Sunday, December 28, 2014

Knowing Our Enemy

The Bible constantly describes a war that we are in. Paul tells Timothy to "fight the good fight of faith", and later claims that he has fought that fight. Jesus tells us to be on guard from the wiles of the enemy and in Ephesians Paul tells of the armor of God which will allow us to withstand the enemies attacks. Though this war has ultimately already been won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been commended to keep fighting it in our own lives.

Like every war there are enemies and it is important for us to recognize and understand who our enemies are. The Bible mentions three enemies:

1) Satan and demons - Ephesians 6:12; James 4:7
Satan is called many things in the Bible and is the most obvious enemy of the three. Even so there are many Christians who like to deny his existence. On the other hand there are people who attribute too much to Satan, they say things like "the devil made me do it". We need to understand that on one hand Satan is very real and very crafty but on the other hand he can not make us do anything. Satan only has as much power in our lives as we allow him to have. However he will be sure to take advantage of every opening we give him. This is why Paul told us to not "give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27). We need to be sure to close all opportunities for the enemy to enter our lives through oppression and "take captive every thought" (2 Corinthians 10:5) that he attempts to throw at our mind.

2) The World - 1 John 4:3,4; 1 John 2:15-17
The Bible also talks about the spirit of the world, which is also referred to as the spirit of Antichrist. This spirit is influenced and directed by Satan but it is a separate enemy. We can see this spirit in the media that we watch and the music we listen to. It is evident in the materialism of our culture and the entertainment driven selfishness that we see around us. The spirit of the world will work with Satan to provide a stronghold in your mind that he can take hold of. This is why Paul told the Romans to not be conformed to the world. It to be transformed busy renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). The spirit of the world will attempt to convince us to think alike which will in turn direct our actions and our beliefs. It will then give a place for Satan to come in and oppress us even further. We must be on guard for this spirit in everything that we do.

3) Our flesh - Romans 8:5-8; 1 Peter 2:11
Our third enemy is the most prevalent in our lives and yet sometimes the most ignored. This is the enemy we must fight against the most because in many ways it has attempted to become a part of us. Our flesh, or our carnal nature, is not the same as our body but works in our body and uses the desires of the body. It manifests itself in selfishness, pride, envy, lust, and gluttony. Paul lists the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 but he then lists the fruits of the Spirit which is how we are to combat the flesh. We are to make daily decisions to walk in the fruits of the Spirit rather than the works of the flesh. The more we make these decisions the easier the decision will become.

It is important that we recognize each of these enemies because if we are ignorant of one we could easily open the door to all three. However we must also recognize that we have the power to overcome all three. The Bible tells us that Jesus has already overcome Satan and the world and gave us power to overcome our flesh.

As born again believers our spirit has already been renewed, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) but our souls and our bodies have not been renewed. That is our job. As we renew our mind and put to death the desires of the flesh we see our lives transformed (Romans 12:1-2) and give control back to our true selves, our spirit. We also protect ourselves from the attack of the world and of evil spirits as they will have no foothold in our lives.

Friday, December 26, 2014

For unto us a Child is born...

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7
We just celebrated Christmas! I hope yours was an amazing day and I hope you had the opportunity to get together with family and with people you love, but I hope even more that you had time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. When I say reflect I mean more than just said a prayer before Christmas dinner or read the story of Jesus' birth before opening presents. I mean I hope that you truly took time to remind yourself what it all meant more than 2000 years ago in that manger in Bethlehem. Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most popular verses to quote in the Christmas season and it is a good one. But how often do we really listen and understand to this verse?

This verse lists several names that Jesus is to be called: "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". Do you know Him by these names? Is He truly wonderful to you? Have you experienced His counsel? Do you know Him as mighty, Father, the bringer of peace? I could write a blog post on each of these names but I won't, at least not yet. However think about it. Have you truly experienced Him as all these things to you? 

The other thing that this verse mentions twice is "the government". Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus came on this earth not only to die and raise from the dead, but also to establish a kingdom. Everything that He did was reestablishing His kingdom in which He has called us to be kings and priests. Here we have a promise that the increase of his government and peace will never end! Sometimes we talk as if the church is in decline in these days however that is not true. There may be places where it is in decline, but worldwide the church is growing faster than ever. Isaiah promised that once this Child was born the increase of His government would never end. Be encouraged that His kingdom will continue to grow and you have a choice: jump in and be a part or watch from the outside. As for me and my house... We will be a part in the increase of His kingdom!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We Walk by Faith

"So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord."
2 Corinthians 5:6-8

History and Context:
Corinth was a city on the main trade route between Asia and western Europe, and Paul had spent two years there establishing the church. Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians in order to address division and immorality in the church. After that letter he had an opportunity to visit the church. Apparently the visit was a difficult one for both Paul and the members of the church and afterwards Paul talks about writing a letter in "much anguish" (ch 2). Though this letter is only the second letter to the Corinthians which we have, it seems that Paul wrote at least four separate letters and that this is the fourth. This is his follow up after the difficult visit and the letter of 'tears'.

The Text:
I was raised in a "faith church" so verse seven was a verse often quoted while I was growing up. "We walk by faith, not by sight." Usually this was quoted in reference to a situation where money seemed too short or where we were feeling sick but were standing in faith for our healing. We walk by faith that we are healed despite the fact that we can see the signs and symptoms of sickness. Although these are legitimate times where faith is needed and where we have to ignore what are senses are telling us, it is interesting to see what this verse is actually talking about. When we read this chapter we see that Paul is reminding the Corinthians of their 'heavenly' home. He is reminding them that if our earthly bodies, or "tents", are destroyed then we have a home with Christ in heaven already prepared. Then, as we see in the above passage, he says that as long as we are at home in our bodies we are absent from the Lord, but we walk by faith knowing that when we become absent from our body we will be home with Christ. In other words this scripture is not referring to having faith for our temporary earthly state of being but is referring to having an eternal mindset, recognizing that this earth is a temporary stopping place.

The Challenge:
Walk in faith with your eternal mindset. Recognize that what happens to your earthly body is insignificant compared to the home that Christ has prepared for you in heaven. Learn to make your daily decisions and choices based on this heavenly mindset.

The Prayer:
Lord, we pray remind us daily of our home in heaven with you. Help us to keep an eternal mindset and make choices which will affect eternity. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Is Your Gift Making Room for You?

A man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.
Proverbs 18:16 

History and Context:
Proverbs are one-line nuggets of wisdom that are written to stand on their own. So the majority of them can be taken out by themselves without worry of context. They are meant to express general wisdom principles and not to be guarantees or promises. King Solomon the son of King David wrote the majority of the proverbs in order to share his wisdom. God gave Solomon the opportunity to ask for any one thing and Solomon asked for wisdom to lead his people. In response the Bible says that Solomon's wisdom was unmatched by anyone. Many of his proverbs have become common sayings in today's society and people don't even realize that they are from the Bible.

The Text:
In reading this proverb one must remember the context that this is a general principle of wisdom and not necessarily a promise. There are many very talented people who do not find themselves "before great men". Of course in that we could get into the discussion of what constitutes a "great" man but that's for another day. I do believe that there should be some subtext understood when looking at this proverb. Just because someone has a natural talent or gift doesn't automatically mean that it will make room for them. I believe that the gift must first be developed. Romans 12:6 says "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them..." In other words we have to use our gifts before they begin to make room for us. There are many very talented people out there who simply do not use their talents and are letting them go to waste. Secondly I believe that in order for this proverb to come to past people must be willing to put in hard work and sacrifice. If you look at any successful athlete, singer, actor, musician, etc. you find a person that put in hard work and sacrificed things many people took for granted in order to get where they are today.

The Challenge:
What gift or talent has God given you? Are you developing it and using it or are you letting it go to waste? If you make the effort to develop and use your gifts I believe they will make room for you. God will bring you into a position where you can use it for His glory. Find ways to use those gifts and grow in them.

The Prayer:
Lord, let my gifts make room for me and bring me to a place of influence for your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Is Jesus Enough? - Re-Post

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
John 6:26-35

History and Context:
The book of John is the fourth Gospel and it is believed to be the last written. John was one of the inner three of Jesus' disciples and referred to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved". John seemed to have written his Gospel for those who had already known the story of Jesus. He focuses on the meaning of the events rather than the events themselves. There is also a strong focus on the words and teachings of Jesus, specifically on Jesus' claims about Himself. These claims are best known as the seven "I am" statements. John probably wrote this Gospel in Ephesus somewhere around 70 AD.

The Text:
Earlier in the chapter we see the famous story in which Jesus fed the five thousand men along with the women and children. After doing that Jesus and his disciples go to the other side of the lake and the people begin looking for Him. When they find Him this conversation happens. The people were looking for more signs. they wanted to be fed again, or to see healings, but Jesus told them that they needed to stop looking after the outward signs but to start looking after Him. Here we have one of the famous "I am" statements in which Jesus reveals an aspect of who He is. Here He says "I am the bread of life." Not only does he say that but He says that anyone who will come to Him will never be hungry or thirsty. Imagine going downtown to the homeless and telling them that they don't have to be hungry ever again. This is what Jesus did, but essentially He was saying "Am I enough for you?" He was confronting them with a question. They wanted signs but He said what they really need to be seeking after is Jesus Himself.

The Challenge:
So I'm going to ask the same question to you as Jesus did to this group of people. Is Jesus enough? If Jesus wouldn't ever perform a miracle in your life again, would it still be enough for you to continue following Him? What if you lost your job, your family, your friends left you, and your house was foreclosed? Would Jesus still be enough? If you're in ministry, what if no one ever listened to you, and no one ever responded? Would Jesus be enough? What are you truly seeking after, miracles or Jesus?

The Prayer:
Lord, you are enough for me! I love your blessings and everything that you have done for me, but even if all of them were taken away, I would still follow you. You are enough!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Road Through the Wilderness

"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

History and Context:
Isaiah is the prophet most quoted by Jesus and by the New Testament authors. There are many Messianic prophecies throughout Isaiah, but the real purpose of the book was to admonish the kings of Judah to rely on the protection of God. Isaiah's ministry focused on the reign of two different kings, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Ahaz did not listen to Isaiah and relied on the protection of Assyria rather than God's protection. Hezekiah also didn't listen at first but as things went bad he turned to God for protection and God rescued the kingdom of Judah. Isaiah continually refers to God as "The Holy One of Israel".

The Text:
Here Isaiah prophesies that God is going to spring forth with something new. We love to quote this verse as an encouragement to build hope when we feel like we have been doing the same old thing for too long. At the beginning of this year God gave me this verse as a word for 2014. As usual I took it as something exciting, which it is, but I didn't pay close attention to the verse. The second part states that God will "make a road in the wilderness". In other words in order to get to the exciting new thing we have to go through the wilderness. But the good news is God is going to make a way through. He then promises that as we take the road that He builds, He will make rivers in the desert.

The Challenge:
Maybe you, like me, were looking for something new to spring forth this year and haven't seen it. Maybe you felt like 2014 was a wilderness and you are just ready for 2015 to start. Don't be discouraged! God is making that road that you are walking on and He promises that He will pour out rivers into your desert. Just push through! It will happen!

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to see your road, your way, through this wilderness. Help me to keep my eyes focused on you and endure through to the new thing that you have prepared!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What can flesh do to me?

 "Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me."
Psalm 56:3-4

History and Context:
In the pretext we can see that this Psalm was written by David when he was captured by the Philistines in Gath. The record of David in first and second Samuel does not record David actually being taken captive by the Philistines but there could be a situation that was simply left out of these books or it could be referring to the time that David decided to hid with the Philistines in Gath when he was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 27). Hiding with the Philistines eventually led to one of the most distressing moments in David's life in which his family and the families of all his men were captured and the town that they were living in was ransacked and burned (1 Samuel 30). At this point his entire army turned against him and even spoke of stoning him. The Bible says that "David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." (1 Samuel 30:6)

The Text:
David is in a place of distress that he knew all too well. Men were against him and in human eyes there seemed to be no hope. But David, writer of most of the psalms, had learned how to encourage and strengthen himself in God regardless of whether people were for him or against him. He also was driven by a humility, a knowledge that he didn't deserve God to intervene. We can see this in verse one where David begins with "Be merciful to me..." David calling on God's mercy, His undeserved favor, showed that David understood that he was not entitled to God rescuing him, but he knew God would do it anyway in response to hi call. In this verse he shows an understanding of God's power and sovereignty and he also shows an understanding of the big picture. He knew that man couldn't really do anything to him when looking at the picture of eternity.

The Challenge:
Seek an eternal mindset. Recognize that what happens to our physical lives here on earth is miniscule in comparison to the eternal life that we have received through Jesus Christ. In the midst of your fear access this knowledge as a reminder and cry out with David "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me"!

The Prayer:
Lord, give me an eternal mindset today. Help me to see life as you see it. Help me to put my full trust in you, Amen!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Definition of Success

Many people define success by material possessions or money. They measure whether someone is successful by their job, salary, or how expensive their house, car, clothes are. Others will combat this idea by saying it is about happiness. They say that whether you are rich or poor doesn't matter as long as you are happy. I think these are both wrong definitions of success.

In the book It Starts At Home by Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope a new definition of success is presented. Using the simple example of a hammer they show that success is defined as fulfilling the purpose for which something is made. We wouldn't judge a hammer's success by how well it can screw in a screw. A hammer's success is judged only by how well it hammers. If it can hammer in a nail than it is a successful hammer regardless of what else it can or can't do. This is because a hammer was created for the purpose of hammering in nails. That's why it was made.

I believe the definition of success for humans is the same. It doesn't matter how much stuff you have, or how respected you are, or even how happy you are. What matters is are you filling the purpose for which you were made? We were all created and we all were given a purpose before we were ever born. We must simply find out what that purpose is and fulfill that. If we do than we are successful. If we don't we are not successful. This is regardless of whatever else is done in our lives.

What is your purpose? Are you fulfilling it?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Stricter Judgment

"My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." - James 3:1

People tend to judge those in the spotlight harshly. Often it seems unfair, almost like we forget that they are people as well and that they are entitled to mistakes. This is true about celebrities, famous preachers, politicians, and athletes. I've found myself wondering why we can't give them a break however according to this scripture God also judges them more harshly. 

What is a teacher? According to a teacher is simply "someone who helps others learn new things." In the past when I have read this scripture I have thought of specifically teachers of the Bible, which of course does fit the context of the scripture. However there are many types of teachers. Beyond the obvious (school teachers, professors, teachers in church) there is anyone who has the opportunity to bring new knowledge to other people. When celebrities speak people listen. They don't seem to care whether they have any qualifications in the subject they are speaking about, they only seem to care that they are famous. This puts all celebrities in the place of a teacher whether they mean to be or not. God holds them to a higher standard. 

It's unlikely that a celebrity will run across my post here however we are all teachers at some level. It is important to understand that the moment we step into that role we have a greater responsibility and therefore gain a harsher judgment. On this blog I end up getting about 30 views per post. In the grand scheme of the internet that is nothing, however that is potentially 30 people that I am responsible for how I influence them. I need to be aware of that fact, not to discourage me from posting or from teaching but to encourage me to not take that opportunity for granted. To encourage me to make sure that I am keeping myself in the Word and in prayer. To encourage me to make sure that what I post lines up with God's Word. 

Who is your audience? Who do you reach? Are you taking it for granted? Maybe, like me, you have around 30 people that you have the opportunity to reach on a regular basis, or maybe you have 30,000, or maybe you just have 3. Regardless of how many you influence you need to understand that you have a responsibility not only for yourself but also for those people.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Kingdom of God - Leaven of the Heart

"And again He said, 'To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." - Luke 13:20-21

Last year I wrote a post about the importance of studying the Kingdom of God which you can read here. In the above parable from Jesus, we get a hint as to how the Kingdom of God works. Most of the people in Jesus' day were expecting the Kingdom of God to arrive in much the same way that earthly kingdoms did. They expected a kingdom that took over in force and conquered Rome in order to win their freedom. However that was no the God's plan. 

Jesus shows us here, in the example of yeast, that the Kingdom of God is much more subtle yet simultaneously more effective than they were expecting. Yeast is something that starts from the inside but works it's way through the entire dough. It is small and almost unnoticeable in itself but the effects are impossible to miss. Once yeast is mixed into a lump of dough there is no way to separate it again, there is no way to pull a piece of the dough off and not have it be affected by the yeast.

In the same way the Kingdom of God works from within, both in the case of the individual and of society. In the individual the Kingdom of God begins in the heart and works it's way to the actions, behaviors, and attitudes of the individual. At first you can not see anything different about the individual until you start to notice the effects of the Kingdom being inside him/her. Similarly in society the Kingdom starts with one individual and spreads to those around them until the entire society is affected. 

Let the Kingdom of God transform your heart today!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stubborness With Flexibility

Often it seems that we get the above statement mixed up. We become stubborn with our methods, our actions, and when they don't lead to where our original goal was we change our goal. That's the easy way out. After all we are 'creatures of habit', but sticking to a habitual way of living, never breaking out to something new, will never get you farther than where you are now. To be clear, I understand that there are habits which are beneficial and can help you move forward towards our goal but we must learn to be flexible in our overall methods. There are always times to break out of those habits. Even a healthy habit of regular exercise, for example, will only get you so far if you are not flexible enough to increase the weights, or change up the type of exercise.

Just as important as learning to be flexible in our habits and routines is staying stubborn towards our ultimate goals. I have written a lot about the importance of vision and it is important to be stubborn as you are pursuing the vision that God has given you regardless of the obstacles. Sometimes we can be sure that we are going after the vision but we hit a dead end. In these cases it is easy to think, "Maybe I was wrong, maybe God didn't give me that vision." But more likely God is just trying to get you to rethink your method. Maybe God doesn't want you to do it the same as everyone else.

One of the biggest hindrances we tend to face in pursuit of our goals and visions is money. There are many people who God has called to step out in faith and just believe Him for the financial support to do what they have been called to do, however He may be calling you to something different. He may be calling you to build your own support through a business or to split your time between a career and the ministry. The same principle applies even if your vision is not ministry in the traditional sense. There are many methods to get where God has called you to, make sure you are using the correct one.

Are there any areas where you are hitting a dead end and maybe you need to change your methods?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"For this purpose I have come forth..."

"But He said to them, 'Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth." - Mark 1:38

The Gospel of Mark was the first of the four gospels to be written. There were probably bits and pieces written about Jesus' life before but this gospel is very likely the first thing the early church had to read that covered the full ministry of Jesus. Later Matthew and Luke are believed to have taken Mark's Gospel as a starting point when they wrote their own, expanded accounts of Jesus' life and ministry. With that in mind Mark jumps right into action describing multiple events right in the first chapter. He writes about John the baptist and how Jesus came to him to be baptized. Then how Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness and then immediately jumps into several miracles and deliverances performed by Jesus.

In verse 35 the story takes a slight turn. Up until then we see that Jesus helps everyone who comes to Him to the point that the whole city was gathered together and he healed many and cast out many demons. But in verse 35 Mark records that Jesus rose long before daylight and found a quiet place by Himself to pray. In the midst of all this action, the entire city is coming out for Him to minister and Jesus sneaks away to be by Himself. Even His closest disciples didn't know where He was as in verse 36 it says that Simon and the rest of the disciples had to search for Him. Once they did find Him they immediately reminded Him that there everyone was looking for Him. 

Many times I feel that pastors and ministers today are looking and waiting for just this kind of moment. We strive to get to the point where people are seeking them out for their ministry and we feel that once people do seek us out we have to oblige because it is an 'opportunity from God'. However Jesus' response is very different.

"But He said to them, 'Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth." - Mark 1:38

Can you imagine? Jesus had multitudes, the entire city, seeking Him out; people were in need, there were sick people and probably still people possessed or oppressed by demons trying to find Him to help them and Jesus says, "Okay let's move on." And His reason? Because of His purpose: "...for this purpose I have come forth." He recognized that His purpose was not to be stuck in one town but to move and travel and preach. Notice He didn't even limit Himself to singular 'town', He said let us go into the next 'towns'. He knew that He was there first and foremost to deliver a message to the people of Israel, all the people of Israel, and His healing and deliverance ministry had to work itself around that purpose.

I don't think it is an accident that this revelation came after Mark records that Jesus found Himself a place alone to pray. This is where we find our purpose, in our alone time with God. We need to regularly make it a point to find quiet, alone time with God. Regardless of how many kids we have, or how busy our schedule is we need that time. Sometimes we have to get up "a long while before daylight". Jesus found the time to do it and He literally had an entire city pressing Him to minister to them. 

Once we find our purpose we need to make it our priority, even if it means turning down great opportunities to minister. We need to keep our focus on what God has called us to. What does He want me to do? Sometimes it takes faith because we can't see how that purpose is going to be fulfilled but we can trust that if God called us to do it then it will happen.

When I was reading this scripture I felt a confirmation in my spirit that this is also the purpose that God has called me to. God has called me to preach to "the next towns", He has called me to travel and preach. At this point I don't know exactly how that is going to happen. I don't have entire cities or churches seeking me out, but I believe that God will work it out.

What is your purpose? Have you neglected it to take care of other needs?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Holy Spirit - updated

Before we can walk in the regular manifestation of the Holy Spirit we need to understand a little bit about Him and how He works. The problem is the Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood member of the trinity. When we think of God we think of the Father, we know Jesus because He was the member of the trinity who came to earth and died and resurrected for us, but the Holy Spirit often seems a bit mysterious. Then to complicate matters there has been so much attributed to the Holy Spirit which was very likely not Him. There have been so many Christians, especially in recent times, who have gone to such extremes that the other Christians have been scared to even mention the Holy Spirit. The enemy tricked one group into one extreme which then led the rest into the opposite extreme and effectively hid an extremely important truth from all. So as you read this section try to put aside all that you have heard regarding the Holy Spirit as I take you through some of the most important scriptures for helping us understand Him.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” - John 14:16
Here in John we see Jesus announcing that the Holy Spirit will come. He calls Him the Helper. Looking at the context of the verse we can specifically see that He is coming to help us “keep [Jesus’] commandments” (v15). In other words the Holy Spirit has been sent to us in order to help us live the way Jesus wants us to live. That means He is here to help us with all that we have already been talking about; ie. knowing Jesus, being like Him, giving our lives as a sacrifice, etc. But it also means that He came to help us live the mission as we see in Acts 1:8:
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
It is the power that comes from the Holy Spirit which allows us to be witnesses of Jesus to those around us, to testify as to what Jesus has done in our lives and to share the Gospel with others. That is the purpose for the power of the Holy Spirit, that is the reason He came to dwell in us.
So the first question we need to ask is how do we get the Holy Spirit to come upon us? This is where many denominations and churches are split. Many denominations say that this is something that happens automatically whereas others say that it is a separate event. This issue is one of the points of theology where the church has been most split and yet I believe that both sides, to a degree, are correct. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul states that "no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit". This implies that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives from the moment that we claim Christ as our Lord. We see similar implications in Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13-14, and John 7:38-39, all of which discuss actions made by the Holy Spirit immediately after we believed. These scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit seals us, makes us Christ's, and makes rivers flow out of our bellies, when we believe. So it seems pretty clear that the former group is right, we do have the Holy Spirit in us the moment we believe and accept Jesus as Lord. However I believe that there is truth in the latter's beliefs as well. I believe there is a separate event called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist prophesied the following in Matthew 3:11:
"As for me, I baptize with water for repentance, but He who comes after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
Pretty much the same prophecy is recorded in Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; and John 1:33. Then Jesus tells the disciples in Acts 1:5 "...for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Peter also refers to the statement again in Acts 11:16 when recounting his experience of bringing the Gospel to the house of Cornelius. When something is repeated this much in the Bible it is clear that it is important. But how do we know that this baptism isn't the same as receiving the Holy Spirit with salvation?
Our first evidence towards these being separate events is that the disciples had received the Holy Spirit before the events of Acts 1. In John 20 starting in verse 19 Jesus visits the disciples as they are hiding after the resurrection and in verse 22 Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them "receive the Holy Spirit". It was a later visit that Jesus tells them "you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts1:5). So in John 20 Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto His disciples. It seems that this is the moment that the disciples are officially 'saved'. It is after the death and resurrection but before the ascension. However they are not baptized in the Holy Ghost until Acts 2 after Jesus ascended into heaven.
Another example showing these as separate events is in Acts chapter 8. Verses 4-13 of chapter 8 describe to us how Philipp goes "to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them." (v.5) Verse 12 tells us; "But when they believed Philipp as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." So we see that they believed in Jesus Christ and were even baptized sealing their inward belief with an outward act. In verses 14-17 we then see the apostles responding to this event:
"Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had not fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." - Acts 8:14-17
We already established through several scriptures that the Holy Spirit is present at the moment of salvation however in this passage it is clear that they were saved but had not yet received the full measure of the Spirit. I believe that this passage is specifically referencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Assuming this is true, this passage shows us a couple of things about this baptism. First it shows, as we have been discussing, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily happen at the moment of salvation, it is a separate event. Second it shows that this baptism was important enough in the eyes of the apostles that they sent Peter and John after Philipp to pray for the people of Samaria to receive it. Lastly, we see clearly one way in which the baptism of the Holy Spirit is received, through laying on of hands. Is this the only way that we can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? I believe the following scripture is also referring to receive ping the baptism of the Holy Spirit:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” - Luke 11:9-13
Jesus teaches us through a parable that if we want the Holy Spirit all we need to do is ask. He says that if we as humans know how to give good things to our children how much more will God give us good things when we ask for them. How much more will He give us the Holy Spirit when we ask for Him. So it’s that simple. Many teach that you have to speak in tongues in order to truly be baptized, or they say that you have to feel something. I believe that some people do experience things like that and the Bible shows numerous examples of there being an 'evidence' that the baptism was received however, ultimately I believe the Holy Spirit is received in the same way as our salvation; we ask the Father and simply believe that we have received. As we continue to seek greater revelation of the power of the Holy Spirit we begin to operate more and more in His gifts, but we are baptized the moment we ask for Him with a pure heart. So then we just need to go out in faith that the power of the Holy Spirit is in us to help us be witnesses.
In what way does the Holy Spirit help us to be witnesses?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Overcoming Your Fear With Faith!

"The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion."  
- Proverbs 28:1

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 
- 2 Timothy 1:7

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
- Hebrews 11:6

It is time to overcome our fear with faith!

What are you afraid of? What is holding you back? God has given you a word, a calling, a vision. What is keeping you from it?

Most of the time the thing that holds us back can be brought down to fear. Sometimes it's a general fear like fear of failure, fear of too much work, fear of succeeding, fear of looking bad, or fear of hearing God incorrectly. Other times it's a more specific fear like fear of public speaking, fear of confrontation, fear of flying, or fear of not providing for your family. 

There are so many different types of fears that hold us back but it is almost always fear of some sort. In writing to Timothy Paul equates fear with a spirit. He says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. If this fear has not come from God then there is basically one of two options left. Either it comes directly from the enemy or we have created it ourselves through manipulation from the enemy. This means that fear is an enemy spirit holding you back from what God has for you.

In Proverbs Solomon tells us that the righteous are as bold as a lion, to be bold is not to be completely without fear but to be able to face fear head on with faith that God will deliver you from that fear. Again what is it that is holding you back from the vision God has given you? When I was young God gave me a vision to be a preacher but I was terrified of public speaking. Through facing my fear God was able to deliver me from it and allow me to fulfill my vision of being a preacher. Now I am pursuing a vision of being a great leader but have had to face a fear of confrontation.

It is time for you to face your fear with faith. Ask God what it is you need to do in order to face your fear. Take hold of that vision today!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is True Christianity a Religion?

We've heard it many times over, we've probably said it ourselves a few times, I know I've preached it several times myself: Christianity is not a religion it's a relationship. 

It's a catchy phrase that ultimately is meant to get the attention of the listener. I even have a similar statement on my facebook under religion: I'm not much for religion but I love Jesus. These kinds of statements are meant to draw the attention of the non-Christian and open conversation in such a way that simply saying I'm a Christian never would. But are these statements actually accurate? Are they Biblical?

According to religion is defined as:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, natureand purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

As Christians we have a set of beliefs concerning the "cause, nature, and purpose of the universe", we also believe that there is a superhuman God who created the universe and whether we want to admit it or not we have rituals that we observe. We also believe that Gid has given us a moral code that directs us on how we act. So it seems pretty clear that Christianity is a religion in all aspects of the definition. So why do we so often try to deny that fact? 

The term religion has become associated simply with rules and regulations that we need to follow. It has also been associated with rituals and observances that become the forefront of our beliefs. Most of the time when we Christians think of religion we think of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus' day, the people who Jesus spent the most time rebuking. So it is clear why many Christians want to disassociate themselves with the word. For me it has become difficult to even say yes when people ask if I am religious because I have been so raised that religious is a bad thing.

This idea is not Biblical however. Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees because they were religious. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they had forgotten the purpose of their religion. He never told them that their traditions and rituals were wrong He simply told them that there traditions and rituals were missing the point and that when they undermined the purpose of the ritual in order to stay true to the ritual itself that it was wrong and hypocritical. The rituals in themselves were not bad and they still aren't. 

Just like with the Pharisees, the problem today is not when we find ourselves being ritualistic, it's when we sacrifice the purpose of the Gospel for our rituals. It's not when we become religious, we all are already, but it's when we forget the reason for our religion. James tells us what true religion looks likes:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 NKJV)

True, pure religion is to separate ourselves from the world and to help orphans and widows. This is the Biblical definition of religion. In the previous verse James mentions that our religion can become useless. That is what happened to the Pharisees; they were very religious but since they used their religion for selfish gain it was a useless religion. When we use our religion selflessly, looking to help those who can't help themselves, our religion becomes useful again, it becomes relevant. This is of course best done by allowing our religion to come out of our relationship with Jesus which brings us back to our original statement. 

But relationship and religion aren't mutually exclusive, we just need to remember which one comes first. If we pursue relationship first our religion can actually be used to strengthen that relationship. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finally to the Root!

In the past few weeks I have been doing a series on Mass Shootings. Sadly in that same time there have been at least four more incidents across the U.S., the most recent hitting very close to home here in the Portland area. This just proves how pertinent of an issue it really is. I have written about the three most common issues discussed after each shooting; Gun Control, Mental Health, and Media Violence. Although I do believe all of these are in some way relevant I feel that they are barely scratching the issue of the real problem.

So what is the real problem? What is the root?

I believe it is the breakdown of the American family.

In Genesis 2 the Bible records the creation of man and woman and in verse 23-24 the following is recorded:

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Biblically this was established before there was government, before there were laws, before there was church or any form of religion. A man should leave his parents and become "one flesh" with his wife. The family is the very root of all forms of society and when that root breaks down there will be repercussions through all areas of society. I wrote about this and the ways the enemy is attacking our families here

There are many ways that our families are breaking down but I will touch on two that I feel are very important in our society.

Single Parent Families
To be clear from the start, I am not blaming the single parents here. I admire the job that single parents do and am amazed at how well many of them are able to balance work, family, and everything else. However, no matter how good they are, they can not make up for having two interested participating parents in the home. God created the family to have father and mother and together they are the perfect combination. When one is absent, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, the plan is disrupted. There are many reasons for single parent families including; divorce, death, births outside of wedlock, etc. Some are unavoidable and there are some marriages that probably are better off to be broken when it comes to abuse and constant infidelity, but according to Ground Spark the number of single mothers increased from three million to 10 million between 1970 and 2000. That's an increase of more than 7 million children who do not have a father figure in their home. 

So what is the solution? Long term I believe we need to return to a greater respect of the sanctity of the bonds of marriage. Short term I think we need the good fathers that are there to start reaching out the those children who don't have fathers active in their lives. I didn't grow up with a father who was active in my life but I can name several of my friends fathers, as well as my uncle who lived close, as people who represented what a father should be. I feel that we need to do the same for the kids and teenagers around us.

Parents Not Taking Responsibility
Some parents are there but are not taking responsibility for raising their children. When their children are young they put them in front of a tv or a video game to keep them quiet. Then they give them to a babysitter while they are working. then when they get older they expect the teachers at school to raise their children. Their way of taking responsibility is to ban whatever they think is inappropriate from their house leaving their children free to find out about those things elsewhere. They never sit down and have a serious conversation with their children. They never help their children work through the issues that they face in the world.

I talk about this problem in my post about Media Violence and in my post about a recent controversial book. I believe that parents need to take responsibility for raising their own children and step up and have the tough conversations with them. Teach them how to make their own choices, teach them about safety and to respect human life. Inspire them towards visions and goals that improve the world and teach them to be selfless rather than selfish.

As mentioned above there are many other issues that I feel are contributing to the break down of our families but if we can address these two then that would be a huge step towards dealing with the root of the problem.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Media Violence = Real Violence?

In the midst of the debates about gun control and the mental health diagnoses there is also constant talk about the effects of violence in the media. When I was younger I used to roll my eyes at these discussions. I have always been a fan of a good action movie and I liked to play fighting games like street fighter and mortal kombat. I would make the claim that the violence didn't have an effect on me so it can't be to blame for these other people committing such senseless acts. However, even though I still don't think it is the root of the problem, I am beginning to think it is a more valid discussion.

When we constantly see death I do think there is a natural desensitization to it. I believe this is especially true the younger it starts. As a fully developed adult we can recognize a story, a movie, a game. We can fully differentiate between these things and the real world, but children aren't always able to do this on their own. I believe our kids are getting exposed to more and more violence at much younger ages and without strong parental influence, I do believe that it will desensitize them. Partner this desensitization with a significant mental illness and things can happen. Two of the most recent shooters had a fascination with the Joker from Batman. 

Again, I do not think that this is the root of the problem, but I do think it is worth looking at. When I was a kid I remember having to ask my aunt for the 'gun' in order to play duck hunter on the Nintendo. She had made it inaccessible to make sure we didn't play with it and act like we were shooting each other. When my cousin and I played chess together we weren't allowed to 'kill' each other's pieces, we 'captured' them. At the same time I did watch violent movies when she wasn't around, and I played violent video games, and I even used sticks as guns and swords when playing with my cousin, but these extremes put on by my aunt helped me as a child to think about the severity of violence. 

Ultimately, violence sells. Because of that we aren't going to be able to stop media violence unless it stops selling but I am not sure that we need to. I do think that we need to be aware of our children and what they are taking in. We should help our children process the violence that they see and help them recognize the difference between a game or a movie and real life. I believe there is a deeper root as to why violence is so attractive and why it effects our young people so much, but I do think it has an effect.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mental Health: Is That Deep Enough?

After determining that gun control, while it may succeed in saving some lives when done properly, is only a superficial solution, it is only natural to move on to the next topic so often discussed after mass shootings, mental health. This is a topic that I have some firsthand experience in having worked in the Mental Health field for the last four years. I can tell you firsthand that mental illness is a very real problem, often ignored by society, and as a Christian and minister, I can tell you that it is not just a cover up for demonic possession. Mental Illness is a real disease and needs to be treated like any other disease and also like any other disease, the individual should not be defined by their diagnosis. Our treatment methods are not where they need to be but they are miles ahead of where we were even 20 years ago. With this in mind, let's explore how mental illness relates to the mass shootings.

Each Shooter Seems to Have a Diagnosis:

One thing that has stood out to me in these stories is that in each story they mention some sort of mental illness in relation to the shooter. Some of them seem to have had the diagnosis for years but it was never treated. This brings us to the question of why was it ignored and how did they get the gun when they were diagnosed with a mental illness. But to me the bigger question seems to be with the other shooters. There are some shooters where they had no diagnosis their entire life and then after committing this act all of sudden people are diagnosing them with various mental illnesses. So was society completing missing that these people were mentally ill or is society fishing for an explanation to a senseless act and using mental illness to do so? Either way are we helping by bringing this diagnosis into the story?

The Stigma Against Mental Illness Increases: 

There is a truth in the thought that if we bring a problem to light we can better address it and find a solution. This is probably what people are thinking when they focus on the mental state of each of these shooters, however I feel there is something else happening. The majority of society probably has not met anyone with a mental health diagnosis. They may have known someone with depression but probably not anything beyond that. That means when we run stories about shooters who are diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Schizoaffective, or even severe, chronic depression most people have no other frames of reference for these diagnoses. I personally have the benefit of knowing several people who have been diagnosed with these various illnesses and are very functional. They are people who care about others and are looking to simply increase their independence and capabilities. Some are working or going to school right along with the rest of us and very few of them pose any risk to society. However, most people do not have this privilege. For many people when they hear that someone has schizophrenia they immediately think of the mass shooters. This then makes it harder for anyone with such a diagnosis to integrate in the community because the community is scared of them. They then feel isolated and alone making it more likely for them to lash out... and yet the majority still don't.

Is Mental Illness Really the Problem?

This has to be the question that we ultimately come to: Is Mental Illness really the problem? I do believe that society as a whole would improve if we were better able to reach out to those with mental illness, however I still think there are deeper issues here when it comes to the mass shootings. I believe that when we put it all on mental illness it further increases the stigma of society on mental illness while missing out on the true problems in our society.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gun Control: A Superficial Solution

Ban all guns, ban all assault weapons, increase gun control! These are the kinds of things we here after each mass shooting. There is constant debate about why guns are so easy to access and how much gun control we need to have. Before I continue let me make some things clear, I am not a gun rights activist and I am not a gun control activist. I do not own any guns but I know several people who do. The only reason I am approaching this subject is because of how it effects the discussion regarding mass shootings. For my introduction post go here. In order to explore this issue in regards to the mass shootings there are a couple central questions.

Question #1: Would banning guns even help?

This should be the first question when we approach any potential solution to a problem. Will it even solve the problem? In this case you have to consider the various statistics that gun lobbyists throw out there. For example here is an article stating that FBI statistics show more fatalities from hammers and clubs than from rifles. Even in the most recent event the killings started with a knife before he went to the gun. Another recent story going around involves two twelve year old girls that stabbed their friend 19 times in the woods.

So what do these statistics tell us? In my mind they tell us that we have a much deeper problem than the access of guns. However this does not show us definitively that there would not be any benefit from increased control on guns. There is a truth in the cliche statement "guns don't kill people, people kill people" however there is also unarguable truth in the fact that guns make it significantly easier to kill people and allow people to be able to kill more people. With that being said would getting rid of guns in the world save some innocent lives? Probably. If the shooters in each of these incidents had only knives instead of guns chances are there would have been less victims before they were stopped.

This leads us to our second question.

Question #2: Are we capable of banning all guns?

One thing that constantly seems to be coming up with these shooters is that they were often already diagnosed with a mental illness. My understanding is that it is already illegal to own a gun when you are diagnosed with a mental illness which means that many of these shooters were already banned from owning guns, and yet they got a gun. This shows an inability by our government to enforce the regulations already in place and makes me wonder how they could enforce stricter regulations. If the government establishes stricter regulations and is not able to enforce them, this means that less honest people would own guns because they would obey the regulations in place, however the inability to enforce would cause just as many criminals to own guns. Following the trail of common sense leads to a society in which criminals have guns and the honest citizen does not.

However my understanding is that there are societies who have successfully adopted and enforced stricter gun control. Australia is apparently a great example. So let's assume we can successfully reproduce what Australia did here in the United States. Would it be better? Would we be safer? According to the article I linked to, the rates of death by a gun decreased 50%. That sounds good right?

Question #3: Are there any risks to increased gun control?

Gun activists are constantly quoting the second amendment but I think most people have forgotten why that was there. It was to ensure our citizen's ability to fight a corrupt government.  If all guns were controlled and regulated by our government and our government were to become corrupt we would have no way of fighting against them. The reason we were able to win our independence from England was because at the time pretty much every citizen owned a gun. Father's taught their sons how to use guns so even the young boys had the ability to defend themselves from approaching troops. Our founding fathers recognized this right and felt it important enough to put into our constitution in case the government ever became corrupt. Hitler and Stalin are famous for banning all guns. That was one of their first acts to be sure that the citizens of their respective countries couldn't revolt.


So would increased gun control save some lives? Possibly, however it is hard to say that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks. As horrible as these mass shootings are the possibility of a Stalin or a Hitler coming to power would be a much greater problem. To me that is a great risk for a superficial solution. Banning the guns will not take care of the root of the problem. As I mentioned in my first post, guns were available before these shootings started taking place. So it seems to me that it would be much more beneficial to look at the root of the problem and to find a deeper solution.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mass Shootings: Digging to the Root of the Problem

On May 23rd the latest of what has been increasingly more common, mass shooting took place in Southern California. At least seven people were killed and many more were injured. There was apparently a video posted by the killer vowing to take out retribution on the women at college for not ever wanting to date him or have sex with him. This video is disturbing as he continually vows to take revenge on these women but of course this is not nearly as disturbing as his attempt to follow through with that vow.

Every time one of these mass shootings happens a debate is sparked with the inevitable question at the center: Why? Most answers that people give center around two things; gun control and mental health treatment. It always seems to come out that the shooter had some sort of mental illness and then the question comes how did he get a gun? I believe that the reason we are not seeing a change is because these two issues are simply the superficial layer of the problem. It is true that if we could somehow keep a gun out every potential killer's hands it would help reduce the casualties if they do become homicidal. It is also true that if we were able to give every person that is diagnosed with mental illness the help that they need we could reduce how many people act out in homicide or suicide due to that illness. The problem with these approaches is two fold: first it is impossible to do perfectly and second it is still not addressing the root of the problem.

I still remember the first school shooting back in 1999. I remember waking up the next morning for school and reading it in the newspaper and all I could do was fall to my knees and pray with tears streaming down my face. Now it is happening so often we seem to have been desensitized to it. That is a problem. Instead of invoking intense grief it now only seems to invoke intense debate. We need a change to sweep through our entire society. It seems like an impossible task for a blog that may get 30 page views per post, but if I can inspire one of my readers to inspire one more person and have that go through we can bring a much needed change.

I believe there are too many aspects to this problem to address in one post. For that reason I will be writing a series of posts addressing each issue that I believe to be involved. This means I will be addressing some very controversial issues and I will be doing this knowing full well that I am not an expert on this. However I feel that if we can discuss the entire picture it will help us explore the root of the problem. Following are a few of the issues on my mind to address:

Mental illness
Gun control
Violence in Media
Societal ideals

I appreciate every one of you as my readers. Please feel free to leave comments and continue the discussion. I am not afraid of disagreement or debate, in fact I welcome it. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

For the Husband is Head of the Wife...

Is the husband head of his wife? There is constant debate and controversy over this thought. People tend to try and explain it away, argue it, remind you that the Bible says husband and wife should submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21) but when it all comes down to it this verse is still there. Paul writes it quite clearly: "...the husband is head of the wife...". He even compares the relationship of husband and wife to Christ and the church. So why is this argued against so much if it is written so clear?

I believe that this idea is argued against simply because it is misunderstood. People think that the husband being head of the wife means that there is an inequality between the husband and wife role. They think that it means that the husband has a right to order his wife around anytime he wants to and can make decisions against his wife's wishes. This is not what it means at all. In order to better understand the role that Paul is describing for husbands let's take a look at the example he mentions, Christ as head of the church. 

"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." - Matthew 20:28

Here we see Christ's purpose of coming on this earth. He didn't come to be a master that demanded service. In fact if you read through the Gospels Christ never demanded service from anyone. There were times when he accepted service but he never demanded it. On the other hand Christ was constantly serving others. He played and prayed with people's kids, healed people, sat down with people and ate, taught life principles, provided food for the multitudes, and set people free from demonic oppression. In fact there was one instance where someone was serving him and he implied that she should stop and just spend time with him instead (Luke 10:38-42). 

So when Paul says that the husband is the head of the household it does not mean that the husband should come home and demand the house to be clean and the dinner to be made and the kids to be quiet, it actually means quite the opposite. When Paul says that husbands should be head of the wife like Christ it means husbands should be playing with the kids, praying with his family, teaching his family, praying for healing, spending time and eating meals with the family, and providing food for his family and guests. Then when the husband takes his rightful role the wife submits to his prayer, teaching, and service and together they train their kids in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Does Jesus Disapprove of Modern Christianity?

If Jesus suddenly came back to earth today, would he approve or disapprove of modern Christianity?

This is an interesting, and I think in some ways important, question for us to think about an ponder. However I think it doesn't really become useful until we personalize it. Does Jesus approve of how I am living out my Christianity? Even then, though, it can be dangerous. Thinking this way can get us into a works based attitude, causing us to feel judgmental about ourselves and about those around us. 

I saw this question presented on a website called by Dr. Rena Aslan. The website apparently allows people to present a question with multiple choice answers and poll how many answer each choice. In this case there were three answers: 'Approve' which got 4%, 'Disapprove' which got 87%, and 'Depends on the denomination' which got 4%. 87% of people, a total of 34,978, voted that Jesus would disapprove of modern Christianity! That is quite a majority! 

This got me thinking, does Jesus really disapprove of modern Christianity? A lot of Christian writers will write as though he does and same with preachers. Even I have written things that make it sound like we are doing things wrong and need to 'return to "true" Christianity'. But I think too say that Jesus disapproves of modern Christianity is going a bit too far. 

Are there aspects of Christianity that He disapproves of? Probably. Are there things that Christians do that He doesn't approve of? Of course there are. However to say that He disapproves of Christianity as a whole is a bold statement that I believe goes against Biblical teaching. 

First of all, look at all the wonderful things that the church has done and started. The majority of non-profits set up to feed the hungry have a Christian background, overseas aid is mostly done by Christians, and even most public hospitals and health care is provided by Christian organizations. It is true that there are a lot of Christians that are not focused on spreading Jesus's love in the world, however Christianity as a whole has been doing a lot to further His mission. 

With that being said, there is a much bigger reason why I don't think Jesus disapproves of modern Christianity as a whole. Jesus isn't focused on what we are doing or how we are doing it. He is not looking at our results and seeing if we are meeting our 'quota'. Jesus is calling us to relationship. True Christianity consists of a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have entered into that relationship, and if we are striving to build that relationship then Jesus approves, regardless of what we do or don't do. If you are not in relationship with Him then He is simply calling you to come to Him. he is reaching out to you and asking you to answer His call. There are surely things that you do that He would rather you not do just like there are things that I do that He would rather me not do, but what He truly cares about is the relationship. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Who's the real hero?

I found the following article on a blog called Husband Revolution:

It made me rethink a popular character for all generations in the last 70 years, Batman. The article is specifically talking about the movie "Batman Begins" and is discussing a lesson of leadership given to us through the movie. It discusses how Batman is successful not so much because of his tremendous fighting skills, or his numerous gadgets, but because of the people he surrounds himself with. The author specifically mentions James Gordon, Lucius Fox, and Alfred Pennyworth. Of course Alfred is the prime example as the one person who knows his secret from the beginning and assists him in everything from cooking and cleaning to preparing the bat cave and protecting his secret. Alfred does everything that he can to protect Bruce Wayne and support Batman.

Growing up almost all little boys, and some girls as well, want to be Batman at some point. Sure some prefer Spider-Man or Superman but the premise is the same, they want to be the hero. They want to be the guy with the cool suit that stops the bad guys. I personally was always a fan of Wolverine from the X-men but trust me I would've loved to be Batman too. This is an idea that is passed on from generation to generation to the point that I currently see my nephews dress up like Batman whenever they get a chance. But how many kids have we seen dressed up like Alfred?

In the story of Batman it can pretty safely be said that there would not be a Batman without an Alfred. Without Alfred, Bruce Wayne would have never had the strength to focus his anger to the point of creating Batman and even if he had he probably would've have died fairly early on without Alfred looking out for him and taking care of his wounds. Then when Bruce gets frustrated and wants to throw it all away, or wants to do something stupid out of anger, it is Alfred that snaps him out of it and brings him back to focus. Without Alfred Bruce Wayne would be simply a depressed, angry, orphaned, misguided, billionaire. When you really think about it Alfred is the true hero.... But everyone wants to be Batman.

In life there are too many people wanting to be Batman and not enough people wanting to be Alfred. Everyone wants to be the one in the front lines, the one with the cool costume that everyone knows. The one who is called out personally when the job is too big for everyone else and we do need those kind of people at times but those people, need Alfred. They need someone who's willing to stay behind the scenes, who's willing to do all the little things, and who's willing to tell them straight when it's needed. 

This is especially true with Christian ministry. When people contemplate going into the ministry they generally think of things like preaching, singing, or performing. Or they may think about writing a book that is read by thousands. We think about people like Billy Graham, Kenneth Hagin, or even out local pastor. But how many big time preachers, Batmans, have we seen fall due to a lack of Alfreds surrounding them? How many times have we seen a big name preacher get exposed in sin because they never had someone to keep them accountable, to speak the truth in love? How many times have we seen preachers or pastors get burnt out because they are trying to do everything on their own, they don't have anyone to share the load? 

Are you willing to be someone's Alfred?