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Archive for the category “truth”

Ash? Lent? Easter? Christmas? What???

Let me be completely honest and admit: I don’t get into religious holidays for “religious” reasons. May the stone-throwing commence.

The church I attend used to only observe Christmas and Easter. Now they’ve added Ash Wednesday. One time they observed Maundy Thursday. This is a Southern Baptist Church (though I’m non-denominational – long story) who, historically, hasn’t observed these man-made rituals.

Yes, they are man-made. You won’t find them in the Bible, as such.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In a nutshell, Ash Wednesday is supposed to be about repentance, and preparation for Lent. The Bible I read says nothing about using a holiday to invoke a spirit of repentance, but instead says: “For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. For consider how much diligence this very thing — this grieving as God wills — has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter.” (2 Cor. 7:10-11)

In other words, Godly sorrow produces repentance. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not a religious observance.

In the early church we read nothing in the Bible about special holidays being observed for “Christian” reasons. We see other things (like prophecies, selfless-ministry, etc.) occurring. The Galatians were reprimanded by trying to re-implement old Jewish holidays into The Way. “But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.” (Gal. 4:9-10)

The lost see us being religious, but not real. We, as a body, need to be moving further from these man-made religious contraptions.  These, that are one more thing we need “to do” in order to feel right with God.  True Christianity is a daily walking by the Spirit, which includes repentance.  Fasting is a regular habit, not reserved for Lent.  Personally, I’d rather go each day of the year just living, than have the legalistic encumbrances of the Liturgical Calendar (another man-made device). Let’s move forward towards freedom in Christ, not backwards into religiosity.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom – Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

“To thine own self be true”

This phrase actually has it’s origin in the Shakespeare play, Hamlet. The character Polonius is giving advice to his 18 year old son. He tells Laertes, “Neither a lender or borrower be. This above all; to thine own self be true.” Pastor David Dykes provides this commentary about this phrase:

“It combines two concepts that cannot be ignored: self and truth. Americans are involved in a continual love affair with self. Our mantra has become: Take care of #1. Know yourself, love yourself, and be true to your self. Self has become the basic standard for truth. Americans bow down at the altar of Sovereign Self. How far this is from the words of Jesus spoken in Mark 8:34 when He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Today, we hear, love self; protect self; promote self–and Jesus said, “Deny your self.” He wasn’t talking about denying yourself some thing–like going without food, or pleasure. He meant to deny self’s desire to constantly climb onto the throne of your life.”

The passage he mentions, Mark 8:34-36, Jesus says this,

“If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life?”

Truth takeaway: To God only are we to be true. This idea of being true to our self sounds good, but is self-centered. If we’re true to our Creator, then we’re ultimately true to who we’re really supposed to be – who he created us to be.ThingsWeSaw

Are there pets in heaven?

This is a sensitive subject to many but I felt it really needed addressing from a Biblical perspective.

When you think of the reason why people love their pets one of the first things that comes to mind is unconditional devotion. They don’t desert us or talk about us. Even when they get angry and disappointed with us, they don’t hold a grudge. They are always glad to see us. They depend on us and give us something to care for – something we can pour into. We can be vulnerable with them without fear of being hurt. We often get attached to our animals for these reasons.

Ideally these are qualities we should be able to find in human relationships. Ask someone to picture the ideal friend or parent and you’ll get similar descriptions. We turn to our animals to get what people can’t or won’t give us. For many, people have hurt them so bad in the past, they prefer relationships with animals over people.  There was a house fire in the city I work in where a dog was rescued. A photo that went viral showed a chief fire officer affectionately comforting the dog. One commenter online said (paraphrase), “I would go in and rescue the dogs before I would the people.” Others echoed the sentiment. I’m glad I don’t have to depend on them to save my life.

Naturally, those we love we’d like to see in heaven some day. From that we buy in to the hope that there will be dogs and cats in heaven. (Notice that people rarely talk about other animals such as skunks and snakes in heaven). We love to think that the best thing about eternal life is those loved ones we haven’t seen, or would like to see – including our favorite pet.

Some verses suggest there may be animals (Isa. 11:6-9). There will be animal like creatures in heaven but the descriptions of them in the Bible are so beyond what we have here on earth it seems crazy to us – 4 wings, 7 horns, head of a lion, etc. etc. Yet no mention is made about our specific pets being with reunited with us. The animals in heaven may not be earthly animals that have died and came back to life. These may be whole, newly created animals.

Of all the creatures of the earth only humans received the breath of God. Only people have had eternity put in their hearts (Eccl 3:10-11). Only humans were made clean by God-incarnate coming to die just for us. Based on that I’m doubting any other created item (animal or otherwise) on this earth will be reborn to be present in the spiritual realm of heaven. There may be newly created creatures, but not ones dead on earth then reborn again.

If anyone reading this has ever spent time in prayerful meditation or worship, and experienced the presence of God, or heard the voice of God speaking to you, I can tell you there’s nothing like it. It’s a combination of admirable, fearful respect, and peace such that even if you were to fall over dead you’d be over-joyed; an all-filling unconditional love. There’s nothing like it. When we’re in his presence eternally no one else there will matter. I don’t think anyone is going to be overjoyed by seeing a pet. I don’t think anyone is going to notice their pet isn’t even there. Things that brought us comfort and joy in this life (close friends, loved ones, pets) won’t compare to being in God’s presence.

Truth takeaway: As humans we are eternal. There is no scripture supporting that our animals have eternal life. When we’re in heaven, we’re going to be so enamored by the presence of the Creator Himself, other created beings will be a much lesser part of our concern.

Freedom takeaway: When we realize how good we’ll have it in heaven, in the presence of God, just being there. Why get hung up on what won’t be? 1 Corinthians 2:9 says nothing has seen, heard, or entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him.

For more reading and scriptural explanation on this check out this page.

 

“This too shall pass.”

While this phrase is often attributed to Solomon, it’s not actually found anywhere in Scripture. Upon researching it most sources say “this too shall pass” originated from medieval Persian Sufi poets. It’s often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words. This phrase first became popular in the 19th century. It was used by Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

Wikipedia has an article about it here.

Truth takeaway: Things will pass, good and bad. But thThingsWeSawe Lord, his Word, and his Kingdom will be forever.

“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.”

Here’s another “Stuff We Say” that has been addressed by someone else better than what I could have. Here’s the link that explains the truth behind “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” While this article is simply their interpretation and opinion, it’s one I agree with.

Truth takeaway: Yes, idle, lazy hands are “the devil’s workshop.” We are to be busy with God’s work. Sure sometimes we need to rest. Sitting around doing nothing will make it easier for us to be doing something we don’t need to be.

(Disclaimer: While I don’t agree with all the answers on Gotquestions.com, this is one subject that I felt they covered very well and truthfully.)

ThingsWeSaw

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

In our society and cultural debates these days, this one comes up often. I’ve used it a lot myself. To me, it just sounds “right.” But what sounds right to us and what the Bible declares as truth isn’t always the same. I was really eager to look into this saying to determine its truthfulness. The phrase itself is actually a quote from Mahatma Ghandi. So is it Biblical?

A lot of the time I’ll find one of these sayings. As I’m looking into the history of it and comparing it with the Bible I’ll find what others have said about it. This is one of those where I feel like someone has already explained it, and has provided good Scripture to support their explanation.

This link explains the truth behind “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” While this article is simply their interpretation and opinion, it’s one I agree with.

Truth takeaway: We tend to treat people based on what they’ve done wrong. This is wrong in itself. No matter how heinous the offense they’ve committed they are loved by God. The same God that loves you and me. Their actions/behaviors that are incited by the Evil One are to be hated, but not the people.

Freedom takeaway: If we could remember to see people the way God does – as children needing loved – how would we deal with those we’d normally shun? What would it be like to be able to deal with people without having disgust for their actions cloud our dealing with them or praying for them?

ThingsWeSaw

Idolatry in America – Are we guilty?

In the verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 it says “…seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;” I think this is where Christian Americans are falling short.

Last time, I said I’d get back to the matter of idolatry. Idolatry is letting anything else take priority in our heart, thoughts, actions, over God, his will and his commands. Idolatry is wickedness to God – a wicked way we’re supposed to turn from. Idolatry is also the opposite of seeking his face. We might ask, what do God-fearing Christians put before God?

Entertainment – When we know more about pop-culture and stars’ lives than what the Bible says about our life and the life of Christ.
Sports – When we know more sports stats than Scripture, and the conversation standing the line to receive communion is about the game later (yes I witnessed this more than once).
Political party – When our behavior towards the opposite party doesn’t exhibit fruit of the Spirit; our party views contradict the Word of God; when our ability to love and reach out to a member of the other party is clouded by anger and resentment.
Patriotism – Using worship service time to sing patriotic hymns to our country instead of solely to God; an attitude of praise, worship, and reverence to the flag.  I’m not knocking patriotism in and of itself. I am knocking the practice of using worship time to sing songs that are more patriotic (“National Anthem”, “America the Beautiful”) and less worshiping of God.

God does not share allegiance. God is not American. While he has blessed this country, he doesn’t owe the U.S.A. any special loyalty. He has a people and they are not Americans. Regardless of how God has blessed us, we have squandered that blessing by lifting up the flag and the nation of the U.S. over the Kingdom of God. And what we’re seeing is him slowly take that away from us. Our source of pride and true object of worship in our hearts is being removed. God doesn’t want “God and country.” He wants “God!”

Why should he answer our prayers? We ignore “lesser” sins while railing against other sins.  He condemns jealousy alongside homosexuality (Gal 5:19-21, Mark 7:21-22). Also, Christians are stereotypically unhealthy enjoyers of the Potluck, which is gluttony. In Isaiah 9:8-12 it tells the story of the tribe Ephraim. They were attacked and with arrogance and stubborn defiance essentially said “We will rebuild everything bigger and better than before.” Does this not remind us of America’s attitude after 9-11? God ended up punishing Ephraim because instead of repenting humbly and turning to him, they declared, “We will rebuild!”

This is a call to return to God. Not by pressuring our local politicians to have prayer in schools or posting the Ten Commandments in public. Return to God by fasting (yes, not eating – Matt 6:16, Joel 2:12). By seeking God’s forgiveness because we put God with country. Because we love our lives and freedom more than His will. Because our pursuit of personal happiness means more to us than giving our lives for the good of His Kingdom. Our very identity is in Christ . Our citizenship needs to reflect our eternal citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not in the United States.

How do we need to live? Cast away everything that entangles us and dedicate our hearts – all that is us – for whatever He has us do (Jer. 24:7, 29:13, Joel 2:12; 2Kings 10:31; Luke 9:23, 10:27). No matter the cost. We do this as individuals first. Not for America but for the one who Created us.

Please prayerfully consider what I’ve said. Please consider what attitude God would have you hold on to. Thank you for reading.

 

“God wants me to be happy.”

How many times have we heard about, read about, or know someone who excused a decision by this phrase: “God wants me to be happy.”

Does he want us to be happy? Within the bounds of his standards, I believe he does. He wants us to find our happiness in Him. Unfortunately most of the time when people say God wants them to be happy, they’re pursuing happiness apart from God’s will for us.

Biblical happiness isn’t found in stuff of this earth – physical, material, or even emotional. Nowhere in the Bible does God look fondly on one who rebels against his standards. Including for one’s own happiness.

One word that conveys happiness in the New Testament is “makarios.” It’s usually translated as “blessed.” God does want to bless us. But that blessing is most often dependent on our obedience (Ps 103:17-18; Jn 8:31; 2Cor 7:15). “Makarios” is found in the the Sermon on the Mount, and the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). Another Greek word is “euthymei” which means “be of good cheer.” This is found in James 5:13. In the OT the Hebrew term is “ashre.” It means “blessed,” “happy,” “elated.” It’s found in 2 Chronicles 9:7. That will be all for today’s ancient language lesson.

God has often asked those that truly follow him to make decisions that will make them unhappy. Choosing not to deny Christ as you’re being martyred doesn’t sound very happy. There are times when exacting revenge on someone would’ve made me a lot happier than forgiving them. This idea of “I deserve to by happy because… And if I’m not happy, I should be allowed to do whatever to be happy. Nothing else matters,” is ridiculous! And I’m talking about born-again believers here.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if someone else is going to get hurt, people will still think that God is blessing their decision. “But God gave us free will.” Yes, he did. We have free will, but it’s not without consequences. If you choose to have unprotected sex with multiple partners, statistically, you will get a non-curable STD. That’s a consequence of free-will. If you choose to be unfaithful to your spouse (even in an internet chat room) you may likely face the consequence of losing your family and home in an ugly divorce.

Truth takeaway: God wants us to be happy in following his will; staying within his standards. Because he knows that’s the the only place real peace and contentment are found. Outside of that, your happiness is irrelevant. What God really wants is personal sanctification (set-apartness) from us.

Freedom takeaway: By living a life where our happiness comes from walking with the Lord in personal holiness, we’ll be truly happy and blessed. We’ll be free from chasing happiness that leads nowhere.

ThingsWeSaw

 

Idolatry in America – Do we hold up our end of the deal?

In my intro post I suggested that maybe 2 Chronicles 7:14 may not be applicable to the United States in the context we often think it is. But let’s suppose it is. How have we been holding up our end of the promises in 2 Chronicles?

“If my people, which are called by my name…” – That’s born-again believers who have salvation only in Jesus Christ and are called to follow him. Who “my people” are not are nominal Christians or unbelieving American citizens who identify their faith with their national citizenship.

“…Shall humble themselves…” – Are we humble? Or are we proud? We hear “Proud to be American;” “Proud to be a ‘Christian’ nation.” We have a reputation for arrogance by most of the world. We’re quick to say “This is the best country in the world.” The Bible says a lot of things about pride – none of them positive. Jesus said over and over again in different ways, that the first on this earth will be last in the Kingdom. “Humble” is defined by Websters as “not proud or arrogant; having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience.” Does this definition describe Christians’ perception of America?

“…and pray…” – What do we pray for? Our nation’s success or God’s will? Are we more about the uplifting and furthering of America? Or are we more concerned about furthering the Kingdom of Christ? Do our prayers focus more on the other party losing elections or on their salvation? What does God want us to pray for? What we want for America or what he wants for his Kingdom?

“…seek my face…” – Basically this is seeking after God and putting His will before everything else. God before country. God before sports. God before political affiliation. God before our ambitions. God before hobbies.

“…and turn from their wicked ways;” – What does God consider wicked? Idolatry is wickedness to him. I’ll come back to this idea later.

What is God’s response to these actions? 1) He’ll hear us. 2) He’ll forgive us from our sins. Third, and last, is He will heal our land. I find it interesting that healing our land is the last thing God will do, as if it’s the lesser of His three actions. Which one do we consider most important? Healing our land or forgiving our sins?

Stay tuned next time as we continue to look into this.

“Conquer your demons.”

In a discussion with someone, they told me that they hoped I conquered my demons someday. I have an extremely addictive past and they knew the struggles I had been through. At the time of this conversation I had been walking in freedom unlike I had never experienced. Their statement made me ponder if my demons were conquered. Or did I still have conquering to do?

1 John 2:13 says, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.”

Romans 8:37-38 agrees with this: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…”

Truth takeaway: Biblically I can’t find where those redeemed by Christ have anything unconquered. We struggle. We may have to fight but our victory is assured in Christ.

Freedom takeaway: Your demons have already been conquered! Walk and live in that freedom!

ThingsWeSaw

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