I Believe in Impossible Things – The Creation

I am beginning a new set of devotional thoughts about believing in impossible things. I pray that they will bless you.

THE CREATION

It is amazing how deeply divided the world is about our origins. I sometimes wonder about my family’s heritage. I know my father’s side of the family goes back to Ireland, but know nothing before 1794. My mother’s family comes from Norwegian backgrounds. But we go back further, I suppose, and I don’t know anything before the first of my ancestors that came to America.

Genesis 1:1 boldly declares that God created the world (John  1:1; Revelation 4:11).images (29) He made the planet, he divided light from darkness, he split the sky from the land, he made day and night, sun and moon, plants, animals, birds, sea creatures, and human beings. Pretty impressive! Every day the earth and the natural things in it “declare the glory of the Lord!” (Psalm 19:1; 57:5; 108:5; 4:11).

Then there is the belief that science has explained the origins of the world as accidental and natural, or some outside intelligence (God or someone or something else) is responsible for the initiation of an evolutionary process that developed and evolved over millions of years; one thing becoming another thing, evolving and adapting over time to become what we know of humans and animals now.

Which track is true? I personally have never, ever doubted that God created the world. I have never once believed that evolution (other than macro-evolution; which as I understand it is basically environmental adaption) has had a single thing to do with the beginnings of this world and how it continues to exist.

In a modern and a post-modern world, where evolution and skepticism is normal, I believe in the impossibility that God created the world as we know it, with plants and animals and humans and everything pretty much the same as when he created but has also been effected by the poison and cancer of sin.

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What Do You See?

thA man is pushing a stroller down the street. A sloppily dressed individual is bent over beside the road. A man is running through the neighborhood in street clothes. A woman  sits in her car on the shoulder of the road busily fumbling with something. What is it that you see?

Do you see a kidnapper who just swiped someone’s child? Do you see an annoying vagrant? Do you see a criminal on the run? Do you see a woman plotting to hurt someone else? Or do you see a father taking a stroll with his child; a person picking up a lost item; a man who is hurrying to help someone in need down the street; or a woman who is trying to encourage someone on the phone using the blue-tooth technology in her car?

In the movie “The Recruit” with Al Pacino and Collin Ferrell, Pacino’s character tells the CIA recruits that nothing is what it seems. What may look like one thing may be in fact something completely different. I am guessing that the emphasis was teach the recruits to be aware of and suspicious of everything. What appears innocent and harmless may be a potentially dangerous situation and what may appear dangerous may be innocent and harmless.

The Israelite people in New Testament times had the view that the Messiah would be a leader like King David 900 years before. Not just a king to rule, but a leader to overcome Israel’s enemies and bring greater prosperity than Israel had ever known.

Then Jesus comes on the scene around A.D. 29 and begins teaching and the people are amazed at his teaching. He hasn’t gone to the Jewish Seminary in Jerusalem and learned from the teachers of the Law, and he is about 30 years old is all; he teaches like he knows what he is talking about and he possesses wisdom for someone so young and untaught, not like the regular teachers. In Mark 6 when he returned to his hometown, Nazareth and taught in the synagogue the people were amazed but then were offended because he was a hometown boy who came from an insignificant and poor family and now he acts like a teacher. Either they were jealous of what he had become or upset that he thought himself a teacher though they knew his background (Mark 6:1-6).

To Nazareth, Jesus  wasn’t who they thought him to be. The rest of Israel believed that maybe he was the promised One, the Messiah to come.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover and his arrest IconJesusMessiahAndKingand crucifixion, the people began to honor him as the coming Messiah. The popular Jewish Messianic expectations in place and what better time for the Messiah-King to assume the throne and reign in Jerusalem but at the biggest feast of the year.

But Jesus didn’t come to set up an “earthly kingdom.” In fact, as Pilate questioned Jesus, Jesus’ response to Pilate was, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Even Jesus’ apostles (and it appears most of the rest of his disciples) expected an earthly kingdom. The concept that he would die was out of the scope of their concept of the God’s Messiah-King. Death would ruin it all. If he died, he might not actually be the Messiah.

What do you see? Are you aware of the truth and reality or do your preconceived ideas provide the basis of your understanding?

Many people want Jesus to only be a great teacher or a spiritual guru. Some want him to fulfill their self-help needs, or provide assistance like EMT in an emergency. Some want Jesus out of their lives and forgotten in this world. Some want Jesus to be everything to them.

What do you see? Who is Jesus to you? If he is not the Messiah of God, who saves and rules lives by his atoning death, well, read the Gospels and the book of Acts, and the letters of Peter, John, James, and Paul, read the book of Revelation and see that what some people see in Jesus is much less than he really is and their understanding and beliefs about Jesus are their own devices and not from God, or from Jesus, or his disciples, and not from the Bible.

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How the Thieves Shared in the Death of Christ

1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed[e] from sin’s claims.[f] 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. @Romans6.1-10 (HCSB)

After Jesus’ death, in order to access salvation one must by faith be immersed (cf., passage above, Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, etc). We must share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Immersion (aka baptism) is the moment we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is very clear about this.

But think about this, there were two criminals, specifically thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. One of those thief’s had a change of heart and with a heart of sorrow and repentance and believed in Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him in his glory and Jesus promised him he would be there with him.  The other thief died scorning Jesus, ridiculing him like the Jewish leaders taunting and belittling him on the cross. He died without repentance and was not given a promise of hope by Jesus.

Both of the thieves died, when Jesus died. I don’t mean they died at the very same instant, but they died on those crosses together. The one in the middle, the Savior for those who have faith in him, one died without faith, and the other died believing. The thieves literally shared in the death of Christ, but only one was given the promise of eternal life, @Luke23.39-43.

In other words, the thief that expressed his belief will awaken to eternal life.

When a person believes and repents, they are baptized. It is in that moment that we experience what the thief that Jesus promised Paradise too, salvation. We experience death and resurrection in the activity of baptism. Dead in sin, we are buried under the water and we rise out of the water alive in Christ. It is there that God applies salvation to our lives.

It is in death that Jesus forgave the repentant thief and it is in death that God forgives the repentant sinner.

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Which Thief (on the cross) Are You?

There’s a cross for you. I mean, the three crosses raised that day in A.D. 29 were our crosses. Our sin, our affront to God with our sin shows we are guilty and deserved death.

Three people died that day; Jesus in the middle, and two criminals on the left and right side of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” the fate of the two thieves was set. One would suffer in hell, the other, would join Jesus in “paradise.”

Sin destroys! Think about it. Sin doesn’t do good at all. The ultimate purpose of sin is to destroy the sinner. Lying destroys trust. Hate and murder destroys lives. Adultery destroys relationships and families. Sin destroys.

The reason for sin’s destruction is to hurt God. The devil, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a serpent wanted to convince Adam and Eve to sin. He worked his deceit through Eve and Adam fell in with her in the sin.

The devil wants to hurt God, and what hurts the most, a severely broken relationship. Sin is the break-point and separation and punishment is the consequence, because, we have not obeyed the Father.

The thieves had separate attitudes about Jesus. One taunted Jesus to save himself. The crowds watching the spectacle were taunting Jesus in the same way. The other thief, realized that Jesus was without sin and that he did not deserve punishment. He even scolded the other thief. We deserve this punishment, but this man has done no wrong.

“For all have sinned” Romans3.23; and “the wages of sin is death” @Romans6.23. We are sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus died. But Jesus death was for sin. He was on the cross receiving the penalty for our sin, therefore he became sin for us.

Because the one thief was repentant, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with him that very day. He was forgiven. He was given freedom from the spiritual penalty of his sin.

Have you repented of your sin against God? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinfulness? Have you confessed Jesus as the risen Son of God because you believe in him? Have you been immersed for your salvation?

Which thief are you?

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Why It’sTrue

Just because a person believes and says something to be true, does not mean it is.

For instance, twenty years ago, OJ Simpson was on trial for murder and was not convicted. It seemed most people believed that he was guilty. Without definite proof, how can anyone know? Just because I think he is does not mean that he is.

I believe the Bible is true, but just because I believe it doesn’t make it so. The Bible is true, so I believe it. The evidence in immutable that the Bible is true. Examine Josh Mcdowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

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Does America Hate Christians?

     Every week I encounter people who are believers, Christians from varying church backgrounds, Jews, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, pagans (as a religion), people who are nothing, and on occasion someone who is Muslim. I teach the Bible with most of them, talk about faith and life with them, sing songs of faith with them, have discussions about faith with them, and just visit them.

A coupe of months ago Jerry (his name has been changed) made a comment after a teaching and singing time with a group of about 45. He remarked to someone, “How can you believe that stuff. It doesn’t make sense.” He is a skeptic.

Ever since then, when I see the group, he goes out of his way to say hello to me and he enjoys the sessions and is singing with us too. He isn’t against us, but up to now he has not believed and wonders why people would. It seems he is becoming interested in things of faith. Maybe he will become a follower of Jesus Christ too. I hope so, I am praying that he will.

Bradley R.E. Wright in the latest Christianity Today presents the idea that Americans are alright with Evangelicals in Americans Like Evangelicals After All. He takes his comments further along than I will with by discussing why we worry about it.

Follow this link to read the article. It is worth our consideration: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/august/americans-do-like-evangelicals.html

There is an obvious bias against evangelical Christians. But like some circumstances, it is a small number who are crying the loudest and in some cases responsible for stopping some aspects of faith from taking place or pushing agendas that vary from the beliefs and values that Christians hold, such as; getting prayer removed from schools; making it inappropriate to have a Bible or some expression of faith at your work. As well as pushing for abortion and same-sex values and there is more. It is troubling and we must deal with it appropriately, the way Jesus would have, the way the Bible teaches us.

If America doesn’t dislike us as much as we had believed, what does that mean to us? I can think of a couple of things.

  1. It should alleviate many of our fears about sharing our faith with others. If they don’t dislike us, many people won’t be offended by our expressions of faith and belief.
  2. It should change our attitude about how we encounter our culture. Some Christians are hot under the collar with our culture, some are militant in fighting the culture through litigation and or cultural commentary and condemnation. It seems we should offer grace not grouse. Please understand that I am not condoning immorality and anti-scriptural teaching, but our attitude in dealing with our culture should be a whole lot more gracious in my view. We are to love others.
      I have found in some cases, there are people who though they do not have a favorable view of Christians, when they encounter some of us, are not as resistant to our beliefs and values.
     For instance, Ronnie (not his real name), was very resistant to Christianity. Ronnie claimed to be a pagan, but was more atheist in value. He resisted faith and Christianity and had decent relationships with a handful of Christians. One time Ronnie was dissing pastors when he remembered suddenly that I am a pastor. He stopped, looked at me with a sly smile and said, Jeff, you’re alright for a minister” (I didn’t change my name, LOL).
Ronnie had a brother-sister relationship with one of the young ladies in the group. One time, she shared some things about her faith and encouraged the group of 15-20 that they need Jesus. He took offense at her comments because he felt that she had targeted him specifically. I am sure that she thought of him when she prepared to share that day, but she was considering the whole group, not any particular individual.
A couple of days later, Ronnie and I visited about what she shared and how it upset him. Fortunatel, he was convinced that she hadn’t targeted him and admitted that she had a right to share her beliefs and values with others just like he did.
I haven’t seen or heard from Ronnie for a couple of years, and I know that he checked into a drug and alcohol rehab at one point, so I don’t know if he has changed his view of Christianity, but with the right individual, he will at least talk with a Christian.
What I am saying is that though there are some who really have a poor view of Christians and Christian faith, most are not really hostile toward us and that’s a good thing. I must be honest, I haven’t personally experienced the hostility toward Christians that we read about. The closest to anti-Christian hostility I have personally seen was when the local school in the town where I ministered 18 years ago followed the advice of their lawyers and dropped the baccalaureate service for the high school graduates. The superintendent, being a man of faith, as were most of the school’s board and teachers and other employees, came to me and asked if the churches of our little town would provide the baccalaureate service for the graduates. Of course we gladly and willingly accepted and in a lot of ways it made things better. We were able to make the baccalaureate more personal and more religious in than before.
Is there bias against Christians? Yes. It seems that anti-Christian hostility is not what we thought. Praise the Lord!
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Baptism is the Sinner’s Prayer

It’s controversial. It may be the most controversial debate among Christians. To be saved does a person have to say “the sinner’s prayer,” or do they have to be “immersed” (IE., baptized)?

Personally, I had never heard of the sinner’s prayer until I began studying in Bible college. I grew up in church, was a part of Sunday School and youth groups, heard sermons and learned lessons from my parents and grandmother from the Bible and never once did I encounter the sinner’s prayer.

There’s a reason for that. The church I grew up in taught the Bible, not the doctrines of men. The Bible says nothing about a sinner’s prayer. The New Testament teaching about salvation involves a person coming to believe in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and their life of sin, confessing Jesus, and being immersed to be saved. There is nothing about saying a prayer.

Some past posts have dealt with this:

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/evangelism-is-what-it-is-or-is-it-what-must-i-do-to-be-saved/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/whats-the-bible-say/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/the-sinners-prayer/

If you click on the link “Salvation Stuff” on the left you will see several discussions about baptism. The real issue is what does the Bible say. The Bible says “Be Baptized” (meaning be immersed). I can’t find and no one has been able to show me where the Bible says to say a prayer for salvation.

When Jesus was baptized, he didn’t offer a prayer. I know he was sinless, but he was still immersed. Read through Acts,

Artwork entitled, "Difference of Opinion"

every conversion account involves baptism, but there in nothing about saying a prayer.

Recently, I received a comment about this from a reader. When some people he encountered learned he hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer, they question his salvation. You know, I might question theirs because they said a sinner’s prayer. The Bible says because you have believed in Jesus and repented, then be baptized. Were they baptized and why were they baptized?

The apostle Peter, the one Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to (Matthew 16:19), spiritually speaking (though he was implying that all the apostles had the keys), who preached the first sermon about Jesus Christ (Acts 2), he taught us that baptism is necessary.

In Acts 2, when the crowd asked what they needed to do to be saved, he said, “Repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Then after a few more words of encouragement, about 3000 people were baptized.

When Peter wrote the letter called 1 Peter, he wrote these words. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

Baptism now saves you. When you are immersed, you are appealing to God to save you because you have obeyed and followed the conditions God has set for your salvation. Your baptism in essence is the sinner’s prayer.

I believe the Bible, it is God’s Word, it is what I follow and teach, the Word of God. The Bible says be baptized.

Baptism is the sinner’s prayer!

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