Monthly Archives: April 2009

Facing the Harsh Realities of Sin

If we are really honest, most people don’t like to think of themselves as a sinner. This is even true of Christians. We like to dismiss our sin as merely mistakes or a lapse in judgment. But sin is quite insidious. We don’t realize just how dangerous it is until it is too late. We get used to sin, make excuses for it and even learn to live with it.

Tim Matthews delivered a tough sermon tonight at The Mix. It was a hurt so good kind of experience. His key passage  was James 1:13-15. Tim said that the harsh reality is that we want to blame others for our sin, but temptation brings out what is inside of us. We can’t blame God, the devil or even others. He said one of the first things we have to do to deal with sin is recognize it in our own lives. We have to confess our responsibility and not try to shift the blame. Then, we go to God and let Him purify us.

Tim added that we have to take pratical steps like fleeing from the appearance of evil and areas where we are naturally weak.

Looking specifically at lust, Tim said, “Lust is a lying desire, it will never satisfy.” Lust promises what it will never deliver. He went on to say, “If your sin really satisfies, why do you have to keep on going back to it?”

This is a good question, and it really shows that all sin starts with believing a lie. Sin is more than a mistake. It is rebellion against God.

The Epistle of James tells us that our sin comes from lust that conceives or births sin in us. It is almost as if sin is our own baby that is why it can be so difficult to overcome. We have birthed it, nurtured it and don’t realize it will kill us.

Tim said, “What you are trying to give birth to (sin) is trying to kill you. Dealing with sin is like trying to kill your baby. I know it (a baby) looks cute, but when it gets big you die. If you don’t kill your sin, it will kill you.”

The harsh reality is “Sin kills!”

Built to Last

I love to read and study about ancient history, especially buildings and artifacts. Some of the greatest achievements of the modern age pale in comparison to structures like the Egyptian Pyramids.

Not to long ago I watched a documentary about life on this planet without people.  It was quite an eye opener. And I was not surprised that all of our skyscrapers and achievements wouldn’t last that long without people around to maintain them. All I have to do is look at my house and see how easy things fall apart if you ignore them.

I believe there is a spiritual lesson here. Our relationships, the things we do, even who we are can start to decay if we fail to maintain them. Even things that are built to last will decay and fail if we ignore them.

Take a look at this interesting documentary on the planet without people.

Life After People – http://www.history.com/minisites/life_after_people

Giving Up

“We grow tired of failing. Then we grow tired of trying. And then we just settle.” – Pastor Dwayne Moore

Pastor Dwayne said the above when talking about the Christian’s inner struggle with sin. His sermon focused on the fruit of the Spirit. He talked about the fruit as something that comes out of our life in Christ not something we can produce ourselves.

Dwayne said, “The key to the fruit filled life is surrender to the Holy Spirit…Fruit can’t be produced by the force of our will; it comes out of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.”

This is a great message because it encourages to surrender all to Christ. It sends us back to the cross and calls us to yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Looking Around the Ole Holy City

Have you ever wanted to see the Jerusalem that Jesus saw when He went to the Temple or was on trial for His life? If the answer is yes, The Israel Museum – Jerusalem  has a large model replica of the city during the time of Christ. You can see the whole model online using an interactive map at the link below.

It is really cool for Bible nuts like me. Enjoy!

http://www.imj.org.il/panavision/model_pre_3eng.html

Doug Powell – Engaging the Music Culture

Doug Powell, a Christian apologist, came and spoke at my church this past weekend. He talked a lot about engaging culture instead of running from it. He pointed to the Apostle Paul who engaged the thinkers of his day at Mars Hill.

Sometimes we think the best thing we can do is create a hedge around our families to protect them from the evil influences of the world. But this seems to suggest that we believe the influence of the world is stronger than the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Is it better to insulate from within than guard from without?

While Christians should certainly be careful what they digest in terms of media. We also should be aware enough of popular culture to engage those around us. Powell said that we can use pop culture to talk about big life issues with friends and neighbors because music, movies and TV are filled with concepts that touch on the Christian Gospel.

One of the things he did was play the music video of John Lennon’s Imagine. Then he showed the lyrics of the song and merely asked questions about what kind of world Lennon imagined. What kind of world has no thought of an after life, no governing authorities, no countries, no posessions, no concept of god? This is a world where this life is all there is. This is a world where there is no ultimate authority to maintain order. This is a world with no cultural identity. If there are no posessions, then we own nothing. This is a world with no faith. This is a world where we are at the mercy of the brotherhood of mankind. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b7qaSxuZUg 

 

That’s not much of a world if you ask me. You can see video of Doug’s messages at his Web site below.

http://www.selflessdefense.com/

There’s A Revolution Brewing

Today’s Tea Party Rally was a good time. But it was a little sad that rallies needed to be held at all. Thousands gathered in Richmond to protest massive deficits and government spending. 

The federal government is simply out of control. This is not a new phenomenon. But the problem has mushroomed under President Obama and a more liberal Congress.

Both major political parties have failed the American people. The U.S. national debt has swelled to                                  $11, 177,148,418,577.99 according to the National Debt Clock at  http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

That number is unbelievable. President Obama has doubled the national debt according to the Heritage Foundation. You can read more at http://www.heritage.org/research/budget/bg2249.cfm

This chart tells it all.

alc_46_300px_1

All Americans should be concerned about the size of the debt and what it means for future generations. While I am all for good government, I am not for excessive government.

I want to encourage all my friends and anyone who reads this blog to contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to curb excessive spending. Second, you should strive to elect or re-elect people who do more than just talk about reducing debt and taxes. We need to elect real patriots who do the right thing no matter the political cost.

You can find out more about government spending from these Web sites:

http://www.fedspending.org/

http://www.ntu.org/main/

http://www.usbudgetwatch.org/stimulus

http://www.recovery.gov/

http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb_1208-51.pdf

Discussing the Prosperity ‘Gospel’

Jesus spoke a lot about money, and He didnt’ usually have flattering things to say about it.either.  I led a discussion tonight about the Prosperity ‘Gospel’ in one of my classes at Union-PSCE.

Several of the other students made some very good points. One person brought up that the prosperity teaching is very me-focused whereas Jesus spoke a lot about community and loving others. Another student mentioned that the prosperity message acts as if only wealthy people are truly happy. She recounted experiences abroad where she had met many happy people who had very little.

Another person seconded this idea and pointed to wealthy people he knew that were miserable.

I was asked how I felt this message impacted American perceptions of the true Christian Gospel. I said that I believe it reflects national sins as well as problems within the church where many people are selfish and not aware of apostate teaching. This is because many Christians in America know very little about Scripture and just believe what the guy on the TV says is true. People are not taught to be discerning. Many so-called Christians in America are lazy. I don’t know if I can lay the blame for all of this at the feet of prosperity preachers. I believe it shows deep inner problems within our society and culture where the American Church is so easily enticed to idolatry. Maybe these voices merely bring out what is deep within us?

Professor Adams suggested that he can’t so easily give a pass to prosperity preachers regarding their culpability, especially for those in Third World countries that have fallen prey to their message. I guess I can see his point because my time in Kenya showed me that we have exported some of the worst parts of American Christianity to others parts of the world.

A female student defended Osteen saying that her grandparents love to listen to him. Her grandfather used to be an addict who is inspired by his positive message.

I recognized the contribution of the positive and hopeful message preached by the prosperity preachers. They do encourage people to hope and strive to take practical steps to better their life. They have inspired people to change. But at the same time I asked, “What makes this different than listening to Oprah?” Where is Jesus in this gospel?

I did agree that the prosperity megachurches attract a diverse group of people. Many of them would never go to a mainline denomination church. They use media well and help people come to realize that God is not angry with them. One student pointed out that this mass appeal should not be used as a measuring stick if these ministers abandon the crux of the true Gospel in the process. It is true that just because something is popular that fact alone doesn’t make it right.

One of the biggest problems is how people consume the prosperity message. They hear the hope part but aren’t willing to live the life of faith required to realize God’s best. They want to see miracles without spending lot of time on their knees. They want a quick fix instead of a deep life of discipleship. But that is not necessarily how it works. Faith is birthed in the midst of trial, lament and suffering.

Our greatest freedom and blessing came through Jesus’ death on the cross. That was far from easy. Jesus had to endure incredible hardship for the joy that was set before Him. Why should it be any different for His followers? The fact that I don’t struggle every day to find food makes me wonder how strong my faith really is. I don’t want to glamorize poverity. But it is true that sometimes we experience God the most in times of material want not abundance.

Osteen pointed to Job in his book. In the end, Job received twice what he had lost. But he still had to go through almost 40 chapters of pain, questioning, petition, lament, weeping and suffering before receiving restoration and blessing.

While my class didn’t reach any firm conclusions, we did realize that the prosperity ‘gospel’ does have a few legitimate points to make to mainline churches. At the same time, it lacks a sense of perspective overlooking many contrary passage of Scripture. It is far from complete and can’t be treated as a formula that works every time. A lack of discernment has led many to be duped or abuse these teachings.

I think we should dialogue more on the topic and honestly discuss the merits and errors of the teaching based on Scripture, common sense thought and faith.