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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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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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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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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Resurrection Sunday is Coming

The anniversary of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead is coming in just a few weeks. Jesus raised about 1,980 years ago and we recognize his resurrection regularly. I mean, without Jesus’ death and resurrection there wouldn’t be much to live for. Life would be fruitless and the current narcissistic society we live in would be the best. Live for all you’ve got and do whatever you want and you will be fulfilled.

But life is not about us. It is about our relationship with God. Yahweh is holy. His relationship with humanity is based on his holiness and our relationship with God is based on whether we accept holiness or not.

Jesus, God come to earth (ie., Emmanuel) is the only human who ever lived completely sinless. Jesus was and is holy. His death on the cross is our sacrifice to atone for our sinfulness and make us holy.

I recognize Jesus death and resurrection every day, at the least by living my life according to Jesus’ holiness that he gave me through my salvation. I celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection every Sunday. Worship on Sunday is the weekly celebration of Jesus’ resurrection because he raised on Sunday. The Lord’s Supper is the weekly celebration of Jesus’ death.

What is your plans for the annual anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection?

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Sinner’s Prayer Doesn’t Identify with Christ’s Death and Resurrection

“1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ wasraised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:1-10, NASB

The controversy of the sinner’s prayer versus baptism is first and mostly about what does God say? What is the doctrine of salvation? That is, what does the Bible say?

Since Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10) and God wants to save (1 Timothy 2:3-6) what does God require to be saved? What did Jesus’ apostles whom he gave the authority to teach and preach and initiate the church tell us? Be baptized!

We discussed that in the previous post, but why is baptism the manner in which God brings salvation. Romans 6 pretty well explains that. We have this need to die to sin. We’re dead in our sin. Our life sucks with sin.

When a person dies, we bury them and they have nothing to do with this life anymore. When we dead to sin, like Jesus died on the cross, we are to buried in water like Jesus was buried in the tomb. Now this is where the analogy ends because Jesus rose from the dead three days after he died. When we are immersed, we are buried in the water a dead sinner but we come back out of the water alive in Christ.

Baptism is our death, burial and resurrection, our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection which is where God dealt with our sin. If we don’t identify physically and spiritually with Jesus death, burial and resurrection, not having contact with it, how are we saved?

Saying a prayer won’t do it. There is no identification with Jesus death, burial and resurrection. It’s simple. The Bible teaches us that when a person believes, repents and is baptized, that person is saved.

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