Faith On Trial

courtroom-of-style

In today’s world, the Christian faith is constantly on trial. There is no other “religion” in the world that has seen more scrutiny and persecution other than the Christian faith. Within the realm of academia, it is constantly pushed back against. It is seen as a belief that lacks intelligence and is referred to as a “crutch” that weak people need to lean on. It is pushed back against in mainstream media and politics because it is seen as hateful because of its stance on homosexuality, feminism, abortion, etc. Yet, there is no other faith, such as Islam, that is every put to the test because of their beliefs on these topics. Thus, if we are to look at the culture that surrounds us, we could easily establish the idea that the Christian faith is put on trial regularly. We could say that it always finds itself under the spotlight in the interrogation room as pressure is put upon the faith and the believer. But, it is not the pressures of the media, secularism, or academia that really put a Christians faith on trial.

What I have come to the conclusion of from being in ministry for several years now, and mostly due to my own Christian journey, is that all of my cultural surroundings are not what puts my faith to the test. It is not academia and the various arguments against the Christian faith. For every argument against Christianity that I have heard, I have a counter-argument for Christianity that I can offer. For every push back from mainstream media about hot topic issues, I offer up an answer from God’s Word (objective truth) that I will not waver from. From anything that anyone throws at me, I have an answer for and it does not cause me to waver. But the one thing that puts my faith on trial and really gets me thinking, or questioning, is life. Life and the various trials that it brings is what puts my faith on trial more than any other outward push-back.

You see, life is where the rubber hits the road. Life is where our faith is more than a head knowledge and becomes something that we live, breathe, and experience. Faith that is not lived out is no faith at all and if someone claims they have faith in Christ, yet their life does not reflect it, then it is no faith at all. But when financial problems hit me in the face and the bills continue to roll in, that is when my faith is tested. When family circumstances change and tragedy strikes, this is when my faith is tested. When uncertainty knocks on my front door and my surrounding environment seems shaky and unsettling, this is when my faith is put to the test. It has nothing to do with the world and the culture that I live in and it has everything to do with life. So often, I am the one that has brought about the various circumstances that I have found myself in, and as a result of decisions my faith is being tested. Also known as life.

What I have to remember and rely upon during times of trial is the fact that God is faithful. Despite what has come about in life, despite what circumstance that I find myself in whether brought about by my own decisions or not, God is faithful. Despite the fact that I am often unfaithful and question God’s actions in so many things, He remains faithful. You see, faithfulness is a characteristic of God’s as He exercise faithfulness to His people. God is faithful to His people even when His people are not faithful to Him. If God were not faithful to His people, then God would cease to be God. As the redeemed people of God, we can take comfort in Moses words to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.” Given a current situation or circumstance that is testing your faith, God may or may not deliver you from it in a manner that you see fit. But regardless of the outcome, you can rest assured that if you are the redeemed people of God, He is with you. You can be assured that if you are the redeemed people of God, His ways are higher than your ways and His solution is better than your solution, regardless of what that looks like. You can rest assured that regardless of what is happening on the outside, your faith and salvation is being perfected and completed. Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

As difficult as this is for me to say, your spiritual life is much more important than your physical life. I say this is difficult because the temporal, physical life is what is much more visible at times than our spiritual lives. The outward circumstances and uncertainties are seemingly a more present reality to us than our inward spiritual lives. But nonetheless, it is the spiritual life of ours that is eternal. When all else fades away, there is only one that remains and that is our souls. How is your soul? Are you trusting in the finished work of Christ despite your outward circumstances or do you merely look at your surroundings and allow your faith to be questioned? Do you trust the fact that God goes before you and that He is sovereign over all, or do you let your current situations dictate how you believe?

I can assure you that I spoke this to myself as I typed every word and my faith is still on trial.

One Shot

Solomon

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2

Whether you like it or not, you only get one shot at life. Although it may seem like you will live for a much longer time, you never know when your number will be called. The fact is, God has all of our days numbered, despite what you may think. You do not know what tomorrow holds just as you do not know what 20 years from now holds. Life is finite and frail. Whether one lives to be 10 or whether they live to 100, they are both merely a speck in the grand scheme of eternity.

Here’s what I do know; I know that everyone will live forever. When I say that everyone will live forever, I do not mean it in the sense that you will live on this earth (as it is today)  forever, but I mean it in the sense that we all have souls, and we will all live forever in 1 of 2 places. For those who have placed their faith in Christ and lived their life on this earth for Him, they will spend eternity in heaven worshiping the risen Savior. For the one who has rejected Christ and not followed after Him, they will spend eternity having the wrath of God poured out upon them for all of eternity. These are two very distinct eternities.

You see, there is nothing in this life that you will take with you into eternity. You cannot take your money, possessions, work ethic, reputation, or anything else that you may work hard to preserve. Yes, people may stand around at your funeral and talk about how great of a person that you were, but your morality is not what saves you. I desire for people to speak highly of me at my funeral, I desire for people to have good things to say about me to my family during a time of grief, but that is not the most important thing to me or to any Christian. I want people to stand around at my funeral and be comforted by the fact that I lived my life for Christ and because of that, they can rest assured that I am with Him. I want people to rejoice in the gospel that has brought me a salvation that I did not earn and to herald the name of Christ at my funeral. You see, when you are dead, you are dead. There is no coming back for more. There is no second chance. You have One Shot.

Solomon said all is vanity because he understood that everything here on this earth would fade away. He knew that everything under the sun would one day be possessed by someone else. He knew that there is nothing that can satisfy on this side of heaven and that people strive after worldly satisfaction only to have it lead them no where. He knew that a life lived for this world was worthless, but a life lived for God was eternal. This is why he closes out his search for happiness in all things of this earth in this manner, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14).

God and Myself

valley-of-vision-redux

One of the great books that I have is not filled with infinite knowledge and wisdom. It is not thick. It is not necessarily culturally engaging. It is a book full of prayers. It is called The Valley of Vision and is a book full of Puritan prayers and devotions. It contains some of the richest truths about God and the richest devotion to God. It contains some edifying and sanctifying material that blesses my soul and blesses many others as well. One of them that I read this morning is entitled God and Myself. It is a tremendous look at the holiness and magnificence of God and the utter depravity of man. Yet is shows that despite the fact that man is totally depraved, the mercy and grace of God is immeasurable. It is immeasurable in the fact that He initiates and allows relationship with His people, even though we will continually battle sin, self, and temptation. I thought that it would be good for me to post this prayer and I hope that you are enriched by it as well.

Lord God Almighty, Thy understanding is unsearchable and infinite, Thy arm cannot be stayed,  Thy agency extends through limitless space, All works hang on thy care, With thee time is a present now.

Holy is thy wisdom, power, mercy, ways, works. How can I stand before thee with my numberless and aggravated offences? I have often loved darkness, observed lying vanities,  forsaken thy given mercies, trampled underfoot thy beloved Son, mocked thy Providences, flattered thee with my lips, broken thy covenant. It is of thy compassion that I am not consumed.

Lead me to repentance, and save me from despair; Let me come to thee renouncing, condemning, loathing myself, but hoping in the grace that flows even to the chief of sinners. At the cross may I contemplate the evil of sin, and abhor it, look on him whom I pierced, as one slain for me, and by me. May I never despise his death by fearing its efficacy for my salvation. And whatever cross I am required to bear, let me see him carrying a heavier. Teach me in health to think of sickness, in the brightest hours to be ready for darkness; in life prepare me for death. Thus may my soul rest in thee, O immortal and transcendent one, revealed as thou art in the Person and work of thy Son, the Friend of sinners.  

The Importance of Church Membership

church1

From a biblical perspective, and a personal one, it is imperative that believer’s be a part of a local congregation. The Bible affirms this as the local church is the body of Christ and as Christians are spurred on to be in constant fellowship with one another. Last night at our monthly deacons meeting, Pastor John H. Innabnit passed out a hand out entitled 40 Reasons To Be Part Of A Local Church. Below you will find its contents and I hope that you take the time to read it and see the biblical importance of being a member of a biblical church.

40 Reasons To Be Part Of A Local Church

by Jesse Johnson

Is it possible to live a faithful Christian life without being a faithful part of a local church? I’ve heard many people make the argument that it is indeed possible – especially if there are no good churches around. I disagree.

At the bare minimum, there are forty different commands in the New Testament to live a life in some sense with other believers. While certainly it is possible to do some of these with Christians in general, the weight of this list should convince you of the necessity of having ongoing relationships with other believers.

And those relationships are only strengthened by the fellowship of the local church. In fact, I submit that some of this list is simply impossible to obey if you do not have the kind of ongoing and ever increasing fellowship with other believers that only comes through ministry in a local church:

1. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)

2. Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)

3. Build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

4. Be of the same mind as one another (Romans 12:13, 15:5)

5. Comfort one another in the face of death (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

6. Employ your spiritual gifts in serving one another (1 Peter 4:10)

7. Pray for one another (James 5:16)

8. Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)

9. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)

10. Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

11. Greet one another (2 Corinthians 13:12)

12. Don’t become boastful in challenging one another (Galatians 5:26)

13. Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

14. Abound in love for one another (1 Peter 1:22)

15. Live in peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

16. Love one another (2 John 5)

17. Fervently love one another (1 Peter 1:22)

18. Have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)

19. Don’t judge one another (Romans 14:13)

20. Take communion (the Lord’s Table) with one another (1 Corinthians 11:33)

21. Accept one another (Romans 15:7)

22. Regard one another as more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3)

23. Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)

24. Admonish one another (Romans 15:14)

25. Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

26. Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:13)

27. Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)

28. Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13)

29. Teach and admonish one another (Romans 15:14)

30. Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)

31. Cloth yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

32. Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

33. Do not complain against one another (James 5:9)

34. Show forbearance to one another (Ephesians 4:2)

35. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)

36. Give preference to one another (Ephesians 4:2)

37. Don’t bite and devour one another (Galatians 5:15)

38. Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)

39. Seek the good of one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

40. Don’t forsake the assembling with one another (Hebrews 10:25)

That last one brings the whole list full circle. If being a Christians means nothing more than making a decision about Jesus Christ, then none of this matters. But if being a Christians means stepping into a life altering world, where God desires your sanctification and gives you the means to grow and the commands to follow, then it is simply impossible to do that outside of the context of a local church. 

Shai Linne Lyrics

shai_big

With the rise of the prosperity gospel heresy that has infected our country and is being exported to other countries, I think it is appropriate to share the lyrics to a song that the rapper Shai Linne penned. One thing about Shai Linne that is important to know, he is not only a rapper. This guy is a student and a theologian. He has sat under some of the best biblical teaching that is out there and he is a brilliant scholar. This is why his lyrics contain truths that you normally would not hear in a rap song. The song is entitled “Fal$e Teacher$” and is an incredible defense of the gospel in the midst of the heresies that are being put out there. Read these lyrics and consider the individuals that he names. Are you being influence by one of these individuals? If so, please evaluate what they are putting forth because I can assure you that it is not true biblical doctrine. I also encourage you to listen to the album that this song came off of. It is called Lyrical Theology.

Let me begin while there’s still ink left in my pen
I’m set to contend for truth you can bet will offend
Deception within the church, man who’s letting them in?
We talked about this years ago- let’s address it again
And I ain’t really trying to start beef
But some who claim to be part of the sheep got some sharp teeth
And cats get mean when you criticize them
But Jesus told us- Matthew 7:16, we can recognize them
And God forbid that for the love of some fans
I keep quiet and watch ‘em die with their blood on my hands
So there nothing left for me to do except to speak to you
In the spirit of Jude 3 and 2 Peter 2
And I know that some will label me a Pharisee
Because today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy
I’ll dare to be specific and drop some clarity
On the popularity of the “gospel” of prosperity
Turn off TBN- that’s channel’s overrated
The pastors speak bogus statements, financially motivated
It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme
Visualize heretics christianizing the American dream
It’s foul and deceitful, they’re lying to people
Teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of needle
Ungodly and wicked- ask yourself
“How can they not be convicted?” Treating Jesus like a lottery ticket
And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type
because some of their statements are right?
That only proves that Satan comes as an angel of light
This teaching can’t be believed without a cost
The lie is you can achieve a crown without a cross
And I hear it all the time when they speak on the block
Even unbelievers are shocked how they’re fleecing the flock
It should be obvious then, yet I’ll explain why it’s sin
Peep the Bible- it’s in 1Timothy 6:9-10
It talks about how the desire for riches
Has left many souls on fire, in stitches, mired in ditches
Tell me, who would teach you to pursue as a goal
The very thing that the Bible says will ruin your soul?
Yet they’re encouraging the love of money
To make it worse, they’ve exported this garbage into other countries
My heart breaks even now as I’m rhyming
You wanna know what all false teachers have in common?
It’s called “self-ism”, the fastest growing religion
They just dress it up and call it Christian
Don’t be deceived by this funny biz
If you come to Jesus for money, then He’s not your God- money is
Jesus is not a means to an end
The gospel is He came to redeem us from sin
And that is the message forever I’ll yell
If you’re living your best life now, you’re headed for hell
Chorus

Joel Osteen is a false teacher
Creflo Dollar is a false teacher
Benny Hinn is a false teacher
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya

TD Jakes is a false teacher
Joyce Meyer is a false teacher
Paula White is a false teacher
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya

Fred Price is a false teacher
Kenneth Copeland is a false
Robert Tilton is a false teacher
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya

Eddie Long is a false teacher
Juanita Bynum is a false teacher
Paul Crouch is a false teacher
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya

2 Peter 2:1-3

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”