Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Month: August 2013

A Personal Note and Prayer Request

Sunday, September first, 2013 marks a new phase in this ministry.  It is the beginning of my official retirement from my profession as a painting contractor in the Central Ohio area. For the past several years I have been preparing for this time in which I will have much more time to devote to writing, teaching, traveling and publishing the Good News of the Kingdom of God than before.

This past week, while at work I heard a teaching by Tom Cantor on the radio about the life of Moses that touched me deeply.  He pointed out something that I had long overlooked. Moses had found a time of peace with Jethro, the priest of Midian, who had given him his daughter for a wife. (Exodus 2:21-22).

He was away from the troubles of his people in Egypt, and had found a new life with his new family. And yet he was not satisfied. How do we know that? Well, when Zipporah bore him a son, he named him Gershom, which means “foreigner,” “for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.”

Of course, we all know that when the time was right, God called Moses to go back to his people, in order that he would deliver them from slavery and lead them in to the land that was promised to their father Abraham.

This was his final destiny.

Please don’t think me arrogant in identifying with Moses, but there is a feeling that I have never quite understood about myself until now. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful wife and family, including 3 children, 8 grandchildren and presently 3 great-grandchildren!

My business has been very successful and gratifying. I have many business relationships that have endured for the entire 35 years of its existence. My wife and I also have relationships in the Body of Christ over the years that are extremely rich and genuine.

But there has always been the sense in my heart that there is something more for us than what most Americans see as “the good life.” Like the apostle Paul, I feel driven to “apprehend that for which Christ Jesus apprehended me.” (Philippians 3:12). We have had the privilege of an experience in Christ that includes the desire for a greater expression of His Life in His Church, His Bride, His people than is typically enjoyed.

It is my strong conviction that the coming months will reveal more of what our part is in God’s great purpose for His people, and we desire your prayers for us at this time. Now that more time and energy will be available, we desire to use them to His greatest glory and blessing to others.

Please pray for us, and let us know if we can in some way encourage you in Christ!

Is Faith in Jesus Christ Reasonable?

Most modern atheists and materialists assume that faith in the Biblical Jesus Christ is basically irrational, and that their view of reality is purely objective and reasonable. At the same time we find many of them who accept as fact, fantastic theories that actually have not been proven with hard evidence!

Christians themselves often are quick to point out that our faith is heavily based upon a personal experience that cannot be explained in human terms. There certainly is a transcendent reality to which we are exposed when truly encountering Christ. We use words like “supernatural,” “spiritual,” and “revelation,” which indicate that there is a reality that is higher and deeper than what can be simply experienced with our five senses.

Throughout the Biblical story we see individuals who have been touched and transformed by this awesomeness, this overwhelming sense that God is far beyond anything the human mind can comprehend! There is even a taste of what we understand as heaven in our experience of God, and the realization that what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell is not all that there is.

A big part of Christian worship around the world is about entering into that transcendent realm where we are more conscious of God than anything else. This wondrous state of being puts everything else into proper perspective. Ideally, this experience, this different perspective will carry over into other aspects of our lives, empowering us to glorify God even in difficult situations.

Knowing of this transcendent reality, should we then jettison reason altogether in favor of personal subjective experiences? Some would suggest this very thing, along with even denying the value of our physical senses.

Today I would urge extreme caution when hearing this kind of language. It is the very language of many cults and fanatics who dislike having their words and actions questioned!

In fact, Jesus did not withhold from Thomas the evidence that would clear away his doubts. He also insisted that each of us should love the Lord our God will all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. John explained that one cannot truly love God, whom we have not seen if we do not love our brother, whom we have seen with our physical eyes.

The fact is, that it was God who created us as spiritual, physical, emotional and rational beings!

Faith itself is actually a persuasion, that is something that has come about through serious consideration. This is what the apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends when He walked this earth, was attempting to say in his first letter, chapter 3:14-15:

“But if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you, a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

Notice what he did not say. He did not tell believers to answer inquirers with irrational statements or to tell them to “take a leap into the darkness.” They were told to prepare beforehand in order to present the logical reasoning that brought them to this place of faith.

Throughout the Acts and the letters in the New Testament we observe many powerful arguments attempting to convince others that faith in Christ was the most reasonable course of action available. Even in the face of death these witnesses could be emboldened by the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection!

Even though they knew that the Truth of the Gospel was too big and too marvelous for our human minds to fully comprehend, they told it anyway. Why? Because they also knew that the same Spirit of God that was within them and prompting them to speak, would also be on the other end convicting many of the truth of their words!

Acts 17:1-3:
“As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.”

Acts 17:17:
“So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”

Acts 18:4:
“Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.”

Here is where heaven, the invisible, spiritual realm, and earth, the physical realm come together. God calls us to come and reason with Him! We are to realize that His thoughts are so much higher than ours, but that He is still ready and willing to share them with those who humbly submit to Him. It is not that we abandon our God-given capacity to think, but that we abandon that poisonous tendency to think independently from Him!

Early in my Christian life I discovered that some of my questions and opinions had to be set aside in favor of a higher dimension of thought. We are told in Proverbs 3:5 to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and to lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”

This is not “blind faith,” but an interaction that goes on between us and God. When people began to call for blind trust in their revelation of God, I became worried. I could not find this approach in the Bible. Even Moses, when called of God to go back to the elders of Israel, knew that they would need a reason to believe he had heard from God.

After forty years of seeking for and discovering the wisdom of God, there are still many things that I do not understand. I have made many mistakes and have failed Him numerous times. I have confused my will with His will, but not because of a lack on His part. He has always provided what was necessary, if I would only listen to His Word.

I am still learning every day, and hopefully will continue to learn to think about things the way He thinks.

This one thing happens when we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts: our vision becomes clearer. We can have “the eyes of our understanding opened,” we can become “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Over and over again we have seen individuals whose intellectual capacity has increased from time spent with the very One Who made these amazing brains of ours! (Ephesians 1:18, Romans 12:2)

This is not a time to be “dumbing down” to the level of so many in our culture! This is a time to be clear headed, clear thinking, not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is for our generation! While we gladly resign the final outcome of history to our all-wise God, we can still relish the opportunity He gives us to participate in it!

Believers in Christ can for His glory advance in every worthwhile field of endeavor, because they are called to be “the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14) Perhaps some will be called upon like Joseph and Daniel, to solve some of the nation’s problems! Others might become experts in family matters, social, legal or even economical issues, for they have sober, un-clouded minds, that is they are not drunken with vain philosophies or obsessions over worldly riches that fade away.

They have been sitting in the counsel of the wisest Being of all, our Lord, Savior and Creator Jesus Christ!, Who has given to us every reason to trust in Him!

The Man-Centered Gospel

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Understanding the Bible, part 6

The Big Picture
In a previous lesson we discussed the fact that anything we read, whether a newspaper, magazine, math textbook, or novel, each will be approached in a way suitable to its purpose, and our purpose for reading it.

Then we pointed out that different literary forms are found in the Bible and should be understood accordingly. Historical narratives in the Bible are different than the hymns of worship found in the Psalms. The dialog in the dramatic plays of Job and Song of Solomon express their themes differently than the wise sayings of the book of Proverbs.

The parables of Jesus are in a class by themselves. Parts of Daniel, Ezekiel, and all of the Revelation combine drama, supernatural signs and symbols in a way that grips the reader and compels him or her to probe much deeper than any monthly magazine is likely to do.

From the beginning of this effort, my heart has been for anyone following this series of teachings to become highly capable of learning the great truths of the Bible by personal study on their own. Most of could use some help and inspiration along the way, however.

Not only that, but a basic premise can make a difference as well. Many large and important universities in the world examine and teach courses on the Bible that in my view, miss the point altogether. Untold millions of people for thousands of years have understood that the Bible has been handed down to us by God Himself. I myself did not come to this conclusion lightly. And I would not want anyone else to either.

I would ask you to be open to this possibility. At least accept that the writers who put these words to writing believed themselves to be acting on God’s behalf. That is the only way they themselves can be understood, as individuals who believed in an almighty Creator God who has acted in human history.

At least two major traditions in the world believe that the Old Testament, that is the Hebrew Bible, is inspired by God — Judaism and Christianity. Christians believe that what they call the New Testament is equally inspired by God. You might have already realized that I take the position that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament make up the entire Bible. I am also proceeding from the conviction that the Christian view of the Bible is the most complete and accurate one.

Judaism does not recognize Jesus as their promised Messiah, and many still look for him to come. Christianity believes that Jesus did come and fulfill the prophecies that were due for that time, but that the plan of God has continued to unfold from that time on. This basic concept is also one that works for some of the most influential Bible students of all time. Feel free to challenge it, but please, only after you have given it a fair hearing!

Sooooo…… Here is my outline of the Biblical story:

God Created a good universe, and human beings in His image to rule over it and care for it.

The First Man and Woman disobeyed Him, and brought ruin and decay into the picture

God’s original plan for man included Redemption through a future descendant, specifically The Seed of the Woman. (Genesis 3:15).

First God would call out a man who would trust in Him, and through this man Abraham, bring forth a great nation, Israel. Even though Israel was often unfaithful, He kept His promise to bring forth redemption through an Israelite woman, Mary. Through the Spirit of God, Mary became the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

After demonstrating His authority as the Son of God by His miracles and moral perfection, He subjected Himself to death on the Cross by the hands of the Roman and Jewish authorities.

Later His followers would realize that this was predetermined by God and foretold in prophecies throughout the Bible. His perfect life would result in not only forgiveness for Adams race, but the clearing of all guilt for those who trust in Him for their salvation. The proof of this fact would come in His resurrection from the dead, but also from His everlasting power to change the lives of those who love and trust in Him!

What is next? Well, while the specific details are yet to come, the consensus is that Jesus will ultimately fulfill the prophecies that both believing Jews and Christians anticipate: namely the restoration of the earth back to its original pristine glory, under His righteous reign!

This is the Good News of the Kingdom of God!

“Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not life up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war.” (Micah 4:3)

Isaiah 11:9: “They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

It is my hope that we all will not only catch the vision of this great eternal purpose of God, but will also want to participate with Him in it. So let’s get into the details, the nuts and bolts, get the Word of God into your system! Let Him change the world today, by beginning His work in us!

The Road to Prosperity

Our God is certainly a miracle working God. This is one fact that all Christians should treasure. Here is one area where I believe prosperity and faith preachers and teachers have done us a service. Many have been greatly inspired by their stories and exhortations to believe in our God with Whom all things are possible! Ordinary believers can generally use a measure of encouragement to live in the anticipation and expectation of greater things to come in God. However discouraging your present circumstances may be, this kind of faith can lift you up in the present, and move you forward toward brighter days.

This kind of encouragement is found throughout the pages of Scripture. Consider these words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:7: (Love)” bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

If we take issue with any particular teachings that come from the lips of a popular televangelist, we should never criticize him or her for lifting our spirits with optimistic words like these from the pages of Scripture.

The greatest miracle of all is of course the New Birth, wherein a hopeless sinner becomes a saint, a child of the Living God, by the wonderful grace of God! That newly born child of God is immediately translated into a higher station of life — as a member of the most Royal Family of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

With proper leadership, teaching and guidance, the new-born Christian will normally be set on the road to prosperity in not only the spiritual dimension of life but also in the emotional, social, physical, and financial as well. This has been my personal experience, and that of countless thousands of others.

Those of us who have come from lower income families take great comfort from the words of Jesus and also of James, “Hear my brothers, has God not chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the Kingdom which He has promised to them that love Him?” (James 2:5). And yet, that inner transformation which made us rich in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17), has also contributed to changes in our outward circumstances. Our improved mental and emotional state transforms our attitudes and outlook which in turn affect our relationships, our work habits, even our physical health. It is easy to see how all these changes can work in a very practical way to help us to better deal with our problems.

What I am saying here is that real, genuine spiritual growth results in your becoming a better and wiser parent, child, worker, student, citizen, and manager of your finances and your health. This process has much more to do with our prosperity than a simple “positive confession.” That positive confession, as taught by many prosperity preachers must correspond with true and steady growth in the Grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What I am also pleading is that we should never measure our spiritual progress by our material circumstances, as some would suggest. Godliness is not a means of financial gain! The greater gain is in godly contentment with the normal and necessary provision of food, clothing and shelter. Better and safer it is to flee the love of money, which has led many away from the faith! (1 Timothy 6:5-11).

How poor are those who store up material wealth only, and how rich are those plain and simple folks who have found their infinite treasure in Christ! (Luke 12:20-21, 18:22)

“And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

(Luke 12:29-34 NAS)

Pressing Towards or Missing the Mark?

Today’s Bible readers have many advantages that were not available to previous generations. Dictionaries, concordances, encyclopedias of Biblical information abound, not to mention the many modern translations which we have available to us.

For this reason many of you are already familiar with the definition of the word we will be discussing in this article. It is the New Testament word for “sin,” a Greek word that literally means “to miss the mark.” Often when considering the context in which this word is normally used, we tend to think of “the mark” in this instance as moral and spiritual perfection.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul seems to affirm this thought in the statement: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23).

The issue of sin continues to plague many today. We might either live under the fear that we will sin, the guilt that we have, or in denial that we even partake of it at all. But today I hope we can deal with this subject in a very positive light, which is of course, the Light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!

The mark of which we speak, the moral and spiritual perfection which we desire, is actually Jesus Christ Himself! In other words, to sin is mainly to “miss Christ.”

Listen to the hearts cry of the great apostle, Paul:

Phil 3:7-8:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”

Paul speaks here of winning Christ, as though He was some sort of prize! But how could this be? Let us continue reading:

Phil 3:9-11:
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

Taking this a bit further, he now deals with knowing Christ. His desire is to experientially know every aspect of Him, His righteousness, His faithfulness, His power in resurrection and even His suffering in death! He also very candidly reveals his own condition, and the process which he was then going through:

Phil 3:12-14:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The question that we need to ask ourselves today is: “Are we working very hard at not sinning, or at winning Christ?” And even if we are not seen by many to commit obvious sins, could we still on a regular basis be actually missing Christ?

Paul believed that the possibility existed for born-again believers to fully experience the resurrected Christ while still in these bodies! He saw how every day is filled with opportunities to share in both Christ’s sufferings and triumphs, and to know His righteousness, His peace, His joy and love!

He confidently proclaimed that there is no law against the following: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith and self-control! Why? Because these are all attributes of His nature and character! When we “win Christ” we win all of these! Or shall we say, as we walk in the Spirit, producing the fruit of the Spirit, we are truly “winning Christ!”

Are you pressing towards the mark? Are you pursuing Christ in your daily life? You may say, “I have too few opportunities. You don’t realize how many responsibilities I am laden with. I am not able to devote the time to prayer and Bible reading that others are.”

But wait. I submit that your responsibilities themselves afford opportunities to win Christ! They also present the possibility of missing Him as well! If as unto the Lord, you work hard for your employer, producing the highest quality work of which you are capable, you are actually winning Christ!

But on the other hand, if you slow down when no one is looking, or allow substandard results, you could very well be missing Christ, who is the personification of moral excellence!

Should you feel guilty or shamed by these words? I would rather you feel as though you have cheated yourself and the Lord. The nature, power, glory and presence of Christ is your reward, your prize. But you yourself must pursue Him!

As long as we are pursuing Christ, our attention will not be on ourselves, our weakness or our strengths. We now understand how even in our trials and sufferings we can experience Him!

When we are lied to, misused, misunderstood, or rejected, we have a choice. We can react to these injustices, or we can pursue Christ. When we give the normal human response, we usually miss the mark of expressing His life at this time. But by repentance, committing ourselves unto Him, trusting in His power and love, we can obtain the confidence that the next time will be different! We are in practice! We are not practicing to miss the mark but to reach it!

Our relentless pursuit is for Him! In this race we may trip, stumble and fall, but with our eyes upon Him we will get back up! If we have to even crawl for a season our advancement will continue. We are all pressing towards the mark! That mark is Him, His light, His grace, His power, His righteousness, His love!

The next time will be different! We will begin to feel as He feels, think as He thinks, act as He acts. We have received great and precious promises by which we are made partakers of the divine nature! It is becoming natural for you to express the nature of the Son of God to this world!

You have been begotten of that incorruptible seed, the Word of God which lives and abides forever! That Seed remains in you and you cannot practice sinning any longer! Your heart, your hunger is for more of Christ. You live by every Word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God!

Heavenly Father,

You have set the goal before us — the very life of Jesus your son. Help us to fix our gaze upon Him. Cause us to continue to behold His glory, His grace, His kindness, His holiness and perfection, and so become transformed.

Continue to save us from our sin, our missing the mark of His excellence until that Day when we are found in Him, not possessing any good thing that is our own. For He alone can satisfy our hearts desire! In Him alone we are fullfilled and able to give You true pleasure.

May we follow our front runner with patience, seeing that same joy which was set before Him. And in the end may all the glory and honor and praises go unto Your wonderful Name.

For Jesus sake,

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