August 29, 2008

Are all people required to believe in God?

What do you think?

There are so many reasons given to believe in God that they are extraordinarily boundless in number and have filled up volumes of books. Since we were all created by God and for God, it is therefore sinful and foolish not to believe in the one true God who made us. To reject belief in God is to deny ultimate reality and truth. And as the following Scriptures show us, all people are required to believe in the LORD. As William Gadsby says in his catechism, "it is their great sin and folly who do not."

First, there is Paul's classic statement about our knowledge of God:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:19-20 ESV).

David testified to the fate of all nations who do not remember God:

The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
(Psalm 9:17).

Solomon summed up man's whole responsibility as respecting and obeying God:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Jesus promised salvation only to those who believe God's gospel:

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
(Mark 16:16).

Jesus required that all people believe in His Divinity:

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.
(John 8:24).

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of unbelief:

And when he [the Spirit of Truth] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
(John 16:8-9).

Paul wrote of the condemnation which results from refusing to love and believe the truth of God:

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
(2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

All this makes me deeply grateful for this verse:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
(1 Peter 3:18).

August 27, 2008

What does it mean for God to be self-existent?

To answer that question, I first wanted to see what the dictionary said about "self-existence."

The term wasn't in the $.99 Webster's, so I went to, which said, "Existing independently of any cause."

So for God to be "self-existent" it means that God exists apart from any cause or thing other than Himself. God just is. God is because He is. There is no other cause for God other than that He exists, and the reason for the existence of everything else is from Him alone.

In Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (ESV).

Moses wrote to God in Psalm 90:2,
"Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

Isaiah the prophet wrote the words of God when he said,
"I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things."
(Isaiah 45:5-7).

"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other."
(Isaiah 45:22).

And what was Jesus thinking when he uttered those unthinkable words?:
"Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple."
(John 8:58-59).

Revelation 21:3 speaks of the new Heaven and Earth,
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."

What a God... the only God! Can you wrap your mind around His self-existence?
Grace to you who have found this great God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). I'm excited to know Him.

August 23, 2008

Jesus Came to Save Sinners

As I read through Luke, a chapter a day, I pray to the Holy Spirit that He would teach me to understand it rightly. I have been noticing that there is a common theme throughout the gospel of Luke, there is a certain emphasis, it seems. Luke makes it clear that Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. The parable of the Lost Sheep, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Young Ruler, all these stories and much more emphasize that people are sinners who are lost and need the right Shepherd to come and find them. Consider Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10 ESV:

"He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through." [I remember another famous story about a sinner saved in Jericho, her name was Rahab the prostitute.] "And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich." [Of course, being a tax collector in those days was as low as scum, but Zac was a chief tax collector and was rich.] "And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way." [It is interesting how lowly sinful people were drawn to Jesus in the gospels.] "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today." [Zacchaeus only wanted to see Jesus pass by, but Jesus wants to see Zacchaeus face to face. The Lord said he must stay at Zac's house. Wonder why?] "So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." [Zacchaeus received Jesus with joy. It makes me wonder that there are people who say they are Christians, but do not react with joy when receiving Jesus. Desperate sinners always find joy in the one and only Savior of sinners. On the other hand, the others could not equate themselves as low as this vile sinner, and so they had no lasting joy in the Lord.] "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." [Zacchaeus was not ashamed to stand before the Lord and call Him "Lord." He acknowledged Jesus as his Lord, Master, King, God, Judge. 'Lord' means Jesus rules over my life. I belong to Him and submit myself to His rule and judgment. He must be our Lord if he is to be our Savior. This shows that Zacchaeus repented. Jesus had taught in Luke 13 that unless we repent, we will perish (Luke 13:2-3). Zacchaeus showed his repentant heart by what he did. Money was no longer his treasure - Jesus was.] "And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham." [Salvation came to Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus did not come to salvation - it was Jesus who came to his house. Jesus called him a son of Abraham, which meant he belonged to Jesus, was an heir of the promise, a believer (see Galatians 3:29).] "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." [Jesus, the Son of Man (God became a man - John 1:14), came to seek and to save the lost. Abraham's children are lost sinners, and here we see a wonderful example of the Savior seeking those He came to Save. Jesus said in John 10:28, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." Romans 5:8 says, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."]

As I read through Luke, it strikes me how much this theme is carried through. That Jesus saves sinners. What a hopeful message to wretches (such as myself)! It is the lost children of Abraham, who are lost sinners, whom Jesus came to save. We must repent when we receive Jesus with joy. Repentance is a positive two-fold action granted to us by the Holy Spirit. When we repent, we turn from treasuring sin to treasuring Christ (like Zacchaeus when he heartily gave away his riches, because he had a better inheritance in the Savior). Faith always sees more value in Christ than in the fleeting and damning pleasures of sin. As I walk with my Lord and Savior, my prayer is continually, "Lord, turn me from my sin, cause me to do what you command." I know that anything wrong I do is from my own evil heart, but anything good is a gift granted by my Lord, who came to save sinners - even the worst of them (1 Timothy 1:15). It always amazes me... Jesus came to seek and save the lost... and He never fails!

All I can say is, what grace! What a Savior! Can you relate?

August 18, 2008

Consider Your Calling

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV).

What more can I say?

August 15, 2008

Translation of 1 John 1:1-4 and Comment

I taught on 1 John for a few months at the end of last year and on into the beginning of 2008. I wish I would have been learning how to translate the words from back then. I knew about the program, but I suppose I was too busy and wasn't interested at the time in learning Greek this way. Anyway, I am now overly excited about the wonderful riches of truth firmly fixed within the Holy Spirit inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of Truth - the Bible, as I read it and meditate on it. I thank God for the Bible, because it shows us so clearly who our Savior really is. And now, here is my personal translation of 1 John 1:1-4 and following are my notes from today:

1 John Chapter 1

1 About the Word of Life, who was from the beginning, whom we heard, whom we saw with our eyes, whom we looked at and our hands touched.
2 The Life appeared and we have seen it, and we bear witness to it. We proclaim to you the Life eternal, who was with the Father and whom we have seen.
3 Whom we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and the Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things we are writing so that our joy will be full.

This is one of the most amazing introductions in the Bible. It is clear and to the punch. It is straightforward in its bold statements of fact. "We have seen... We have heard... We have touched... the Logos of Life, i.e. the Word of Life." Such a powerful statement totally exposes any false ideas coming from the gnostic heresies, and boldly declares the truth about the Son of God. The gnostics were a group of pagans who mixed Christianity with their false ideas. They denied that Jesus had human flesh, claiming He was only a spirit. They also believed in many gods, not unlike the mormon church reportedly does. Others, such as Jews, did not believe in the Deity of Christ, but thought He was only a man and nothing more. Others said Jesus was an exalted Angel, sort of like the JW's do today.

John left no room for such false beliefs right from the get-go. If you don't believe Jesus came in the flesh - Bam! Your black in the eye. If you don't believe Jesus is eternally Divine with the Father, and yet one God - Pow! Your knocked out. John hit between the eyes in this introduction. He just thrust his sword right through the dragon's throat. He left no room for such false ideas in this introduction of who Jesus is.

And notice how the purpose for writing is stated in verses three and four. The proclamation of the plain truth about Christ, was so that we might also have fellowship with the apostles, and with God as both Father and Son. And verse four is special, in that it was written "so that our joy is full." Who's joy is "our" joy? It would have to be those who are truly saved, those walking in the light and abiding in the truth (1 John 1:7), and so experiencing genuine fellowship. For anyone else, the implied call is to immediate repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, the Son of the Father. Those who genuinely repent and believe this testimony are also promised genuine fellowship.

John's bold statement would have been clear to any Hellenistic (Greek cultured) person reading this, "The Life appeared and we have seen it, and we bear witness to it. We proclaim to you the eternal Life who is from the Father, and whom we have seen."

[Caution: I just read and watched some videos about Todd Bentley, and felt like what I wrote above sounded a little too much like his false enthusiasm. Forgive me, my point was that the apostle John was very sharp in correcting the heresies that were arising in the early church, and not that we should go around beating people up in the name of Jesus like a maniac. Thanks.]

August 13, 2008

Entering His Rest

"For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?... And to whom did he swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?... Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it."
(Hebrews 3:14-16,18-19; 4:1 ESV).

The verses above seem to be about assurance (it would probably be best to read the whole chapter of Hebrews 3 to get the context). To some, the word assurance means very little, while to others it is what their soul thirsts for. I have struggled with the problem of assurance for many years now. I used to think I had assurance of salvation when the Bible promised that I had assurance of the opposite: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." The list is even worse at the end of Romans 1, and it really hits hard against the self-righteous in Romans 2. And such was I, until I was washed that is. "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV).

I have assurance that I have come to share in Christ, as long as I hold my original confidence firm to the end (Heb. 3:14). But my struggle is helping others lose their false assurance, just as I had to lose my false assurance before I sought out the firm confidence that is only found in Christ Jesus my precious Savior. Now I want to encourage others to hold their confidence in Him firm to the end, just as I strive to do as I come before the throne of grace. "Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 ESV).

Have you lost your false confidence for that which is received at the throne of grace? It is Christ who died, not only to forgive us our sins, but to save us from our sins and grant us true repentance (see Titus 2:11-14). "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." (Romans 8:34 ESV).

Oh what a precious confidence Jesus Christ is! We must find our rest and assurance in Him alone. God bless and grace be with you.

August 11, 2008

Martyrs of Church History

People used to die

for calling Jesus 'Lord,'

and people used to cry

with their knees upon the floor.

Sometimes they were mocked,

but so was their King.

In prisons they were locked

but they would still sing:

"Victory in Jesus,

who rose and conquered death!

His blood is our forgiveness

His life is where we rest."

They were flogged with whips

for preaching of the Savior,

and their enemies had fits

when they refused to worship Caesar.

To the lions they were thrown

their bodies torn apart.

Jesus received them home

to the treasure of their heart.

Are such as these your friends?

Those you love to be around?

Will you be found with them

Standing firm on their ground?

Their blood was shed not in vain,

a Kingdom was their hope.

Will you be found unashamed

like these with blood that spoke?

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21).

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

[I wrote all that to say, "Read Church History!... it may change your life." These mp3's should help to get you started.]

August 9, 2008

I'm in a battleground, and it isn't Gettysburg

Gettysburg may have plenty of reenactments of the Civil War and the battles fought there, but the Christian life is a continuous battle ground where real fighting is happening all the time. It isn't pretend. I'm not going to write about the Christian battle right now, just throwing that statement out so that it will be clear that the verses I'm about to quote from God's Word to us, will be read in that light.

The first verse is about faith, and faith is probably the least understood part of being a Christian in America today. I could be wrong, but I haven't met too many church goers here who have it, so I'm praying that God would revive real faith in our people, just as He sovereignly and graciously did for me in a dramatic way a number of years ago. I have never been the same since.

I came across this verse while reading this morning in Acts:

"Since they [everyone on the ship] had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island." (Acts 27:21-26 ESV).

That is another example of faith in the WORD of God. Paul was not saying he 'hoped' it would be as God said, or that it will 'probably' be as God said, or that they 'ought to believe' that it will be so, and then it will be. No. Paul said, "it will be exactly as I have been told."

I'm pretty discouraged by all the people running around saying, "God told me this," and "God told me that." Now, I've been caught up in that kind of excitement before in the past. I've even had supernatural dreams and other experiences I could boast about, but that would be a sickening thing to do in light of real love for others. So I want to simply say that by grace, we believe God's written words in the Bible are absolutely, positively certain. Everything will be exactly as it is written. And faith believes that. Do we believe the written word of God?

Paul, being an apostle and chosen vessel of God in order to write words of truth said, "assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Ephesians 3:2-5 ESV).

So, I'm not discrediting supernatural experiences if they are genuine, but I am emphasizing that real faith must be solidly planted in the sure words of God, and not in anything less. And for us, those words are to be found only in the Bible. Now, of course, it will do us no good if we simply believe the words of Scripture are true, but we must trust Him who is faithful, "who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:24-25). Of course, as the verse on the header says, "it is the gift of God."

Grace to you and God bless.

August 7, 2008

New Human Life Blog

Ever since I started reading Rita Martinez's blog called New Human Life, I have just been amazed at how much of a grace woman she is. For one thing, she reads Grace Gems, which I thought I was the only person in their twenties who visited that site... anyway, I want to promote her blog and everything she writes on it, because it is just so full of the spirit of evangelism. She has a lot of great posts to read and learn from, so go visit her blog and be encouraged by Rita's writing. I think she has provided a good resource that will inspire Christians to be bold and intelligent about witnessing for Christ.
God bless.

August 6, 2008

Rich Language Describes Riches of Grace is an excellent resource for anyone who loves to study Scripture. It interprets each word of the Greek New Testament. Whenever I venture into the foreign language of the NT Greek, I cannot resist seeking out the section of Ephesians chapter 1. My appreciation for the richness of the language that the apostle Paul used in writing this chapter has grown to amazement. I have been meditating deeply on this passage as I have been trying to translate it in my own words. Just take a look at how rich the language is used to describe the bounty of grace given to us in Christ Jesus. Here is what I came up with so far:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints that are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. Just as He chose us in Him before laying the foundation of the world, so we are set apart as holy and blameless before Him in love. He predestined us in Him to the adoption of sonship through Jesus Christ. This was according to His own good pleasure and will, to the glory of His grace, who has graciously blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our transgressions according to the wealth of His grace, which He is lavishly bestowing on us in all wisdom and insight, as He is making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good purpose, which He set forth in Him to the management of the fulness of the times. He is concluding all in Christ that is in heaven and on earth in Him. In whom also He appointed beforehand according to the
purpose that works everything according to His own decisive will.
- Ephesians 1:1-11 PTV (Penn Tomassetti Version)

August 4, 2008

Mary's Faith and Zechariah in Luke 1

As I was reading Luke chapter one tonight, I noticed that a major point of this chapter is faith. It is mainly about the coming of the Messiah, but it begins by affirming the certainty of the word of Christ as it had been taught by His eye-witnesses. It then tells of Zechariah's priestly service and his vision of the angel Gabriel. Since Zechariah doubted the word of the Lord from Gabriel, he was struck dumb until his son John was to be born. So that was the first example of a lack of faith. Elizabeth, his wife, soon conceived and the word of the Lord proved to be true.

Next, Mary appeared on the scene as the angel, Gabriel, flew (or so I suppose he flew, it actually only says he was "sent from God") to Nazareth and told her of God's will to bring forth Jesus from her. Mary's response was one of humble faith.

See Luke 1:26-56

[The Angel, Gabriel ended his message to Mary by saying]: "For nothing will be impossible with God."
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the Angel departed from her. (Luke 1:37-38 ESV).

[Elizabeth spoke of Mary's faith when they met]: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (Luke 1:45 ESV).

Mary is an example of faith in the absolute certainty of the truth of God's word. Are you trusting the faithfulness of the word of the Lord - the Bible? Are you trusting in the Author and the Perfecter of faith - Jesus Christ? As it is written, "And without faith it is impossible to please [God]..." (Hebrews 11:6a ESV). And may I add that faith is a gift of grace from God, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship..." (Ephesians 2:8-10a ESV). So there you have it, faith is a gift of grace, and it rests assured in the truth of God's word about Christ. And something else I noticed was that the chapter ends with a burst of overflowing praise to God, as Zechariah's heart was filled with faith in the promises of His word and their fulfillment.

May we be found resting in Christ Jesus and His absolutely, positively, certainly, sure word of truth, just like Mary (who was His humble servant and chosen vessel) and like Zechariah who needed some grace for his doubts (and by the way, his son's name, John, means "Jehovah favors." It is all of grace). Grace be with you.

August 2, 2008

Grace Abounding from Pittsburgh

I just arrived home after a five hour drive from Pittsburgh. It was a grace-filled weekend. I was extremely blessed to see how the King of kings continues to uphold the saints there and keep them witnessing for the sake of His name. A few guys seem to have gone under genuine conversions, though time will be the test. If it is of God, then they will continue in His grace. The brothers there are definitely growing in their love for the truth and for one another, and that is very encouraging to see.

Here are some miniature snapshots I took from my little cheepie keychain camera I bought at CVS downtown (the thing is a little larger than my thumb!):

This morning we met to pray in the park and the fire men (and woman) were making a rainbow in the river.

PPG - one of the many buildings downtown where I used to sell coffee.

I guess this would have been on Smithfield Street.

Smithfield and Forbes, across the street from McDonalds (where all the 'Riff, Raff' meet).

"God's grace is free... the Post Gazette is a dollar!" That's our Newspaper friend's stand on the corner.

Same corner... yesterday I saw an ATM robber get jumped by the police right behind me here. It looked like the undercover cops set the guy up. I noticed two large men scuffling about ten feet behind me, the XL man grabbed the robber and held him firmly in a headlock. A very big uniformed cop ran across the street and pulled out his cuffs, then the skinny young lady who appeared to be the one being robbed snapped the cuffs around the guy's wrists and they hauled him off to the county jail. We were praying for them as it was happening. People were staring at me amazed and asking, "What just happened?" I replied, "What are you gonna' say when you stand before the judge?..." and just smiled... They were walking away with the same amazed look on their faces. :)

I crossed this bridge on foot every day for a year and a half.

I'm praying for all the precious souls in this city. Oh, that God would save some today!

The clouds on my trip home were pretty impressive. This is in the middle of Pennsylvania.

I was thinking, "Jesus could come back at any moment." He is coming... and Romans chapter eight playing in the car was like water to my thirsty soul.