a regular day when the attacks took place.

With that being said, everyone knew what a Muslim was after these attacks, or at least everyone thought that they knew. It seemed the the most common understanding of a Muslim, at least from my perspective, was that they are people from the Middle East whose purpose in life and whose religion in focused only on murdering other people, specifically Americans. While there are some branches of Muslim’s that do see this is their primary goal within their religious practices, it is not the most popular form of Islam.

I had never really looked into, or studied, Islam until this past semester in which I took a class at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary entitled, The Doctrine of God in Christianity and Islam. Within this class, I was given a very detailed history of the rise of Islam through Reza Aslan’s book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. This book gave a tremendous, and very detailed, account of the Islamic faith from the beginning until now. If you are really looking for a historical outlook at how this religion came about, I would definitely recommend this book. However, be prepared to spend lots of time reading it as it seems to leave out very few details.

But, one of the most helpful books that I read is Dr. Timothy George’s book Is The Father Of Jesus The God Of Muhammad: Understanding The Differences Between Christianity And Islam. It was very helpful because it dealt with various theological differences and similarities. Like I said, I was not 100% aware of the doctrine of Islam until I read this book and what I came to find out was quite startling to some degree, but also very helpful in another. I found this to be of tremendous importance as our world is seeing a rapid growth in the Islamic faith, yet so many Christians are foreign to their beliefs. I was convinced that if we are to be truly effective within the field of evangelism and apologetics, this is something that we all need to become accustomed to.

I do want to mention a few points of interests about the book and some of its strengths. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this post, you will have an idea of whether you want to read the book or not. I will say this about the book, if you are not much of a reader, this book will be your friend. It is a powerful punch within a limited amount of pages. At only 139 pages, George gives the reader enough information to grasp the shell of Islam as it pertains to Christianity and he doesn’t bog the reader down with information that may not be useful to them. It is as they say “a big thing in a small package.”

A good foundation to Islam begins with what most people that have had any exposure to the religion have heard about and this is Islam’s “Five Pillars.” As George opens his book, he sees the need to define what Islam is. This was helpful to me as I had somewhat of an understanding but had never had it laid out any type of detail. As a part of this, he lays out the Five Pillars of Islam which they base their entire faith around. These Five Pillars contain some things that Christians would say with the utmost of confidence, yet they would be saying it within an entirely different context. To begin with, Muslims believe in one true god. This is going to be something that every Bible believing Christian would say as well. This is a foundation to both Christianity and Islam as George points out. From what I gather, Muslims do seem to do a much better job at expressing their belief in their one true god much more than most Christians express their belief in the One True God.

The briefly give a run-down on the Five Pillars, the first is Shahada. Shadaha is a one-sentence confession that is the primary foundation for all of Islam, “I bear witness and testify that there is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Now one important factor within this statement is the idea of Muhammad being a prophet. To put this in similar terms with Christianity, Islam also believes that there were other prophets. Some of those prophets being Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Put that in your pipe and smoke it (ha!). I was not aware of this until I began to study the religion. I knew about Abraham but when they started following the line that I read about within my Old Testament, that began to somewhat stun me.

The next pillar is the Salat. Christians can learn a lot from the Salat because it takes extreme devotion. Five times a day, before dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, after sunset, and again around midnight, The Muslim is required to bow down before god in the direction of Mecca (Mecca is the holy place for Muslims). This practice is takes place within the Islamic places of worship known as Mosque’s. Mosque is actually an Arabic word that means “place of prostration” or “house of prayer.” How long do we as Christians spend in prayer? That’s convicting.

Next, the Zakat. The Zakat is translated “poor tax” or “charity.” It is a giving of alms that is required by all Muslims. Tradition tells us that 2.5% of the Muslims annual income is to be given to Zakat. The Quran (9:60) mentions this as well and gives specific instruction of how this is to be used. Stewardship is something of great importance to Muslims and we as Christians operate in a similar fashion.

Sawm is the next pillar and is an annual fast that takes place during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar). The purpose of this fast is to demonstrate and cultivate discipline and self-control in hopes to put forth the idea and meaning of true submission to God and his will. Their desire is to worship god during this time and exercise their devotion to him through their fast. How many Christians do you know that fast? I know a lot of Christians in the Bible belt that definitely don’t look like they fast (too much fried chicken). We can definitely learn from this devotion.

Lastly, Hajj. Hajj is the final pillar and one of which that will mostly only happen once within the life of a Muslim, if at all. It is the final pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim is expected to make the journey to Mecca (their holy place) at some point in their lives. They are to do this without taking out a loan or any other sort of borrowed funds, but they are to save and use their own money. During the time of Ramadan, there will be millions of Muslims that travel to Mecca and take place in various worship festivities. If one was to see a video of this place during this time, I can promise you that it will blow your mind. I have seen a documentary about this and it truly blew my mind.

I know that I have made this entry way longer than anyone cares to read, but I wanted to give a brief overview of Islam. I did not mention much about how it is similar to Christianity, but I hope that you will grab a copy of this book and read it. There are some beliefs that are so close that it is scary, but there are others that are extremely far off. It will help you tremendously as you will encounter more and more Muslims as this religion is growing rapidly. Grab the book, read it, and let me know what you think. I will be more than willing to have discussion about this book or anything else as it pertains to pretty much anything.

Up and Running

 

Welcome to my new blog. This is really my first rodeo when it comes to blogging. I did possess one at one time several years ago but I never gave it the time or the effort. But now, I feel that the times are different. I have grown in various aspects of life and I want to provide another opportunity in order to educate, inform, encourage, and edify any, and all, who would take the time to read what I post. I will be posting articles, quotes, and portions of various books and literature, potentially offering some comments and insight into them, as well as my own personal thoughts on Scripture, culture, and everyday life. I hope that this is a good thing for me and for you as we continue down this road called life, always seeking to glorify God in everything that we do.