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Slouching Toward Sodom and Gomorrah

June 9, 2016

Grace to you! Most people are familiar with how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven, devouring the cities and their inhabitants (Genesis 19:24). Both cities were known for their sexual perversion, especially in the area of homosexuality (See Genesis 19:5). Although all sexual perversion is shameful and sinful, homosexuality is a marker of a society’s moral debasement. We must say up front: God loves the homosexual as well as the adulterer. But God will by no means clear the guilty of their sin (See Exodus 34:7).

Biblically speaking, what does sexual sin tell us about our culture? What does it say about our belief systems other than just saying, ‘it is bad and shame on you!’ kind of mindset.  Remember, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. God desires to redeem the homosexual, the liar, drunks, thieves, etc., (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So before anyone assumes this article is targeting the lone sin of homosexuality, think again. God loves sinners. He loves them enough He sent His Son to die for them and pay their sin debt that all who trust in Him can be forgiven and changed.

Romans 1:25 says the heart of all sin is that people love something in creation more than the Creator. People warp the truth about who God is, how He relates to the world, etc. to serve idols. We love God-substitutes. They are for our honor, our fame, our comfort, and for our wills being done. The True God however is about His fame, our holiness, and His will being done. The Apostle Paul states that the more people reject the truth of who God is, the more perverse their behavior becomes. In Romans 1:21, 24 people wouldn’t honor God so God let them debase their own bodies.  Still they wouldn’t repent, they kept rejecting God’s truth, and so God gave them over to homosexual passions (Romans 1:25-27). Surely this is the worst of it, right? Wrong, because if a society will not repent after embracing homosexuality, God gives them up to further judgment: to do any and every kind of evil (See Romans 1:28-32)!

So what does this mean for us? Clearly, we have seen America follow all three phases of coming under God’s judgment. First, we can see the broad sexual immorality put forth in the 60s. Second, the homosexual agenda from the mid 80’s to about 2010. And now, the third phase is opening up right before our eyes. Everyday something we thought would never have been promoted twenty years ago is celebrated on T.V. as ‘personal choice and freedom.’

What is coming for our nation is persecution of those who will stand for Christ. We must decide now to preach the truth but always in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Cultural Christianity days, aka ‘playing church’, are soon to be over. You must decide now if you will follow Christ in the midst of a nation that is currently under the wrath of God. May we stand strong for Jesus in the coming days. May God break our hearts for the world and their need for Jesus, just like we need Him (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)!


Putting the Bible Together

June 9, 2016

Grace to you! Reading and understanding the Bible can be an intimidating task. With over 31,000 verses in its pages, it’s hard to know how it all fits together. This week we are going to give you an overall grid by which to read the Bible. Understanding these three broad categories will help to know what Scripture is referring to and why.

The first theme we have to understand in the Bible is Creation. The first two chapters of Genesis recount the 6 days of creation. They show what God had originally intended. It gives us the idea of “how things used to be.”

The second theme we see in the Bible is corruption. In Genesis 3, we see the entrance of sin into the story of man. From man’s initial sin to every person born since then, sin has dominated the life of people. The theme of man’s fall into sin gives us the idea of “the way things ARE.”

Finally, the idea of salvation or recreation permeates the biblical storyline. From Genesis 3:15 and onward, God begins to make promises and take action to bring the Promised One who will all things better than ever before. This gives us the idea of “what things will be like.”  In summary, we see the Bible tell us what things used to be like, what they are now, and what they will be when Christ returns to restore all things.

So how does this help us when we read our Bibles? Well, when we read a passage of Scripture we have to think through these three themes. Sometimes a passage will deal with one, two, or all three themes together. Scripture uses this three-fold theme to present one united plan of God.

When someone sees that God created them, they see that God has the inherent right to command how they are to live. They will also see that man alone has dignity and value since he is made in God’s image whereas angels and animals are not. Yet we all see that the world as it is now is not a paradise. This is where the 2nd theme comes to bear. Sin has infected and affected every aspect of God’s original intention. Man and the rest of creation labors under sin and its consequences. We long for something better but yet we along with others often make things worse! What is the answer? Where can hope be found?

The third theme shows that even in the midst of this world as it is now things can begin to change! “If anyone is IN CHRIST, they are a NEW CREATION. Behold, old things have passed away. Behold, new things have begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The beauty of the third theme is that it is not only something we can look forward to in the future, but it can start to be a present reality for anyone right now as God begins His renewal of creation with each person that puts their faith in Jesus Christ!

How To Pray For America

June 9, 2016

Grace to you! Political season is upon us. It seems we can honestly say that the very foundations of the biblical worldview that made America are under attack. Most Christians realize this and pray for our nation. But why hasn’t God seemingly answered? Can America ever be a morally strong nation again? Biblically speaking, we need to examine how we are praying for our country.

In Isaiah 36 and 37, a very powerful pagan king named Sennacherib came to fight Jerusalem. They had destroyed every nation they had fought and now Israel was next! Sennacherib told Israel’s king, Hezekiah, that the God of the Bible was no different than the other pagan gods he had already defeated (See Isaiah 36:14-20) But as the old saying in the south goes, King Sennacherib “was barking up the wrong tree.” This pagan king had not only threatened God’s people but now he was mocking the living God.

King Hezekiah of Israel knew they did not have enough military strength to stop the Assyrians. So what did he do? Hezekiah took the threatening letter the pagan king sent to him and, “went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD.”  (Isaiah 37:14-15) So this was his strategy?! When thousands of armed soldiers and chariots are about to break through the wall and kill everyone, Hezekiah prays?!

But let’s notice his prayer. He does not think solely about his personal safety. Nor is his prayer focus for them to continue their life of ease and pleasure as they had always had before. No, Hezekiah prays a God-centered and God-honoring prayer. “Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God…So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (Isa 37:17, 20) Hezekiah says, “Lord, this pagan king has challenged you. Now, bust his teeth so that he and the rest of the world will know that you are the one true living God.”

How’s that for a politically incorrect prayer?! Hezekiah asks God to break Sennacherib’s power so that God would be known! So how does God reply? The Lord said, “Because you have prayed to me…and because Sennacherib has raged against me and his complacency has come to my ears, I will put my hook in his nose and my bit in his mouth, and I will turn him back on the way by which you came.’ (Isa 37:21, 29) The result? The Lord killed 180,000 soldiers of Sennacherib and then he was murdered by his own two sons (See Isaiah 37:36-38).

When we pray for God to move, do we pray because we want our way of life and our desires protected? In short, are we asking God to protect our creaturely comforts? Or are we concerned that what is happening is eclipsing God’s glory? Are we concerned about our America or the America (or any country for that matter) that should glorify God? One prayer God will ignore, the other God will answer in His own way.

Peace For All Who Trust Him!

June 9, 2016

Grace to you! Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” This verse alone has enough counsel in it to give us direction for all of life.

Often we hear bible messages talk about our Christian life. These are good but we have to remember the main character and hero of the story is God Himself. Biblically speaking, whatever we focus on or behold, that is what we become like. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) Note how this relates to our opening verse. Everyone who keeps their mind fixed upon the Lord will trust Him as the result. Our trusting Him leads to “perfect peace.” Interesting enough in the Hebrew language, it actually says “peace peace.” In English when we wish to emphasize something, we “HIGHLIGHT” the word some way. In Hebrew, they would repeat the word for double emphasis: “peace, peace!”

Our greatest need in any situation whether it’s a crisis or heart issue is to see God for who He is. In Isaiah 6, the prophet saw the Lord and afterwards was changed and willing to do anything the Lord asked (See Isaiah 6:8) This is the consistent biblical pattern. We don’t need more programs or techniques. We need to see God for who He is! When we see God, everything else comes into proper perspective, our hearts and lives are changed, and people are willing to commit their lives to Christ!

Luke 8 fits this same pattern, “22 One day Jesus got into a boat with His disciples, and Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed Jesus fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke Jesus, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.  25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even winds and water, and they obey Him?”

The disciples are fearful due to facing a stormy situation. Jesus awakens, calms the sea, and now the disciples are no longer afraid of the sea but of the One who silences it! (See vs 25) They didn’t have faith in Jesus because they didn’t understand Who He was. Why do we fear, lack faith, worry, etc? It’s because we haven’t seen God for who He is. So instead of trying another technique or program, why not ask God to “show you His glory.” (Exodus 33: 18) Peace comes as a result of trusting God. But you can’t trust someone you don’t know. Pursue knowing God and the other things will take care of themselves!

The Resurrection Matters, Part 3

April 26, 2016

Grace to you! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity. Without Jesus literally rising from the dead, there is no Christianity. So far we have seen how the resurrection impacts various aspects of our lives. Let’s look at another way the resurrection of Christ changes our lives to glorify God. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31)

The resurrection of Christ helps me to see my current circumstances, no matter what they may be, as an opportunity to make Christ known to others. Often we think if God would change our circumstances or those ‘certain people’ in our lives, then we could make Jesus known to others easier. Although we all want things changed at times, it’s not the case that we need things to change in order to speak to others about Jesus. The apostle Paul was in prison at the end of his life. He met a gruesome death from the Roman government for preaching the gospel. What was his mindset while in prison? How did the resurrection of Christ affect his outlook? “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8-9)

What a perspective considering his current situation! Paul, bound in chains, under constant guard, and facing his execution mere days away expresses great confidence in making Christ known! They thought putting him in prison would stop him but he just started telling the Roman guards about Jesus. Now this is where God’s wisdom outdoes our wisdom! Roman soldiers were regularly moved around to various posts and missions. Sometimes they would watch prisoners. Sometimes they would sail across the waters to fight a battle. Sometimes they would escort important dignitaries. Think of all the people and places a Roman soldier who had committed his life to Christ would be able to reach with the good news of Jesus! Whereas Paul was one man traveling the world, but now in prison he can reach soldiers with the good news who would then take the message of Jesus into all the world! In short, we might think the work of God was hindered because Paul was in jail. But God used his very imprisonment to help spread the gospel over the whole world!

Look at again Paul had hope: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…” If God can take a dead body and give it life, He can do the same thing with my “dead situation and circumstances” to bring “life” to other people. So what “prison” are you facing? Do you know that God wants to use you right now to make Christ known to others? You may think the gospel is imprisoned, but a rock-walled, sealed tomb of Jesus could not keep life from going forth to change the world for God’s glory!


The Resurrection Matters, Part 2

April 26, 2016

Grace to you! Last week we saw that without the resurrection of Christ, forgiveness of sins is not even possible. Further, our faith is useless. We should drink and dope ourselves into oblivion if Christ is not raised from the dead! (See 1 Corinthians 15:14,32) But He has been raised and so there is hope for forgiveness of our wickedness if we turn to Christ alone for rescue. But biblically speaking, how else does the resurrection of Christ impact our lives when we follow Christ?

Christ’s resurrection becomes the basis and guarantee of Christian’s resurrection and glorification. Now what do these words mean? Sin and death came into the world through Adam, but righteousness and life comes through Jesus Christ. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ) In short, Adam brought death but Christ will bring life even for those who are in the grave who have trusted Him! Christ will raise me from the dust of the earth, no matter how much corruption my body undergoes! He knows where every molecule of my body is in order to put it back together and raise it up when He returns! Since He created the whole universe from nothing, it should be no problem for His power and wisdom to put my body back together! Because Christ conquered the grave, those who are His will also be raised with that same power that raised Christ from the dead!

Glorification happens at the resurrection. What does this mean? It means that I will never again have a sinful heart, a broken body, or any death to face. I will live in perfect righteousness and fullness of fellowship with the Lord Himself. My body will not only be raised from the dead, but glorified, that is, made ready for my eternal living with Christ! “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:41-44 ) To say we will have a “spiritual” body doesn’t mean that we will be ghost-like. It means that we will have the bodies we have now changed to never face death and prepared to enjoy all the spiritual realities that await us!

It’s when we look at what God has done in the past in raising Christ from the dead that I can look at the future and face my own death without absolute panic! Why? “Because I (Jesus) live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) The bottom line question is this: when you die, will you live again with Christ? Have you committed your heart and life to follow the One who has overcome the grave?

The Resurrection Matters, Part 1

April 26, 2016

Grace to you! When you read the New Testament letters, you find it teaches on a multitude of issues: marriage, relationships, conflict, church order, leadership qualifications, divorce, singleness, administration, end time prophecy, salvation, etc. Interesting enough, the Apostle Paul states, “I determined to know NOTHING among you except Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) How can Paul talk about all these various issues and yet state he doesn’t want to talk about anything else except Christ and Him crucified? Is Paul just expressing a desire that he would like to talk about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection all the time but can’t due to all the other issues that need addressed in life? Or is there something else going on a deeper level that connects all of these other issue around Christ and His work? The latter is the case if we will take time for a closer look at what the bible actually teaches about these various topics.

Biblically speaking, we have to say from the beginning that if Christ is not raised then there is no possibility for having our sins forgiven. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then that would have been proof to us that Jesus failed at making forgiveness of sins possible. But listen to Romans 4:25 and how Christ’s resurrection proves that His payment for sin was complete! Jesus, “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Why did He rise? Remember a fundamental truth of scripture: “The payment for sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Since Christ had fully paid the price for our sins, death could not keep Him. He HAD to come back to life!!!

Think about Acts 2:24, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” It was impossible for death to hold Him, not just because He was all powerful (and He is!) but because death no longer could legally be imposed on Him since there was no sin left to die for!!! Praise the Lord!  So when we come to Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, when we turn from living for ourselves and surrender to Christ, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the full price for my sins. How so? He rose from the dead. Because sin was defeated, death lost its grip on Him! And if you have placed your life trust in Christ, then you too are guaranteed to rise from the grave. Since Jesus has become my sin bearer, I will rise since I have no more sin to answer for before God! Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow! There’s much more to cover next week but if you are Christian, will you just take time now to give praise and thanks that Jesus’ resurrection proves God has taken care of all your sin? If you are not a Christian, isn’t it time to surrender to Jesus who showed you so much love in His cross?