2018—>2019?

What’s in a date change?  Beyond some business and personal fiscal year change (particularly tax year) stuff – the change from one year to the next is little more than the turn of a page on a calendar (or the putting up of a new calendar).

Yet we have made the year change into something bigger – though maybe with the wrong motives!  The calendar change doesn’t by some miraculous action “close out” any pains or griefs you experienced the year before (in this case, 2018).  The page turn doesn’t suddenly set you up for some grand spiritual “breakthrough” as some are posting.  And the changed digit in the year designation does not somehow give special powers to some grand and optimistic “resolution” you might make to undertake any number of changes (weight loss/health improvement, financial renovations, relationship adjustments, etc.). But the flipping of a number does give us an opportunity to reflect on the past year – to give an honest evaluation to where we have been, where we went, and where we are today – all in preparation for setting our eyes every more on the goals, aims, and purpose GOD has set before us in the new year.

But let me begin with a caution – don’t set some unrealistic goals and resolutions that you won’t keep!  You are simply adding to the burden society and the world in general throws at you and you are setting yourself up to fail – and year-after-year, what have the countless “resolutions” done for you? For most people, these repeated failures have done little more than to add defeat and disappointment.

I would propose a different tact this year as you begin trying to look forward to this new year: Focus on the LORD.  In Mark 12:30, Jesus responded to a Scribe who was questioning Him on which was the greatest of commandments with “…AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.”  The focus of God’s commands all go back to giving everything to the LORD – and trusting HIM with what comes.  It’s the spirit behind 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 your paths straight.

One of the most difficult parts of life we face doesn’t’ come from the outside world, from those we work with, or those in positions of authority and leadership.  No – among the most difficult parts to deal with are those set up by our failure to heed these words!  We don’t place God at the very top and unquestioned position of priority in our lives.  Because of our low view of God, we don’t “trust in the LORD with all our hearts” – we trust in “ME” – until I fail… again.  Then we seek those in which to place blame, or even worse – we mess it up then blame God!  But what do we actually see here in this passage?  An incredible promise made when you quit relying on yourself and our own (in)ability to grasp the whole picture and to actually make good judgement in directing your path – and instead you acknowledge HIM in ALL your ways: acknowledge isn’t just naming or giving God credit, but literally means to KNOW Him – an intimate, close, life-changing, life-directing relationship with HIM where you are constantly seeking HIM and His will in everything you do.  Thus bringing a promise that if we will quit doing it “our way”, quit trying to be masters of our own fate – and simply seek HIM in all things, in all ways – He WILL “make your paths straight”.  What is a straight path here? It simply means that He will – just as we can see over-and-ver in the conquest of the Promised Land in the book of Joshua – when Joshua and the people committed everything to God’s will and plan – they experienced 100% victory.  When they deviated from God’s direction -they often stumbled and suffered greatly.  And in every single time – when they completely sought God’s will and followed it – God always delivered – and He still does today!  We just have to realize that HIs answers and direction may very well run contradictory to our own desires and opinions!

Life is a minefield – and God has not promised us a smooth, explosion-proof journey.  He has promised to direct our paths and to guide us IN that minefield.  But sometimes we are in a minefield to make a difference for others – especially those who have deviated from God’s path and stepped on those mines!  And lest we forget – helping people (truly loving our neighbors) can be a dirty and messy endeavor!  But if we are there WITH God – following God with everything in our being – trusting HIM and HIS way over our own – He will see us through, and ultimately – see us Home!

So – regardless of what your flesh and culture are telling you to focus on in 2019 – or the resolutions that you may be mulling around in your brain – how about being resolived first and foremost – in truly KNOWING the LORD as never before, fully trusting in HIS grace – and following HIM in all things as He directs your path!

A Burger King god

This post was originally posted by the author on his Old Blog and represents one of his favorite (and oldest) posts.

There is a “new” and destructive trend blowing through Christianity.  But in reality, this trend is nothing new.  The Apostle Paul wrote stern warnings, and Jesus Himself warned of this trend.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.(Galatians 1:8-9)

From the earliest days of Christianity – even when Jesus still walked the earth – there were already twisted “alternative” views of the gospel developing, even in the hearts of Christ’s own inner circle.  This trend really began to take off once the Gospel began to spread soon after the day of Pentecost.

I have said from the pulpit that the root of all of this is Satan and his use of the natural human nature towards pride and selfishness.  After all, Satan is described as being like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Which brings us to a quote I heard (and read) several years ago:

  Satan couldn’t beat the church, so he joined it.

The first time I heard that, I was speechless.  And then I began to open my eyes.  If God’s Word is unchanging.  If God HIMSELF is unchanging, then there can be only one correct understanding of scripture – thus only one true Gospel.

So how do we get to where we are today?  Simply by people, under the leadership of Satan (and I believe oftentimes these people are not even aware of it – they have also been deceived, to a point), have “joined” churches, have worked/manipulated themselves into positions to teach and eventually preach another gospel – all with the intent of helping themselves (fleshly/selfish desires), and Satan in “devouring” those they can deceive.

Somehow today, we have, just in the mainstream “versions” of Christianity (denominations).  This chart is in no particular order, except the first column being the biblical statement:

chart

All claim to be “right” in regards to who Jesus is – who God is – and what the gospel is.  But can these be all correct?
Let us return to Paul’s warning in Galatians – if ANYONE – angel or human- preaches to you a gospel different from the one Paul and his ministry companions did – let them be “accursed” – run from them, do not tolerate them.
Jesus dictated a series of 7 letters in Revelation 2 & 3.  Five were subjected to serious condemnation and warnings – and the primary reason – false teachers.  Those who were teaching and preaching another gospel.  Whether it be “Judaizers” or “Jezebels”, they were leading people down the path of destruction – and those churches were to deal strongly with them – and not tolerate it one bit.
And this all comes from the selfish “belly” of people and Satan.
So where does the title of this post, “Burger King god” come from?  In each case – when the image or character of God is changed to the preferences of mankind, that is no longer God.  He becomes nothing more than a Whopper ordered “your way” at Burger King.
Just this morning, I saw a reply to a post regarding the young girl, Jahi McMath, who has been declared brain dead after an apparent serious reaction to anesthesia having a tonsillectomy.  This post reminded me of just how much of a “custom-made-to-order” god that is being preached in churches.
claimit

Where in scripture are we, as believers, given the authority to command God perform a miracle and raise someone from the dead (or to demand He do anything else?).  Nowhere.  Pray- yes.  Plead with God on behalf of others (intercessory prayer)?  Yes.  But the only god that is subject to human commands is a Burger King god – done YOUR way.

And we wonder why there are so many disillusioned professed “Christians” floating around in this world.  It’s because they were sold a bill of goods by those “enemies of the Cross of Jesus Christ” who told them that they could just “ask Jesus into their hearts” and he would make life easy, bless them financially, and they would be “heaven-bound” no matter what happened.

  • No repentance (a change of mind and heart regarding sin – an intentional TURNING FROM sin).
  • No God-transplanted heart of righteousness
  • No sincere sustaining faith
  • No real conviction of the Holy Spirit
  • Just have an experience and/or see “signs and wonders”
  • And god becomes your servant…
  • It is time for churches who have allowed false teachers to hijack them to repent!  It is time for Christians to repent!  It is time to get back to God’s Holy Word. It is time to stand up and call sin what it is – sin.  No situational ethics.  No ever-changing and “living” God’s Word that conforms to the times.
  • It is time to stand against those who proclaim a prosperity gospel.
  • It is time to stand against those who preach a gospel of liberation theology.
  • It is time to stand against those who would create their own Burger King god.

It is time to get back to the Word of God.  The same Word of God that says clearly that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  The same Word of God that clearly states that the wages of sin – is death.  Period.  It doesn’t matter if you have decided you were “made that way” – sin, is sin.

It is time to get back to who God (in Jesus) really is – the perfect Lamb of God who came, not “to be a good teacher”, not even to heal and preach (though in His grace, He did).  Jesus came with one and only one purpose – to die in our place, pouring out His precious blood on the cross, that sinners might be saved from the wrath of God.  Yes – the very wrath that so many want to ignore or forget about.  Jesus died that we might live – eternally.  But that will never happen with a Burger King god.

Jesus didn’t die (and rise from the dead) so you can command Him to raise your loved one or friend from death.  Jesus didn’t die and rise from the dead so that you could have a fat bank account, a fine home, and all the luxuries this world has to offer.  Jesus died that sinners might stand before a Holy and Righteous God and be viewed in the righteousness of Christ, not our own unrighteousness.

And for those who are truly saved, born-again, in Christ Jesus, are made new creatures.  Put off the old self, for in Christ we are made new.  Read Colossians 3.

God is not who you, in the flesh, want Him to be.  God is God.

Who Is Jesus? (Deity of Christ) Part 5: Who Can Forgive but God?

Luke 5:20-21 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus clearly made many claims of His own Deity – see the previous installments of this series of posts. But we finally see an acknowledgement from even His opponents in the above passage. The Scribes and the Pharisees themselves knew that ONLY God had the authority of forgive sin. Yet here was Jesus, the lowly Carpenter from Galilee, son of Mary and Joseph – a man who was forgiving sins.

Under what authority did anyone have to forgive sins?  None – because sin, ultimately, is an offense to God almighty – the Sovereign of the Universe who is “Holy Holy Holy”. and here Jesus either is usurping the title and works of God (an act of blasphemy), or He was simply doing the very work of His Father which he repeatedly said He was doing (See John 6, for example).

And indeed, Christ’s one and only mission in His incarnation as God in the flesh – and that was to march head-long to the cross – to offer Himself as the only, perfect, and complete sacrifice for the payment in full of the sin debt of all who would believe.

At the most fundamental level – and the most important theological reality of all: God Himself paid the price for the very sins that separate mankind from Him.  A price that we could never pay ourselves. The price that the blood of millions of goats, rams, bulls, pigeons, doves, and so much more could never reconcile. It required the perfect, sinless blood of the Spotless Lamb of God – and He paid it all that we might live. No angel, no created being could ever be enough to settle the debt, but God Himself.

Part 4: Who Alone Is to be Worshipped?

Matthew 4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

While being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan’s calling for Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus said that only the Lord and God is to be worshipped and served. This is an obvious reference back to the commandments given to the Hebrew people in the wilderness so long before, and the command to have no other God before Him.
Yet in John 9:35-38, we read of a man born blind, but given sight by Jesus. The man has been cast out by the Jews for his testimony of what happened – and when Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Time an again throughout Scripture, when someone bowed down and began to worship any other than God, they were quickly chastised for their mistake. Yet Jesus has no chastisement for this healed man. The man was simply allowed to worship Jesus.
Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
The writer of Hebrews laid out a picture of Jesus as one to be worshipped, and to boot – to be worshipped by all of God’s angels! In fact, if we go back to the beginning of Hebrews 1, we see it is all about laying out Christ’s superiority, and then the writer clearly differentiates Jesus from any created being, even angels.
Then we have Paul writing to the church at Corinth, and he identifies Jesus Christ as “their Lord and ours”:

1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

The term translated as “Lord” here is κύριος, literally meaning supreme, controller, master, or God.
And let us compare that to: 1 Kings 18:24 and Elijah’s challenge: And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD ,(יְהֹוָה – Jehovah) and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 
 
Zechariah 13:9  And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name,and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
God’s resend always refer to God as “Lord” – they are terms of worship and adoration of God. So when we see Jesus referred to as Lord, and more directly  – “my God” as Thomas stated, we can understand that Jesus is the only God worthy of worship.
And this brings us to yet another reality – because who else an forgive sins? Stay tuned for the next Episode (Episode 5: Who Can Forgive Sin?)

Who Is Jesus (Deity of Christ) Part 3: Seeking the the Real Jesus – My Lord, My God!

 I cannot help but be blown away by the words of “doubting” Thomas in his confession of faith found in John 20:28 – “My Lord and my God!”  Thomas didn’t just express Jesus’ position above him (“Lord” – κύριος – literally “supreme authority”), but he also called Jesus God (θεός – Deity/Supreme Divinity).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church a description of Jesus that doesn’t mince words: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”Colossians 2:9. Paul made qualms that he saw Jesus as, quite literally – God.
 
Further, in answering questions about Jesus – and the highly irregular claims that Jesus was God – Paul wrote to the Philippians:
 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Equality with God? But there is only one God, correct?
The writer of Hebrews recorded something extremely interesting:
Hebrews 1:8  But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” (A direct quote from Psalm 45:6)
If we were to ignore the first phrase, this verse would not be controversial – yet the writer specifically wrote “But of the Son (that’s Jesus), he says…” OF Jesus. The writer directly calls the Son… God.
To label anyone, other than God Almighty, as “God” would be blasphemy. So our conclusion must bend to what the inspired biblical writers penned.
Installment #4 will come next week – “Who is to be worshiped but God alone?”

Who Is Jesus (Deity of Christ) Part 2 Who Is I Am?

Originally published by the author on his old blog.

Part 2: Who is “I AM?”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:18

I often hear said that “Jesus never claimed to be God”. While in a very limited and literal sense, Jesus didn’t use that exact phrase to describe Himself, between the above actions that the Jews were complaining of were understood in their time and context as laying claims to being “equal” with God – Yet there is non other. There is none like God.

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he* you will die in your sins.” John 8:24

(*of note – in the original language, there is no personal pronoun “he” there. Rendering literally “believe that I am”.)

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58

Compare this direct statement by Jesus to Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’.”

Or in John 10:30-33, when Jesus said “I and the Father are one”, The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
 
To lay any claim to being God or equal TO God would be a brazen sin – Yet Jesus is commended for the claim.
Jesus identified Himself with the name/title of “I Am”, which is one of the most powerful names God revealed of Himself.

Who Is Jesus (The Deity of Christ) Part 1

Originally published on the author’s old blog.
Among the great theological debates that rage regarding Jesus and who He is, the greatest is whether or not Jesus IS God. There are some who would profess Jesus to be something less than fully God. They claim faith, yet in “who” are they believing? This short piece is designed simply to answer this incredible question – “Is Jesus God?” Further, to briefly answer the question of “why is this so important?”
 
Simply put, only the pure, holy, and completely uncorrupted by sin blood could possibly atone for sin. The blood of countless animals and birds never paid the sin debt for Israel. Only the pure, spotless Lamb could pay that sin debt.
And who but God is totally pure and righteous?
 
To that end, I am going to post a series of entries that deal with Scripture passages that, when taken all together, present a beautiful picture of the real Jesus, who is fully God.
Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Others rely on creative translation of selected verses to shore up their claim that Jesus is not God (or Yahweh/Jehovah). Yet a simple review of the Bible reveals a pattern that cannot be dismissed, a pattern that clearly makes the case for Jesus Christ as God.
 
Over the next few days, I plan to post a series of passages and a bit of comment on each in an effort to stitch together the greater picture of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who IS the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is worthy of all praise and worship. My challenge to the reader – read them, ponder on them, and pray about it, particularly as you accumulate these passages, who is Jesus?
 
We begin with one of the most clear, yet still controversial passages pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

Now, some like to move the comma, or add the word “a” based on the lack of a “definite article”, yet the original language gives NO convincing reason to do either. In fact, there are several examples elsewhere that do not create controversy where there is a lack of a definite article. Yet the preponderance of Christian history and understanding agrees that the reference to “the Word” is a reference to Jesus as having the same quality as God the Father.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3

What we see here, is that the reference back to “The Word” here is clearly identifying Jesus as the Creator of all, which in the Old Testament is 100% identified as God/Jehovah.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:3

And to further reinforce this idea, let us thing a bit about one of the most powerful names God used in the Old Testament to reveal Himself – “I Am”. This will be the subject of Episode 2 in this series.