Unbelief Due to Giants in the Land

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people we saw are men of great size, there also we saw the Nephillim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sign, and so we were in their sight.  Numbers 13:33 (NASB)

Her panic attacks keep her from being able to function sometimes, in fact, some employers won’t hire her because of her panic issues. Yet, she needs a job and lives on assistance from the government, aid organizations and even gifts from ours and other churches. She has just been diagnosed with two brain aneurysms. Her mother died from one 25 years ago and she is worried about that history. She has children, some adult and some younger. She will have surgery on the larger aneurysm before the end of the month. She is struggling with understanding God’s will here.

I think I can understand why she has fear. Her situation has some pretty big obstacles. There are giants in the land.

What are your giants? For Israel that day, it was literally giant people, like Goliath. 9, 10, maybe 12 feet tall. Archaeologists have found the bones of ancient giants in many parts of the world. They were real, and the ones that Israel saw were powerful and aggressive militarily. They’re 10 feet tall and the Israelite men were just over 5 foot. They’re twice as big, we don’t have a chance, what can we do?

Of course instead of believing God like Caleb did, the people failed to believe God. Their unbelief kept them from God’s blessings and provisions. They failed again and again in their belief. They suffered again and again because of unbelief.

We are concerned with the direction our country is taking. Yesterday there were 5 police killed in Dallas as it appears some people abused a peaceful protest to exercise their hate for the police. This week, a presidential candidate appears to be above the law although her activity in the past has been criminal. There is a wave of fear because of ISIS and a level of persecution coming against Christians and the Church, and Lord save you if you stand for the Biblical truth about LGBT.

What about your health? Or your financial circumstances? What about your temptations to sin? Are there obstacles to peace in your family, broken relationships, unfairness at work, or hate from your neighbor? What is your giant?

If you exercise unbelief, like Israel did in Numbers 13, than you are in for more difficulty and the giant may grow bigger and may become giants.

It isn’t always easy to let go and trust God, but David did. Why did David trust God against Goliath? He knew God’s track record. He knew God’s word. He chose to trust God because God has historically been proven true and when David was in situations where belief was absolutely necessary, God proved himself to David.

That is why Caleb (and Joshua) were considered the good spies. They believed and were ready to follow God into the fray. The giants are puny compared to God. They chose to trust the one who is the biggest and the greatest.

Christians are fretting about many circumstances and uncertainties today. Believe God and the way faith grows is to know the Word that shows us God’s activity, the Bible. For it reveals to us that faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord.

Let’s believe!

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Living in Canaan

As a Pastor, I often wonder, how do Christians impact culture and society with the Gospel and faith. More than knowing the Word and understanding the truth, but relating the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world.

As the Children of Israel left Egypt, they were heading toward the Promised Land, ancient Palestine, aka, Canaan. The land was filled with pagan people who worshiped false gods like Baal, the moon-god, and Asherah, his female counterpart, Moloch, and others. Their worship involved deviant sexual conduct, sacrifices of children, and many other atrocious practices.

Christians as people of the Book (the Bible), carefully trying to discern the times, it seems appropriate to consider that the church is living in a modern form of ancient Canaan.

The society we are a part of carries out the practices of the ancient pagan religions. It is a very self-centered (narcissistic) rather than god directed society, but the values and practices are not a whole lot different. Sexual deviation is obvious. Just watch anything media based and it’s almost impossible to escape some form of sexual expression. Sex is not about pleasing a god, but satisfying the self. Abortion is the modern child sacrifice, and the altar is women’s rights. Lying, tolerance, becoming rich, being a celebrity, being important, and more are the norms.

The church in a sense is living in Canaan.

Remember that Israel was told going into Canaan to eradicate the pagans living there. Run them off, destroy them and rid the land of pagan worship. Don’t let it be a temptation to you. Our dilemma is not that we are in the promised land, that is in the future when God brings the saved into heaven with him after the return of Christ; we have the God-given responsibility to live among the pagans. Their values and influence are powerful and many Christians have compromised their faith, mixing Christianity with the unholy and ungodly practices of the rest of the world.

How do we live in the world and not be a part of it. We can’t separate from them and live on an island and not be an influence to them. We can’t change the laws and force them to believe or at least act like Christians. We can however, present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, living by faith, guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, showing Christ’s love, fellow-shipping with other believers, and letting God protect our souls while we risk our lives to lead them to Christ.

Too many believers have forsaken the task, holing up in their church buildings and homes, protecting themselves from the influence of the world and making a small almost immeasurable impact for Christ.

The Bible is clear, we are on a mission, a spiritual mission, a war for the souls of people. They are not the enemy, as one preacher (whose name I’ve now forgotten) I heard a long time ago say, “they are captives of the enemy.” The enemy is the devil, Satan himself and he has captured the hearts and souls of the majority of people in the world. For the Christian, it is as if we have moved into Canaan without pushing out the pagans.

The way, is to hold to the truth and be aware of how people accept truth and gain understanding. That is the hard part. The truth is easy. God the Creator loves all people and wants so see them saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9), and sent Jesus (John 3:16-17) to save the world through faith in him. And as Peter said, “there is salvation in no other name given among men (Acts 4:12), we have the answer.

Learning how to relate the answer means we need to learn how the modern, spiritual Canaan may relate to and accept the answer. That’s the hard answer.

As we are told, preach the truth in season (when it is popular and acceptable) and out of season (when people don’t want to hear it and even try to stop the preaching of the Gospel).

Do I have the actual answer to every circumstance? No! But God’s Spirit and the teaching and leadership of others who know the truth and have listened to the Spirit can lead into being able to living in Canaan and be obedient to the mission God has called us to in Christ.

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Read This Article from Relevant Magazine online

It is interesting that all at once there are several discussions about Christian -vs- Saints.  Here is a good one. Why-They-Called-Us-ChristiansClick on the link and it will take you to the Relevant article entitled, “Where the ‘Christian’ Name Really Came From.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/where-christian-name-really-came

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All the Saints in the World

My small group has been working through Aaron Chamber’s book, Remember Who You Are.* During a recent small group get together, as we examined the chapter about being a saint, ideas about Christians in our culture ran through my mind.

The common cultural mantra goes something like this, “I like Jesus but I hate the church.” That hurts! The church, Christians, people of God are the excuses people have for not completely checking out Jesus or the church. To be honest, there are Christians in the church who are hypocrites, and there are those who are inconsistent in their faith walk, and there are some who don’t get it at all and don’t know how to live as a Christian. Then in the public’s eye you have extremists churches who are fundamentalists and judgmental to all people, and of course your celebrity Christians who have fallen because of sin. I suppose we could make a long list of excuses people have for ignoring Jesus and the church.

The thought occurred to me that evening, the world hates “Christians,” but what about “Saints?”

To qualify, saints are not those 3000 or so people over the 16-1700 year history of the Catholic Church that have been canonized by the Catholic Church. “Saints” are what the Bible calls Christians the most; People who have through faith become followers of Jesus Christ and have been saved by God’s grace.

The Bible calls people in the Bible who are saved, saints, Christians, disciples of Christ, followers of Christ, the family of God, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ,the Church of Christ, etc. We are called Christians a couple of times and Saints a lot in the New Testament. Even the Old Testament refers to saints. For instance, Psalm 16:3, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Daniel 7:18, “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (NASB).

Saints belong to God. Why? Because of what has happened to them when they came to Christ for salvation. They have been “sanctified.” Cleansed from sin, freed from the slavery of sin, freed to live a holy life in God, made to be like Christ free of the guilt of sin, pure, no longer defiled in their character, they are saints.

Now, if we Christians were more aware of our sainthood, how would the world view the church, how would they look at Christians?

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*Remember Who You Are, Unleashing the Power of an Identity-Driven Life, Aaron Chambers, Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, http://www.standardpub.com/Products/24324/remember-who-you-are.aspx

Christians and the Political Process

I personally lost track this year with the presidential election. I admit I must choose who to vote for according to my values which are informed with the Bible. I must live according to my conscience in voting for any elected official. I must admit that I fear the direction our country is taking is like the fall of the Roman Empire with the administration, but my participation in the political process has been askew. Though I do believe I voted correctly, the way God would have me choose, I did not live peacefully and quietly in this area of life.

My conscience is guilty. I lost track of what scripture informs me about my role in this world.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Instead of peaceful and quiet living, I have stirred up stress with disagreements about who and what to vote for. I apologize to all who I have encountered this way. I pray for your forgiveness and look forward to living peacefully in the future, choosing to vote according to my conscience as it is informed with God’s word and the Holy Spirit.

Let me encourage you to make that your path too. While praying for our elected officials, trusting wholeheartedly in God’s wisdom and understanding though we may not have access to it now.

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PS: It is and will be hard to keep my big mouth shut and my thoughts to myself in this area. I pray to God for his strength, help and guidance.

What I Learned From the Sandy Hook Massacre

The more often these kind of tragedies happen, the more I realize just how vulnerable and exposed we all are to such atrocities. The first time something tragic happened that hit me was when a 10 or 11-year-old girl comes home from school and begins taking orders for a school fund-raiser in a town of 4-500 people; small town America. The last time she was seen was on the corner of one of the streets until about two weeks later when her body was found in a ditch a couple of miles from the town, molested, raped and murdered.

The US government is trying to determine what to do to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook happening again. I fear there is going to be too much of a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the heart of the issue which is the heart and soul of the people who carry out these tragedies.

After some contemplation, I have learned these truths and realities.

Morality is not relative. The thinking of a lot of people is that whatever we think is right at the time is what is right and what I think is right for me is right me, but what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Everyone is appalled by what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and calling for justice and measures for the future prevention of such events. Therefore there must be a standard somewhere and somehow that we measure this by.

If you are reading this, you will already know what I am going write. Moral values, right and wrong come from one standard that never changes throughout time and history and the basis for the standard is in God Almighty and the standard which comes from his unchanging character is found in the Bible, God’s Word.

Sin is real and it is violent. Not all sinful acts are acts of violence but the character and nature of sin leads to it. God through the Apostle Paul related to us in the book of Romans that all people have sinned. Sin is a part of every person’s life. Some of the rest of the book of Romans especially chapters 4-10 give us information about how to overcome sin. But sinfulness will sooner or later, if given enough time lead to violence. In the Bible, the account of the flood which Noah and his family were saved from was on account of man’s violent nature (Genesis 6:11 ,13). Meaning since humans were made in God’s image, the violent acts against mankind were acts against the image of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was as a result of violence (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:9). Violence is found throughout the history of the world. Sin is the culprit behind all of this.

Sin corrupts completely, the longer it is not dealt with. In some people corruption spreads faster than in others. It may take more than a life-time for someone to become completely corrupt, but the fact remains that people like Nero, Hitler, and others became corrupt at young enough ages to carry out crimes against humanity (as we call it). The tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and others illustrate this corruption and the despair in the lives of the perpetrators.

Government, political, public & social programs are not fixing the problem (and never have). Only redemption can change the situation. Only the spiritual change of being “born again” in Christ can make the change. I am not saying that public programs might not help, but true transformation comes from a transformation of the heart and soul and that only comes from surrender to and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ (Romans 12). Programs change external conditions not internal issues.

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The Cultural Christian (Casual Christian Part 3)

Jennifer Hua identifies herself as a Christian. A 35-year-old former attorney studying Christian counseling at the Wheaton College Graduate School, she has gone to church all her life and is a lay leader in her suburban Chicago congregation. She furthers her spiritual development by daily Bible reading, prayer, listening to and singing worship songs, and interacting with other Christians. And every few months, she carves out time for a silent retreat.  She says, “I do all of these things because I know from past experience I need to recalibrate my mind and my heart to be in tune with God.”

James Smith also identifies himself as a Christian. He attended church as a child, but his attendance was minimal as a young adult. He believes in God, he occasionally attends church (Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan) when his time-consuming job in the finance district allows, but he doesn’t participate very often in other activities to further his spiritual life. He has a Bible but he rarely opens it and what leisure time he has he spends with friends, most of whom are of different faiths, and he doesn’t necessarily believe that his God is any different from the one his Muslim friend worships.  He says, “I don’t think that God would be a God who would shut others out of heaven because they don’t use the word ‘Christian’ to describe themselves.”

The United States is described in the mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, identify themselves as “Christian”) and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case, but, not everyone within this vast group of Christians are alike.

To understand the range and differences among American Christians, Christianity Today International partnered with Zondervan Publishers to have Knowledge Networks conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of U.S. Christians. In September 2006, more than 1,000 self-identified Christians 18 years of age and older were surveyed on their religious beliefs and practices. The results reveal a number of significant differences, illustrated by the examples of Jennifer and James. In fact, portraits of five distinct segments emerged from the study. They are called . . .

  • Active Christians,
  • Professing Christians,
  • Liturgical Christians,
  • Private Christians, and
  • Cultural Christians.

Each group represents about one-fifth of those identifying themselves as Christian, with Active Christians (such as Miss Hua) most likely to have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affects their beliefs and inspires an active church life.  Cultural Christians (such as Mr. Smith) are least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or even attend church. And between the two is a range of beliefs, different commitment levels, and varying public practice of the faith.

Simply put, there are those who let the culture determine what Christian values are.  Those people are in the world and they are of the world.  Are they participating in sin?  Maybe; maybe not!  But, their values are guided by what is popular, or what is politically correct, or what is considered valid at the time, or by what makes them feel good.

Romans 12:2

1)    The “Cultural Christian” is one who is conformed to the world.

There are four key words in this verse.  Look at them.

  1. Conformed
  2. The World or the Age
  3. Transformed
  4. Renewing

Conform means “to make like.”  When I pour Jell-o into a Jell-o mold and it forms to the shape of the mold, it is conforming.  When I wear a hat, I get a hat hair.  My hair conforms to the shape of the hat.  In this world and the age I live in, I make myself just like it and I have conformed myself to it.

  • My values will be guided by the thinking of the age I live in (which is constantly changing)
  • My purpose and goals will be formed according to the way of thinking I follow
  • My thoughts and actions will be determined by conforming to the modern age

I may get my way of thinking from CNN or MSN, or the NY Times, or from Oprah or Montel, and the movies, or friends, or books, or the Internet, or any number of sources that are worldly and conformed to the world themselves.

The World/the age in which you live, the popular or current values of the rest of the world press every person to conform to the values that the world holds.

  • The past 40-50 years the world’s values have been about tolerance, self-reliance, humanism, evolutionary thinking, and political correctness.
  • The world is trying to force its values on us through media, through legislations, and through education and at every level, especially higher education.

I used to be on the board of a Campus Christian Fellowship at Truman State University.  The campus minister, Joe Belzer informed us one time that the prevailing philosophies and teachings in the universities, within ten years become the mainstream beliefs and practices in America

I have noticed a broader application to the principle Joe shared with us 15 years ago.  It really begins in the universities on the east and west coasts where America is more liberal politically and religiously.  That becomes mainstream in public life in about ten years time.  The universities in middle America grasp the teachings and philosophies in the following years and that becomes mainstream in the middle America about ten years later, so we see what is happening in universities on the coasts and 15-25 years later, it is a part of the life patterns of America.

Conforming to the ways of the world is how that looks.

But the apostle Paul indicates we are to not to conform to the world, don’t conform to this age.

This is where being transformed comes in. Transformation is changing from one thing to another.  The actor on the stage transforms as they change costumes for each part they play.  Mixing cake ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, chocolate and whatever other ingredients are required together and then when it is baked it transforms and becomes a cake.  The caterpillar balls up into a cocoon and eventually becomes a butterfly.

We are to change away from the ways of the world; the values that guide people away from God, the worldly philosophies and worldly religions and worldly values.  We are to be renewed in our mind, transformed, changed from what we were which was worldly, sinful, and far away from God.

Jesus reminds us that we do not belong to the world.  We belong to God and the things of the world, the ways of the world are not our ways; they are not to be a part of our lives.

@John 15:19

And John warns us not to love the world or the things of the world.  If we do God’s love doesn’t live in us.

@1 John 2:15

The Bible warns us, Christian leaders warn us.  They even teach this to us.

Biblical Christianity versus Cultural Christianity

Biblical Christianity means being joined to Jesus Christ through faith in what he did for us at the cross then allowing him to live through us so that others might know him and see his love.

 Cultural Christianity follows the changes from culture to culture.  They imagine their god fits their new cultural wants and values.

Some of the differences between Biblical faith and today’s cultural deviations. Follow the link to this chart prepared by Dennis Monroe for a comparison of Biblical and Cultural Christianity: http://www.crossroad.to/charts/cultural-Christianity.html

Cultural Christianity is why the church has had little impact on our society.

2)    We should think in terms of Biblical Christians and Cultural Christians should be Transformed

Biblical Christians are those who seek to live by believing, obeying, understanding and applying Biblical teachings and principles, with God’s Spirit in our lives.

Cultural Christians are defeated, they’ve given up and they’ve been drawn into the secular mold and live a form of counterfeit Christianity.  Their Christianity is a matter of convenience rather than of conscience or obedience.

Which world-view is yours?  Is it guided by the Bible?  Many cultural Christians think they are guided by the Bible but if they accurately study and apply scripture, they’ll find they have a form of Christianity without the reality of Christianity.

Therefore transformation begins with a total and accurate Biblical viewpoint and obedience to the God’s word and this is much more than simply asking “What Would Jesus Do?”

  • Do you have a point of view about something?  Examine the scripture to see where it stands in relation to God’s point of view.
  • If you are honest about it, humble toward God, and obedient to Christ, when your view differs with God’s, even if it is close but not quite right, then you will accept God’s view and change your heart, your mind, and your actions to match it.

A second means by which transformation takes place is that we become spiritual people, true spiritual people and that means that we have the mind of Christ.  @1 Corinthians 2:15-16

  • We all have the Word of God
  • Christians have the Spirit of God
  • But do we have the mind of Christ?

There was a book published about 20 years ago in tribute to Seth Wilson, long-time professor at Ozark Christian College (Joplin, MO) who died last year.  It was called “The Mind of Christ.”  His focus was having the mind of Christ.  That is why he spent hours every day pouring over the Bible, studying, learning and investing years teaching the Bible to willing minds who were seeking to serve God as ministers and missionaries and servants in the church.

The mind of Christ comes from the Spirit of God who makes it possible for us to understand spiritual things.  The worldly mind cannot understand spiritual things.  The world can’t even accept the things of Christ.

The mind of Christ as Paul applies it here in Corinthians has to do with correcting the sin and division in the church.  Because they were mixing the ways of the world with their faith in Christ!  It sounds like a lot of the modern church.  Living by means of the world, but belieiving and claiming to be Christian.

I want to use the term “the mind of Christ” to make us think about who Christ was on earth and what his focus was on.

  • Pleasing God, obeying God, honoring God
  • Drawing people to God for salvation
  • He did this in a number of ways: Preaching, teaching, caring, helping, obeying God’s commands, staying true to God’s word.

The Cultural Christian varies from the mind of Christ.  They have accepted Christ.  They are professing to be Christian.  But their values differ from the churches values, from what the Bible says.  It could be:

  • Church attendance is an optional thing
  • Or that we should tolerate other religions as if they were true or equal to Christianity
  • Or the homosexuality is ok with God
  • Sex is ok in any situation
  • Or any number of Biblical things that have been interpreted through the lens of worldliness or even rejected because it is different than the world.

We need to continue to be transformed by letting God’s Spirit renew our minds through our faith in God and our reliance upon the Bible, developing the mind of Christ and become Biblical Christians.

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