Who Am I?

Thanks for asking.

The simplest answer is, “I am a unique creation of Yaweh.” And, I’d like to add, “So are you!

I hope that doesn’t offend you; but if it does, I’m afraid you’re going to have to live with it. You can choose to ignore it, …but you can’t change it. And ignoring it isn’t going to work to your advantage in the long run.

You see, Yaweh is the one true God of all creation—the God of the Jews and Christians. Yaweh is the creator of the universe—and, every thing in it. Most importantly for this discussion, He created every human as a unique individual.

Have you ever really thought about just how unique you are? On the molecular level, consider your DNA. That alone distinguishes you from the vast majority of all humans wandering the planet. Other distinguishing physical traits are your unique finger-prints and retinal-prints.

Then there is personality—a small percentage of which you inherited from your mother and father. If you grew-up with siblings, think about the common experiences you shared. Did they effect everyone in the exact same way? Do you remember the tiniest details the same way, or would you even agree on what was “tiny” and what was “major”? Then what lessons did you carry away from those “common” experiences? And, how have they affected your psyche and outlook on life?

What you inherited, and what you have learned by formal schooling, street smarts, relationships, how it was taught and by who, your personal observations, and even where you learned it—it all works toward assuring your uniqueness.

OK. We’re both unique. So what?

Well, hang onto that thought while I tell you a bit about your creator YHVH.

“YHVH” is the Hebrew word that translates as “LORD”. This name is found more often in the Old Testament than any other name for God (approximately 7,000 times). The title is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton,” meaning the “The Four Letters”. YHVH comes from the Hebrew verb “to be” and is the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM;’ and He said, ‘thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you… this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations’”. [Exodus 3:13-14]. Therefore, YHVH declares God’s absolute being; and the source of everything—without beginning and without end.1

Now, let’s back-up for just a moment; and look at the very first name for God that we find in the Bible: “Elohim”. It is used about 2,300 times in the Old Testament and its first occurrence is in Genesis 1:1—the very first verse of the Bible. Elohim means, “all powerful”; and its form is, plural! Important? Oh, yeah! Originally a mystery, its meaning is slowly revealed throughout the rest of the Bible. While we worship the one true God, we (now) know our God is a triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit difficult to wrap your mind around. It helps me to think of God as the spirit He is, with three different personas. Each of which can operate separately yet stay unified with the whole.

OK. I’m sorry if your head is spinning. I know it’s a lot for some of you to take in. Here is a quick summary of the critical points:

Our God has many names and each name tells us more about Him. The two names we have just talked about, tell us a great deal about God; starting with—our God is not a created being. He is an absolute being. He truly exists. And more than that…

He is an eternal being, or Spirit—without beginning or end.

Our One God has three personas—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit).

God is all powerful and the author of creation. The entire universe was set into existence by the spoken words of God. And that includes every living thing on planet Earth—including you and me. Mankind was created on the sixth day2 and created in the image of God.3

So just what is my point?

Well first, I have a question for you. Who are you?

Based on the above, you might reply that like me, you are a child of God.

And, while that would be a correct answer on one level, it may not be totally correct. You see, far… far… back in our lineage we have a set of grand-parents named Adam and Eve. That’s right. The first man and woman created by God. They knew God intimately. In fact, they physically walked and talked with God on their strolls through the Garden of Eden. They lived in a paradise with no rules—but one. They were instructed by God not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. It was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And God told them that if they did eat of it, they would surely die.

The short version of this story is that Satan, a fallen angel, deceived Eve by telling her if she ate the fruit, she wouldn’t die4. Rather, she would be like God, …knowing good from evil. Eve ate some of the fruit and then convinced Adam to also eat the fruit. And things changed—BIG TIME. Eve and Adam knew they should not go against the only rule God had given them, but they did it anyway, …and that is known as “sin”. Our grandparents, using their freewill intentionally disobeyed God and introduced sin into what had been a perfect environment. And their original sin has infected every man and woman born, or yet to be born, with a sinful nature5. It blocks our communication with God and condemns us to death and eternity in Hell. In fact, sin infected the whole physical planet; and caused God to withdraw to heaven.6

That’s It?

Oh, NO! Time passes. (And God had devised a great—an almost too incredible to believable, plan.) Out of God’s great love for His children, He devised a plan of grace7 that would blot out mankind’s sins for all time; provide for redemption, and restore us to God’s family for eternity. Many prophets (in the old testament) alluded to the plan. Some quite specifically, in retrospect.

Then, in about 5 BC, God implemented His plan. (If you get nothing else out of this post, read and consider the next two paragraphs. GET THIS!)

Out of Gods grace, He sends the Holy spirit to visit His children. The Holy Spirit looks into our hearts, and works to convict us of our sins and our inability to “fix ourselves”. Yes, we are all sinners, and we will be until we die, or are called home. No man or woman is perfect. It is impossible to live on this broken planet without sinning. Big sins, little sins, or both. (As we tend to think of them. Actually, to God there is no distinction. Sin is sin.) And, while God makes no distinction of sins, there is a distinction of sinners: Forgiven and Unforgiven.

None of us know the exact time of our earthly death. And in the meantime, the Holy Spirit is whispering, sometimes shouting.8 Trying to get our attention, fighting our freewill, convicting us to believe that God is God. That He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to be born of a virgin; to live a perfect life performing miracles and healing the wounds and hearts of broken people; and then to be sacrificed on a Roman cross—carrying the sins of every person who has, and ever will, repent of their sins, from a contrite heart, and ask for forgiveness while declaring Jesus as their Lord and savior. And then He arose from his grave three days later, thus fulfilling prophecies from both the old and new testaments; not only proving His Deity, but, also giving us the promise of a new (eternal) life as a Christian, following his plan for our unique gifts. And, it is free!

And, I actually have three points to make…

First: God offers us his plan at no cost. All of this, …for only believing and asking, …bestowed through the grace of God’s great love for His creation, …YOU and ME. But remember, God is not “only” a God of Love and Grace. He is also a “Just” God. He will never force you to do anything against your will. Your eternal destination is 100 percent your choice. And choosing not to make a decision, or saying “not yet” is the same as saying, “No.” God does not want to send anyone to hell.9 In fact He grieves over every lost soul that is sent there. Never-the-less, He will send you where you choose, and you MUST choose before you die.

My second point is: While it is a given that every one on earth is a sinner; there are those of us who have asked for, and received, salvation, redemption and restoration to God’s family. We are living new lives patterned after Christ’s example, and have a personal relationship with Him that assures we will spend eternity in Heaven with our triune God.

My Third point is: If you recognize that you are a sinner, and know that you cannot save yourself, the Holy Spirit is talking to you and leading you to take action and become a Christian by repenting (confessing) your sins to Jesus and asking his forgiveness. Tell Jesus that you want to become a follower (which is what a Christian is—a follower of Christ). Tell Jesus you love Him and are ready to begin the new life He has planned for you.

It is truly that simple. Yet, for many it is too difficult.

When you do establish this relationship something truly incredible will happen. The Holy Spirit will move into your heart to act as your guide and interpreter. Really! And never forget this scripture:

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:27-28. NLT]

My Prayer:

Yaweh (I AM),

Scientists tell us the universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago, when a tiny singularity (or vacuum fluctuation) containing (what we now call) the universe, and energy (known as a scalar field) suddenly appeared in space—out of nothing at all. The energy field in this singularity acted as “antigravity” inflating the bubble instantaneously to the size of a grapefruit. By this point the antigravity was converted to heat energy which kept expanding (at a more sedate speed) due to the push of the inflation. This is now referred to as the “Big Bang”.

I prefer the description of creation presented in the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1] And I see no conflict with the science. Now we know where the singularity came from and what triggered it—while providing the design, rules, matter and energy for the creation. Thank you, God!

Scientists tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old. And mankind may be 50,000 years old. The Bible tells us you created Adam and Eve; but again, doesn’t tell us when. I do believe you created them. And would, if for no other reason than they are the most unique part of all creation. You created them in your image, and you gave them life!

Neither do we know when Satan seduced Eve into doing what she knew to be wrong—and, the same for Adam. Nor, do we know exactly how long it was before you chose Moses to lead your people out of enslavement in Egypt. But we do know the first book of the Torah (also the first book of the Christian Bible) was written about 1450 BC, by Moses.

Your Words, recorded in the 66 books of the Bible over that next millennium and a half, give me all the knowledge and instruction I need to know about you, the One True God. I know you love your entire creation—most especially, mankind.

40 Years ago, you chose me a second time; when I was as undeserving as I could ever be. You picked me up, dusted me off and led me into a new life. The path you set me on led to the perfect wife and life partner. Together, we have been blessed beyond measure. And now, we look forward to what you still have in store for us as we move forward loving God, following Jesus, and striving to love others as we love ourselves.

I know I am not perfect in my walk; never-the-less, your love, grace, and guidance, endure. I thank you, and praise you for your never ending love.

Your loving servant,

Larry


1. Although some pronounce YHVH as “Jehovah” or “Yaweh,” scholars really don’t know the proper pronunciation because the ancient Hebrew alphabet had no vowels. For pronunciation purposes due to the absence of vowels in the Tetragrammaton, Bible scholars have chosen to spell it either Yaweh, or sometimes, Yahweh.

2.There is much debate about the Creation of the universe. Some say in a great explosion of a singularity formed the universe.. Some say God started the process and the universe evolved over billions of years. Still others say; six days. And while almost all religions have a story of the creation, only the Bible postulates that one supreme God created the earth out of his great love; and gave mankind a special place in it. How long it took is unknown. The Bible does not say how long it took. Some take the term “day” to be a literal 24 day period. Others say the word “day” represents an indefinite period of time (even millions or billions of years).

3. What does it mean when the bible says that man was created in God’s image? Obviously, this is another occasion when God was not being totally literal. God is a Spirit. God can assume the form of man. What God did was create men and women as unique beings capable of communicating with him. No other part of creation can claim that incredible capability.

4. Satan was doing what he does best, …lying. And, using God’s children as a tool to attack God.

5. Except for Jesus Christ.

6. God is Holy and cannot abide the presence of sin.

7. Grace: unmerited favor. i.e. We didn’t earn it, nor do we deserve it. It is free for believing and asking from a broken and contrite heart. God also gave mankind freewill and the ability to reflect his (God’s) character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness.

8. You will not lose your freewill. God loves His creation and does not want robots who have no choice but to obey. At the same time it means you will never be perfect while on earth.

9. God created hell for Satan and his followers. While I cannot imagine exactly what hell is like, I can tell you that it is a place you DO Not want to be. I know it is totally devoid of God and any good thing. If you think life on earth can be difficult, try to imagine a place where there is no love, no kindness, no charity, no understanding, no truth, no mercy, no help of any kind, no music, no laughter. There will be constant pain and sorrow. And more filth.

 

 

 

 

 

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Unmerited Mercy…

You’ve probably heard the following statement, “God reaches down to man through His great Love; and, man reaches up to God through religion.” I totally agree with the first half. And must sadly say for many people, I think the second half of the statement is also correct—but, dead wrong. (Pun intended). FLASH! No religion can save you from your sins, …or secure your place in Heaven!

Man has taken something that should be pure and simple—our belief in, trust in, and love for, God (who loved us first); and perverted it through ignorance, arrogance, greed, and pride—then called it, …Religion.

Let’s look at the basics.

1. Through God’s Grace,* Christianity is available to the world.

All people are God’s creation. God intended that all mankind would have a perfect relationship with Him—for eternity. But then, Adam and Eve, with encouragement from Satan used their free-will, and introduced sin into the world. This immediately drove a wedge between mankind and God. And mankind would suffer for thousands of years in sin, and rebellion.

Then God, through His Grace, began a plan that would provide mankind a pathway of hope. The cost to God was all but unthinkable. Never-the-less, God began phase one of the plan. He sent His Son Jesus to earth. Where, over approximately 35 years, Jesus lived a sin-free life and became the only possible blood sacrifice that could cover mankind’s sin and restore our relationship with God. Then, after His death, He arose, proving without a doubt that He was indeed the Son of God and was truthful in His offer of forgiveness for sin, and restoration with God; and the promise of eternal life. The pathway is open!

Oh, did I mention that God’s plan has two distinct parts? Well, it does. And God sending His son to Earth as a sacrifice was a critical part. But the next part is equally critical, …and, it is your part! (Which I will explain soon).

But for the moment, imagine yourself at your worst. You are covered in sin and standing at the foot of a cross. Above you, a stripped and dying man is hanging on that cross by nails hammered through His hands and feet, with a crown of thorns pushed deeply into His head. Blood is flowing freely from those wounds—and from where the skin was ripped off of his back; when he was lashed with a whip embedded with bits of metal and glass. Around you the soldiers are mocking this man while others are hurling insults and cursing Him.

And now, this man turns His eyes on you, and speaks directly to you; “I’m doing this for you—that you might enter into my Father’s presence and live with us forever in Heaven.”

That dear friend, if you are not “saved” is you. And you have now stepped onto the stage to assume your part in God’s great plan.

2. Jesus is the only way to the Father and eternal life.

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. [Romans 3:23, 24] Notice, everyone has sinned!

For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. [John 3:16, NLT] Notice God’s plan is open to, “…everyone who believes in Him.”

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [John 14:6] Jesus was speaking. Redemption comes only through Jesus Christ!

That is exactly how you become saved. I suspect you are now beginning to understand your roll in God’s plan. You have a choice to make. And if you understand that, then the Holy Spirit is calling you to make that choice now. You can say, “No. I’m not interested.” Or, you can say, “Not right now, I’m kind’a interested; but, I’m just not ready to make a decision.” Well you just made that decision. You said, “No.” And hopefully you may have time to decide for Christ. But, there are no guarantees. We do not know our allotted time on Earth.

Or, you can say, “Yes” to Jesus by… praying directly to Him. It’s easy. (Note: Please read this prayer first, and then if you truly want to become a follower of Christ, go back and repeat it.) You can do this silently, or out-loud. Jesus will hear you either way.

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God; that You died on the cross; and that You arose from the grave three days later. Jesus, I know I cannot live a sinless life through my own efforts. I want to accept Your free gift of salvation, purchased for me by Your blood, shed as You died on the cross. Jesus, I want to repent of my sins; and I desire to follow Your plans for my life. Jesus, I also thank the Holy Spirit for convicting me of my need for God’s Plan of Salvation and Redemption. Thank you for loving me and giving me a new life.

That was a, Yes! And, if you prayed it, there is a celebration going on in Heaven, right now.

Through God’s mercy we will receive forgiveness for our sins (Acts 10:43); the Holy Spirit will come to live within us (see John 16:7-15); and our faith is established. Thus begins our relationship, our walk, with God.

3. First I assure you, If you prayed the above prayer from your heart—in other words, you really meant ityou are a Christian and the Holy Spirit has entered your heart! It would be VERY difficult to lose your Christianity/Salvation because God is always with you; so don’t worry about that.

Jesus tells us that when the Holy Spirit enters our hearts, He will be our advocate, and our counselor. (The Holy Spirit performs other functions, but these two titles are key, at least to me). As my Advocate, the Holy Spirit interprets my prayers and petitions to God. As my Counselor, He interprets scripture and leads me into all truth. Wow! Now those are two things I really need when struggling to live a Christian life in modern American society. And note, all this is just between us, and our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t make you perfect. You will be perfected through Death, when you receive your new body and enter into Heaven. In the meantime you are forgiven and moving towards perfection. But that is not a “get out of jail free card.” You will still sin. Yes, God knows your sin, and He has already forgiven you; never-the-less, ask for forgiveness. And ask God to increase your faith and strength to abolish that particular sin from your life. Why? Because your sins have consequences. Consequences you will have to deal with. God can help you through the stress and strain, but He will not remove those consequences. Learn to think of them as “lessons.”

He returns or calls you home, continue your walk with Christ. Your faith will grow, your love for others will grow; and in general, your walk will get stronger. Some temptations will disappear, others will grow weaker. Some will not. (Satan does not give up easily, and he knows your weaknesses.) But God is ever near, and He will not allow you to fall as long as your faith endures.

And remember, …you’ve just got started in a new life. And, God has only good plans for you. What do you think God could accomplish through your work with Him as your guide?

Abba Father,

…You know I haven’t posted in more than a month. And you know I started this post headed in a very different direction; But somehow it got hi-jacked. And, I know better than to resist, so this is our outcome.

It is now the middle of the Christmas season. And while it should be ALL about You, we tend to get caught up in parties and finding just the right gift for our friends and family members. We have to get cards out. School programs to attend. And we can’t forget visiting relatives, travel, and that all important big feast. We often spend way more than we should—and then worry about the bills. Forgive us, Lord. That is no way to celebrate Your birth.

Draw us back to you Lord. Show us the way to honor You by giving You the glory during this miraculous time. Show us that we can have fun while expressing our love for one another, and You. Having a feast is fine. Visiting those we have not seen for a long time can be wonderful. Just help us to remember that You are truly the reason and the focus of our celebration. Help us to not get carried away with “our” plans; but to constantly include You in this new life You have given us. Actually, our best gift, …EVER!

Lord, how I need you, and love you…

Larry

* I think every language has many individual words that have multiple meanings. And English is certainly one of them. (Check out “fast” for example!) And so, different characteristics and qualities of God often have multiple definitions and nuances. The word “grace” is no exception. For this post I am speaking of God’s Grace as: …”unmerited mercy or favor.” God’s Grace far surpasses His kindness and provision for us. Think of his infinite compassion and mercy; that he sent His Son to Earth, to the Cross, and to Hell, …for sinners, …like us. And in return? He asks only that we believe, and trust in Him. The reward will certainly be worth it.

Brain Programming

Our brain is a truly marvelous computer.  Our most personal computer.  It has never been reverse engineered, so there are no competing models.  And nothing designed by man has come even close to the capabilities of the three pound (approx.) human brain. 

There is a great deal we know about the brain; and, far more yet to be learned.  Further, much of what we learn is vague.  e.g. Some areas of the brain show strong lateralization, particularly areas that are involved in language. In most people, the left hemisphere is “dominant” for language, with the right hemisphere playing only a minor role. There are other functions, such as spatiotemporal reasoning, for which the right hemisphere is usually dominant.  But did you notice the words, “most people” and “usually dominant”. Yes, it will likely be a long time (if ever) before we fully understand the human brain.

But a clinical understanding of the brain is not the purpose of this post.  The purpose of this post is to cast light on how Satan schemes and attacks us; and, how we can stand against his attacks.

Living as a follower of Christ is not easy.  It is a constant battle with a super-natural being who is forever trying to destroy us by shooting lies at our heart.  Jesus has given us His unconditional love, plus freedom, joy and contentment.  And, the father of lies follows right behind whispering his trash into our brain.  He may be saying things like, “You a Christian?  After the things you’ve thought and done? No way.”  Or, “Who could ever love you?  You don’t deserve love?” Or, “Go ahead, tell them what they want to hear.  You deserve that commission”.  Very often these thoughts (whispers) will sound like good, logical, normal thoughts.  They may even make sense and sound true.  e.g. The old “Go ahead. Everyone else does it”.  Thus, it is quite possible that you have “bought into them” and accepted them.  So, first we have to be able to identify Satan’s lies.  But, how?

If it sounds true, it may not be.  Why?  Because God’s ways – His truth – is very often not what we are used to.  It is often totally opposite to the ways we have known.  It may not be what you are prepared to hear, or want to hear.  Think about it.  We swim in our culture.  A culture that comes at us from every direction, every waking hour, and from multiple sources.  It is foreground and background.  It is next to impossible to escape, and most of it is Satan’s propaganda – pure and simple.  (OK, that word ‘pure’ may not have been quite the best choice).

The problem is (and how this ties into the first two paragraphs) is that our culture has played a very significant role in the programming of our brain.  Our brain then directs our thoughts and feelings, what we say and how we act.  And the longer we think a particular way the more ingrained into our system that thinking becomes.  (Think default programs).  Additionally, what we think about and dwell on long enough, we will act upon.  It is self-fulfilling and very often, ultimately, self-destroying. 

Therefore, it is critical that we know how to distinguish between what is of God and the life in His Kingdom that He wants to give us;  and what is of Satan’s evil ambitions which are totally opposed to God’s Kingdom, … and, will lead us to death. 

OK, this would be a really good point to pause your reading of this post and read my post of February 19, 2013.  It’s title is ”How’s Your Eyesight?”. 

Welcome back.  Remember this, God will never contradict Himself.  If what you are thinking contradicts the following characteristics, …it’s not from God or of His Kingdom.  “Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Love will last forever….” 1Cor 13:4-8 [NLT].   That’s a good start, and here are some more characteristics of Kingdom thinking “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Phi 4:8 [NIV].

And this, …the key scripture for this post.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Romans 12:2 [NLT]. Hmmm, “…renewing of your mind.”  Sounds like programming to me.

Romans 12:9 tells us to, “…Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” As citizens of God’s Kingdom we are to hate (loathe, detest and despise) any sinful thing with which we come into (any form of) contact.  These things have no place in God’s Kingdom.  We won’t be able to make God’s earthly Kingdom perfect – that will happen when Christ returns – but, we can make it better.  Allow God to reprogram your mind.  Let’s get on with it.

Abba, I live in awe that in all of your creation, you created me… unique. And, that you actually desire this relationship with me.  Lord, I want to become exactly what you would have me be.  I want to fulfill your plans for my life. 

For that to happen, I need to renew my mind.  And, I know I can’t do that by myself.  So, I’m asking you to help me with this.  You know every corner of my mind – even those part’s I’d like to hide.  Help me to replace everything that is not from you Lord, with the tools and armor I will need to complete my work here on planet Earth.

Then help me Abba, to recognize the lies that Satan will use when trying to gain a foothold in my heart and mind.  When he attacks, help me to respond in appropriate and effective ways – not attacking people, but rather standing my ground, and relying on you to take care of the true enemy.  This is my desire Lord; and, I ask it in Jesus name. Amen, and thank you.

Avery Goodday

 

A note of caution: Remember, we do not hate people.  “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 [NLT]. And also remember this: every person who becomes a follower of Christ is “ground” won from Satan.  That’s a victory!

Does Jesus Know You?

Believe it or not, that is the most important question of your life!  Does Jesus know you?  Why is it so important?  Consider the following: Jesus is speaking:

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me you evil doers!’” (Matthew 7:21 – 23, NIV)

OK. I hope I have your attention.  This concept that some who call Jesus Lord, will not enter into Heaven is difficult to grasp.

Let’s start here:  Jesus tells us exactly why those people won’t get into Heaven.  That reason is, He doesn’t know them. Let’s go to another brief passage of Scripture, this time from John. To say  the Pharisees studied the Scriptures is a gross under-statement.  Never-the-less, Jesus told them:

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

There is a common theme here.  The Pharisees were the experts on the Bible of their times – the Old Testament.  They knew the Scriptures “backwards and forwards,” but failed to apply them in their lives.  They knew the Old Testament prophesies; but either could not, or would not, recognize Jesus as the Messiah to which those prophesies pointed.  Blinded by their religion, they did not let Jesus change their lives, …for Eternity. 

Now, why would the Pharisees not get into Heaven?  Because they would not go to him for Life.

And now some of you are saying, “Wait a minute, that’s not the same thing at all.  The Pharisees didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God.  All of us who call Him ‘Lord’, do.  That’s a big difference!” Well maybe there is a difference and maybe there isn’t, …from God’s perspective. Therefore, we must understand what Jesus means when He says, “I never knew you”. 

But, everybody knows that Jesus already knows EVERYTHING about them – not only what they do, but even what they think, Right? Yes, He does.  So, evidently that is not what Jesus is talking about. 

To know what Jesus is talking about we need to start way back in time. All the way back to a point shortly after the creation of Adam and Eve.  Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk and talk directly with God?  Now, in Genesis 3: 8,9 we see that God has come to talk with Adam and Eve. They hear Him approaching.  And for the first time, they hide from Him.  Why, because they have disobeyed Him; and, they are experiencing strange new emotions… shame and fear. 

Their disobedience (or sin) broke the direct relationship God desired with man.  That relationship would not be repaired for thousands of years. Not until Jesus died on the cross; thus “covering over” our sin, did we regain a pathway to direct relationship with God.

The sad part is, that “wedge of sin” remains firmly in place for anyone who does not re-establish a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. And, by relationship, Jesus is not talking about mere knowledge or simple recognition.

We each establish our unique and personal relationship with Jesus when we believe and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior (Christ).  We commit our will to follow Him at any cost.  We can not acknowledge Jesus as our Savior today, and withhold making Him our Lord until a later date.  This acknowledgment must include all of yourself, leaving no part of your being unaffected. You, all of you, must move under the Lordship of Christ.

A.W. Tozer put it this way:

To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words, ‘And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.’ (1John 4:17).  We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future.”*

That’s not always easy.  You will be changed.  God will change you. There are things you will have to give up.  God will provide new interests.  Some life directions will change, some may not.  And, you will struggle with this (off and on) for the rest of your days here on planet earth.  Why?  First, and very important:  it is not a sign that you are not saved.  Rather, it is because you live on a broken planet; in a broken culture that is more in tune with Satan than Christ.  But clearly, that is not a blanket excuse to sin!  Jesus “knows” those who are truly working for God’s Kingdom.

<<< Please stop right now and read Psalm 139. >>>

David was a man who knew God, and God knew Him  (Imperfections and all). He talked to His God …frequently and frankly, …hiding nothing. What He wanted from God, He asked for …bluntly.  When God spoke to Him, whether directly or through others, David listened and took action …immediately.  We are not “David”.  But he’s a pretty good role model; and, Christ is our ultimate role model.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Are we committed (“all in”) for Jesus?   He is our Lord.  Are we under His perfect Lordship.  He has great and glorious plans for every one of us.  Why would we withhold anything from Him?

In His plan I will reach my maximum potential and richest contentment. (It took me a very long time to really believe this).  There are times I realize I’m still taking “baby steps”.  And sometimes my big steps are in the wrong direction.  There are times when I find myself hanging onto …things. O.K, let’s call it what it really is – sin.  Things I should have let go of, or changed, long ago.  Things like grudges, fantasies, values, hurts, guilt, idols – oh, I could go on; but, I think you get the idea.

Yes, Jesus already knows every bit of this – with far better understanding than I have.  But, it makes all the difference when I sit down with Him, and He hears it directly from me.  And then, together we work on a course correction.  That’s building our relationship and that’s what my Lord, and best friend, is looking for.

And, like I’ve said before, it’s a very good thing for me that His love is unconditional – and boundless.

Avery Goodday

* The Best of A.W. Tozer, Book One, pg. 103, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe, WingSpread Publishers, 1978, 2000.  (Scripture from New Living Translation).

Christian? (Part 1)

In my last post I stated, Tragically, the majority of those calling themselves Christian are riding the fence between Heaven and earth.  By that I mean, they “claim” Christianity…” (supposedly placing themselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ) “…while they live something quite different. They have bought into the values of our culture.”

I’m afraid that some may have taken offense at my words.  If so, I’m sorry.  I have no license to offend because I write a blog.  I did however want to get your attention; and, I can verify why I made that statement.  (Many of the following statistics will be taken from the book Unchristian,1 by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.)

Speaking now of Americans:  64% of the age group 18-41 say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their life.  And 73% of the age group 42+ say they have made the same decision.  And the percent of each group that actually embrace a biblical worldview is: for the 42+ age group, 9%; for the 18-41 age group, 3%.2

These statistics may or may not surprise you.  They floored me – especially the “worldview” numbers.  Among self-identified Christians ages 23 to 41 and 42+ these are the percentages who believe the following activities are morally acceptable. Cohabitation: 59% & 33%.  Gambling: 58% & 38%.  Sexual thought-fantasies about someone: 57% & 35%.  Sex outside of marriage: 44% & 23%.  Using profanity: 37% & 17%.  Getting drunk: 35% & 13%.  Looking at pictures of nudity or explicit sexual behavior: 33% & 19%.  Having an abortion: 32% & 27%. Having sexual relationship with someone of the same sex: 28% & 13%.  Using drugs not prescribed for you: 16% & 8%.  Allowing the “f-word” on broadcast television: 7% & 6%.3

These are difficult figures for me to accept; and, I have to wonder what God thinks of them.  It tells me that many Christians in America are living far outside God’s will; and yes, all of us are hypocrites to one extent or another.4

Moreover, I think the reason is this.  Most Christians are hung-up on religion. They are obsessed with what they learned in Sunday School and Church.  They have all those “thou shalt not-s” down pat.  But, they continue to break them.  (Actually, we all do, if we’re honest with ourselves.)  But, eventually, many Christians decide they just can’t “measure-up” to the standards set by Jesus and they give-up trying.

The Jews had/have the same problem.  I don’t know how many laws you will find in Leviticus, but it’s far, way far, more rules than can possibly be obeyed “to the letter”.  Thus, the result is the same for the Jews.

Jews claim Judaism, and Christians claim Christianity… but many live their lives in some form of a compromise with society that they can (individually) justify to themselves.  Folks, we cannot bargain with God.  This is the wrong approach and a sure ticket to eternity in the absence of God.

Just as important, it provides non-Christians with a convenient label (and excuse) for dismissing Christianity.  Their attitude is: “Christianity?  No thanks.  Not interested.  Way too much hypocrisy and deceit.  I’m looking for the “real” truth.  Something ‘authentic’.  Something I can believe in.”

That should give all of us something to think about.  It deserves a lot of thought.  Both what it means in our personal lives; and also, what it means to Christianity, in general.  How do we appear to non-believers?  How does my life reflect my deepest beliefs?  And, are those beliefs (words and actions) reflections of God’s eternal Kingdom?  Or, are they reflections of Satan’s temporary stronghold here on planet Earth?

My next post will provide a possible solution to this apparent “hypocrisy” enigma.  And, here’s a hint of where I’m headed. Read John 14:6-7 and Mark 12:29-31.  And then, think about how you show God that you love Him; and, ask yourself how well you’re doing as a “servant”.  (Part 2 will be posted before the end of the week).

Avery Goodday

1 Unchristian: what a new generation really thinks about Christianity … and why it matters.  David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  Published by: Baker Books a division of Baker Publishing Group; 2007, 2008.

2 ibid, pgs 74-75.

3 ibid, pg 53.

4 Hypocrite:  One who practices hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; esp: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.

Unity Within the Church(s)

As I start this post, I know right up front, I am going to seriously offend a lot of readers.  So, maybe I just shouldn’t say it.  But, I need to say it.  And, I will say it, with the hope and faith that you will understand the point I’m trying to make.

Has it ever occurred to you that all Christians belong to the same church – God’s Church.  And what have we done to it?  Those of us who are Christians need to take a big step back, and examine our hearts as God would (and will).

I frequently use the term, “unity without uniformity”.   And, I also speak about “…unity within the body of believers”.  Yet, when I look around, it seems like I see far more division and dissension than unity.  Yes, within the body of believers.  How can this be?

I’m no expert on church history.  I did read about the Reformation in a college course entitled Western Cultural Traditions.  But, the Catholic Church was already split by the time of Martin Luther; and look at what has happened with the Protestant Church in the (almost) 500 years since its formation.  How many denominations are there?  Do you have any idea?  I certainly don’t.  A better question would be, “Why are there so many denominations – or any?”  Oh, and what is this thing we call ‘church politics’?  And, why is it so important that it splits churches, even denominations?

The answer to those question is, “It’s all tied up in Religion.” And, Religion is an invention of man.

You have probably heard, “…God reaches down to man through His great love; and, man reaches up to God through his (man’s) Religion.” Sadly, I think it’s a true statement for both God and man.  I also think, man is dead wrong (pun intended).

Man has taken something that should be pure and simple (our love relationship with God); perverted it through pride, greed, and ignorance, and called it Religion.

Let’s look at the basics.

1. Through God’s Grace, Christianity is available to the world. All, people are God’s creation.  Every single one of us was intended to have a perfect relationship with God – for eternity.  But man, using his free-will, ushered sin into the world and drove a wedge between himself and God.  God, through His Grace, then sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to become the blood sacrifice required to cover our sins, so that we might once again enter into God’s presence.  Romans 3:23,24 states, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

In John 17: 13-18 Jesus makes it very clear that just as He was sent into the world, He sent the Apostles into the world so that they could spread His  message of truth.  What is Jesus’ message of truth? 

2. Jesus is the only way to the Father and eternal life.  In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  But how is that actually accomplished?  Very simply.  We must recognize that Jesus is the Son of God,  and ask Him to forgive our sins. Jesus says that when we do that, several things will happen.  Through God’s mercy we will receive forgiveness for our sins (Acts 10:43); the Holy Spirit will come to live within us (John 16:7-15); and our faith is established.  Thus begins our walk, or relationship, with Jesus.

Jesus tells us that when the Holy Spirit enters us, He will be our advocate, and our counselor.  (The Holy Spirit performs many more functions, but these two titles are key, at least to me).  As my Advocate, the Holy Spirit interprets my prayers to God.  As my Counselor, He interprets scripture and leads me into all truth. Whoa!  Now those are two things I really need when struggling to live a Christian life in modern American society.  And note, all this is just between me, or you, and God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is how I worded it in a previous post – slightly edited…

… it truly is all about Christ and what He offers each and every one of us. 

It will make no difference who we are; who our parents were; what color we are; what nation we are from; what church we go to; how much power we have, or how little; how much wealth we have, or how little;  how many charities we support with our money, or with our time; how good we are, or aren’t.  How many mission trips we have or have not been on.  All that, …will make no difference! 

We do, however, share two common traits.  We are, all, His creation; and, we are, all, eternal beings.  The day will come when we will stand before the one true God who created the Universe.  On that day we will enter either into God’s Kingdom or into eternal separation from God, aka hell.  The only way into God’s Kingdom is if we individually, are covered in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we have subjugated our free-will to His will.  It is the only way, and it is available to everyone… anyone.  FREE. You can’t buy it.  You can’t earn it.  It as simple as believing, asking and committing.  (end previous post)

OK. Now it may get a bit more dicey.  Folks, I don’t think it matters if we serve communion at every service or only once a year.  I don’t think it will cost you your salvation if you’re not baptized by immersion.  I don’t think dead saints need, or can, intercede with God for us.  Candles are pretty; but they play no role in my relationship with Jesus.  Tithing is not a condition of salvation.  I’m pretty sure rote prayers have no value.  (Intentional prayers, on the other hand, have great value).

Now, if you believe otherwise… I’m fine with that. Because that’s your Religion; and, it’s between you and God.   What church you go to is also immaterial to me.  What counts is this: If you have accepted Christ as your Savior; and, if you are striving to live a life patterned after, and directed by Jesus, that’s good enough for me.  I should be able to work with you in Christian love. In John 17:22,23 Jesus is praying for future believers – that’s you and me. Here’s  what He asked His father for:

22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they might be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

I don’t expect to start a great ecumenical movement of church unification.  But, we can start by simply loving our brothers and sisters in Christ – in our own churches for crying out loud.  Instead of looking for differences, why don’t we look for ways to help one another? Then, maybe, we could look outside the walls of our church.  After all, we do share some critical (and common) ground. 

What could God accomplish through us, if we start working together?

Avery