Friday, February 25, 2011

I Hate This Part (2)

[I've revised this post a bit. Hope y'all like it.]

Well, here it is. Part 2. If you haven't read part 1, you should probably start with that.

Ok, so let's read John 4:24 once again: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." (Some versions of John 4:24 replace the word "truth" with "word." I believe both are acceptable since John 17:17 says "Your Word is truth.")

So I've tentatively tried to cover what worshiping in Spirit involves. Now comes the truth aspect. There generally tend to be two camps of people. One camp spends a lot of time reading the Scriptures, memorizing, learning, and studying it. They are normally very wary of the work of the Spirit and tend to put God in a box. The second camp is a group of people who base almost everything they know off of the work of the Spirit and place more importance on that than in studying the Scriptures and knowing what they have to say for their lives.

To borrow from an idea of Matt Chandler, I think these two groups should hang out a lot more than they are, cuz maybe they'll rub off on each other. Honestly, they're both wrong. As illustrated in the verse we just read, there needs to be balance of the two arenas. Going to extremes on either end of the spectrum is wrong and does not align with God's will.

In fact, it is safe to say that these two areas (Spirit and truth) are thoroughly intertwined and cannot be separated. This is evidenced by Ephesians 6:17, which claims that "the sword of the Spirit... is the word of God." (Emphasis added.)

Let me make a short list of some people and I'll ask you what they have in common:

1. Paul
2. King David
3. Any of the Old Testament prophets
4. Martin Luther
5. John Calvin
6. Jesus

So? What common characteristic do these people (and God) share? Well, let me tell you: they all knew the Scriptures in and out. They lived, breathed, and consumed the Word of God daily. So, I must draw a conclusion from this:

Any great man of God must be a great man of knowing the Bible.

Don't believe me? Let's think logically. If you expect to be a godly man or woman, how on God's green earth do you plan to accomplish such a thing without knowing what being godly means by finding out through the Word?

The Word has many different functions. 2 Tim. 3:16 says that "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." Also, Heb. 4:12 claims that "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." King David even claims "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you," and "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:11;103)

So we can see that the Word of God provides a flood of purposes. It is used for teaching, reproof, correction, training, conviction, deliverance from temptation and evil, comfort, and more. But let me make a point to leave you with an impression of one of the many reasons to know the Scriptures:

We live in a world ruled by Satan.

He will take every chance he gets to destroy the credibility of our faith. Lucifer has managed to make people think that every Christian is a fool and ignorant because he doesn't know how to think. So, the times we live in require us to be able to know our faith and be able to defend it.

Scriptures testify to this fact when we are told that we must be ready to preach the word "in and out of season." (2 Tim. 4:2) In 1 Pet. 3:16, we are commanded to always be ready to defend the hope that we have. It is upon this verse that the entire idea of apologetics (a fancy word meaning "defense of the faith") is founded! So be ready, at any moment's notice, to be able to stand up for what you believe in thorough logic and reasonable thought. We do this by learning the Word of God.

Let's look at Timothy. Timothy is a character of the New Testament who was a disciple of Paul's. Paul wrote two entire books of the New Testament simply addressing this guy, and one of the things that he says to him is "Watch your life and doctrine closely." (1 Tim 4:16) Read that again. Did you miss the part where he put "life" and "doctrine" on the same level? Sounds pretty important, huh?

Often, words and phrases take on meanings that were never intended. For example, there is a trend in today's culture with the word "faith." It is often preceded by the words "blind" or "leap of." But let me say this - I would not follow anything with my heart which did not first make sense to me in my brain. There is a direct correlation between what I believe with my heart and what I know with my head. And it comes out of a result of knowing the Scriptures. Thoroughly.

To know what the Bible says allows me to be able to defend myself from the onslaught of seemingly intellectual arguments against my faith.

So know your doctrine, and guard it with your life.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Hate This Part (1)

I hate two-parters. I mean, really. Whenever I see some youtube video that says, "AMAZING VIDEO .... part 1/2" it just irritates me. Perhaps that has something to do with my generations problem of wanting every piece of information in bite-sized pieces. But, alas, I must throw up a two-parter. Take it how you may.

Peanut butter and jelly. Dogs and fire hydrants. Bagels and cream cheese. McDonald's and obesity. What do all of these things have in common? They go together. Sure, each of these things on their own are pretty good, but together they unite forces to form a brilliant combination. (except for that last one, maybe)

The Bible also points out certain things that go together. Let's take a look. John 4:24 says that "true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth." For the sake of the whole "two parter" deal, let's examine what that means as it relates to the first part: worshiping in Spirit.

Y'know I'm mostly tired these days. Tired of sin. Tired of worldly pressure. Tired of the world's slow, agonizing decay. But out of all of the things I'm tired of, I have to make the distinction of something I'm sick of, and what is that?


Let me explain. There are certain prerogatives, commands, and promises in Scripture, like using faith "the size of a mustard seed" to "move mountains." Or Jesus telling us that we can do "even greater things" than He did. Or "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Or thirsting for God like "a deer thirsts for water." (which is an intense, soul-wrenching desire coming from the pit of despair) Or loving Christ so much to the extent where your love for anything else, even your own family, looks like hatred compared to how much you love Him.

These are all ideas that we, as Bible-believing, church-going, small-group-leading Christians believe, right? We say, "Yeah, I believe that can happen. I hear all the time about people in Africa or Asia doing great works of the Holy Spirit." But that is where we have missed it ladies and gentlemen.

Those promises are not for "those radical, powerful Christians over there," they are for US. It isn't for the SUPER-Christian, who spends his days with his head in the clouds, it is for the Christian. These are not radical ideas that apply only to those people, but they are EXPECTED from us in our normal lives!

That being said, we should, according to what was said before, move mountains, do works greater than those of Christ, live in complete pursuit of the Father's will, thirst intensely for the presence of God, and treat everything in such a way that it looks like nothing compared to the "surpassing greatness of knowing Christ." Right?

So why AREN'T WE!?

We've become so SATISFIED! We take the measure of Christ that we've had so far and say its enough! We aren't willing to dive into the ocean of God's glory and drink the power of the Holy Spirit!

Now, at the words "Holy Spirit," some Baptists might be going wild right now. They may think that "I'm going Pentecostal on them." But let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Holy Spirit is not a Pentecostal thing. It's a God thing.

So what do we do? Realize the problem, and never do anything about it? Cuz lemme tell you, I've seen so many people recognize sin in their lives, feel a conviction, and never follow through with taming that issue. That does absolutely nothing to help you, God, or anyone. So what I'm asking for is action.

Luke 11:5-13 says it better than I ever could:
"So I say to you: ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

There it is, guys. SEEK the Holy Spirit. It's really not complicated. Pray for the faith that He will reveal Himself to you, because He promised that He will! If you don't believe that God follows through on His promises, you might as well just stop reading now, cuz you've got bigger fish to fry.

Take time to go to your "secret place," and shut everything off. And I mean everything. Cell phone? Off. Tv? Off. Lights, radio, and ipod? Off. Take time and yes, read the Scriptures, but come before the Lord instead of just reading about doing it. "Don't rush into His presence with words, as fools do," but come before him and "be still." Ask God to calm your mind down from all distractions. Ask God to reveal himself to you, and communicate with you, but then here's the hard part:


Don't just say "I want to know your voice," but then not listen for it! Spend some more time in silence waiting upon the Holy Spirit to do something. And if He chooses to not reveal Himself at that time, don't be upset. This require a daily discipline of actively seeking Him and wanting to experience His glory, and may take a lifetime to achieve. But don't be discouraged. To borrow the advice of a little sea creature, "Just keep swimming."

This, my friends, is one of the biggest reasons that the American church has so failed. The church has failed, and we always blame problems on the church, but the only problem is, well, we are the church. Although not Scriptural, I believe very strongly that "we need to be the change we wish to see in the world."

And older people tend to say, "Well, the only reason that person is saying that is because he is young, and there is a tendency towards extremism and sensationalism in youth." But, once again, I'm not talking about extremism, or being a radical.

I'm talking about following Christ.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Main Character

"I love these socks."

"I love my wife."

The word "love" seems to be thrown around pretty regularly these days, with no real distinction between different uses. For example, if you truly love your socks in the same way that you love your wife, people would consider you a freak. (And rightly so, might I add.)

It has been said that hate is a strong word. But, by the same count, so is love. Or at least, it's supposed to be. To give a metaphor that I believe to be apt, the word and concept of "love" is as overused as Farmville updates. And there seems to be no concensus on what it actually IS.

So how is it that we go about defining such an elusive idea? Its abstract nature is surely a daunting premise to even consider tackling. But at the same time, we find that the Bible tells us that the greatest commands are to love God and love others (Matt. 22:37-40), so it's pretty important that we get to the bottom of it.  Well, let's attack it with a sword.

*Cough* I'm talking about the Scriptures. *Cough*

Now, one of the greatest passages that ever discussed the subject of love is 1 Corinthians 13. I strongly encourage you to go read it right at this moment. I'll wait 'till you get back.

Done? Perfect. Now, if you read carefully, there's a lot of things that the passage defines love as. (patient, kind, humble, not arrogant, not rude... etc.) But out of all of these things, I have seen a common denominator.

He who loves is not focused on himself.

The life of someone who is consumed with love finds that he is completely focused on giving of himself for his God and his neighbor(everyone). I paraphrase an idea I once heard to illustrate this idea: he is no longer the main character in his own story.

Now that we have some affirmation from a passage of Scripture, let's take a look at one of the greatest examples of love. The one which Christians base off all of their understanding and appreciation of the concept:


I'm gonna try to keep this short: God created man. Man sinned and rebelled and continued to do so continuously. He took the precious gift of life and used it for his own selfish desires and whims. So God kills everyone cuz He's angry with them, right?

Wrong. Even though He was extremely upset because of the rebellion of man, he sends down His Son to die to take away the sins of a people who want nothing to do with Him. He sends Christ. The perfect spotless Lamb.

The Lamb loved us so much that he allowed His creation to spit on Him, mock Him, whip Him, and crucify Him so that they could be regenerated to a new relationship with Him. And as much as we don't want to believe it, we would have been right up there with the mob, watching Him die in excrutiating pain, and yelling insults. We are as much to blame now, for our sin, as they were to crucify Him. We deserve the same punishment.

Let me help you understand this idea of our responsibility for His death with a little illustration: If you were the only person on the planet, Christ would have died for you and only you. But if you were the only person on the planet, a question remains:

Who would have crucified Him?

The utterly inescapable answer is that we are just as much at fault for His death as his murderers were 2000 years ago.

And here comes (what I believe to be) one of the greatest single words in Scripture...

"BUT God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

This is His love. And it's not just a general, blanket type of love. It applies to each one of us. Individually. In other words, we could just as well say, "while (insert your name here) was still a sinner, Christ died for him."

This is what I believe the Scriptures show as love. But it is a dual relationship. We cannot just suck up and continually receive love from the Father without spreading it to others.

So receive it.
Give it.
And live it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rooms of the Heart

Kids are great. Really. I honestly get a lot of joy and wonder at seeing how kids understand the world through new and amazed eyes.

But kids are crazy.

I mean, I'm just gonna be real here: kids are just bad people. Granted, we all are, but as we grow older, we learn how to hide and mask our evil nature. With kids? Plain as day. You can see just how wicked they are at heart (Jer. 17:9) in just simple daily life!

Think I'm crazy? Think about it. And this is an example that parents will understand perfectly: when you ask a young child, as his father or mother, to do something you're probably going to hear a simple response. "No." And I have seen it happen without fail with kids. Sometimes they listen because they've been taught, but their most natural and organic response is to rebel. It's in their hearts. Plain and simple.

So, ok, we can see it in children, but what about in our own lives? The book of Jeremiah says that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. Consider that a moment. That means that your super-religious grandma, Mother Teresa, and even the pope are wicked at heart!

Our wickedness spawns rebellion, folks.

And here is what tends to happen a lot in churches today. We start attending, stop cursing, stop partying, "get our lives right," and begin to think we're straight with God. We've dealt with a lot of the sin in our lives and now seem to be living the "good Christian life." But there's a catch isn't there? Out of all of the sins we've dealt with, there's still one area that we want God to leave untouched.

We've all heard that Jesus comes "into our hearts" when we get saved. And that's absolutely true. But lemme tell you what someone explained to me: the heart has many rooms. When the Spirit enters your heart, he wants to go in EVERY room. But we tell Him, "Hey man, it's cool you're here and everything, and I'm glad for all the stuff you've done for me... but don't go into the bedroom."

*Buzzer sound*

We will often let God deal with almost all of the sin in our hearts, and go into almost all of it, but we still have that one area that we've always ignored and hoped it would be left alone. For some it may be porn. For others it may be anger. For still others it may be flirtation. Hatred. Addiction. Greed. Jealousy. And that's just to name a few.

God tells the mountains to move and they move.
He tells the rivers to flood and they flood.
God addresses the secret sin in our hearts and we say, "NO! Don't go there. Everything else but there."

How dare we? This is the God who created you! Lemme tell you, he has just as much power to "un-create" you, if you know what I mean.

When people have their sin addressed, they can respond in some pretty strange ways. They can ignore it. They can fight it. But lemme warn you of a really dangerous way of dealing with it. Some people will realize their sin and then do something else to make up for it.

So, instead of the issue being dealt with, they say, "Hey, I know that I'm supposed to battle with the lust issue in my heart, but instead I'll just join the youth band and join my church's outreach ministry." They do this in hopes that God will overlook their sin because of all of the "good" stuff their doing.

Have you ever heard of a murderer being released from jail because the judge saw that he was helping the homeless? Didn't think so. Our good doesn't outweigh our crime with the government, and it doesn't either with God.

What I'm asking is that you deal with it. Find someone who can help you. (A pastor, youth leader, or fellow Christian) Tell them about the problem. The Bible shows that their is great power when you confess your sins to your fellow believers. Get someone to keep you accountable for your sin and who will check up on how you're dealing with it periodically. And you'll find that when you are able to be completely open about your deepest sin, you will find the most joy and freedom in the Spirit.

But don't just let it go, because your blood will be on your own hands.