Thoughts, observations, scripture and other articles relating to Christianity and the Christian life.

General Christianity

Article: Saving Faith

http://transforminggospel.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/what-does-genuine-saving-faith-look-like-james-214-26/

This is an oustanding article on saving faith. Even if you are a mature believer, please look at this and “examine yourself”.

God bless.

-Neil

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Coexist: The Bumper Sticker

This might be the most popular bumper sticker in america.  A bit of a double-edged sword if you ask me.

While I partially agree with the message this bumper sticker is trying to promote, there is a second level message (at least to me) that this bumper sticker endorses that I totally disagree with (as would proponents of the of the vast majority of the three major world religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity).

What I agree with:

I agree with the general sentiment that people, regardless of their religious values, should do thier very best to coexist with people around them in day to day life; caring for one another and being loving representatives of their varying faiths.  I think this is something that everyone can agree is something to strive for and good for humanity, not to mention the reputation of their people’s collective faith system.

What I disagree with:

I disagree with, what I perceive to be, an underlying message of this bumpers sticker, which is to “Keep your religion to yourself”.  This viewpoint not only begins to scratch at the first amendment of the constitution (while not completely undermining it, it does undermine the SPIRIT of free speech, which is to allow people to express themselves in nearly anyway they see fit.  Obviously there are some exceptions.) it also flies in the face of one of the main themes of most organised religion: securing converts.  The idea of “Keep your religion to yourself” hinders the evangelism efforts of these religions and, for the people who hold this view, it shows either a lack of knowledge of, or a complete disregard for, the beliefs and rights of the adherents to their respective religions.

Ultimatley, I feel that it is, at best, a weak faith and individual, that emphasizes peace more than spreading truth.  Peace at the cost of truth, integrity and generally doing what is right is just cowardice.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me as a prisoner, but share with the sufferings of the gospel, according to the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:7

What do you all think?

God bless.

-Neil



My misconceptions of faith growing up

When I was young, I went to a couple of churches, but none of them did a very good job in teaching me what faith was all about and what the bible teaches.

When I grew up here are some misconceptions I had about faith:

  • Only 144,000 were going to heaven
  • Only “good” people go to heaven
  • The bible was just a bunch of stories

Obviously since that time, I have come to a better understanding of the the Bible, Jesus and the Gospel.  It saddens me that it took until my mid twenties to really get into the meat and bones of the faith, but I know that He had his reasons for it.  Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t poses the holy spirit until my twenties, or because it didn’t interest me, or I didn’t think it was import.  Either way, I regret not having known the essentials of the faith as late as I did.

Looking back now, there is a big part of me that wishes I had done a double masters, one in education and one in Christian/Apologetics studies.  Who knows, maybe one day the Lord will create the circumstances for me to have an opportunity to be formally trained in the academics of the faith.  I would LOVE to do something like that full time, but until then, I will serve the Lord in whatever circumstances he has me in.

What are some misconceptions that you all had in the past?

God bless.

-Neil


What we can learn from hospital visits

So, Jenn (my wife) woke up with kidney stones this morning and we took a field trip to the hospital.  Hospitals are a place of high emotion and do a great job of stripping away distractions and showing you a persons true nature.  No cable tv, no internet (most of the time anyway…Jenn is getting a CT so I am doing this to kill time and to keep me from working myself into thinking this illness is something it’s not).  Just you, your loved ones and your thought life.  The fact that so many people near by are so close to Christ or hell is a bit overwhelming.

I would imagine that hospitals might be (outside of church) the most common place where people finally come to Christ.  Finally in a situation where our own mortality is staring us right in the face, we can no longer ignore the inevitable: we are going to die.  We will discover what lies beyond this life.  And as the Bible tells us, MANY people will not like what they find.  Only when it is too late will the truth become obvious to them:

Jesus IS Lord.  Hell IS real.  Our object of faith DOES matter.  Our deeds AREN’T relevant to our salvation.

This is one of the big reasons that I do and say what I do.  Heaven, Hell, God, Satan are all a fact of universal reality, NOT someone’s realities truth.

Let us act accordingly; always on the lookout to be used as a instrument of salvation for others by Christ’s sovereignty.

God bless.

-Neil


A Painful Awakening

Our eyes are amazing things.  In the dark, our pupils enlarge, allowing us to take in more in the darkness.  When we are sharply exposed to more light, it becomes painful, our pupils contract and and take a long time to fully adjust to the light.  However, once our vision adjusts to the light, we can see ourselves as we are, not just how we THINK we are.

Coming to Christ is very similar.  Until Christ calls us and we answer, we are left in the dark.  We are in the darkness, and do whatever we want in the darkness because no one else can see what we are doing and might even think we can do these actions with no consequences.  We delve into sin, satisfying whatever our flesh leads us to do.  Affairs, pornography, sexual abuse and drug abuse are just a few examples.

Then something happens, Christ calls us, we are exposed to the light and then the true sinfulness and disgusting nature of our acts becomes apparent to ourselves.  This is equivalent to turning on the light.  This period where the “light first turns on” is often humiliating and painful but it is very necessary.  Don’t let the pain of this transition period discourage you.  Before we can become more like Christ, we must first recognize how UNLIKE him we currently are.

Stay on the straight and narrow.  Prayer continually.  Ask other believers to help you.  You WILL still struggle not to sin.  That is normal.  Just don’t give up.  When you are tempted, go read the words of Christ for encouragement.  He loves you, TRULY, more than you can imagine and wants to see you suceed.  This will mean pain now, but you will be so greatful when you do finally see him face to face.

God bless and encourage us in all of our trials.

-Neil


Letter to an old friend

 

So I was on facebook a while back (Ok, ok…i’m on it a LOT) and this was put into the status of an old high school friend of mine:

I’m getting ready to type an essay about crime and capital punishment and I need some help from my FB friends. Please give me your thoughts/opinion…. If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him? Deep thoughts on FB! 🙂 Any input would be greatly appreciated.

I felt compelled to write back and I thought I would share what I wrote:

Original question: If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him?

So, most, if not all, of my thoughts on this find their roots in scripture, so if you are a believer, this will probably be familiar to you. People’s view on scripture vary, but my personal belief is that scripture is “God-breathed”, (theopneustos in the original Greek), or “Divinely inspired” as quoted in 2 Timothy 3:16. Bearing that in mind, here is what I think:

People are bad because we have a nature in us that is present the second we are conceived in our mother’s womb. We are dead in our sins from our birth (Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me). This sin nature finds its roots with Adam in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, and is passed down through his descendants, namely, you and me. How sin is passed exactly, I am not sure, but any honest person will tell you that they have been guiltily of breaking one of the ten commandments at least once, making them guilty of sin (aka a “sinner”). The cycle continues on and on, generation to generation.

Not only do I believe that some people are “bad”, I believe ALL people are “bad” (myself included) when their actions and thoughts are held up to the standards set forth in scripture, like the Ten Commandments. Commonly, in our post-modern, relativistic, subjective truth oriented society, what separates people from thinking one person is “good” while another is “bad” is really a man centered view of “goodness”.

If we all compare ourselves to someone worse, it is easy to think that we are “good” people because we aren’t as bad as the person we are comparing ourselves to. By this logic, every person in history (except for one) could be considered “good” because there is always someone “worse” to compare themselves to. For example, if we use Adolf Hitler as our standard of the worst person in history, then Charles Manson could logically come to the conclusion that he is a “good” person because he was not as bad as Hitler. This is the sad relativist movement in full force in humanity today: as long as there is someone “worse” to compare ourselves to, we can make the argument that we are a “good person” and therefore do not need to change our bad habits even though deep down we know they are wrong.

For the believer however, the standard of goodness is God’s law. We know we are sinful because we are aware of our past and continuing struggle with sin that is in stark contrasts to God’s standards. However, we also have the hope in knowing that if we profess that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior, that we can be saved from the ramifications of sin (A literal and eternal hell). However being saved from hell is NOT simply saying a prayer one time, SAVING FAITH will result in a changed life, desiring to be obedient and glorifying God.

Even when we “follow our heart” to try and do what is right, we can still be deceived (Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?). That is why it is important to have an objective source of morality and standards to keep us from thinking what WE think is ok must be ok. It might not be objectively.

As far as capital punishment is concerned, people often like to (mis)quote Deuteronomy 5:17 by saying that “You shall not kill.” The accurate translation is actually “You shall not MURDER.” The difference between killing and murdering is whether or not it falls within the law. Murder does not, killing however does. Ironically, the people who often misquote this verse, also criticize the old testament for its rules enforcing capital punishment. So from a scriptural standpoint, the argument is completely baseless.

For me personally, I think there comes a time when a person’s history has shown that the individual is such a danger to society that it is best to end his life in the interest of protecting the society as a whole. That being said, I think there is also a lot of room for forgiveness in the judicial system as it has been set up to err on the side of NOT falsely convicting innocent people. Society as a whole needs to do a better job of forgiving and giving ex-cons a second chance when they have served their time, and give them a fair chance to prove that they have changed their ways.

We can’t be like God because of the same reason of Sin. However, there is a three step process that believers go through that does eventually make us like him:
1. Justification: This is the moment someone becomes a believer. Someone professes true faith in Christ and is saved (from hell).
2. Sanctification: This lasts from the second someone becomes a believer until a person’s death. This period of time is spent making those horribly difficult changes in our lives. We work on being more Christ-like: Sinning less and loving others more. It is a VERY tough time for the believer as many old habits die hard and temptation is CONSTANTLY an issue.
3. Glorification: This happens when we are physically resurrected to join Christ in heaven. We have perfected bodies that are no longer hindered by sin. Can’t wait for that day.

It makes me so sad how many people think that what saves them is a prayer. What saves us is Christ’s mercy, that is only given by sincere faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that there will be MANY people that THINK they are saved, but will be rejected and sent to hell. I pray daily that myself and my loved ones will not be one of them.

Ok sorry for the big time tangent, but I get WAY passionate about this. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this as well. Write me back about this when you get a chance. 🙂

On a side note:  Part of being a Christian is being ready with answers to questions like these.  I think it is important for a couple reasons:

  1. It shows others that we aren’t in our faith just because it is how we grew up.  It shows people that we have been thoughtful about our faith and take it seriously.
  2. Having answers ready for questions like these provide us an opportunity to witness to others.  These core questions (Why does God allow evil to exist?  etc.) are CRUCIAL in opening up the door for further exploration into Christianity for non-believers.  If we can not even supply a thoughtful answer to the core questions, people will almost always just stop there and not look into the faith further and an opportunity at exploration and conversion could be lost.

This is why it INFURIATES me that more churches and more believers don’t at least have a basic grasp of apologetics (Apologetics just means being able to provide a defense for Christianity). PLEASE, for the good of your own soul, and in the interest of being a tool for Christ, know some basic apologetics.  There are some WONDERFUL resources at http://carm.org/http://www.gotquestions.org/ and http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/.  I would HIGHLY encourage you to bookmark those websites and use them often.  CARM and Please Convince Me also have weekly podcasts that you can listen to as well.

May God bless you all and use us as tools to bring others to Christ.

-Neil


Turn Your Head and Cough…

I had to goto the doctor to get a physical recently.

Yeah, one of THOSE physicals.

The older I get, the more comfortable I am getting them.  Maybe I appreciate more that I need to take care of my body or maybe it doesn’t bother me as much to be naked in front of a stranger (not in a creepy exhibitionist way though).  Either way, it is even MORE important to get regular check up of our spiritual health.  Below is a list of things you might want to ask yourself about.  Most of these are biblically based, some are just my opinion, but I think all are helpful.

  1. Do you know the basics of your faith?  Do you know the nature of God?  Do you know what the “Trinity” is? Do you know HOW people are saved (Faith?  Works?  Both?)?  The doctrine of the Trinity and Salvation are essential to our belief.  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or have a wrong answer, there is a very good possibility your soul is in jeopardy.
  2. Are you spending time in scripture?  Growing in your faith without bible reading or otherwise being exposed to God’s word is like trying to build muscle without lifting weights.  Sure, it MIGHT happen…but it ain’t bloody likely.  Like lifting weights and exercising, it also gets easier and more enjoyable the more you do it.  I didn’t care for it at first either, but now I feel great every time I do.
  3. Do you pray “without ceasing”?  Praying, to use a hip analogy, can be like using a cell phone.  There are two main ways to communicate via a cell phone: Talking or texting.  The “talking” kind of prayer is the all encompassing, summative prayer that I might do at night.  I say prayers for friends, family, students and coworkers to come to know Christ, safety for all, praises and requests.  These prayers can last anywhere from 3-15 minutes (or longer if something is really on my heart).  The “texting” type prayer are the really quick prayers that I might say throughout the day.  For example, if a student comes up and tells me a grandparent passed over the weekend, am I am in the hallway monitoring the kids, I might say a quick, silent “texting” prayer for comfort for the family, or something like that.  I take prayer requests seriously and it can be hard (especially when you see almost 200 kids a day) to keep up on all of the prayer requests that come to mind.  These texting prayers are great for a few resons; They keep our mind on God throughout the day, they keep us sensitive to the needs of others, and they also keep us from being overwhelmed with prayer requests during our “calling” prayers.
  4. Do you “keep you minds on the things above”?  It is impossible not to be preoccupied at all with worldly things, but I find the more I concentrate on Christ, the less I worry about day-to-day life, and the more I reflect his image (but believe me I am FAR from even a DECENT reflection of Christ).  When we start to realise that the mortgage payments will pass, the sinful temptations will pass and one day we will be face to face with Christ, things start to get in their proper perspective.
  5. Is Christ a fairytale or fact in your daily life?  Sadly, as told in Matthew, there will be people who profess Christ, but will be turned away because of their false faith.  I think these people who will be turned away largely treat Christ as a fairytale instead of fact.
  6. Can people tell there is something “different” about you?  Are you conforming to the world, or are you in contrast to it?  If we are known by our “fruits” or “deeds/disposition” are you growing delicious grapes, or sour apples?
  7. Is God at the top of your priority list?  I had an argument with a person close to me about this one time and it was one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had, but it resulted in a revaluation for that person and I have seen growth since then.  God is not A priority.  He is THE priority.  This does not mean that every moment of our lives should be spent in bible reading or prayer, but rather that his standards and expectations should permeate every aspect of our lives.  There is no aspect of our lives that is not accountable to God.  If God isn’t number one in your life, he might as well not be in your life at all.

Do you have some other items that you think should be added to this list?  What other things do you think should be in a “Christian Physical”?  I would love to hear your ideas.

-Neil