Events That Changed Everything

My church will begin a new adventure in September. It is called Events That Changed Everything. It is the story in the Bible; God and humanity, sin and salvation, loss and hope, joy and eternity.

We live in a society of sound bytes. And Christians have a tendency to study the Bible in a similar manner. Taking a verse, or a passage and missing the big picture. The Bible has context. It presents a story and history and each Bible study sound byte fits in and knowing how it fits helps with understanding and meaning and depth of meaning.

Here’s the goals we have for Events:

Events That Changed Everything will help the Bible unfold before you through the progression of Bible events and characters arranged chronologically.

Beginning with creation, everyone who participates will discover a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible with each sermon, each Bible lesson, and your own Bible reading.

You will:

  •  Understand the basic story line in the Bible
  •  Realize how you can be a part of God’s ongoing story
  •  Understand how God’s story has the power to change lives
  •  Increase Biblical understanding and knowledge and build an appetite for the Bible
  •  De-mystify Bible study
  •  And introduce Bible study resources and ongoing Bible study opportunities

Sunday, September 4th we will begin our journey in the Bible’s story with the Creation.

Share in our adventure as we experience the Bible as a whole and share these things with you here.

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Figuring Out What Romans 8:28 Means

A lot of people go through life with the philosophy, “keep a good thought.” If you have positive thinking and look for the good in everything, then you can handle anything.

Romans 8:28 is often perceived in about the same way as if it is the spiritual version of” keep a good thought.”

A simple examination of the immediate passage that these verses are a part of should correct a lot of the misconceptions people have about these Biblical statements.

So we come back to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A lot of people think this means that since I love God he will fix everything just fine.

Like a football player, a little undersized and short on experience going up against a player who even has muscles in his ear lobes going into the game saying to himself, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Or the person who has been asked to do a job they have no clue about doing, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Most people apply this thought and the common interpretation when relationships break, jobs are lost, the house goes into foreclosure, and so many more situations. But is that what this passage means? Not really. There are problems with this particular interpretation.

The problems are:

  1. This is pretty naïve. The good thought – God will work it all together for my benefit. The rest of scripture doesn’t bear this out. That would mean that everything has a good and positive result in the end when it doesn’t. The Bible actually teaches us that we will have problems and many will come from our own decisions, some will come because we stand by our faith in Christ.
  2. Also, the context doesn’t imply it either. The section of verses Romans 8:28 is a part of is going to give us a different view of what God does. It is for our benefit but not exactly how a lot of people take it to mean.
  3. What do you do with it when God doesn’t work it together for your benefit, for your good? Because it doesn’t always happen this way.

Listen to Tim Geddert’s testimony about his misinterpretation of this verse:

“That is how I once memorized Romans 8:28 many years ago. It has often been a word of hope for me, assuring me that all things, even “bad” things, “work out” for people who love God. In fact there was a time when I interpreted this verse to mean that there really are no “bad things” that happen to believers. If things seem bad, but really serve to fulfill God’s good purposes, then even these things are ultimately good. I guess at the time it did not seem unjust to me that only those who love God are promised the benefit of “everything working out.” Nor was I troubled by the fact that I often did not see the “bad things” magically transformed into “good things.  I once thought Romans 8:28 was about “all things working out”. . . ”

Actually many have found the sweeping assertion, “all things work together for good,” difficult to believe. Faced with sufferings and catastrophic experiences of life, many believers and even Christian leaders have found it difficult to accept this assertion. In relation to the current War America is involved in, a prominent preacher designated Romans 8:28 as “the hardest verse to believe.” While willing to admit that the countless ravages that have occurred to the human race are the logical consequences of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God, many a devout believer, when some shattering experience has befallen him, has cried out in confusion, “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” How can this kind of experience be reconciled with Roman 8:28?

What is the book of Romans about? The core aspects of Romans is about your salvation, the grace of God in your life, and whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God has provided salvation to both because all people have sinned and need salvation.  Paul explains:

  • Justification by faith, just like Abraham
  • Peace with God through justification
  • Death came through Adam and life came through Jesus
  • We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
  • That we have and live life in the Spirit

Romans 8:18 – 39

Let me ask you, what is in store for the believer? The answers are all related.

  • Heaven
  • Our glorification in Christ
  • Eternity with God

Our eternal glory that we like to read about in Revelation 21. God and his people together and every tear wiped away. Your back won’t hurt any more.  Your illnesses will never affect you longer. You won’t have another broken relationship again. Heaven where we love God in person, where his glory is experienced first-hand.

We are here, on this earth where sin has taken hold and brought about separation from God and even affected the existence we have here. Not only did sin introduce spiritual pain and death, it introduced problems to the physical universe; to our bodies, to our planet, and probably to the whole universe and maybe every universe.

Yet in this suffering, God plans to redeem not just the lost, he also intends to redeem the world and Paul notes how our world is “groaning” under the effects of sin, and the suffering we endure here is nothing in comparison to what will be revealed in us.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-56 tells about our resurrection bodies. Verse 49 states, “just as we have borne the like of the earthly man so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
  • And John says in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”

I get that when we get to heaven and receive the glorification God will give us, we shall be like Jesus.  Whatever Jesus is like, what he looks like we will too!  Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.

You get to glow! That’s pretty cool in my book.

While we struggle through life now, we have the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation.  But he does more than just seal the deal in each believer’s life he helps us in our weakness. He intercedes on our behalf to God. He does it according to God’s will but he brings our cares before God and pleads with him on our behalf in ways we can’t. He expresses what we cannot.  He displays our needs, our words, and emotions with words and feeling we can’t even hint at.

This is all while we wait for glory, for Jesus’ loving return to bring us our reward in our faith.

Because we know that God is getting the whole of what we are pleading with him about because the Spirit who knows our heart and minds and the heart and mind of God is presenting our plights to God, we can then know that God is working for our good.

  • What good?
  • How is God working?
  • What’s this really about?

What is the good that God wants to do in the world? He wants to save the world, to bring them into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness, but patient toward you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. God wants to save people and we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus.

Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18-19.

Paul is revealing how much greater the glory is in the new covenant than was in the old covenant.  And that those who still live by the old covenant have veiled themselves to the glory God intends in the new covenant for them. And then he says that we are “being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

This new covenant in Christ’s blood, the covenant of grace, the covenant which saves us is about our becoming like Christ, even now, while we live this life.

So, God is working together in our lives to bring about this transformation.

Romans 8:28-30

Long before God created the world, he fully intended that those who are in Christ, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior will become like his son. He is the heir, but God makes the believer an heir, we become “children of God.” We get the inheritance we already talked about; we are glorified, we get to go to heaven, we get to spend the time with God in person.

Conforming to the image of Christ is the good that God is working together with us, in us, bringing it about.

As long as we hold strong to Christ, we remain in him, we continue to grow into and conform to his likeness we will continue to have our eternal hope.

That’s why Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” in verse 30. That is why he says that we are More than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” in verse 37. That is why life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers, even height and depth “nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” in verses 38 and 39.

All of this is true when we are in Christ.

I am finding a promise here in Romans 8:28 that tells me what God is doing together with my soul, making me Christ-like. I am involved. I know that God works in circumstances and even guides us through those difficult and troubling circumstances, but he didn’t promise to make them good, not in the physical-material sense.

  • He didn’t say I’ll turn your job loss into a better job yet to come.
  • He didn’t say I’ll make your body whole so you won’t have to suffer sickness or injury.
  • He didn’t say I’ll heal your broken heart by bringing someone new to love that is better than you’ve known before.
  • He didn’t promise anything like that.  Though he could do stuff like.

What God has promised is according to what salvation is about. He intends to bring us into Christ’s likeness.

Verse 32 has become a very happy verse for me.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Is your identity in Christ? If so, God is working in you to make you into the likeness of Christ and specifically heirs, subjects of eternal life.

I’m longing for heaven.

At the same time, your trust in God and his word are the tools to help you spiritually, emotionally, and practically through whatever struggle you have. Though Romans 8:28 isn’t the cure-all scripture many take it to be, faith does rely upon God to strengthen and support in good and bad times, when hope is blinded and when life is good. Always trust God, rely on his Spirit, and seek guidance from the Bible, God will see you through it though things may not turn how you wish them too.

God is good and faithful and through your faith in Christ he is your life.

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Misusing Scripture

The Bible. Gotta love it. It’s God’s full and revealed message to us. Some even call it God’s love letter. The history of creation, the history of God’s plan and work, the hope of the nations and each individual is presented in the Bible.

The Christian church has been the guardian and protector (by God’s will) and promoter of God’s Word. The Bible is loved and feared. It is read and studied and even ignored.

The most influential book, the largest selling book, the book with the most important and essential message in the history and the lives of humanity is still the most misused and misunderstood writing in the history of mankind. And Christians, followers of Christ who love and adhere to the Bible can misuse Scripture.

I am not trying to be condemning, but we are to “rightly divide the scriptures” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is important to understand the difference and divide between the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are different dispensations of time and many misinterpret scripture because they don’t know or don’t recognized the division (like the situation with the thief on the cross, to be discussed later). They don’t understand context. We were always taught in Bible college “context is king.” It is important to understand Scripture in its context, even the cultural and social contexts of the time when it was written. Understanding the AIM, the Author’s Intended Meaning is critical. What did Paul have in mind when he wrote the book of Romans, or when he wrote 1 Corinthians 5, or John when he described the spiritual battle of the church with the Roman Empire, or Peter, or Isaiah, or Moses and the rest?

Many times we will interpret things in light of our own understandings of things. Why are woman to be silent in the assembly? Why are men the only ones that God says must lead the church as elders and ministers? Why should women submit to their husbands? These things may be cultural or they may be comprehensive to every age and time and culture.

Our understanding of God and truth, of Christ and religion, of relationships with God and with people are critical. Our understanding of eternity and life is crucial. Misunderstanding and misinterpreting God’s word, the Bible can get us into trouble so we had better be careful. Prayer, study, rational thinking, humility, hope, and even guidance by godly people will help us move into the realm of true understanding of Scripture.

Here is one resource from College Press Publishing (http://www.collegepress.com/storefront/node/134) which can help. It’s called  “A Newcomer’s Guide to the Bible.” It can be a starting point for people to begin to understand how the Bible is set up and what it is about. There is also the “Old Testament Books Made Simple” and  “the New Testament Books Made Simple,” and “Bible History Made Simple,” by College Press which take things a step further.

In our discussion in Romans on grace, we are coming to one of those misapplied texts (8:31). Before we continue with Romans we will look at the misuse and hopefully the correct understanding or Romans 8:31 then we will move into other misunderstood and misapplied Scriptures so that we can accurately handle the Word of God.

We love God’s word and we want to be accurate and correct and faithful to God. So care is applied and passion is supplied and understanding is gained and we live by truth and faith.

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Dreaming That I’m Free (Romans Pt 6)

We all have dreams where our imagination takes us beyond reality. There’s a couple I’ve had since high school. One is being able to jump up on stage with the Doobie Brothers and play China Grove, Long Train Running, and Listen to the Music with them. Another is winning gold medals in the Olympics in the distance events. Neither is very likely to happen, especially now at my age and in my condition.

Have you ever imagined you were guilt free, as if you had never done anything wrong? No one can hold anything against you. You are guilt free, you have no record of wrong (anymore).

It’s a hard thing to imagine because we have sinned, we are guilty. We have offended God’s righteousness and holiness. He is pure light, in him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John+1:5&version=NIV ). Yahweh, God just has nothing to do with sin except eradicate it. It is so offensive he will not have a relationship with those who have sin. That’s why he kicked Lucifer (his name as an angel) out of heaven and now his name is the devil and Satan. God punishes sin. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death….”

But, what if we could be free of sin, if we could be pronounced “Not Guilty?” What if we didn’t have to feel our guilt and actually have it removed? What if it  was as if we had never sinned, never done wrong? That’s what we want and it’s what God wants. He wants to have a relationship with you, but your sin prevents it, but he wants to wipe sin out of your life so that you don’t have to suffer the punishment for sin.

In the movie Angels in the Outfield, the kid J.P. who is friends with the main character Roger who sees the angels in the outfield, whenever something that might happen is pretty much impossible, J.P. would respond, “It could happen!” It not only can happen, it does and it will if.

The way it happens is through your faith in Christ. Not simple faith that only says “I believe,” but trust and faith that does what God wants for his forgiveness to happen in your life, to wipe your sin and guilt away. When that faith happens then God justifies you. A common way to think about the word justified is, ” just as if I’d” never sinned, and that’s the essence of it.

Abraham was given credit by God as being righteous. It was through his faith (read Romans 4, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%204&version=NIV ). But look at the last verses of the chapter:

“Therefore it was credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it credited to him but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him (that is God) who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:22-25, NASB).

Look at that, “for our benefit too.” If Abraham was declared righteous, we can be too. Abraham believed God, Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins and since he has raised from the dead, if you and I believe in Jesus then we can be justified to.

It’s not a dream, or a wish, it’s a fact. You can be free from sin. Those who have already been freed are filled with gratefulness. And we continue to live for Jesus.

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American Church, the Church of I Don’t Know!

I love the church.  It is God’s work on earth.  It is the kingdom of God, the Israel as God intended through Christ’s death. As much as I love the church, there are several issues too.

The church is divided. A majority of churches do not accept the Bible as the full and final authority for faith and life. Doctrine is interpreted and humanly developed and often inconsistent with the Bible. Read Christianity Today’s report on the Lutheran Church  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/septemberweb-only/46-31.0.html).

Let’s consider further the disunity and disgrace that comes with the American church. Almost countless denominations, variations within denominations, differences of opinion within individual churches and splits and divisions running rampant. For instance, in the area I minister in, there are at least 6 churches that have split off of the local Baptist church. I believe there are more and there are a few that have split off the splits in recent years.

Then, there are the varieties of churches with varying beliefs and all claim Biblical, Holy Spirit, or Apostolic authority as the basis for what they accept and teach.

Look at some of the beliefs. Some teach that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. Some don’t even teach Jesus, or doubt his death and resurrection. Some question whether Jesus even came in the flesh (new forms of ancient Gnosticism). And sin is not exempt from the variations.

What is this? It’s a church in Santa Monica

Here’s the new spin on sin:

  • Lying is acceptable. Once a student told their Home Ec teacher that they couldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t lie.
  • Homosexuality is not condemned in the Bible therefore it is not sin and is accepted and may be endorsed by God.
  • Sex before marriage is expected. Googling statistics on premarital sex, it appears that now 82-95% of people have had sex before marriage.

The church is lost in…

The American church is the church of “I don’t know.” When one looks at the church, one may not know what to think or believe because of the variations and differences. There is one truth and variation is not allowed.

If Jesus or the Apostles appeared in your church’s meeting next Sunday, would they recognize the church of Jesus Christ, that he had the Apostles establish? I have my doubts that they would recognize the Church of Christ because sin and compromise have been the trend of the church in America.

What is the solution? Repent and follow the Scriptures alone. The Scriptures are the Bible, exclusively. Jesus is the only way to salvation. The Bible is the only and final rule of faith. And the only revelation God will give is Jesus’ second coming which we do not know when it is.

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What does it mean to be “In Christ?”

If all of life has purpose, the single most important purpose is to know Jesus Christ.  And the burning question may be why?  Why do I need to know Jesus Christ?

Jesus is the single way to know and experience God.  It figures since God sent him for that purpose and that he is the “Son of God” (meaning ordained/chosen by God not a physical son).

Romans 6 and 8 talk about being in Christ (6:11, 23; 8:1, 39).  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us what it means to be in Christ, “Whoever is in Christ is now a new creation.

In Christ we are made new.  Whatever we were, sinful sinners, the person we were, has been made new.  The character of our human nature has changed in Christ, therefore we are new.

So Romans 6:11; we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.  Sin doesn’t rule in our lives anymore.  It has no power over us.  It cannot make us its prisoner if we are in Christ.

Romans 6:23; the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Christ, we experience eternal life.  That’s the forever moment with God.  Given to us now, in Christ, with future promises.

Romans 8:1; there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That old self was set for destruction, meaning, eternal punishment, but the new self (new creation) is no longer condemned.

Romans 8:39; (nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  In Christ, we are never separated from and nothing can remove us from God’s love, in Christ.

Even Romans 12:5; in Christ we who are many form one body.  It’s interesting that so many different backgrounds (socially, ethnically, economically, educationally, etc) all come together into one body, one union of faith and belief and hope.

We are made new.  We become what God intended for us in the first place, in Christ.

In fact, in Christ, God says, “I know who you are.”  Before, when we were outside of Christ, God didn’t know us.  He couldn’t, he doesn’t have anything to do with sin.  As sinners, he wouldn’t.  But, in Christ he can.  Christ is without sin.  Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sin.  Our faith joins us with Christ and through our union with Christ, God forgives our sin, and makes us his heirs with Christ and that’s when he knows us.

God chooses to forget your sin, but he knows who you are and what you are tempted too and strengthens you and empowers you and with that you will stand.

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Identification Badge

Often one of the first things that we examine when we try to understand who God is, is the many names of God.  There are many, Adonai, Elohim, Yahweh, El Roi, El Shaddai and many others.  Each name has to do with what God has done or with attributes of his character.  But one of those names basically includes what all of his names mean and more.  That name is the I AM.

Popeye the Sailor Man says “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”  He was saying, I am who I am.  Maybe another way to say it is what you see is who I am.  French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) said this; “I think therefore I am.”  He is often quoted or his quote is altered for given situations; “I eat therefore I am,” etc.  He was saying because I have consciousness, I must be alive, I apparently exist.

On a tall mountain one hot day in the desert, about 3500 years ago or so, Moses saw a bush on fire but not burning up and went up on that mountain to see what in the world was going on.  It was a curious thing, and got even more bizarre because of what he encountered, or rather, who he encountered and how when he got to where the bush was (Exodus 3 & 4).

In 3:6 God introduced himself to Moses this way, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob” At this Moses hid his face.  He knew he was in the very presence of God, YHWH.  A ways into their conversation, after God told Moses that he was sending him to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians, Moses, trying to offer objections, said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13). Here’s what God said;“I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites,: I AM has sent me to you.’  God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites,’ ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.  This is my name forever the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation'” (3:14-15).

The I AM.  That’s who God is.  The meaning goes something like this, “I Am the Being.”  “I Am the self-sufficient, self-existing One.”

Another way to realize who God is is to look at a couple of verses in Revelation.  “‘I Am the Alpha and Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Rev. 1:8) and the worship of the four living creatures who, Revelation says never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

He who exists outside of time and space, who lives according to his own life, is involved with us.  He was involved with the Patriarchs, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham.  He was involved with Israel.  He is involved currently with the church.  These all honored and worshiped him, but he is involved in all of creation.  He created the world and everything in it (Gen. 1, 2 & 3).  He sustains this world, keeping it functioning and living (Heb. 1:3).   He reaches into our lives to bring us into relationship with him through Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Names have meaning.  Names have significance.  Learn the meaning of names in the Bible and you’ll gain understanding into that person or about the event or meaning of what is being revealed.  Abram meant “great father.”  God changed his name to Abraham with means, “father of a multitude.”  My first name means “God’s Peace” or “Peace of God,” and my last name means “descending one.”   Therefore, my name means “The Peace of God Descending.”  I like that.  In fact, that’s what seems to happen to people around me, they experience God’s peace through my faith, my hope, my joy, my encouragement, etc.

God’s name tells us he is the God of Wonders.  Wonderful in love and compassion, wonderful in care and help, wonderful in hope and provision, wonderful to forgive and save.  Wonderful you are O Lord.

He is identified by his name and his name reveals who he is.

All Scripture passages from the New International Version of the Bible.

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