Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Conscience and how it works!

John 8:9 "And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."
When I read this verse recently it struck me that I have my "own" conscious. It's something inside me and it belongs to me. My conscious communicates with the Holy Ghost as you can see below:
Romans 9:1 "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost..."
Since I have my own conscience and it's "something within me" and it communes with God's Spirit, it seems that the conscience is very important to me!  Since I have a conscience others must! We see here that other people have a conscience and as humans, we compare them! People compare bodies, minds and talents. The conscience is no different"
1 Corinthians 10:29 "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?
It would appear that the "conscience" has a value system because what others do, their liberty, is compared to what my conscience values. Our conscience is what judges others. Since we're not to judge others harshly, we're to keep our conscience in check. It can run rampant if we don't!
Since I have a conscience and another does as well, it follows that everyone has a conscience:
2 Corinthians 4:2 "But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
Yes, everyone has a conscience! Do you suppose that animals do as well? Scientists, believe it or not, only have opinions on animal conscienceness.  They do admit that the conscience evaluates right from wrong and controls behavior and guilt. Picture, if you will, the angel and devil sitting on your shoulder, both advising. This is a caricature of your behavior. Since animals do not have moral values, their decision-making is narcissistic and objective in preserving instinctual behaviors.
Scripture tells us that the conscience has a "power" component:
1 Corinthians 8:12 "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ."

Some have a "weak conscience" implying that others have a stronger one. Philosophers believe that the conscience is balanced toward "good" and strives to be "good". However, "goodness" is abstract and is based on the background, knowledge, intelligence and experience of each person. Those living in isolated heathen societies may have a less developed conscience, but development is not a measure of the power of the conscience. Those living in a monastery with daily religious training and experience may have a well-developed conscience, but the power of those can be either weak or strong. Their conscience may be weak because it's untested due to the isolation. That's why men are prone to sin when removed from their normal life situation. The most developed conscience is a person with "purity":

1 Timothy 3:9  "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
Purity of conscienceness is a well-developed and has little to do with power. Those with a pure conscience are described as such:
Matthew 18:3 "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Little children don't have well-developed moral systems. Little children don't have inherent weaknesses nor powerfulness. Their conscience has not been soiled by deception. They are accepting! They believed Jesus because Jesus said it! That's simplicity! Jesus "seared their conscience" on the spot without building a strong value system, having vast knowledge nor great wisdom. Their conscious was pure! It had not been contaminated by the teachings of the world. They are in a state of innocence!
Mankind was born in innocence. As the children, they blindly accepted the teachings of God because God said so and that's all they knew! (Adam and Eve). With the gain of knowledge (Satan's deception) Adam and Eve went from a "pure conscience" to a "deceived conscience". They were no longer innocent! Man's original condition was a strong conscience. Since it was pure, "good" was dominant. In fact "bad" had yet to exist in mankind.
With the strong deception of Satan "bad" entered the conscience of Adam and Eve. They now had the "knowledge of good and evil". That's not a good thing. Before that, they had only knowledge of "good" and were in harmony with the will of God. After the "fall" the conscience of Adam and Eve changed. "Evil" became part of the value system and their conscience was no longer "pure".  In fact, once evil entered the world, "good" was no longer dominant in their conscience. Evil became the norm!
Psalm 10:3 "For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth."
Hence, wickedness became the norm for mankind. Even the conscience of the righteous was seared by pleasure. As a result, mankind's conscience became weak. In impurity the conscience lost it's power. Then along came Jesus!

John 16:7  "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."

Jesus came with grace. He propitiated for our sins. By belief in Jesus and acceptance of his sacrifice, the born-again man had his slate wiped clean! That slate is the conscience. Our conscience was no longer depraved, but washed clean by Jesus' blood! Rather than evil remaining dominant in the conscience, "good" defined as "love" reigns supreme. Christians are still tempted (by Satan), but he (Satan) is defeated. He does not automatically get what he wants. The Holy Spirit Jesus spoke of came to mankind. His Spirit witnesses with ours. When our conscience is invigorated, Satan jumps in to deceive, but the Holy Spirit energizes your will-power to do what's right.

We're no longer "pure", but we're saved. We'll always have to deal with original sin, but thanks to the Comforter, we can do it! We will never be given more than we can handle!

1 Corinthians 10:13 "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
So here we go! The "conscience" is a faculty given to man by God which originially had pure moral values entirely based on God's will. Man's conscience was confounded by Satan back in Eden and modern man's genetics has an imperfect and impure conscience as a result of the sin of one man. Although by one man we're prone to sin, by another man, Jesus, we're redeemed!
Our faculty of the soul is the mediator between our mind and spirit. It takes outside influences, processes "cause and effect" based on a value system, and determines our actions. Some are immature Christians and have a weak conscience. Others are mature and have a strong conscience. The power of the conscience is based on our communion with God. With prayer and mediation in God's will, the Holy Spirit will empower us! The conscience is strengthened!  We will never have a perfectly "pure" conscience again, but we can bear witness with God in simplicity. We can doubt not, just as the little children!
Just as in Eden knowledge confounds the spirit. We come humbly and meekly to the Lord and he'll keep the conscience pure!
If our actions are in harmony with our "beliefs" we are happy. When we fail to heed God's will by listening to the Holy Ghost, we feel guilt. Guilt is the "check valve" on our conscience to keep us from sinning. Obeying God keeps our conscience working well and a well-balanced conscience means happiness. Pleasure is associated with "guilt" since things of the flesh are pleasurable, but cause guilt.
Those unable to experience "guilt" should be wary of the efficacy of their salvation. They are reprobate and headed for hell. Those without feelings of guilt at all are called psychopaths by psychologists. "Reprobate" is the condition of their soul since their conscience is just like a useless gall bladder. It doesn't do the job God gave it to do!
The conscience is a system of the body. God gave us a respiratory system, digestive, etc. which all the animals have. However, since God gave mankind a soul, he had to give us a system in order to communicate with that soul. That system is the conscience. Keep a healthy conscience. Doctor it daily. Immunize it from disease by God's word, prayer and meditation. When it's attacked by a virus, put on the full-armor of God. Allow his Holy Spirit to fight the disease of sin which destroys the soul. An unresponsive conscience will allow the soul to be destroyed by sin. Don't go there!

Monday, December 30, 2013

All sins not equal: Just the penalty. Or is sin, sin?

People rationalize their extreme misbehaviors by claiming that all sins are equal. Is that true? Is drunkenness of the same magnitude as murder? Let's take an objective look!

Claiming dire sins the same as common sins is enabling those who are the most extreme sinners. When even Christians claim that all sins are equal, that enables those who would murder and those engaging in fornication and homosexuality. "But", you say, "Murder is rare and effects few!" Wrong! Abortion is murder, it's done frequently and those aborting are victims of society. The devil has deceived many that abortion is something else other than murder and that murder and theft are of equal offense.  Enabling sinners compounds sinning.

The "accepted" definition of sin is "willful transgressions of God's law". Is that a valid definition? Is that a full definition?

1 John 3:4 "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
Firstly, "willful" is not in this definition. It's breaking the "law". Which law and whose law? There is God's law and Mosaic law.
Joshua 8:32 "And he (Joshua) wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel."
The "Law of Moses" is typically understood to be the first five books of the Old Testament called the Pentateuch. Mosaic Law includes the Ten Commandments, but also many more. Jewish theologians have identified 613 laws enumerated by Moses. Are we to keep only the Ten Commandments, which is God's Law, or all 613 commandments, all the law? If it's the latter, we sin every time we breath and "law" becomes trivial.
If we're only penalized for disobeying "God's Law" is it the Ten Commandments or "The Greatest Commandment?" I'll answer that! "The Greatest Commandment" is a summary of the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments are about "loving God" and the last seven are about "loving your neighbor". God's law is about loving God and loving others!
We have identified sins against two persons: sins against God and sins against others. Is that the extent of sinning? No! We can sin against ourselves:

1 Corinthians 6:18 "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body."
Sin is the absence of love for God, for others and for ourselves! This is my definition of sin deduced from Holy Scripture! It must fit God's definition: "sin is the transgression of the law". Failing to love is "the transgression", the "law" is "The Greatest Commandment" and the "transgression" can be against God, against others or against our own bodies! Surely, we sin if we fail to love God, love others and fail to care for God's temple; our bodies. No where have I found that "willful" is part of the definition.
I'll explain: Is hate willful? No, it's human nature. We don't even have to plan it. Hate comes naturally for various reasons, but the most prominent reason is that mankind has always been into self-worship and "loving" is at odds with the god we've created in ourselves!  Hate is a sin! Since "hate" is obviously at odds with "The Greatest Commandment" hate would be the worst sin possible! Other sins are symptomatic of "hate", but "hate" is the disease of sin.
The "Seven Deadly Sins" called "Cardinal Sins" by Catholics are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. These come from Proverbs:
Proverbs 6:16 "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,  19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
My direct list would be pride, slander, murder, lust, trouble-making, lying and gossip. Slander and lying are similar, but have different motivations. Slander is hateful in nature and lying is more general. This is my partial list of the seven deadly sins. Greed, slothfulness and gluttony is not among them and wrath is included in the sin of "murder".  Please note that all these "deadly sins" are hateful against God, others, or our own bodies. Protestants as a general rule pay little heed to "Cardinal Sins", but they are certainly scriptural!  Calvinism and it's point of "total deparivity" was taught early, hence "degree is sinning" was inconsequential to those early Protestants. (Man is not "totally depraved". He is depraved, but totally "lost" without Jesus).
Catholics refer to sins as mortal and venial sins . Although there are major and minor sins, one sin is no more deadly than another. Sins have degree, unrepentant sin has the same punishment!
Does this list include all the "deadly sins"? Definitely not!
The most sin or deadly sin is "blasphemy"!
Mark 3:29 "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.
Denying God is the ultimate sin because it's at odds with "The Greatest Commandment" to love God! Whoever denies God certainly has no love for Him. This extends to those who fail to accept Christ because God, Christ and the Holy Spirit ARE ALL GOD!
Then there are others sins defined as "abominations" as in Proverbs 6:16.
Leviticus 7:18 Improper sacrifices are an abomination. In New Testament this means failure to sacrifice oneself! That's blasphemy.
Leviticus 11: Eating dangerous foods is an abomination because by doing so one "murders" themselves.
Leviticus 18:22 "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Homosexuality is an abomination.
Leviticus 18: Incest is an abomination. As is unnatural sex, fornication and bestiality.
There are more major sins, but one should get the picture. There are major and minor sins!
The New Testament targets specific sins:
Galatians 5:19 "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies..."
They are sins of the flesh. These are all part and parcel of previously mentioned "deadly sins".  Strangely, "hatred" is at the center of the list. That's a truism because all the others mentioned are rebellion (hate) against God, others or self! Yes, God on several occasions targets specific sins as worthy of mention because they are major sins.
All sin is not intentional (willful). Here's an example:
Exodus 21:22 "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine."
Striving in this passage is intentional. However, the killing of her unborn child is an accidental sin and because it was done without "mischief" there is a lesser penalty.
Leviticus Chapter 5  lists several "accidental sins": incomplete testimony in court, touching something unclean, touching body discharges, and forgetting a promise to the Lord.
Obviously, unintentional sins are "minor sins" and punishment isn't even the same as "intentional sins"!  Confession and sacrifice is an adequate punishment for unintentional sins. These sins are all sins of carelessness.  

There are two phases of sin. The first phase is easy. Sins we do are called sins of commission. They are many! Sins of omission are things we're commissioned to do, but fail to do. We are all called to tell the world about Jesus. Many people are timid or even lazy. They fail to do this most important command. It's a sin of omission. Guess what? That's a terrible sin because we're not showing the same love to our neighbors as Jesus showed to us! That's a "major sin"!
One specific verse stands out that establishes "degrees of sin":
John 19:11 "Jesus answered, Thou (Pilate) couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he (Judas) that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."
Judas committed the greater sin because he had sin in his heart. Those sins were greed, hate and murder. Judas knew what would happen. He was an accomplice to the murder of Jesus. Pilate carried out the will of the people. His part in killing Jesus wasn't malicious. He washed his hands of guilt, showing he had no hate for the Messiah. The heart of those who plotted to kill was worse than those who did the killing! The sin of the heart is demonstrated to be greater than the emotionless carrying out out the execution.
Yes, there are lesser sins and greater sins. Sins of the heart (hate, absence of love) are greater than the sins of the hand and mouth.
Some sins are sins for some, but not others. I won't go into scripture, but the Jews sinned if they ate the unclean food, but the Gentiles sinned not for doing the same thing. For the Jews it was an act of disobedience. For the Gentiles they weren't being disobedient. The Jews would be sinning from the heart and the Gentiles of the mouth. For them, God placed little significance in what they did, but what was the condition of the heart!
That's the case for "degrees of sin". I would hope that Christians would discern scripture enough to agree with that. However, punishment for sin is the same for all sins. Unless one accepts the propitiation of Jesus he will suffer eternal death. Jesus died for all sins! However, scripture also tells us if we try to obtain salvation by keeping the law, we'll suffer eternal punishment. Regardless of sins, we're all sinners and if we've broken one law, we've broken them all!
In summary, I've made the case that Sin is the absence of love for God, for others and for ourselves! Also, that there are "degrees of sin". most of which God calls "abominations". Therefore, some sins are in fact worse than others! Without Jesus the punishment for sins of omission, sins of commission, accidental sins, sins of the heart, sins of the hand and mouth, minor sins and major sins all warrant eternal punishment. The unpardonable sin is being "without Jesus", blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. This is because the Holy Ghost is the person who draws you to Jesus and by rejecting his call, it's Jesus a person rejects!
The antidote for all sin is the same without degree. John 3:16.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Walter Mitty of Christianity

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a short story by James Thurber and has now been made into a movie. Someone "Mitttyesque" is ineffectual and spends long intervals of time having heroic daydreams. Such a person may fake impressive careers.

As an example, I remember the janitor when I worked at Chevrolet Truck and Bus who reported to the maintenance superintendent's house late one Sunday evening. He was dressed in full military uniform.He came to tell Walt that he would not be at work Monday because he was going to Washington on a secret mission for then President Nixon. Surely, this person had spent much time in another world!

Luke 20:20a (ESV)  "So they watched Him (Jesus), and sent spies who pretended to be righteous..."

Spies in the Bible were to "test" Jesus. To get him to "slip up". They were looking for any reason to castigate Jesus. In order to fool Jesus, they pretended to be righteous. It was a facade to entrap. However, pretence is most often used to deceive others. Most now realize that you can't fool Jesus!

Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV) "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

Secret sins means secret lives. Let's take for instance the Christian man who travels on the job. Some, when in  a strange city, become the "Walter Mitty's" that they dream about when home. Their real life fantasy becomes an actual event. As the Christian stops to pray and worship, in their mind, they may be lusting, plotting, hating, prideful, irreverant, or whatever people's minds are capable of imagining. Sinners such as these pretend to be righteous, living in false worlds. They are faking righteousness.

Those "righteous" are heroic to their cohorts. Many are admired for being spiritual mentors, deacons, and even pastors. Just as community leaders are prestigious, so are many church leaders. There's nothing wrong in admiring a spiritual leader. Billy Graham is a hero to many and rightfully so. He has fulfilled the "Great Commission" in a fifty-year ministry. However, Billy Graham would be the first to tell you how imperfect he is! Although Billy surely has "secret sins" as we all do, he is unpretentious. He lays it on the line. There is no Mittyesque attempt to appear what he is not.

The worst example of a Mittyesque person is Jimmy Swaggart. Note that Walter Mitty was a fraud in that he dreamed of being heroic, but was non-descript in real life. On the other hand Swaggart was a "hero" in real life, but a bust in his fantasy world. Both, however, lived secret lives. I would venture to say that Swaggart fantasized that he was a lady's man and irresistable. When given a chance he demonstrated that stereotype of himself.  His fake career was one of a righteous minister living the word of God. He may now have repented and become reconciled to God again, but at the time of his notoriety, he was Mittyesque.

Let's examine ourselves. We all do have secret sins. We hate to admit it, but although we may be saved, we are far from perfect. We still have pride too! When we fantasize about sinful acts or even do them secretly, we don't want to be found out. Our desire is to be righteous, but the flesh is weak! Paul had this problem and he was the best example in the Bible of a righteous man:

Romans 7:15 (ESV) "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."

As Christians we continue to sin because we're weak. We may not want to be Mittyesque, but that's our nature. Most people don't like to brag about their weaknesses, but we all have them. The problem arises when we pretend that we're something we're not! Paul didn't do that. He "fessed up". Like Paul, I wish I was without blemish. I want everyone to believe that I am because of my pride, but I struggle with the temptation and its sin and will until the day I do. I wish I didn't, but I do! Sound familiar? That too was Paul's problem.

What distinquishes a righteous man's sin from the sins of the Mittyesque person?

1 John 3:9 (ESV) "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."

Yes, we all still sin, but for many they have a "practice of sinning". Sin is their lifestyle. It is the rule, not the exception.  If one is a "Walter Mitty" they are ineffectual in their righteousness, but want others to believe they are spiritual heroes. The biggest differnence is that their dreams don't consist of heroic spiritual acts, but heroic sinful acts. They're just like the Pharisees who prayed in public for all to see, but their hearts were full of sin.

There may be others who are sinful, but dream of being righteous. They just have trouble living the life they profess. They too, are ineffectual Christians, but their dream is the dream of positive change. That's a dream we should all have, and with prayer, study of the word and a strong desire to change, these people can grow from babes in Christ to mature Christians. Those who dream of spiritual improvement are not deceptive in their dreams, but are responding to the Holy Spirit. My dream is to not be Mittyesque. That's a desirable dream!

1 John 2:6   (ESV) "Whoever says he abides in him (Jesus)  ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. "

In short, we are to be Christlike in our lives. If we're to dream of being something we're not, it's better to dream of being righteous and missing the mark, than pretending to be righteous and off the mark!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Year: New Person

It's the time of year when life "resets". Taxable income goes back to zero, the calendar starts afresh, new semesters start in school and the moon changes! This year we'll have a "New Moon" at 1:14 am January 1st. After waning in December, the New Mean will wax in January! Time starts afresh!

January 1st is a great time for renewal. Just as nature resets itself, we can reset as well. That's why people make New Year's Resolutions. It's a good time to do so because the New Year is the advent of refreshing. We can reflect on where we've been and what's ahead!  If there are things about ourselves which we dislike, we can take this time to plan for change.(Yes, the moon changes. It's part of God's plan too!)

All men and women are born an "old man". That man is the sinful self. It's the original sin we have because we're human. Even new-born babies are "old men" in the sense that they are "born to sin", just as the "old man" Adam. Children have a tendency to sin, even in their innocence! They lie when they're caught. It's natural. They rebel when they're told "no", and they "worship" themselves. Life is all about them!

People refer to me as "an old man". Chronologically, I have aged and matured in wisdom,  but I'm not an "old man"!

Romans 6:6 "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him (Jesus), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Explaining the signficance of Baptism).

Where once all mankind served sin, after Christ was crucified life itself was renewed. Sin was "reset"! No longer would we have to attempt to "be good enough" to balance out the evil we do. That didn't work. Mankind failed miserably! Christ's crucifixion signaled a "new year" in that all men could approach God differently than each had before. Rather than facing God with fear, his crucifixion replaced our fear with love! God "resolved" that his grace was sufficient to cover all our sin. He was so committed to saving us that he made the ultimate sacrifice; his own life! Now that's truly a "New Year"!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. "

"In Christ" means being "reborn". Although man is born once in the flesh, grace provides the way for the spirit to be "born". We are mind, body and spirit. Mybody were born on a certain date, but my spirit followed 14 years later. That's when I was born again! That's when I was "in Christ". After being reborn it's expedient that I renew my mind to reconcile it to my body and spirit.

Since I was "reset" when I was born again in Christ, I'm a "new creation". Just as a New Moon and New Year resets the old year, acceptance of Jesus into my life makes me a new creation. I'm a "new man".

Ephesians 4:22 " That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
At salvation we are "reset". Our slate is wiped clean. The "old man" is dead and we become a "new man". Why then do we still live in a contant state of sin? Our mind has yet to be "reset"! We are to be "renewed in the spirit of our mind". Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak! Paul said that! Baptism is symbolic of the death and burial of the "old man" and his sinful ways, and the raising out of the water is representative of the "new man" and our renewal by the blood of Jesus. Water symbolically wiped away our sins and cleaned the slate, so to speak. We are still sinners, but all past sins are forgotten!  Now the "new man" starts afresh. His New Year has started!
Here's about the best explnation for our "New Year" that can be found:
2 Corinthians 5:17 ( ESV) "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. "
Reconciliation is God bringing us into his will. We don't have to do it on our own. His spirit communes with our spirit and if we listen, we do God's will! It's God's will that we be reconciled, but we have a little responsibility on our own. We're to "reset":
Colossians 3:9   (ESV) "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."
We are the ones who do the "reset". Yes, Christ has already pushed the button which rewinds our life, but we have to respond to the buttons' push. He provided the "current" (spirit) to erase the old RAM (our life), but we program the now cleared memory (our minds)! We change our practices. We quit being of the world and reveling in the pleasures of the world.
Christians, if they are truly born-again" are new persons and their destinyis reset. Where once they were bound for spiritual death they now are to have eternal life! Now, that's renewal!  However, after salvation we are "saved sinners". Sinning is a choice we make with each sin. Although that is our predisposition, it''s till up to us whether to cave or not to cave (to temptation).  Remember that we are prone to sin, but we don't have to! Renewing our minds is doing our part to do the will of God. After salvation we are still told to keep his commandments. However, rather than keeping commandments to save our lousy sinful souls, we keep his commandments because our desire is to do his will. Understanding that is the "renewal of the mind". We have a new attitude about God!
Back to the "New Year". It's easy to see that so many Christians have yet to renew their mind. This is the best time of year to "reset" how we're living right now. Are we doing what Jesus would do? Are we being Christlike? Take this opportunity to reset your life and reconcile it with God. There is no better time than now, and that time just happens to be the time of renewal... "New Years!"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Futility of it all! Preaching.

Preacher's should be "called to preach". What I mean is that just as the apostles were called by Jesus to be "fishers of men", preachers are called by Jesus as well!

Matthew 4:19 (ESV) "And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' "
Jesus called those whose occupation were fisherman to fish a different pond. They were to "net" sinners instead of fish. Rather than the catch that which would perish, but fishing for men saves those "caught".  Those "called" went from willing workers to willing preachers. It wasn't for money that they became fishers of men, but for obedience to and zeal for the Lord.
Some preachers are merely working a vocation. They get paid, and some quite well, and rather than having a burden for souls, they have a burden for income. You can tell a preacher who's not called. Their enthusiasm for the Lord is just not there. Few sermons are preached which would convict sinners to seek redemption. Another gospel is preached; a social gospel:
Galatians 1:6 ( ESV) "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."
The gospel is not concerned with "sharing the wealth", the environment, tolerance, social justice nor the pursuit of leizure and pleasure, but with saving souls! Few churches are concerned with that now! If a church fails to preach personal salvation and obedience to God, that church is preaching another gospel! If preachers at those churches are doing that, their work is futile. They're spreading poison on green pastures, so to speak!
Some take delight in teaching other things. Some have adapted psychology into the church. People are seeking something more in their lives and if sound doctrine isn't there, they'll take whatever they can get. Hence, many churchgoers never hear of salvation, but membership. It's like an exclusive club! If you go to church, attend regularly, sing, teach, act and greet; then you're accepted into that club. When I was young and attended a liberal church.  I was told that I was "saved" because I received and "A" in catechism class. Even as a child I realized the error in that type of "salvation". Such preaching is an effort in futility! Those people were perishing in spite of membership. If salvation was taught according to scripture these "social clubs" would be part of the "Christian fanatics" as true Christians are called!
Mere churchgoers and those born-again in Christ see things differently:
1 Corinthians 1:18 ( ESV) "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. "

You can see the dichotomy  in this verse!  To one the word is "folly"(foolishness) to another it's "God's power".  Teaching to please fools is foolishness. Preaching salvation is power!

If a preacher preaches God's power, it leads to repentance:

Mark 1:15 (ESV) "And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

How are sinners to know God's word, when preachers fail to preach! Why is that?

1) They are not called of God. Their preaching is futile.
2) They are called by God, but they fear failure. If truth is preached, the congregation may repent and rejoice, or if the congregation is calloused and hard-hearted they will reject truth. When truth is rejected attendance drops and the preacher is perceived a failure. To avoid failing, many preachers smooth talk. They fail to bring a message which would convict a sinner to repent.
3) A preacher may be called, but get caught up in his own leadership skills and self-adoration.
4) Others pervert the gospel because they just don't believe what they should be preaching.
5) Some even distort truth because they are evil. They teach pleasure and tolerance rather than joy and obedience. Many liberal churches are this extreme!

Should preachers quit preaching. Since sinners want their ears tickled and little more, should preachers just give it up?

Mark 6:11 "And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” and Luke 10:11b adds "Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near' "

As we approach the end of days, sinners are getting a last chance. Just as the Jews, most believe in one God, but have other idols themselves. The God of pleasure is the "other Gods" of the First Commandment! (Or is it now the First Suggestion?)  (sic).

I have seen many Christians get angry with the preacher when the preacher merely preaches what the Bible says; Truth!  Others don't mind if the preacher rebukes someone else, just don't get on their turf. Given the obstinance of mankind, is preaching futile? It appears that the obedient continue to obey and the stiff-necked disobey. I have seen preachers have a sermon on taking the Lord's name in vain and before I'm out the church door, I hear that precious name taken in vain repeatedly!

Jeremish preached a good sermon! He warned people that destruction was at hand. They failed to listen:

Jeremiah 5:21 (ESV) “ Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not."

Like Jeremiah, contemporary preachers warn; people have eyes and ears, but they don't see nor hear. They have a built-in filtering system. Rebuke is filtered by pride and selfishness. Sinners hear, but don't apply. That's why angels sing in heaven when even one sinner enters that narrow gate!

Should preachers, then, just quit preaching?

1 Timothy 4:13 ( ESV) "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching."

No way are preachers to give up! It's discouraging for them, but that's their call. They know the odds, but they are devoted to God!

When the angels sing when one Christian is saved, it would never happened unless that sinner had heard:

Romans 10:14    ( ESV) "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? "

Yes, it's worth it! Preaching leads to hearing and hearing to believing and believing to salvation. Encourage the preacher. If the preacher is on fire for the Lord, the congregation will be also!

New Years Resolutions

Normally New Year's Resolutions are written down. Why waste the time? Few follow through!

It seems as if that's ironic: Resolved to "follow through" and then failure!

A resolution is a "firm determination". To do what? Follow through with whatever plan of action a person proposes. From a psychological standpoint one may do better if they say "I'm determined to..." instead of "My Resolution is...". It means the same thing, but "determined" seems to be more concrete in one's minds.

Typical New Years Resolutions:

1) I'm going to quit _____________ (smoking, cursing, laying around, etc.)
2) I'm going to __________ (diet, lose weight, eat more healthy, etc.)
3) I'm going _________  (to attend church more regularly, be more serious about God, read my Bible daily, pray twice a day, etc.)

You get the picture! Just fill in your own blank. Most of us have resolved to so many things!  How successful are we? Not very!

It has been reported that only 8% of people follow through with New Year's Resolutions! Are you one of the 8 out of 100? I followed through one time in about ten times I've made a resolution at New Year's. However, resolutions can be made any time of year and I've been more successful with those. I suppose it has to do with situations which arise which make a person more serious. I quit smoking in February of 1984. I didn't say "I'm resolved to quit." I said "I quit." period! Do you see the difference? The former leaves an opening for failure and the latter is a determined statement.

In 2012 around September I saw my "Buddha gut" reflection in the full-length window while I was working shirtless outside. I was determined to do something about that and I did. I lost my Buddha gut in about three months and went on to lose 41 pounds, well beyound my first goal of 23 pounds! How was I able to do this? Determination!  "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Newton was smart. He put God's Law into his own words and got famous with Newtons' First Law of Physics. However, this can be applied to about anything!

My "action" was seeing myself through an unflattering prism. My "reaction" was disgust. In order to be determined I must want to change. "Disgust" is unpleasant and that was my motivator. 

So  then I was disgusted with what I saw and was determined to make a change! There are two ways of accomplishing change: 1) Irrationally seek a miracle drug/cure/program/food/etc. or 2) Get real! "Getting real" means that someone must do something drastic. Since no one else could lose weight for me, I had to do it myself! Work is required for change.

"Yourself doing" is "self-control". We have now moved from a resolution to a firm action. Determination brought us to that point. Most people aren't determined enough to have self-control. They had rather play games with the imaginary activity of "trying". It's imaginary because "trying " is non-existent. A person doesn't "try to eat right". Either a person does or does not.  "Trying" is defined as "failure". "Doing" is success!

I "tried" to quit smoking for 20 years. In my mind I said "After I quit I can on occasion smoke a cigarette." What was lacking? Determination! I allowed a loop-hole. Sometime later I was going to smoke another cigarette. In actuality I never quit. I only played games with quitting. Playing games with serious behaviors is self-destructive and masochistic. Why subject one to the punishment of quitting unless one is truly serious about quitting? That's insane!

I quit smoking when I quit "trying". I made a "resolution" that "never again will I smoke"! I was determined and committed. I then quit smoking in an instant. I skipped the defeat of "trying" and went right on to "doing". Quitting something requires little "doing" actually! It requires "not doing". I quit smoking by not buying, unpacking, getting, placing, lighting and inhaling cigarettes. You see, quitting bad behaviors is actually "not doing"!

People who can't quit doing things have little determination and self-control. When we resolve to quit bad behaviors or actions and we fail, we fail ourselves and maybe our family, However, those who have little self-control in temporal matters may have the same lack of self-control in spiritual matters!

We get "saved" by sorrow, repentance, belief and faith. All these must be enduring. We can't be sorrowful, believe, and faithful for ten minutes and be "saved". We must initially feel sorrow and never forget that we're saved because we're sinners and rebelled against God. Belief and faith is likened to a race by Paul:

1 Corinthians 9:24 "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."

Running to obtain is determination. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. Those who looked back lost the race. Determination is looking ahead. Looking to finish the race.  Looking back causes uncertainity and doubt. Just as the Olympians of Paul's time, we look forward! Who comes to mind when one thinks of "looking back"? Lot's wife. She made one last look at what she was leaving. The "race" for her ended right there. She just didn't have the commitment to move forward and put that sinful city behind her!

Galatians 5:22  (ESV) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

Look at that! Again we're flabberghasted because "self-control" is working by ourselves, but it's a "fruit of the spirit". We become able to control ourselves because the Holy Spirit is there to check us! He's the comforter. Jesus didn't expect us to be like him on our own:

John 14:26 "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Isn't that just like God? He wants us to practice "self-control" then he helps us to do that!  Our salvation is maintaining our faith to the end and the Holy Spirit is right there to keep us believing!  That's for the spiritual things of life, but God will help us in all things:

Philippians 4:13 (ESV) "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

"All things" includes our New Year's Resolutions; what we're committed to do at any time of the year. How are we able to keep our resolutions?

1) Desire to change. (Listen to what God wants).
2) Determination to change.(Self-satisfaction and to please God)
3) Plan of how to make the change, (Ask God's guidance)
4) Self-control. (Listen to the Spirit).
5) Look at the change as accomplished, not in process.
6) Prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
7) Look to the finish line (The change accomplished. Don't consider failure).
8) Motivation to "finish the race" (Tryers are quiters and quitters lose).
9) Watch yourself finish the race.
10) Accept that the race as over. Don't run it again!  Success.

This formula works for "all things". Bad habits and over-eating are included. Exercising and toning the temple of God is in his will. Cursing can be defeated. Lying can be extinquished! Just be determined. Resolve yourself right now to change something or many things!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gifts of Christmas: What Jesus got!

Why do we give presents as Christmastime?  Some say it was because St. Nicholas was a giver of gifts, but it's origin as pertains to the Bible is from the following passage:
Matthew 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
The gifts given to the baby Jesus were gifts of hope! They honored his birth, but represented his death and resurrection! Jesus was born to die. The gifts made to the newborn were gifts of wisdom and prophecy. Not only did they represent the hope of Jesus's mission, but acknowledged the hope of Christ to come from the early days of tabernacle and temple worship. Our antecedents knew Jesus and used gold, frankincense and myrrh in their worship hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Why? Because Jesus was already with them. They knew Jesus!
Let's take the gift of gold first. It's the easy one! The word "gold" is Latin for "glow of sunrise". Jesus's tomb was empty at sunrise. His resurrection was the "glow" for mankind. That glow is "hope"! Coincidence? I think not!  Gold nuggets are the "rocks" found in stream beds of running water. Jesus is the "rock of our salvation"! (Psalm 18:2). Jesus's was buried in a tomb hewn from rock!  Jesus was the "stone" of Christianity!
Ephesians 2:20 "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
Gold represents Jesus and his royalty!  Jesus was royalty because he is God. Heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool. God's abode was on the "mercy seat" atop the arc of the covenant. It was a seat of gold!
Hebrews 9:4 "Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."
Gold, being found in running water, which represents the living water which Jesus is (John 4:10).
Since recorded history gold has been the standard of value due to its beauty, purity and utility. Gold represents love, hope, wealth, power, strength, warmth, happiness, hope, justice, knowledge, and perfection among many others. All these attributes of qualities possessed by Jesus! Again, I ask "A coincidence that Jesus was honored by gold?" I think not!
Gold represents Immanuel, "God with Us", the life of Jesus. The royalty of Jesus was displayed on the sign at the top of the cross. He was even declared king by his assassins! Yes, Jesus was a nugget of gold!
Myrrh was another gift. It's not common to the western world, but Asia and Asia Minor have known of it's qualities throughout history. In ancient times it was worth its weight in gold. It indeed was a gift for royalty and was befitting the birth of the new born King!
Myrrh is from the Aramaic language. This was the common man's language at the time of Jesus and Jesus spoke Aramaic. Myrrh means "was bitter".  Bitters were offered to Jesus on Calvary.
Mark 15:22 "And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. 24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
Myrrh points toward the sacrifice Jesus was to make for mankind! 
When people harvest myrrh, they "wound" the trees repeatedly to "bleed" them of the gum. As the trees were "wounded" to save the sap to make the myrrh, so was Jesus "wounded" to save our souls!
1 Peter 2:24 (ESV) "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. "
Just as Jesus, by being wounded, healed mankind, myrrh was taken from a wounded tree to that we may be healed. Here's why: Myrrh is excellent for skin conditions, is helpful in toning and soothing  aged skin. Myrrh oil is also used as medicine for various skin conditions, bronchitis, diseases of the lungs and even hemorrhoids. Myrrh was even used by the ancient Egyptians for the embalming of mummies.  Jesus in his death was preserved by myrrh:
John 19:38 "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."
Myrrh was given to Jesus at his birth as a picture of his healing for us, his own wounds, and even his death! Those wise men were surely divinely inspired!
Myrrh, as well as frankincense, was an ingredient used in the consecrated incense used in the Temples at Jerusalem. God loved the pleasing aroma of the incense even back in the tabernacle! As he rested on the mercy seat, incense was offered with the meat offering, as it was the atonement of the sins of the people. Incense represents mercy which God has given for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was most merciful, sacrificing himself!
Myrrh represents the death and resurrection of Jesus!
Frankincense, like myrrh,  was one of the ingredients in the perfume of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:34), and was used as an accompaniment of the meat-offering (Leviticus 2:1).
That third gift to the baby Jesus was frankincense, the word coming  from Old French, meaning "high quality incense" which is a tree resin having a spicy and fruity fragrance and is soothing to the lungs. It helps to rejuvenate and tone mature skin. It's used for anxiety, problems of the lungs, scars, and stress.
Frankincense is tapped from the small Boswellia trees by slashing the bark,  and allowing the resin to bleed out and harden, which are called "tears".
"Slashing" is the application of stripes on the bark of the tree. Just as frankincense (and  myrrh) is bled from a tree, Jesus blood flowed freely from a "tree", the cross (Acts 5:30).  Jesus wounds were from being slashed with a whip:
1 Peter 2:24 "Who his (Jesus) own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Just as the Boswellia tree is slashed and bled to bleed a healing liquid Jesus was slashed and bled to heal or sins; to save us. Frankincense represents the crucifixion of Jesus!
The hardened Frankincense is called "tears" It's the result of slashing and bleeding of the resin.  Jesus had tears. He cried for us!
Mark 15:37 "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost."
The "tears" of frankincense are a picture of the tears of Jesus. Yes, Jesus cried real tears. Those tears were for you!
Leviticus 2:1 above spoke of frankincense used to accompany the "meat offering". That too is a picture of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus was the "meat offering" which was then used as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, Jesus's "meat offering" was to atone for the sins of all! He was the meat. He was the offering. He offered himself for us!
Frankincense is a representation of the his grace and death!

Those were three thoughtful gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each had significance. They honored the King. They told the story of why he was born. He was born to die and those magi knew that! God inspired them.  They had discernment! While they came to honor the birth of Jesus, they came also to celebrate his life and death. Their gifts reflected that!

The gifts of the magi had significance. They weren't meant for pleasure and enjoyment. They were tokens of worship. Jesus and his family would care little for the material gifts, but much for the picture of Jesus; his purpose in this world!

When we give gifts to celebrate Christ's birth, is what we give and how we give it reverent and honorable? Are our gifts for pleasure and enjoyment, or is there some signficance to what we give? Giving a video game in remembrance of Jesus isn't likely as meaningful as a gift to represent our own commitment in honor of Jesus, the reason for the season. Giving love is the gift that keeps on giving! What can you give which "loves"?

Personally, I cherish a card or note with a loving message written. One serious and applicable. It means something. A photo of the giver is great, maybe even framed. A photo of the giver and me together is even more appreciative. It signifies unity.  Love is the message of Christmas!   Kick the "giving just to give" habit and "give meaningfully" just as the magi did! Now you know.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Best Christmas Gifts

I'm not much for Christmastime. I don't like to shop and hate to see those I love disappointed when what I buy is really horrible! I also miss some of my family at this time of year; those living and those gone. I'm pretty much into giving money because it seems that most people like getting money. However, trading money is silly! I'm not a scrooge by any means, but I just miss the Christmas's of my childhood. We seldom got presents, but when we did it was clothing. Not outside wear clothing, but underwear and socks. Few people seldom saw what we got for Christmas!

What I remember most about Christmas was the fruit and candy that we didn't get at other times of the year. Most memorable was sitting around the kitchen table and laughing and having a good time with family in spite of their being little to give nor receive. There was no tension or stress because there was no jealousy because someone got better than another, or because someone was forgotten. No one had hurt feelings for not getting because none of us "got".

We got what we expected and were happy since we didn't deserve anything. Gifts are not payment for doing something, but outward expressions of love. Instead of gifts which represented love, we got the real thing. We got love in action!

Some believe that they must buy a person much to show how much they love them. I submit that buying quantities of gifts conceals the love that should be easily seen. I knew Mom and Dad loved me more than anything although they didn't shower me with gifts. I thank them for not doing that!

The best gifts Dad gave me were tears and a lump in his throat when I went off to college. I was totally on my own after that and he foresaw it. What a great gift! What a great memory! If you don't have a memories of wanting, but not getting, you missed the best gift of all. You missed maturity!

Since I'm not into cheap gifts of Christmas figurines, tupperwear or faux  diamond jewelry... or even toys, electronic or otherwise, I have here the gifts that I have:

For my rebellious son I give you UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and GOOD ADVICE.
For my daughter I give FATHERLY LOVE and WISDOM TO DISCERN
For my middle son I give GENUINE LOVE and ENCOURAGEMENT.
For my step-daughter I give DEVOTED LOVE and PEACE.
For my step-son-in-law I give THANKFUL LOVE and a THANK YOU.
For my grandaughters I give HAPPY LOVE and a LEGACY
For my grandson I give SIMPLE LOVE and a FUTURE.
For my wife I give ALL MY LOVE and DEVOTION.
To my siblings I give BROTHERLY LOVE and GOOD MEMORIES.
For my friends I also give BROTHERLY LOVE and MANY THANKS.
For my preacher I give GODLY LOVE and GRATITUDE.
For God I give ALL MY LOVE and ME! (That's all I have.)

Now here's a list of what I want:

I want LOVE and HUGS from my grandchildren, children, friends and preacher. I want FORGIVENESS from the Lord and from my wife I want ATTENTION, FIDELITY, UNITY and TWO KINDS OF LOVE: PHILIO and EROS. All the gifts that I have asked for cost nothing. They shouldn't be too hard to give.

Now that's a cheap Christmas for any others to give and a valuable Christmas to me!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rendition of the Eve before Chrismas

On the eve before Christmas, when all through the church.

The Bibles were laying upon the pews of birch,

Not a sinner was fearing, not even a drunk.

That Jesus was there; I had a hunch!

The sinners were comfortable all on cushioned pews,

And family were by them, oh, yes quite a few!

While thoughts of a fine dinner tempted their tummy.

Had just opened the eyes of one atheist dummy.

When up on the pulpit the preacher chattered.

He sprang from the seat to see what it mattered.

Away to the altar he flew like a flash,

For he was the sinner the Lord was to bash!

In the word of the Lord some saints glow.

While sinners thought of eternity so hot below!

When, what to my wondering mind should appear,

Jesus, on the cross, crying caring tears!

My wife poked me hard as I began to wink.

I knew at that moment I could die in a blink.

More quickly than an eagle the Spirit came,

And he knocked and whispered my own name!

"Now Cusser! now, Liar! now, Prancer and Vixens!

On, Gossiper! On, Stupid! on Dreamer and Sick Ones!

To the front to the altar! to the top of the cross!

Don't dash away! Dash away! Cold as frost!"

As dry eyes become tears responding by and by,

Then they met with an obstacle, the devil's ally.

So up to the steeple the principalities they flew,

With the promise of joys, and sinful pleasures too.

And then, with an eye twinkling, I saw upon the roof

The praising and singing of the angels aloof!

As I was confused in the head, but was turning around,

Down on my shoulder, came the devil's hound.

He was attired all in fur, from vile head to foot,

And his coat was all blemished with sulfur and soot.

A bunch of wolves all in a a pack,

And he looked like a meddler, carrying evil on his back.

Then appeared Jesus-I went from mourning to merry!

His love shown like roses, his grace for even the leery!

His angels singing songs all with a glowing halo,

And the souls of real men were made white as the snow.

A chunk of wood he held in his arm,

The wood from a cross still makes men mourn.

He had broad shoulders to carry all men,

The church shook when he carried away my sin!

He was serene and calm, and ready to help,

I smiled when I saw him, in spite of myself!

A blink of his eye and a nod of his head,

Soon assured me that I had little to dread.

He said not a word, but went on with his work,

And filled my soul, me who'd been such a jerk!

After laying his hand on so many he chose,

He gave nod, and upward toward heaven he arose!

He sang and smiled and sweetly made a whistle,

I saw that his crown was no longer of thorns and thistle!

And I heard him claim, as he disappeared from sight,

Thank you for a Merry Christmas, and to all who love me “do right!"

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Last Will and Testament

We were all born! What other date with destiny will we all have? We will die, all except a blessed few who are alive when Jesus comes in the sky! From the moment we're conceived we commence our journey to death. Due to apoptosis 70 billion of our cells die each day.  "Apoptosis" is the technical term for "programmed cell death". God programmed the rate to give mankind a limited lifespan:

Genesis 6:3 "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years."
We're all dying at 70 billion cells a minute.  If we're "blessed" (which is arguable) the maximum life span is 120 years. However, many will die before their time. King Hezekiah asked God for an additional 15 years. He got misery! (Isaiah 38:5). Extended life does not equal joy!
When are we dead? Scientists even argue the point. Is it when the heart stops. Is it when oxygen is depleted? Is it when brain activity ceases? You get the point! It's debatable... when are you dead?
We do know that there is a time interval between "heart death" and "mind death" where the dying person realizes they're dead and have an anxiety attack. Doctors even prescribe a fast-acting sub-lingual anxiety drug to lesson the panic. "I was scared to death!" may be more common than we think.
From the time we're born we're dying because we're human, but "nature" is also trying to kill us! Anything from harmful sun rays to non-potable water to killer virus's are after our life. Mankind tries to survive nature and we all fail. Even if we escape natural forces our fellow-man steps in! Many are killed by wars and hate. Life is not "like a box of chocolates". It's a "jungle out there!" Death is the occupation of Satan, but he joy of the Lord!
When does God say we die? It's when our spirit leaves our body!
Luke 8:53 "And they laughed him (Jesus) to scorn, knowing that she (the 12 yr old girl) was dead. 54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway"
Mankind consists of mind, body and spirit. All three must take absence to be dead. It would appear that the "last to go" is the spirit. Hence, death is at the expiration of the mind and body and the departure of the spirit. A dead body is no use to a living spirit, so the spirit makes its pilgrim way to where spirits reside... the spiritual world!
Yes, we're all destined to die. It's unavoidable and the older we get the more we consider death. At sixteen I was invulnerable and eternal. At forty I saw the light. At sixty I'm blessed each day that I arise!

Benjamin Franklin said in 1789 "'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Dr. Franklin said this. He didn't make it up. Another wrote similarly before Dr. Franklin, but the origin is from King Solomon:

Solomon said (Ecclesiastes 12:7) "Then (list of events) shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

You can see that Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Luke 8:53 are in harmony and scripture is internally consistent. It's the same truth for all ages because truth isn't time dependent. Truth isn't variable! Both, written 800 years or so apart, agree that the spirit leaves with death. Therefore, death is the departure of our living spirit. We never die. We live on! What's problematic is where our spirit is to reside. For me and my house, I choose God's Paradise!

Moses spoke of conception and death. We start this life with the elements (dust) and after experiencing the flow of life-blood we return to the elements. In between lies sorrow and joy, peace and tribulation, hunger and provision, doubt and faith,  uncertainty and hope, and solitude and communion! We shall return from whence we came as did all before us (excepting Enoch, Elijah and Jesus).
Genesis 3:19 "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

Christians celebrate death! It's not something relished, but it's inevitable. We "see the departed off" not for the dead, but for the living. We're to comfort others who have lost one they love!  We console the living for in their sorrow man thinks hard of his own destiny. Theologians have taken Genesis 3:19 and made it a funeral prayer:
From the Book of Common Prayer we have:
"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself."

Yes, life is all about dying! If not dealing with death, it is our futile struggle to avoid death. Just as the Romans ate cake and partied as their civilization died, many eat, drink and are merry in the face of reality. That's how they cope with certainty. They are fooling no one, but themselves. Few think of death because it's not a pleasant subject and mankind lives for pleasure. We just sing a little louder!

We must all face death! I've prepared my heart long ago, but I have failed often. Here's my "Last Will and Testament":

1)  I ask God to honor my belief and faith as weak as it is.
2) I ask God to forgive my many sins, especially those I do continually.
3) I ask God's pardon that my eminent death is "all about me".
4) I ask God to comfort me in my demise. To heap hope on me in abundance!
5) I ask my children to forgive my imperfect role as father.
6) I ask my wife to forgive my short-comings as a husband.
7) I ask God to forget my blunderings in marriage.
8) I ask God to forgive me for not loving him enough.
9) I ask God to forgive me for not loving others enough.
10) I ask that Jesus mediate for me with his Father.
11) I thank God for his mercy.
12) I thank God for the joy I've had in this life.
13) I thank God for pulling me through the hard times.
14) I thank God for providing health, happiness and hospitality. All my comfort he has provided.
15) I leave my wealth here from whence it came.
16) I leave my problems and sickness behind.
17) I ask that the Lord provide in my absence for my wife.
18) I ask that there be no strife for what little wealth I leave.
19) I ask that friends and family forget bitterness and remember the good times.
20) I ask that my legacy be what I've written for generations to consider.
21) I thank God in advance for my heavenly home he's prepared for me.
22) I remit my soul to God and look forward to kneeling in his presence!
23) I await the time I can sing those praises which linger in my heart because my voice is lacking.
24) I thank the angels from God who protected me so many times when I flirted with death.
25) I thank the Holy Spirit for tugging at my heart and allowing my mind to acquiesce.
26) I ask that I not linger at death's door nor feel the pain of death.
27) I bequeath what remains to those I leave behind in the hope that they follow me later where we shall unite again!

My home, my hobbies, my enjoyments along with the pecuniary are all temporal gifts. I'm grateful for their use this short time and leave them behind because I no longer have a need for them!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Repentance is the Key: Grace free to all

I am prompted to go where man often goes, but with that voyage, others often war within. We each have our own opinion. We have our own belief. However, is our opinion and belief consistent with the internal consistency of scripture? The latest news about  Phil Robertson's statement on homosexuality raises such ire.

There are many arguments minimizing homosexual behavior:

1) They are born that way.
2) Jesus never taught against homosexuality.
3) We are to love everyone. That includes homosexuals.
4) Scripture isn't the inspired word of God.
5) The destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah was because of homophobia.
6) Christianity is an intolerant hateful religion.
7) All sins are equal.

1) They are born that way:

Yes, they were! We are all born with the predisposition to sin.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)  "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
One person's sin may be lasciviousness, anothers theft or anothers lying. Most people are actually prone to sin in many behaviors. The sin of homosexuality is a behavior, not a genetic trait, because a choice is made.

Matthew 7:13 (KJV) " Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:"
There are two gates. The gate to destruction and the one to preservation. Which gate a person takes is a choice. Mankind was given reason and a free will. We're not forced to obey. it must be done freely to please God. It's an act of love.
God doesn't destroy what he has created unless its vile. The cities of Sodom and Gemorrah were destroyed because of sin. That particular sin was homosexuality. Mankind had become perverse in their ways. If God had created them homosexual, he certainly would not have destroyed them. He never destroyed the blind, the inform nor the handicapped!
2) Jesus never taught against homosexuality:
Jesus is God. Jesus has no beginning and no end because he was there at the creation. This is found in John 1. What Jesus says and did is always internally consistent with God because Jesus is God manifested to mankind! "Internally consistent" means that God never contradicts himself. Sometimes our interpretation is such, but God doesn't.
Here's what God says about homosexual behavior:
  • Lev. 18:22 "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination."1
  • Lev. 20:13 "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them"
  • 1 Cor. 6:9-10 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
  • Rom. 1:26-28 "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper."

  • Remembering that Jesus IS GOD, Jesus said that it's "an abomination" it's "detestable", it's damnable and it's "depraved". Is Jesus a liar, or those who would argue this point in denial? You know the answer!

    3) We are to love everyone including homosexuals:

    That's a very true statement! We are all sinners and come short of the glory of God.

    Romans 3:23 (KJV) "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
    We have all sinned. That doesn't mean that all sins are equal. It just means without saving grace that we're all damned!
    The antidote for sin is Jesus:
    John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
    Believing in Jesus is believing what is righteous. It's not rationalizing our particular sin. In order to get forgiveness we must feel contrition. If sorrow is felt by any sinner, including the homosexual, redemption is available to those who believe. Yes, we each have trouble giving up our sin of choice!
     The key to redemption is repentance!

    Luke 3:3 "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;"

    Luke 13:5 "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

    The key to salvation is repentance. If one sins it's necessary to have sorrow for the sins. If one's a thief, he must be sorrow that he stole. If one's a philanderer, he must be sorry for his infidelity and if one is a homosexual, he must be sorry for egregious behavior. One can't continue in their "sin of choice" and be truly remorseful! Most thieves quit stealing when they're saved. Oh, they may do some petty theft when tempted on rare occasions, but their lifestyle is not one of rebellious behavior. However, those who are homosexual not only practice that behavior in thought, if not deed, but try to justify the behavior by denigrating God-breathed scripture.

    Homosexual leaders condemn Christianity instead of having remorse! They may be reprobate!

    Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"

    A reprobate is one damned to hell. God has given up on them! Reprobation is reserved for those who continually reject Christ and even mock his word. They are full of disobedience and live for self!  We're to quit trying to save the reprobate:

    Mark 6:11 "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."

    This particular verse seems to be directed at homosexuals.  The people spoken of in this passage are reprobate. As Christians we are to "shake off the dust under your feet" in response to their deaf ears! Since Sodom and Gemorrha are mentioned and their sin was homosexuality, my interpretation is that practicing homosexuals are reprobate.  I don't mean that to be mean, but that's what I understand from the words of God, which I honor!

    Romans 1: 27 "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"

    4) Scripture isn't the inspired word of God:

    If you believe that scripture is not divinely inspired you are part of the false Church and are among the anti-Christs.

    2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God..."

    Enough said! If one is making the claim that the Bible is just "teachings" they are just denying God! When the Bible says something it's truth because God is Truth!

    Deuteronomy 32:4 "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he."

    When even theologians take issue with the inspired word of God, they are dupes of Satan and not part of the universal church of Christ. When God says that homosexuality is an abomination, that's what it is! We haven't learned more about the behavior because God the Creator knew all about it from Day One!

    The people who teach that scripture is not divinely inspired are the same who teach "social justice". I must point out that "social justice" is often at odds with "divine justice". Social justice is the toleration of any behavior! "Divine justice" is based on obedience to God's word:

    2 Corinthians 2:9 "For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things."

    "All things" should be obvious! A Christian quits sinning! He quits cursing, fornicating, murdering, and he quits lascivious and lewd behaviors, including homosexuality. The church which accepts sin as a normal Christian life style are called the "Great Whore Babylon" by St. John. End of time behaviors included a greater propensity of homosexual behavior!

    5) The destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah was because of homophobia:

    Genesis 19:4 "But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know (have sex with) them (two angels which are all males)."

    The destruction was because of homosexuality! Those who dream up homophobia are liars! Fearing anything was never a sin!

    6) Christianity is an intolerant hateful religion.

    Those who espouse this view no nothing of the teachings of Christ... or just choose to fool themselves! Christ is all about love and forgiveness. He's merciful and gracious. However, he hates the behavior of sin and the thoughts of the sinner. Those who say that Christianity is hateful are full of hate themselves! Rather than submit to God they retain their rebellious hearts. Their destination is hell. We should never give them ear!

    7) All sins are equal:

    It's true that all are sinners! That doesn't mean that all sin is equal.

    John 19:11 "Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."

    Sin has degree! Pontius Pilate had Jesus killed, but those who delivered Jesus to Pilate had greater sin. Yes, sin does have degree! Anyone knows that if you're guilty of breaking one law you may have well broke them all because works do not save!  However, that doesn't imply that a Christian who sins will go to hell. Those who live a life of sin and are unrepentant will be in apostasy and damn themselves. One cannot be a practicing homosexual and expect to enter the kingdom of God any more than a murderer can kill every day and expect a heavenly reward.

    However, many believe that smoking is a sin. Smoking is an outward activity taken by mouth. It's not desirable behavior, but scripture tells us that it's of no matter what goes into the mouth:

    Matthew 15:11 "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
    Smoking is merely an addictive habit which interferes with communion with God. Because the body is God's temple, it's being disrespectful. The heart may be righteous, but what one takes into the body contaminated. I'm of the opinion that no one is in hell because they smoke, as much as I hate smoking. However, those who practice abominable acts are disgusting to God. What they need is a remission of sins which means a cessation of sin! If one lives their life in a manner as they did before salvation, were they truly saved, "faux saved" on their own terms, or have they changed.
    Becoming a new person means putting off the old:
    2 Corinthians 5:17  " Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
    Being a Christian means being a changed person! The old sinning self is buried, the sin washed away and their spirit renewed.  What is left behind is a life of sin! Yes, we still sin, but we try not to! I do things wrong, myself, but repent. Does the homosexual repent when sodomizing or does he justify that behavior? It's obvious that those who practice this sin endeavor to justify it rather than obey God. That's rationalizing sinful behavior. They hope to get on the train, but don't have the ticket!
    Those who accept the notion that all sins are equal are trivializing what God deems disgusting. He never said that smoking is disgusting. He did say that homosexuality is! Using this argument one who smokes or drinks adult bevereges are enablers for those who fornicate with people of the same sex. We need to be careful what we believe because it will damn others!
    You say that you have friends and family who are nice people, but are homosexual? Who are the most kind loving people? It has been reported that pedophiles seem to be the most kind and loving. That's a trick of the devil! He mixes a little "good" into the pot of "evil" so we rationalize our sin of choice!
    If we don't admonish and rebuke the sins of people we're damning them to everlasting punishment. If Christians don't reprove homosexuals, those who you claim that you love are going to hell because you enabled them!
    Consider what I've written. Consider scripture. When one does what's right in their own heart, they're on a path to  destruction because an unsaved heart is depraved! A saved heart is tainted by the disobedience of Adam. Be careful what you believe!