I Believe in the Extraordinary

THE EXTRAORDINARY

Today we struggle to overcome atheism, apathy, and sexual issues, but in Elijah’s day, he fought idolatry. elijah and fire from GodUnfortunately, Israel was worshipping the false God’s Baal and Asherah (Baal’s fertility goddess).  This was because the evil queen Jezebel had promoted idol worship and her husband; King Ahab (king of Israel) allowed it and bowed to the idols too.

Elijah was one of the few in Israel to be completely faithful to God refusing to bow to the idols.  He made a challenge to prove to God’s people who the real and true God was.  So, Elijah, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and the people of Israel assembled on Mt. Carmel for the contest.  The idol’s prophets cried out to their god and he failed to respond.  Their sacrifice lay on the altar rotting.

Elijah built an altar to God, had wood and the sacrifice placed on the altar.  He had a ditch dug and gallons and gallons of water poured over the sacrifice: to make it more difficult for God? No, he did it to enhance the understanding of God’s power when he would burn the sacrifice.  God sent fire from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the altar and licked up the water.  Pretty extraordinary!  1 Kings 18

We expect healing, we expect, the sun to stand still, we even expect donkey’s to talk, but we don’t always expect the extraordinary.  I believe in the extraordinary.

bloggingthechurch

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!

bloggingthechurch

Am I Really Like This? (Romans Pt. 9)

A few years after I accepted Christ and was baptized, I began to experience a sense of guilt. I got my dad alone and told him I thought I needed to be baptized again.

I have to tell you that my dad was an elder at our church then and my dad was and is a man of wisdom. He studies God’s word. He learns and grows in understanding. I was 13 or 14 and he gave me some of the best advice and understanding I’ve ever received. Dad knew that there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6) and that I had been baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and salvation (Acts 2:38, and 1 Peter 3:21 ). He was there when I asked what I needed to do to be saved. He was there when I was baptized and shared in the prayer my preacher gave right after I was immersed. Dad knew the correct answer to my dilemma.

I needed to repent. I didn’t need to be baptized again (some call it rebaptism – it’s unheard of in the Bible). I just needed to repent. To determine to change and to live out the change into holiness.

Listen to Paul’s explanation of what we often title this section, “The Conflict of the Two Natures” . . . Romans 7:14-25

“14For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin,” NASB (Check out the New Living Translation; http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%207:14-25&version=NLT ).

Here’s the problem. We are human beings living in the material (fleshly) world. There are sinful, worldly, “fleshly” forces that tempt us and work on our knowledge of what sin is. It’s kind of like this. You walk by a park bench that’s just been painted and there is a sign that says, “Stay off. Wet Paint!’ What is your first inclination? Either you want to touch it to see if it is wet, or you want to touch it because it says, “Stay off!.” Being a little rebellious and disobedient.

We do the things we know we’re not supposed to do and we don’t do the things we know we ought to do. There is a struggle. We are saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). We have the Holy Spirit of God in us (Acts 2:38). But we are still living in this imperfect, sinful world until Jesus comes back. We are going to struggle. It will be difficult to keep from returning to the way of sin. Even Paul, who I thought when I was a teen was able to totally keep from sinning, struggled with doing what is right and not doing what is wrong.

Click on picture to enlarge

We’re supposed to be __________________. You can fill in the blank with words like, holy, righteous, perfected, etc.

If we have to struggle with what we were losing at in the first place because of sin, how is it possible to become what God wants me to become?

This is where you read Romans 8 and learn that God is at work in you and that is how you overcome the power of temptation and sin. Follow this link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%208&version=NASB

bloggingthechurch

This is What it Means to be Saved

You and I can talk all day about the conditions that lead to salvation and eternal life. It does need to be discussed. It IS important to know what must happen in your life and mine for us to gain salvation from God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We’ve dealt with these conditions before here (click on Salvation Stuff in the menu to the left).

What has got to happen in my life, what are the conditions that make it possible for God to save me?

I believe in Jesus. John 3:16; Romans 10:10&11). I believe that God sent Jesus and that he is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead. This is the beginning of discipleship. Every person that has ever been saved were saved because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. They have faith in God and in Christ and in the things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. BELIEF, that’s one.

I have to repent of my sin, Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30. If God is going to change me, because I am letting him, belief is opening the door and repentance is letting God in to clean out the mess that sin is. Repentance is as Gareth Reese says [“New Testament History, Acts,” College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO, 1976, page 145-147], “individual, inclusive, and indispensable.” Repentance is done by and found in individuals, and it is for everyone (inclusive) and salvation cannot happen without repentance (indispensable). It involves my intellect, knowledge of sin, a change in my emotions, I must feel the sense of guilt that I possess and be sorrowful for it, and it involves a change of my will, letting God take over my messed up life to make things right in my life. REPENTANCE is another.

I must confess Christ, Romans 10:10-11. If I have let change come into my life, it’s got to show. I have to say it. I have to let it out that I believe in Jesus and that I have made him my Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), that I belong to him, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. This is a continual thing. It doesn’t happen only once, it is constant. I belong to Christ, I declare that I am his by my lifestyle and my message of faith. CONFESSION, that’s a third one.

I must be baptized, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is immersion. That is what the word actually means and it is the only form that the church practiced with the apostles. I must submit myself in humility to baptism in order that God will forgive me of my sins and give me salvation. It all happens when we come in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection by our own death and resurrection. We are buried in baptism and raised from the water with new life. Pretty cool concept. A new life, a fresh start that propels me on my way to heaven. BAPTIZED, that a fourth one.

But is that what it means to be saved? Those are the conditions that make it possible for God to save us, but what it means to be saved is to be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in changed and being formed into the likeness of Christ.

You were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Sin distorted that image (it’s in your soul). Sin corrupted the goodness that is in you, it robbed you of innocence as God is good and innocence, you have no righteousness, but Jesus brings the change that will restore you to God’s good graces. He is God come to earth (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:15–16). And when we are saved through Christ, we are renewed. He refreshes that original image of God that we possess.

That means how we live, think, and act is totally different from the ways of the world. We possess the goodness and righteousness of God and do right and good and kindness in this world. We live holy as God is holy, without sin, with the power of God. We are saved and eternal life with God the Father is our home. We get to be with God because when we have met the conditions in our lives, where our heart, mind, and soul are prepared to accept Christ, then God saves us.

bloggingthechurch

God Gets Amnesia (Romans Pt 5)

What if everything bad you’ve ever done was forgotten? No one held any of it against you, no one accused you of being bad and doing wrong. How awesome would that be? Free from accusation and conviction; free from feeling guilt and fear; free to start over a new beginning. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

You are guilty of wrong because you have sinned against God and honestly, whatever wrong you have done (your sin), though it is an offense against God, it was probably committed in relationship with people. You hated someone, you lied to someone, you disobeyed your parents, you cussed someone out, you felt your boyfriend (or girlfriend, whichever) up. You have disobeyed God and you are guilty. Conscience, a law unto itself condemns you (Romans 2:12-16, 26-27). If you live by God’s Law, the Old Testament Law, aka, the Law of Moses, the Law and the Prophets, when you have broken any individual law, you are guilty of the whole Law (Rom. 2:17-25).

Wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t guilty of wrong? That’s what happens in Jesus Christ, through your faith in Jesus Christ. You are made right in Jesus Christ. The Bible, especially here in Romans uses the word justified.

When you write or type a paper or presentation, your margin is justified. It is made right. It is consistent and looks

Abraham

neat, and is easy to follow. It is straight, it is correct. When you are justified in Christ, you are made right, you have become righteous, you have the righteousness of Jesus attributed to your life. You are made just. You are have had justice assigned to you. You are justified in Christ.

Abraham is well-known to most of us. He’s the guy in Genesis 12 who obeyed God, left his country and became a nomad, not the classic 2-door Chevy wagon of the late 50’s, but someone who lived their life in tents, moving about as need and necessity warranted. Abraham was justified by faith. Romans 4 indicates that he didn’t do anything to earn rightness. God offered, he believed God and God certified that Abraham was righteous.

Paul quotes David in Romans 4:7-8. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the one whose sins the Lord will not take into account.”

Pretty cool, huh! Christ’s death, your faith, God’s forgiveness, your salvation.

It is by faith so that God’s grace can be input into your life, so you can be forgiven, your sins forgotten and not held against you, because if your sins are held against you, you are in trouble.

____________________________________________________________________________

Degarmo and Key sang about God having “Selective Amnesia” on their album Heat it Up! Following are the lyrics:

There is an eye in the sky, that sees in the darkness

He searches the soul and He pierces the conscience
I’m not proud or everything that He’s seen
But when it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia
It’s not that He’s old or losing His memory
I’ts just that He knows that we need His mercy
There’s no excuse for living in sin
But there’s always a chance to start over again
He knows it all and there’s some news that will please ya
When it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia

Press on and never look back
Press on, the past is the past
Press on, He’s paid for your debt
And you should remember that you’ve got to forget

There is an eye in the sky, that sees in the darkness
He searches the soul and He pierces the conscience
I’m not proud or everything that He’s seen
But when it comes to that past, He’s a mercy machine
He knows it all and there’s some news that will please ya
When it comes to that past, He’s got selective amnesia

Press on and never look back
Press on, the past is the past
Press on, He’s paid for your debt
And you should remember that you’ve got to forget


The Lukewarm Christian

The Lukewarm Christian – Revelation 3:14-22

 

There is no form of Casual Christianity that we want to be.

1st – the Christian Atheist – Christians who live as if there is no God

2nd – the Cultural Christian – Christians whose faith is guided by what the world thinks

3rd – the Lukewarm Christian!  Some call this the Comfortable Christian

Revelation 3:14-22

The book of Revelation gives us seven letters to seven churches located in Asia Minor.  These cities are in the middle of the first century world.  The churches in these seven cities were suffering persecution and tribulation from the Roman government, or soon would be.  There would be pressure to conform to times.  To worship just like everyone else.  To set Christianity aside, at lease for a moment or two to fit in with the rest of society!

Laodicea is the last church addressed by the Lord.  Just like the other churches, Jesus knows all about what they are experiencing.  His vision is not blinded to the struggles the church goes through.  He knows how the church is reacting to the pressures they are feeling.  Jesus is with the churches and gives them solutions to their problems.  And with Laodicea we find the solution to the problem of being lukewarm Christians – Christians without zeal for the Lord, who have become “uncommitted” to him and committed to themselves.

Jesus who is the Amen and the Faithful and True Witness writes to a church that he has nothing positive to say about them.  He has words of discipline.  They are not as they should be.  His words, his promises, his judgments are certain.  They are God’s values, God’s judgments, but of course that is who Jesus is.

He is also the “firstborn of creations” or the “originator” of it all.  Implying that he rules, he is the ruler of all.

So we’ve got a church that is lukewarm!  They are neither cold like the water in Colossae about 10 miles away, nor are they hot like the springs in Hierapolis about 6 miles away.  The water from these two spots were piped into Laodicea because it did not have a water supply of its own.  So once you got the cold water from Colossae to Laodicea, it wasn’t cold, it was warm.  Not the most pleasant taste.  And once you got the water from the hot springs to town, it was warm.  In fact, the water that came into Laodicea wasn’t very good.  It was disgusting.

The hot water was good for medicinal purposes and the cold water was refreshing to drink.  But lukewarm water was blah.

The point of describing lukewarm water is that it is disgusting.  Jesus finds the lukewarm church to be other than what HE desires.

The reason for their self-satisfied, uncommitted manner is that they think that since they are rich, they were wealthy people that really didn’t need anything.

Laodicea was a banking center.  Because of the wealth, there were leisure and cultural aspects, gladiatorial games and theatre; comfort, entertainment, diversions, etc.  It was an important city because it also had a major textile industry.  Clothing was made there and they had a unique product, black wool.  Oh, and, there was a medical school there and the city was famous for its eye salve among other medical breakthroughs.

Jesus is telling the self-satisfied church, “I want water that will refresh me, but you remind me instead of the water you are always complaining about.  You’re lack of zeal makes me want to vomit.”

Their wealth was a problem.  It had made them too comfortable and blinded them to what their faith was about.

What are the dangers of Physical wealth which can lead us to Spiritual poverty?

  • Self-sufficiency, trusting in what I have acquired, it is enough, etc.
  • Pride, look at what I have done
  • Not needing nor wanting any outside help including from the Lord
  • Prosperity blinds us.

Craig Keene says “I fear that the problems of Laodicean Christians are most like our own.”

Richard Sterns of World Vision (formerly CEO of Lenox Inc. makers of fine China), “If the book of Revelation were written today and there was a letter to the church in America, I think it would decry the fact that our materialism and wealth have deafened our ears and blinded our eyes to the cause of the poor.”

Every American is rich.  Even those that are considered poor by our standards are wealthy compared to a majority of the rest of the world and even the wealthiest of kings up until the last 400-500 years or so.

And many Christians cannot see their spiritual need, how poor and blind they are because they have.  They are comfortable and settled and trust in what they have and ignore what God says about things and the needs of others.

What is “true religion” as James tells us?  It is to look after widows and orphans, those who are poor, helpless, and oppressed and to keep yourself unstained by the world, to be pure in heart, to be holy, to be free from sin (James 1:27).

What Richard Sterns was getting at is that we can hear about suffering elsewhere and often we will find theological or even sociological reasons that it won’t happen to us, and even to avoid actually spending our wealth, even in the church on those needs.  Our walk . . . can make us spiritually poor.

There is a church I know of, that a friend of mine used to preach for.  He was their minister for many years, but resigned after challenging them.  They had accumulated an excessive amount of savings, in the tens of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t touch it for anything.  There were missions in need, the camp they supported could have used extra funds, people struggling with rent and utilities, but they would not touch this money that they had been saving for decades.  And as far as I know, they still haven’t touched it to this day.  They are rich in wealth, but where is their spiritual sense of purpose and action.

The lukewarm church, lukewarm Christians are people who possess the name Christian, but do so without the power of God.

Jesus has a solution to lukewarmness

1st – Though you possess what makes you feel comfortable, Jesus advises that we buy true wealth from him.  Trust in him not our physical riches.  Physical riches are not for making us comfortable, they are for us to help spread the good news and provide for the needy.

2nd – Though we think we are clothed, we are naked before God, so buy clothes from Jesus that will cover our nakedness.  The true clothing of Christianity, not self-sufficiency but trust in Christ.

3rd – Repent and become totally committed to me.  Let me build a fire of zeal for true faith and true religion in your belly and free you from what makes you taste horrible to me.  Then you will be like refreshing water.

4th – Open the door and let Jesus come in and eat with you.  The last meal of the day is the meal of intimate fellowship.  That is where the relationship grows and bonds and becomes alive.  Let Jesus come in and let him develop the relationship of faith and hope and trust and joy with him.  He wants to be a part of your life.

John is helping the church see their behavior as Jesus sees it.  Their vision has been cut off due to their complacency.  They have relied upon themselves and not God.  By their own self-sufficiency they have shut Jesus out.

Jesus is calling them on it.  He loves them, so he will discipline them inviting them to repent and become committed again.  He promises them that if they will come alive, they will rule with him.  That does not mean we will be kings like Christ is king, but that as his people, we are the ruler’s people, we are his people.

You trusted in your riches and wealth and thought you were good.  But you are actually wretched and poor, blind and naked.  You are not as you think you are.  You have not examined and evaluated your life.  Because it is distasteful to me, if you remain this way, if you do not change, you do not let me in, then your eternity that you once trusted in is at stake.

 

bloggingthechurch

The Uncomfortable Truth (Romans Pt 2)

I believe it’s pretty common, most people want or try to improve themselves. The New Year is a popular time for people to reevaluate their lives and resolve themselves to improving themselves in some way. Eat healthier, lose weight, develop stronger relationships, help the needy more, be more productive at work, etc.

I think we all want change that is desirable to ourselves as well as is beneficial to those around us. Isn’t that a good goal? Be better and make the world a better place.

We also rely upon others to make things better. In the past couple of national elections, the main reason America elected most of the candidates they did was to see our country become a better place, economically and socially, to put the biases and divisions behind and find a unity that might propel our country forward as not only the greatest nation it has been, but that it will become even greater.

There are organizations whose purpose is to benefit and improve the lives of others. They may be concerned with the planet, or with poverty, or with animals, or education, or any number of things.

We humans want to be better. How well we’re doing at that is a matter of opinion, but there is one uncomfortable truth that each individual must wrestle with, whether we like it or not. Here is the fact – we human beings are sinners!

Bad word. No one likes that word and a lot of us want to deny that is what we are. We weren’t born that way, we were born with the ability to learn and the free-will to choose and we learn to sin and we choose to sin which makes us sinners.

We all want to improve ourselves just like I already noted, but we cannot improve or change until we understand and admit that need. I can’t overcome being overweight until I consciously and emotionally admit that it’s not good and then I must have the conviction and determination that something needs to be done about it and so I’m grateful for Nutrisystem. Until I come to that point in my life, my weight will remain, or actually, continue to increase, even if only gradually.

We hide ourselves from God because we have sin. Sin never accomplishes anything positive. It actually separates us from God. We want to deny that, but it is true. Look at Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men” (sin and sinfulness) “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (NIV)

We try to hide from our sin. Yet we are sinners and God will punish sin. Romans 6:23 says plainly, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

It’s not good. George Carlin (1937-2008) accused Christians of being the reason for the problems in the world. I will admit that some Christians have created problems in the world, and at the same time I realize that many who claim to be Christians do not represent God or the spirit of Christianity. I think that Carlin, and others like Bill Maher have lumped all people who claim to be Christians into one basket. That is dangerous. That’s like saying every Democrat is liberal or every Republican is conservative and interpreting the characteristics of each party on the basis of a few people. That’s not fair.

The problems in the world is sin. It always has been. Sin is a separation from God. Sin puts up a wall that keeps us from reaching God and keeps God away from our lives. We like the moral teachings of Jesus, we revel in the care for the weak, the crippled, and the poor that the Bible endorses, but just being moral, or being helpful doesn’t bring us close to God because sin has separated us from him.

The sad reality is that each and every one of us has learned to and has chosen to sin. A single white lie, disobeying our parents, stealing a dime from the kid sitting next to you in math class, any single thing was enough to build the wall. And the more we do things that are sin, it’s makes this proverbial wall higher, and wider, and even thicker separating us further from God.

All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23 (NASB), or as “The Message says, “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us….”

We can’t please God in this way. We can’t get close to God with sin, in fact, he doesn’t hear our cries out to him in need or in thanksgiving unless we are repenting of our sin.

Another sad reality is, since we humans sin and seem to want to keep sinning, God has given us over to that sin and things continue to go from bad to worse in our lives and in the world. God will not force his will on us, but his desire is to have a close and intimate relationship with you and me.

The truth is uncomfortable, but it is not hopeless.

blogging the church