Posts Tagged ‘ Bible ’

Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

It is time for a special series … THIS WEEK ONLY!

Yeah, I kind of gave into some of the materialistic hype. This special is only available the week leading up to this Christmas.

I have a seen a few similar series going around, but mine is better because … uhhh … I am doing it this week? This series is about how people responded to the birth of Jesus.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

God clearly chose these two to raise the boy Jesus for a reason. Other than being descendents of David, they also were kinda righteous, as humans go.

Take Mary:

  1. She was presented with something impossible: pregnancy without … the fun part. Her reaction to hearing this: “Help me understand how this is possible!”
  2. With a response that would make most humans say “Yeah, okay. Whatever that means!” she replies “I do not really get it, but I will follow You and see what amazing things you can do!”

Now Joseph:

  1. His first response to the unknown was to protect the girl he loved yet bow out gracefully. He wanted to protect himself (not bad) and the girl who apparently had been unfaithful, someone who apparently had sinned rather egregiously. He was a pretty cool dude, man!
  2. He has a dream telling him that the baby will be God and save people from their sins, therefore he should still marry Mary. Based on that dream, he complies. This is really all we know about Joseph (other than he and Mary forgot Jesus at the age of 12, and he also looked for Him). Personally, I see there is more than enough information here to understand his character: awesome!

What can we learn from these two?

  1. It is okay to have doubts, provided you are willing to listen to God (or His messengers).
  2. It is okay to question God, provided you are honestly seeking answers and not trying to justify yourself or simply asking rhetorically from disbelief.
  3. Sometimes, perhaps many or most times, we will not fully understand (if at all) what God is doing, but that is okay provided we continue to follow His leading.
  4. Enduring something inconvenient can lead to amazing blessings!

What about you? When you have doubts do you listen for God’s leading? Do you ask God any of the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions expecting a reply and being open to the answer? Are you willing to move forward in your confusion and lack of understanding? Do you trust God? If you do, amazing blessings await. To be fair, the blessings may not appear until eternity, but a lifetime of worries and pain is worth an eternity of peace and joy. (Think of a road trip someplace, like Disneyland or to family you have not seen in a while. It may be uncomfortable getting there, but the joy and experience of getting there almost help you forget it or even make it worth it.)

Thanksgiving 2011 Message

Here is a good message for you for Thanksgiving:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 3:1-17, 4:2-6

Remember Who deserves all of our thanks this week. Remember to honor Him by sharing your love and thanks with your friends and family … All of them!

Love, peace, and grace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Daniel

Apologizing or Using Apologetics

President Obama has received a lot of flak for apologizing for the United States of America. I recently read an article that brought up the subject. It got me to thinking about Christian apologetics – giving a reason for why we believe what we believe.

In my short 27 years, 8 months, and (roughly) 2 weeks of life I have noticed that there are a lot of Christians who spend their time apologizing for declaring truths or offending people or the Crusades. They tend to act like a puppy who pooped on the floor and do everything they can to hide from the shame of past offenses and being friendly. Some people just ignore the sin topic entirely and sometimes ignore Jesus Christ, because these are the top two issues that offend people.

Why are you a Christian, then?

If Jesus is not our central focus, if His death and resurrection did not happen and our sin is a non-issue, then why even call yourself a Christian? Did you know there is a name for this Christian? The “Christian Atheist” is one who goes to church … maybe … does all the right things, is a generally good person, and helps people. Yet these people rarely mention the cross, Jesus, or sin.

There is another name for that: Atheist. So, you might as well own up. We will miss you, but you cause more harm than you realize.

If you truly wish to live a God-honoring life, speak for your faith and your God. Yes, it can be tough talking with people about sin and the need of a Savior, but that is actually the one thing a Christian is supposed to do (see Matthew 28, especially verses 17-20).

So, give a reason.

Peter, the Apostle, told us “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16, NIV). The greek word used for “give an answer” is where we get our words “apologize” and “apologetics.” We were commanded by our Lord and reminded by one of His closest followers to share the message, to know what we believe and why, and to share these reasons.

But we can do it “with gentleness and respect.” We do not have cram “You are sinner and you need Jesus!” down the throats of people. One of the best definitions for gentleness I have ever heard is “controlled strength,” and for respect “loving patience, service, and humility.” Yes, you should find times to share your faith, but the loudest message will be faithfully living your life for Christ. If you are living well in a God-honoring way, you study His Word regularly, and are always willing to listen and help and humbly live your life, people will ask you about why this is. Then you can share your story and the story of Jesus Christ. It does not have to be all fire-and-brimstone, follow Jesus or suffer talk. In fact, a simple and straight-forward explanation usually opens the door to further conversation.

And do not worry if you do not have all the answers. You can ask your pastor or friends for advice or even refer the asker to one of them.

If want some help, here are a couple of common questions and answers that may come up:

“Faith is abandoning reason and believing for believing’s sake! So why have faith?”
“Actually, faith is reasoned belief. I have faith in what I do not see or understand, because I have seen enough evidence that what the Bible says is true enough places to trust the others.”

“How can you believe in a God when there is so much evil on the planet?”
“Evil can be defined as “the absence of God.” If most of our world wants nothing to do with God and often pushes Him away, you would expect to see “the absence of God” in many places. If some people do not want His help, why would He? Should we not be more amazed that have not destroyed ourselves? Our continued existence can be seen as evidence that God is good and gracious in keeping us from destroying ourselves.”

These are just a couple of short, quick responses, and by no means full rebuttals. It takes practice reasoning skills to become proficient.

Another reminder: Anyone who says the Christian life is easy is trying to sell you something. Jesus warned us there would be difficulties, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Do not apologize for the faith we hold. If we truly believe we have access to the truth, there is nothing to apologize for. We should acknowledge the sins the Church has committed, but we should explain the difference between what has been committed and what Christ has called His Church to do. And we live it.

What do you think? Do you see more apologizing or apologetics? Do you have any stories of your own?

Weekend Words and Sunday Stanzas – 05/01/2011

Today I bring to you one of the first poems I ever wrote for God, and it happens to be based on one of my favorite passages. The passage is a reminder to me that God works in and changes us to be holy, but He still requires us to do something. You can call it “God helps those who help themselves” (which I might explain my thoughts on this in the future) or “We have our role to play in our sanctification.” Either way, God gives us the freedom to either choose Him or choose ourselves in every moment.

i submit to You  God
daniel m  klem

if i draw near to You
You draw near to me
You will purify my heart
my hands will be clean
i am double minded
i am a sinner  indeed
i will now resist the devil
We will make him flee
i submit to You  God

so You are with me

****

 James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist
the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God,
and He will draw near to you. Wash your hands,
you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-
minded.

Taken from the book simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m klem, p. 157.

Birthing Controversy

Just a word of warning, some of today’s material may not be suitable for the younguns. It is up to your discretionFamily Planning storefront.

I thought it would be a funny good follow-up to a Valentine’s Day series about love to talk about birth control!

One of the passages I think is among the most misused and misquoted is from Genesis 38 (Taken from the NIV):

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death also.

This passage is frequently quoted as proof that we should not masturbate or use birth control.

My thoughts on this passage: Do not use selfish motives! Seriously, Onan was not struck dead for masturbating, he just did not want to father a child who was not his. To help us understand, it is like a couple who cannot have children asking friends to donate sperm and/or eggs for in vitro fertilization (making babies with science, not sex). The friends do not want to help out because they would not get to be the parent of the child even though the child would have their DNA. The difference here is instead of politely declining it would be like they donated the necessary goods and then had the doctors mess up/destroy the so-called goods. Then they blamed the doctors for why this couple did not have children.

Before I get into texts that could argue against birth control, I will argue for it!

We have several medical and technological thingies which (unless you are from a denomination/sect/religion/cult [and I am not equating any of those with others, merely grouping!] which says avoid them) we are okay with using or even say something along the lines of “God has given us the ability to create/do these things that improve our lives, including the miracle of medicine!”

[Disclaimer: I am not suddenly endorsing sex outside of marriage! Take everything I say within the context of marriage!]

How come when it comes to condoms or medicine (The Pill) and other such things, it is wrong? Do these things cause physical harm to people?

Actually, many “contraceptives” are actually things which affect the chemistry of your body, maybe even your emotions, and in many cases are nothing more than abortion pills or whatever. Chemicals can harm the body and mind, and abortions do harm women (let alone the “fetus”). This is not a message about abortion, so I will move on from that for now, but these things actually do have the possibility of harming living things (whether a baby/fertilized egg – to be momentarily PC – or the woman herself).

What about condoms? They are a piece of rubbery plastic material (actually, they are usually latex) a person wears (there are male and female versions) with the primary intention of stopping sperm from getting to eggs. Some do use spermicide to accomplish this, which I think is a bad idea just in case it harms us in some way. There is also a debate about whether or not condoms can protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) (do an internet search to see, such as that lower quality condoms can have holes up to 100 times bigger than the HIV virus). I will just point out, condoms are not 100% effective against preventing diseases or pregnancy (Ask my mom’s parents).

Quite honestly, the safest way to avoid “an accident” that will literally change your life forever is to not have sex. If married, we can argue that if the device or medicine used has no physical side effects and does not induce an abortion it is okay to use it. God has given us the ability to create these, so why not? (Also, this argument can not and should not be used for weapons, pornography, or anything else. The argument I am presenting is for things which do not harm others or go against God’s word.) We are merely utilizing a resource God has provided.

Now for the part where I mention reasons why we might not want to use contraception!

There are arguments flying around that “It is a woman’s body, so it is her choice” about having sex, getting an abortion, inserting things or ingesting/injecting stuff that prevents or stops pregnancies. Well, guess what the Bible talks about? Yep, this very subject:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything . . . . Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20, NIV)

Okay. Obviously we should not have sex outside of marriage. It seems we should also treat our bodies with respect, so it would be best to avoid those things which can harm the body.

If you are someone who denies the Bible has any authority, if you just demand physical proof that abortions are bad, start here. There are way more sources to consult, as well. (I stopped supporting abortions before I believed Jesus is the Son of God, before I was sure God was real, and before I attended church. I also did not want to have sex outside of marriage for two reasons: I did not want to get a disease or have to “deal with” a baby. Again, before following Christ.)

What about condoms and other “safe” options?

Other than what I have already mentioned about the chances that they can fail, I think there are two good arguments.

One is that God can do what He wants. If you are meant to get pregnant, your birth control will fail. If you do not like that little nugget, I am sorry but … well … deal.

Two is that it could very well be argued that we are giving into temptation. What temptation, you ask? The same sin that has plagued humanity from the beginning: To be like God. We want to have control, so this is one area we can take some control. How about this little quote from Jesus and Deuteronomy:

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

I guess it comes down to you. I have listed arguments for both sides and statistics. Any thoughts? Where do you stand?

Rising Second Title

Earlier we heard from Mark about faith in Christ and the importance of the Resurrection. I have some other thoughts.

Today is Groundhog Day! This is the day a bunch of American’s put their faith in a small mammal who rises out of the ground to tell us whether we have to wait six more weeks for spring or should expect spring to come on March 20. So many people put their faith in this tiny creature to let them know if we have to wait 42 days to see the snowy season end or … 46 days.

Do those four days really matter? And, really, the hope is that it is an early spring will come if the little guy does not see his shadow. A few funny tidbits about Phil and his history:

  1. His predictions are frequently “Long winter”, sometimes for multiple years in a row, with “Early spring” never being repeated a year after it was last reported. That is rather pessimistic!
  2. Out of 115 predictions, 15 (13%) have been early spring.
  3. Out of 115 predictions, 45 (roughly 39%) have been correct.

To be fair, the Bible tends to be rather pessimistic, as well:

  1. All (as in all people. Every single person, minus One … but He was also fully God) have sinned.
  2. Israel could not listen, and they had to be disciplined.
  3. Our world will get worse before it gets better.

 This can cause a lot of us to doubt our world, the Word, and even weather predictions! (That order seems off)

Consider this:

  1. How many Bible prophecies have been proven false? (Honestly. Not “there is no evidence” quotes from people who have barely even touched a Bible)   0 (Zero).
  2. How many religions have founders who died, rose to life again, and have not died since?   1 (One).
  3. How many religions have changed how time itself is measured?   1 (One).

It seems that the Bible is rather reliable, and Christianity seems to be the best … nay, the ONLY real option. It really is centered around the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. There are some great places discussing this very thing (Most recently at Matt Appling’s blog). It is through the cross we are truly introduced to God’s grace, another central point. It is through the cross we were given forgiveness. It was the Resurrection that solidified the deal forever, justifying us by signing the check that was written in His blood to pay for our sins.

It is not faith in a furry animal that gives us peace. It is not weather forecasts or cute productions that allay our fears of death and judgment. It is all through the death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

What doubts do you still have? What fears keep you from moving forward? Where are you placing your faith, your trust? Who do you reveal your worries and concerns to? What hope do you hold on to?

Confronting doubt with Truth

Doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

One of the only ways to remove doubt is to introduce truth. This is not just looking at some facts. Anyone can look at facts (I think a great example is the difference between believing in six days of creation or millions/billions of years of evolutionary process … while looking at rocks and fossils). It is seeking truth.

I think this kid has some things figured out:

But there is still a question of whether or not it is okay to doubt. It sure seems the great people of the Christian faith had it all figured out. But as I mentioned, doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

Judas Iscariot believed Jesus as the Messiah, but his doubts after helping get Jesus arrested and crucified sent him to hang himself.

Heck, the Sanhedrin, for the most part, doubted Jesus was the Messiah, and this doubt brought about the very act that could redeem them!

We need to ask, does our doubt cause us to curse God or follow Him? There were other doubters:

Lee Strobel was an adamant atheist doubting God even existed until he met a woman while doing a story for the Chicago Tribune (he wrote about it in Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary. I had to read it my first semester at college). Her faith caused him to doubt his doubt in God and is today one of the most famous Christian apologists.

Josh McDowell thought Christianity was bunk until he looked at the evidence. He is also one of the most famous apologists.

Ravi Zacharias grew up in an atheist, and he was so sure that he was a failure and that his life would be better not being tried to commit suicide by mixing several household chemicals together and drinking them. Someone brought him a Bible while he was in the hospital. Today, he is one of the foremost Christian apologists.

Albert Henry Ross doubted the resurrection, considering it a myth without merit. He later wrote a book declaring the truth of the Resurrection called Who Moved the Stone?

Mother Teresa, while raised in the Catholic faith, had many doubts about the existence of God when seeing all of the misery around her in India. Yet she persevered; and we all know of her great contributions to the poor, sick, homeless, and godless.

Martin Luther doubted paying money for indulgences could absolve sins. He inadvertently began the Protestant Reformation (so, for many people, he helped make their denomination even possible).

Thomas doubted, and he was an Apostle of Jesus! It is believed he was the first missionary to India (where he … uh … was killed).

The most famous Apostle of all, Paul, doubted! As Saul, he persecuted the early Church to the point of approving of killing believers! As we now know, the risen Jesus personally called him to service, and he went on to write most of our New Testament.

The list is really quite long. Suffice it to say, if you have doubts about God you are not alone.