Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The House of the Righteous

"In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble." (Proverbs 15:6).
"In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2-3). 
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21).

The house of the righteous is not of this world. The house of the righteous is part of the kingdom of Christ, which is in Heaven. (John 18:36). Yes; the house, the reward, the treasure, and the heart of the righteous is in heaven. This is a concept that was not fully grasped in the times before Christ came into the world, when Solomon amassed his worldly wealth and then wrote about the house of the righteous. Nevertheless, it is an integral part of the gospel message.

Much of the Old Testament is concerned with showing the futility of worldy and human attempts at fullfilment. As the saints of those times awaited God's Messiah, who alone can bring salvation and fulfillment, God showed that the Law, a body of religeous rules and regulations could not bring about the fulfillment of His plan; which is salvation and new, everlasting life for those who trust in Him. Likewise, the waging of physical war can not bring about the salvation and peace that God desires for His people. And in the same way, worldly wealth does not make the righteous prosper.

Job's frenemies judged and condemned him in the time of his deep hardship because they thought worldly wealth and health was a sign of righteousness. The Pharisees believed the same garbage. And that is why they also condemned and oppressed the poor. Luke tells us,

"Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.'" (Luke 16:14-15). 

Then verse 16 really drives home this point concerning the Old Testament.

 "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it".

Now in the gospel, we have hope of true and etenal wealth, which is spiritual, not carnal. It is heavenly, not earthly. Everything that is carnal and earthly is corruptible and passing away. But we "were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold...but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). And we are reminded in Scripture,

"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

No Perfection

Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie I, was a Christian, and publicly discouraged Rastafarians from worshipping him. He urged them instead to read and study the Bible, and trust in the crucified carpenter who is risen from the dead.

There is a Selassie quote that I really appreciate. In a 1968 Christmas interview with Dr. Oswald Hoffman, he said,

"It is quite true that there is no perfection in humanity. From time to time we make mistakes, we do commit sins. But even as we do that, deep in our hearts as Christains we know we have a chance of forgivness from the Almighty."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

No Foolin'

I was raised to believe that it's a sin for a Christian to call a fellow believer a fool; because "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1). A fool is a person who doesn't know God. So if one has a saving faith in Jesus Christ than they are no fool, even if in some way or another they might act like one. A person may think or act foolishly and not be a fool.

Jesus Himself warned His followers not to call a brother a fool. He said, "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22).

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Good Legacy of Samson

Samson had some very obvious spiritual flaws and glaring moral failures. He preferred the company of pagan prostitutes like Delilah over the love of any faithful daughter of the one true God.

His sinful tendencies came with heavy consequences. He was betrayed by  Delilah. He became a prisoner of the Philistines. His eyes were plucked out. He died a violent death at a young age.

Yet the author of the book of Hebrews counts Samson in with the righteous heroes of faith:

"who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouthes of lions, quenched the violence of fire, out of weakness were made strong, became valient in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens (Hebrews 11:32-34).

By grace, through faith, Samson's legacy is something more, and better than his flaws and failures. His affairs - yeah, that happened. His capture, his humiliation, his death - yeah, that happened.

But his legacy is that he was a servant of the Most High God. And God took him, with all his weaknesses, and did powerful things through him.

This makes me glad because, like Samson, I am not perfect. I'm not going to be perfect in this life. And neither will you, or anyone else. We are going to be imperfect. We are going to have failures. It's going to happen.

But thank God that by grace He can give us a legacy that is greater than ourselves!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Ancient Rednecks

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it." (Acts 4:13-14).
It gives my heart a thrill of joy to know that Jesus Christ chose to use a couple of simple, uneducated commercial fishermen to spearhead the establishment of His Church in Jerusalem. Peter and John were basically two ancient Israeli rednecks. God's enemies, the Pharisees and Sadducees, must have been like "Man! These guys should just go back to their smelly fishnets!"
A formal education is not a bad thing. It's not necessarily a good thing either. It's just a thing - period. You can do good or evil with a formal education. You can do good or evil without one too. Having or not having a formal education has nothing whatsoever to do with following Christ. It doesn't make anyone a better or worse person, or Christian. The only thing that really matters is whether or not you've (as the above Scripture says) "been with Jesus".

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Keith Green and Legalism

Keith Green is held in high regard by many Christian music listeners; and I, too, have been blessed by his songs, which have inspired so many people to love the Lord.

But the man struggled with over-zealousness, and what church people refer to as "legalism" (an excessive emphasis on following religious rules and regulations that often times aren't even from God but human beings).

In "The Keith Green Story - Your Love Broke Through", a documentary narrated by Toby "Mac" Mackeehan; Keith's widow, Melody, talks about the time Keith first became a Christian. "He even, you know, went back to Randy (Stonehill), who had initially invited us to the Bible study, and started telling Randy how 'Well you need to live your life like this. And the Bible says this."

In the same documentary, Randy Stonehill, similarly describes Keith's newfound zeal for the Lord, saying "It was a wonderful thing, and then some-often times, it could give you an Excedrin headache... He'd wanna say, 'Look man, you know; why don't you, you know, live what you believe?' And I'm going, 'I'm trying! I'm trying! It's not easy being human, you know. I'm glad it's better for you!"

Over the next several years, Keith went through many ups and downs in his journey with the Lord. In her book, "No Compromise - the Life Story of Keith Green; Melody Green relates a conversation that Keith had the year before he died in a plane crash. Christian singer, Annie Herring, said "I'm so grateful that God loves me. That's the first thing I knew about God, and it's gotten me through every bit of misery and every bit of joy."

To that, Keith replied, "Sometimes I'm not sure if God loves me. I know He's right. I know He's God. But as far as really feeling His love for me -  well, I don't know it like you do." 

In the year that followed, Melody describes how Keith began to lighten up and really embrace the kindness and love of the God, before he went to be with Him in heaven. It's a good lesson for many others to learn too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

It is somewhat popular to think that Christians and Muslims invoke the same God. After all, even Arab Christians refer to God as "Allah" because that is the Arabic word for "God".

Yet, for most non-Arabs, the title, "Allah", is specifically associated with the Muslim god. Similarly, the ancient Canaanites bowed the knee to a false god whom they called Baal; which means "lord" or "master". That name was always used in reference to the false god of the Canaanites (1 Kings 18:16-40); and by the time of Christ, the Hebrews were referring to the devil as Baalzebub or Beelzebub, a derivative which means "lord of  flies" or "god of dung" (Luke 11:14-23). This is consistent with Scriptural teaching that false gods are demons (Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalm 106:37, 1 Corinthians 10:19-21).

But there's much more to it than mere linguistics. The teachings of these two religions about God are so vastly at odds that they are just not about the same God. Suppose someone claims to be friends with, say, Phil Robertson. But their Phil Robertson works for Peta, is an atheist, and a communist from New York City; that person is clearly not talking about the controversial Duck Commander from Louisiana. Now the God who is revered by born-again Christians, and the one invoked by Muslims, are just as significantly different; more, even. 

The error of saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God is most clearly evident in the drastically variant teachings, between the two religions, concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Islam denies the supremacy and deity of Jesus of Nazareth. It teaches that when He returns He will be a servant of Muhammad, and that He will abolish Christianity. It teaches that another one who is greater than both Jesus and Muhammad is yet to come.

Christianity affirms that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God; equal with the Father - that He is God. He is supreme over all creation. The entirety of the cosmos was created through Him, and for Him. And He will return in glory to judge every soul and every spirit, and establish His Kingdom on Earth (John 1:1-3; John 10:25-30; Colossians 1:13-20, Revelation 11:15).

Islam denies that Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross. Christianity affirms that He did die; and that His death was the payment for our sin. The Christian gospel is that salvation from sin and condemnation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ the Nazarene (Romans 5:1-2) because of His death on the cross for our sin (Colossians 1:13-14 & 19; 1 John 4:10). 

That means that you don't have to meet the requirements of the Law of Moses, or any similar system of religious regulations, in order to be reconciled with God - because in your fallen, sinful state of being, you can't meet God's perfect standard (Romans 3:23-24). But Christ paid your penalty - death (Romans 6:23) and rose to life again (which Islam also denies, of course) so that all who simply trust in Him will be reconciled to God and also be raised to everlasting life. And He, by His own power, will make His own righteousness grow in the hearts of His people. (Romans 3:20-21, Philippians 1:6, Philippians 2:13,1 John 3:2). And His righteousness is not a cold, dead, rigid body of rules and regulations; but an abundant, vibrant spiritual life that manifests itself through love (Matthew 35-40, John 10:10, Galatians 5:1-6, 1 John 4:8).

Islam, like many false teachers and heretical churches, puts forth "a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all." (Galatians 1:6) a gospel of law instead of grace; precisely the opposite of the Christian gospel (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

Islam, then, is a different gospel with a different Jesus ( 2 Corinthians 11:4). That is to say that it is a falsehood, which keeps people from knowing the truth. It keeps them from knowing the true God, and the sacrifice of love which He made to take away our sin and reconcile us to Himself.

And so God curses everyone who preaches any gospel other than the gospel of salvation from sin, and peace with God, by grace, through faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. (Galatians 1:8-9).