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Fluffy, Sparky & Acceptable Idolatry

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I promise, I’m not intentionally trying to offend you, but I might.  I don’t really desire to agitate or irritate people but I do sometimes.

My job is to proclaim the truth.  If I’m going to sell something I’m going to sell the truth.  The truth is not cheap.  In fact most people don’t want it because it’s sort of offensive…  I know there have been plenty of times when I don’t want the truth because it hurts.  It cuts and it opens you up. That’s what the Bible tells us it will do.

Just before the writer of Hebrews tells us it’s important to go to church he tells us part of the reason why.  And it’s a good reason why and it’s also part of what I desire to do today.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works… – Hebrews 10:23-24

The word “stir up” is also “provoke”  παροξυσμός paroxysmós, par-ox-oos-mos’; (“paroxysm”); incitement (to good), or dispute (in anger):—contention, provoke unto.

It means to irritate and agitate.  I’ll be honest I don’t like doing that with people.  I don’t like to get people angry with me.  But that is the purpose of other believers and the church.  So we can stimulate other believers to love and to good works.

I want to address an acceptable form of idolatry today.  There are lots of things that we accept as idolatry in our world.  Our children, their sports programs, their extracurricular activities, our sports programs, our leisure time and on and on…

But what about our pets?

Do you think you have an idolatrous relationship with your pet or pets; because one is never enough right?  I mean they need companionship don’t they?  Don’t they get lonely also?  Here goes a few ways we might want to consider our pets.

Who serves who? 

Paul discusses this doesn’t he?  I don’t think that all Christians worship their animals the way Romans 1 tells us, but there are those that do.  They are four-footed animals and they do need to be served.  A cat won’t clean its own litter box and a dog won’t pick up after itself, have you ever seen people walking their dogs down the street?  What is it they are carrying?  Who is doing the serving?

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. 

Is it good stewardship? 

This might be touching a raw nerve for some but we must sincerely ask this question.  What kind of money do you spend on your animals?  Does this honor God with all your possessions?

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.

Seeking Comfort in them and not in the Lord? 

Jesus Christ is to be our only need and our only desire when it comes to needing comfort from the ravages of the outside world.  Do you love to see your dog because he has no demands of you?  He licks you and wags his tail and never says, “Hey Kevin, did you get that done today?”  He seems to “love” you unconditionally right?  This is comforting.   Is the Lord Jesus Christ being replaced by Fido?

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Are you a slave to your animal? 

Does your pet keep you from being able to go do things?  I can’t go to this place because I need to find a “sitter” for the cat.  Our older girls are constantly watching the neighbor’s cat and dog.  It’s easy money for sure, but what if you didn’t have to worry about it?  Wouldn’t that provide some freedom?  It seems things have been reversed and animals have taken dominion over mankind.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26

Dominion means to subjugate and to rule over.  Man has done that with dogs when they used them for working purposes, such as to herd or hunt but just like so many other things in our society these roles have been reversed.

Animals are only temporal creatures.  Man was created with an eternal soul and that soul will live on forever in one of two places.  For believers they will forever worship their King.  For those that have never turned to Christ for forgiveness and repented of their sin they will live forever in Hell under the wrath of God.  It is an awful and fearful thing.

Animals will die and return to dust.  You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. – Psalm 104:29 

I realize this is a sensitive topic because people love their pets and I’ve been there.  I’ve seen it and lived it.  I’m not making a blanket statement that having a pet is a sin or it is even necessarily wrong, but I want us to ask to what end and for what purpose.  What is the goal and am I honoring God in all of this.  Nothing is neutral.  What is not from faith is sin and that is something we should be consistently thinking about.  Me especially.

Kevin

Harmless Christianity

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I had a scary thought today and it resonated with me for quite a while.  What if I lived my life and I’m a harmless Christian?  Have you ever considered if you are harmless?  There are two ways to consider this word and one of them is in the positive and one is in the negative.  I desire to be pure and harmless in the sense of non-corrupt.  That should be the goal of all Christians.

…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world… Philippians 2:15

This is good and right for a Christ follower, to have integrity and moral purity.  What I’m talking about is in terms of effectiveness.

Let’s look at how Paul completes this thought.

…holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. – Philippians 2:16-17

This is what I mean about being harmless.  Harmless to the enemy, harmless to my reputation, harmless to those around me in a spiritual sense.  When someone looks at my life, or when they look at your life, what is it they will say about you?

“He’s a really nice guy…”, “He seemed to provide for his family well and loved his wife and children…”, “He had a great house…”?

Nothing here is sinful, although being nice might be, but these can be godly things, but how have you effected the kingdom of God in your life?  I mean to tell you there are too many harmless Christians out there that never make an impact.  They come on Sunday at 10 and leave by 11:15.  They probably won’t darken the door the rest of the week and then they go about their business; we might even argue if they are really believers but for the sake of this discussion let’s suppose they are.  Are they lukewarm perhaps?

Where is the fire and the passion for God?  What do they do with their time that actually matters to the kingdom?  This is not a performance based measurement system that you should walk away feeling guilty about, unless you should.

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. – Acts 19:15-16

Here’s a good example of being harmless, these guys really thought they were something and they had no impact.  Their ministry was a sham, a facade, in reality their harmlessness or any professing Christian’s harmlessness is a great danger and harmful to the kingdom.  For someone to profess Christ but never do what Christ did, or to love in the way that biblical love requires is the greatest betrayal of the gospel.  This is a heinous betrayal of what you were saved from.

Please take a moment today and ask yourself, how am I impacting the kingdom of God?  When was the last time I even passed out a gospel tract?  Have you had a conversation with someone explaining why Christ had to die?  Have you cried out for the innocent at an abortion mill?  Or publicly proclaimed the name of Christ to a dead world?

These are more forward examples, but if you are a mother you should be teaching your children.  You should be impacting the world that is placed in front of you in some shape or fashion.  Unless you are just content to be harmless…

Pray that the Lord give you courage and boldness.  That He would use you to further His kingdom, this is the greatest joy you can ever have.  That God in His greatness would use earthen vessels in service to the King.

 

Kevin

College, Should I?

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This really started as a short Facebook post that I never thought had that much traction.  Apparently I was wrong…  I don’t have a big following on Facebook, and in fact I really don’t have a big following on this blog but it’s not about big followings for me.

It’s about hoping people will think critically…

God has been gracious to me in so many ways and of course primarily through salvation.  He saved me.  And He put men in my life that have really taught me things that are useful.  Like how to think.  I don’t desire to offend anyone, so if you are reading this and have already been slightly offended, please read on and let’s think together.  For me that means I must think like God thinks and the only way I can do that is through His word.

The post is about going to college.  I have a 16 year old daughter and a frequent question is “where will she go to college?”  I’ve not come up with a good response yet that can stimulate people without making them angry, but I do need to work on that.

Since I’m not intending on speaking directly to anyone in this post I’ll say it this way.

“Why in the world would I send my daughter to college?”

For fathers and especially fathers of daughters, they may want to really consider this statement.  I’m going to speak to Christian men that are attempting to raise godly children that are either saved or they hope will be saved.

“Why in the world would you send your daughter to college?”  And I think I can include sons in this as well in many cases.

In 2016 the University of Iowa ranked as the number 5 party school in the country.  A very prestigious honor for the U of I.  We do ministry in Iowa City and we meet and talk with these kids.  We see some of them on the way to the abortion clinic…  Yes, that’s right.

What happens when kids go to college?  They engage in sexual activity which sometimes has unintended consequences.  And then people suffer because of it.  Children die because of it.  Lives are devastated because of it.   I do not mean to be hyperbolic, I mean to be realistic.  I know through conversations most of these kids are sexually active and that happens in college and it more likely than not happened before college.  As a Christian I’m not going to intentionally send my children into an environment where they will be unprotected, and I don’t mean that in the way they mean it.

Charles Spurgeon the great English Preacher said this – “Do not leave your children to wander out without the guardianship of holy knowledge, for there are seducers abroad who will mislead them if they can.”

The Apostle Paul put it this way

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart… Ephesians 4:17-18

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. – Ephesians 5:3-4

For me this is the end of the discussion.  I don’t care if you send them to the state college, to a private college, to a “Christian” college, this will be the norm.  I know, I was one of them, and I fully understand the darkened hearts of young men.

I can’t protect my children from everything that will come into their lives, but I sure won’t send them into combat until they’ve at least been through basic training and probably some advanced training as well.  I will not yield to the spirit of the age, and sacrifice my daughter’s on the altar of this world to get them a “good” job.

We’ve got other options.  There are other ways to do it but as I began this little lecture, we need to think about it.  College marketing groups have sold you and I the “American Dream” of believing that college is the answer to making big bucks, so you can live in a big house, drive a fancy car or two or three, finance your life and live like the Kardashians (almost) and have all this life offers.

I don’t believe college is worthless and I’m not saying it isn’t necessary in some people’s lives, but it is not necessary for everyone.

I’m going to quote myself below from my Facebook post because I think it easily highlights my point.

We can do college for less, but we can certainly do college for a lot more, but I think this is an honest assessment and a fair balance.

Note: this was an unsophisticated Google search. I’ll try and illustrate my point with average annual costs of a State College, according to a website called college data.com.

Average tuition – $24,061
Avg room & board – $10,138
Avg books – $1,300
Avg Total – $35,499 x 4 = $141,996

minimum wage is $7.25 x 30 hour per week x 52 weeks x 4 years is $52,780 (before taxes) I think with a little effort a kid can make a lot more than minimum wage through a bit of ingenuity and hard work.

Let’s add all that up $194,776 You could easily get to twice this with a private college. If by the time my child is 22 or 23 living at home working a minimum wage job, in less than 10 years they’ve easily banked $100,000.00 and not spent $150,000 or more.

Should your child go to college? I don’t know but what sort of a degree would they need to get to start making up the difference? And if they are taught money management skills and how to live within their means and to not be covetous and greedy, being content that makes a whole world of difference in what they actually need to live on.

 

There is a difference between the earning potential of a BA and a high school equivalency and that is estimated about $16,900.00 annually.  We’ve shown above that they can already be $250,000.00 ahead and by doing some basic math it will take almost 15 years to bridge just that gap.  That doesn’t take into consideration that we are still working and most likely earning considerably more money, they’ve not gone into debt and this assumes they actually graduate with a degree which many don’t.

There are hundreds of ideas of how to earn money as children and teaching them the most basic of all skills can place them very far ahead of kids their own age.  My eldest daughter taught herself how to create hair designs by watching YouTube videos and she started a small business that does this for girls parties, or weddings.  She also had an interest in playing the harp so we’ve invested in a harp.  This $4500.00 investment can earn up to $1500.00 on a Saturday playing at a wedding once she achieves a certain skill level.  What an opportunity for a young lady to earn some serious cash but still living under the protection of her home and father and then the opportunity to help in her family income when she is married.

What are your goals for your children?  This is a pretty big deal and a worthwhile exercise to ask this question.  Having a goal eliminates a lot of chasing around and trying to “find” yourself while spending 30 grand a year.

Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art. —Charles Spurgeon

Or Jesus even said it better For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? – Matthew 16:26

Our children are valuable and they are precious to us and I’m not saying they are going to hell if they go to college, I’m saying we need to think long and hard about the goals.  Online courses cost pennies on the dollar and they can educate your children just as well as shipping them off to somewhere else.  It is each parent’s responsibility to care for and protect their children and that doesn’t end on their eighteenth birthday.   May the Lord guide us in this important decision.

 

Kevin

 

Who is Jesus?

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What it is about the name of Jesus that offends so many?

Just who is this Man?

He is the centerpiece of world history and His existence in history is believed by any one intellectually honest. Today I’d like to ask you the question, just as Jesus asked Peter, “but who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) When we look at the Jesus that the Bible portrays we have a very different idea than generally floats around in the imaginations of men’s minds. In fact He is quite confrontational and not even close to what most believe. He forced people to make decisions about who He was. He saw into the hearts of people and challenged them and engaged them in their sin.

If we face the reality of what Jesus said we are forced to decide if He is the Lord. He makes it clear and He declares loudly that He has power and that He has authority to do things that are incomprehensible. I want to look at one encounter that will simply challenge us as to who He really claims to be and two very different reactions. These reactions are no different than what we still see today.

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains…

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” – Mark 5:2-7

What a remarkable set of circumstances we see before us. A man so strong and powerful that he can break chains and shackles and we are about to see the Lord Jesus Christ break this man’s bondage to the one that possesses his soul. The man runs to Christ and worships Him. He falls to his face and recognizes He is the Son of God and commits himself unto Christ’s power not to torment him. Even the demons believe and tremble says James (James 2:19) and here we see it. We see a recognition of who Jesus is by the demons that have complete control over this man.

Then Jesus cast’s out the demons into a herd of swine and the swine cast themselves into the sea. The account tells us that over 2000 pigs went to their untimely death. Have you ever considered why the man never threw himself over the cliff but by the Providence of God to keep him alive that the Lord might save his life and more importantly his soul. Consider today how often God has preserved you. Consider if He can use you for His eternal purposes and how do you respond to your circumstances? We will see that there are two reactions to Jesus.

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

And when He got into the boat he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. – Mark 5:17-20

How do you respond to the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you seen Him work in those that you know? Have you seen radical changes in the life of people that you are near or that you are aware of? Obviously the people of this region knew of this man and the chaos he had caused. They knew he was trouble, because they had attempted to bind him. Somehow he ended up in the caves and was mostly leaving them alone, but then Jesus comes on the scene. The story was told, and they were afraid. They saw the power of God and had to acknowledge it; but yet wouldn’t submit to Him, why?

Because it cost them something. It cost them their livelihood, and it caused a financial burden in their life. Isn’t this so often the case, isn’t it true that where your treasure is there your heart will be also? (Matthew 6:21) And these were pigs non-the-less, a filthy, dirty animal. A representation of everything that was wrong with the Gentiles. They were unclean by definition. But were they incapable, or out of the reach of the Lord? Of course not but they were unwilling. They loved their mire more than they valued the One that could save them from their sin. How often do you turn back to the vomit (Proverbs 26:11) when far greater things await you?

Then we see the demoniac’s response. He begged to be with Him. Is this your response? Do you beg to be with Him and beseech Him? What a difference in the responses. One group begs Him to leave the other begs Him to bring him along. What is important to you this day? Is it to be with Jesus or would you rather He go away? Many will say, “well, of course, we desire to be with Him” but do you? How do you show that?

We see our demon-possessed man show how much he now loves Jesus, because he begins to tell people about the great things done for him. Can I ask you a question? When is the last time you told someone of the great things that Jesus has done for you? Do you immediately depart and proclaim the good news? Because Jesus tells us that many will say they did great things in His name and He says that if you practice lawlessness He never really knew you at all. Jesus did not offer this man’s request, He issued him a command and this command has not been lifted and it applies to us today. So let me ask you another question, will you obey His commands? Will you tell others about the great things the Lord has done for you?

One of the reasons many don’t like the name of Jesus, is that He makes demands on our lives, and quite honestly we just don’t like it. Do you know Him, are you willing?

Kevin

εὐαγγέλιον – And God Ordained Encounters

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And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear… – 1 Peter 3:13-15

I haven’t written a post in a while but I felt compelled to share good news today.   The verse above is one of the most well known “evangelism” verses, however most only quote the second half. They sort of forget about the suffering and the threats and troubles that come along with evangelism.   I’ve been engaged in street evangelism and open air proclamation of the gospel for over a year now and my knowledge and boldness grows each time I got out. Disclaimer: this article is not about me.

I write today to encourage Christians. Those that have truly been bought by the blood of Christ. Some of you might evangelize. Some of you might evangelize a little, and some of you may not at all. But I want to encourage you today. I want to tell you what God has done. I want to give you hope that your efforts, no matter how small, are never in vain. The simple act of passing a gospel tract to someone can change their life for all eternity. I will quote my friend Tony Miano and we should never use the four letter word “only”. I “only” passed out tracts. No, if you passed out a tract, you presented the gospel to someone and that is a significant event. That is to the praise of His glory, and should never be minimized.

Today, is Thursday and it’s normally Emma Goldman day. It’s a wretched place that systematically kills babies.    I could go into a long why we didn’t go to EG today, but the bottom line is that God had another plan. It was decided we (Donnie, Roy & me) would meet at the church at 11 and walk the streets of downtown Davenport for a couple hours, passing out tracts and attempting to engage people in gospel conversations. That was our plan. As we pulled up to a snowy sidewalk I asked the guys to pray. I was particularly moved to seek the Lord’s guidance today that He would arrange our encounters and that we would practice 1 Timothy 2:24-25. That we would be gentle and compassionate.

Encounter 1. Demon possessed Vietnam Veteran. No more than 30 seconds after getting out of the truck I attempted to hand a man a tract and he began yelling and cursing at me.   The three of us attempted to reason with him but he was having none of it. He claimed to be a Catholic, showed us his crucifix and repeated a prayer that he says each day, and though his lips may honor the Lord, his heart was far from him. Especially as he repeatedly used the Lord’s name in a vulgar manner. We walked away humbled and dismayed at the anger in this man and prayed the Lord would be merciful to his soul.

Encounter 2. Alan. We moved up to 4th St. and walked past the Scott County Courthouse and one man got semi-angry with brother Roy as he attempted to give him the gospel and then I saw Alan and asked him if I could give him some good news. He refused. I turned and said to him, “sir may I ask you, what would happen if you died today, do you know where you will spend eternity?” He turned and said to me “No, I do not know.” Quick rabbit trail: friends, never let an immediate “no” discourage you. Always ask a follow up question if you can, you will be surprised at how one question can change things. I like to ask if they know what happens when they die, or if they have been born again.

Alan, listened intently as I presented the law and the gospel to him and urged him to repent of his sins and place his faith in Christ. He never took his eyes off of me and he seemed genuinely moved by the encounter. I asked if he had a church home and invited him to join us this weekend.

Encounter 3. Neicey. We turned left from the courthouse and headed toward the river front and walked past a short black woman in a huge orange coat. The hood was pulled up and under the big puffy coat she was bundled up even more. I could hardly see her face. Donnie handed her a tract and I believe she declined the initial offering. Donnie pressed the issue and asked her if she knew where she was headed after death. Without hesitation she said “Hell”.   Not in a prideful way, but in an almost sheepish way. I asked her if she knows what hell is like? She said, no, but I expect you are going to tell me. I described hell as the bible describes it. Utter darkness, no relief from the torment, eternal conscious suffering, with nothing good there. I said God provides us with goodness here on earth even if we don’t believe in Him, and just then the sun came out and warmed us and I said, see how He just provided His grace to us?

She began to describe that she couldn’t be forgiven because she was a murderer and had actually spent time in prison for killing someone and that this morning she had prayed and asked God if it was possible she could be forgiven and that He would send someone to tell her. She said she expected it would come from being in a church, but would have never expected three men on the street to show her the way of salvation. I described to her that Paul was a murderer and read to her from the book of Acts how he consented to the death of Stephen and while still breathing out his murderous threats the Lord Jesus Christ reached down and saved him. We told her the law is a tutor to bring a sinner to the grace of God and that she needed to repent and turn to Christ. She began weeping.

The conversation continued for some time and we all pleaded with her to trust in Christ and we asked her to join us in church to hear the preaching of the word, to enjoy the fellowship of the saints. I encouraged her to open her bible to Psalm 51 and read about David the murderer and adulterer and to cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.  As we prayed for her and then walked away the three of us were nearly speechless considering the goodness of God, His providence and an encounter that we will not soon forget.

We had several more encounters throughout our time and as we walked back toward the truck I attempted to hand some tracts to some people that were dressed fairly nice. They looked very clean, very nice and as I asked them to take a tract they politely declined. I pressed them. “Do you know what will happen to you when you die?” “No thank you” was their reply. I said, I hope you’ll consider that question today.

How about you? Will you consider that question today?

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one according began to make excuses…

Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind,’…

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'” – Luke 14:16-24

Will you come in? Will you dine with Him? Will you understand that you are blind, maimed and poor? Very few understand their condition.

If you are a Christian will you tell others that they might be saved?

 

Kevin

So you want to be like Christ? – Part 2

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Ghandi has a quote that is attributed to him, and I guess I have no reason to doubt he said it. It goes like this “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Isn’t that an interesting quote on so many levels?

First of all there is a lot of hypocrisy in this statement. Was Ghandi like Christ? Some people think he was. Ghandi, never professed to be a Christian, as far as I know, but he is saying that if more people acted like Christ, then it might work better for him. Sure, I suppose… But more importantly, I agree with him. I also disagree with him, but I’m not going to spend time showing why I disagree, because I think there is enough here for the point of this article as to why I agree with his quote.

As a reminder, I started this little series based on a discussion I had with a friend over the years on whether one should be a follower of Christ, or Christ like. I argued that if we don’t start by following Christ we will never strive to be like Him, and that most will never TRULY follow Christ. Many will profess to follow, but when the going gets hard, the hardened get going.

But back to Ghandi…

Ghandi claims that Christians are not like Christ, and I have a lot of agreement with him on this point, so, how are we that truly follow Christ to be like Him? Have we considered, from the Bible, what it means to be like Christ? Let’s look at just two ways that we are to be like Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Paul understood the desire to be like Christ. He had a proper grasp on what was valuable, but he also knew what it meant to really imitate Christ.

Suffering

Jesus Christ suffered. And so did Paul.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… – 2 Timothy 1:8 The Christian life and suffering should be synonymous, this is being like Christ and being like Paul.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: – 1 Peter 2:20-21

The suffering and patient endurance for the spread of the gospel should be a privilege for all Christians to share in. Did you get that? It’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Yet in modern Christianity suffering for the gospel probably means the air conditioning is out at your church, or the latte machine is broken.

We have no concept of what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel, in some cases you might be marginalized or laughed at. If you do any sort of open air ministry you will most definitely be mocked, if you are preaching the true gospel, but rarely will you be beaten. At least not in this country. So I think that true biblical suffering is not readily experienced by most Christians, in fact it’s experienced by very few. However, I will offer some hope that the day is coming when the true elect of God will be revealed through the suffering of the church and it appears that day is not very far away. Do yourself a favor and begin to experience it now, so it won’t come upon you as some sort of surprise.

Preaching

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

Well now, that’s a little bit inconvenient for most of us. In a culture that likes to say “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words” this upsets the apple cart. The word “preach” literally means public proclamation.

The word κηρύσσω kērýssō is a word that carries force and gravity. It means that someone is confronted to make a decision about what they have heard. In fact it demands a decision, and it is a call to obey. In the days before newspapers, the nightly news, and the internet, the way a king would get his message to his subjects was through a herald. One that was sent to deliver the message of the king. He went into the town square and read publicly the message. The subjects were called to obey.

Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. – Matthew 11:1

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” – Mark 1:38

And He (Christ) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. – Acts 10:42

Why is this so important?   Why such a radical call? Most professing Christians will think this is a foolish way to spread the love of Christ and they will offer alternatives like friendship evangelism, life-style evangelism or “missional” group evangelism. I’m not saying we should not evangelize our friends, or those in our life, or we shouldn’t have groups of people sitting around talking about missions, but this is not the primary biblical model that Christ, the apostles, the early church, and the church of the past century utilized.

Why this method?

Paul is very helpful to our understanding of why open air preaching and gospel proclamation is imperative to the spread of the good news. In short God uses this method to save people. Not all will be saved in this manner, but many will.

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. – Romans 1:15-16

Do we see it? The gospel saves…

The proclamation of the gospel, in particular, through the foolish preaching of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the method that God, in His wisdom, chose to save those who believe. That is hard to comprehend, but it is the truth.

And I can affirm to you that one way to bring suffering (like Christ) is to proclaim the gospel.  Publicly, for those called to do so, through the oversight of your church.  The local church is to provide cover and support for this endeavor.  The Elders affirm a man’s ability to preach and they provide accountability, and protection against errant messages.  Understanding that it is to be men that publicly preach, just as in the local assembly.  Women are also called to serve in evangelism but not in the same way as preachers.  They can be engaged in one on one conversations, or passing out gospel tracts and eliciting conversations with people.  In properly ordered churches this will have an impact on the community.  In this manner we can begin to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  It’s a beautiful thing.

This will bring persecution and it will bring salvation’s. If you want to be like Christ, these are two ways for you to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.

 

Kevin

So you want to be like Christ? – Part 1

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I began thinking about this topic a long time ago and quickly discovered I couldn’t do this in one blog or even two. This post will discuss how we can’t be like Christ, and then the last one will focus on the ways in which we should strive to be like Christ.

We last left off with a discussion that I had over the years with a friend. The discussion centered around being a Christ follower or being Christ-like. I argued last time that you must begin as a follower of Christ before you can ever become Christ-like.   I’m hopeful that I successfully showed the majority of people that even claim to follow Christ, don’t. And also those that have a “desire” to follow really won’t leave themselves behind and truly follow. There are many reasons for this but at the end of day the cost is very high. To follow Christ will cost you everything. Many will disagree with this statement , but when we look around at the surface level Christianity today I think there is little doubt. Let’s see.

I’ve thought about Christ-likeness a lot over the past several years. What I want to show you is what the Bible says about Christ-likeness. Not some figment of the imagination about Jesus. Not the all “inclusive” Jesus, although anyone who will forsake their sin and place their full faith and trust in Christ will be included. No, I’m talking about the Jesus of the holy scriptures. That Jesus. It might be interesting to see what He did, and how we can attempt to be like that Jesus.

What did Christ do while He was on this earth? What are the different things we can emulate about His life. I think this is an important distinction because most things about Christ we cannot do.   Let’s consider a few of the can’t do before we look at the can do.

We can’t perform miracles

Unless you are Benny Hinn (that is sarcasm), you can’t perform the miracles that Jesus Christ performed on this earth. I’d challenge anyone to walk on water, to calm the sea, to create bread and fish out of bread and fish. To grow back arms, cause people to walk and to command the dead to live. It’s important to understand that Jesus did these miracles to prove His deity. It’s that simple.

John 10:37-38 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in Him.”

We are not without sin

Sinless perfection is unattainable for mankind. Despite the teaching of Mary being sinless by the Catholic Church (here), (here), and (here) we believe the bible teaches Christ’s perfection and man’s sinfulness very plainly, even Mary.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

We cannot drink the cup of God’s Wrath

Jesus Christ came to this earth to seek and save the lost. He did this because man has a problem called sin. God’s righteous judgment calls for justice to be served. Law breakers must be dealt with and the way God deals with the lawless is by shutting them in prison for all of eternity where they will bear His anger against their rebellion to His goodness.

Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They had no idea what they were asking Him for, they had no concept that the Christ was going to the cross to drink the cup of God’s wrath against sin and sinful mankind. But Jesus knew, and He willingly went.

Psalm 75:7-8 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.

Isaiah 53:5-6 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

As Paul Washer has said, “All men will melt like wax before a blast furnace as the fury of God is unleashed against them.” Unless they repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness of sin every person condemned will face the wrath of an angry God for all eternity. This is a message that is frightening and should be seen as a severe warning to those walking about as if God does not exist. Thinking they have a lifetime ahead of them not knowing they hang by a very thin string over the pits of darkness.

We cannot rise from the dead

Man has been appointed once to die. There are no second chances after death on this earth. We have been given revelation of God through nature and through His word. All mankind will answer for his life and we must realize once it’s over it’s over. This is why it is imperative to speak. To tell people the good news.

And it has been appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. – Hebrews 9:27-28

I could go on, but I think it’s sufficient to say that Christ has accomplished everything on the cross needed for our salvation. His grace will take us to heaven when we pass from this life to the next. For those that have not repented and placed their trust in Christ, He will pour out His wrath upon them for all eternity. No second chances. Believe in the Son and live.

Next time, I will exhort us to live like Christ if we call ourselves Christians, and I believe this will be very challenging for those in the professing church.

Kevin

Follow Me?

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In my life, and especially in my Christian life I’ve had a lot of conversations that revolve around Christianity. I’ve, way too often, had conversations that don’t glorify God or impart grace to the hearer but I’m thankful that God is growing me to understand Him better and He continues to refine me.

I’ve thought back on a conversation that I had years ago that involved following Christ and Christ-likeness. It’s an interesting conversation and one that goes like this. “I’ve been told before that you should strive not to just follow Christ but to be like Christ.” I’ve given this some thought over the years and I sort of get where this is going and you know what? I agree. We should strive to be like Christ.

However we need to back up for a moment. We can’t strive to be like Christ unless we have first followed Him, because outside of God’s regenerating work nobody would ever desire to be like Christ, in fact, the bible tells us they won’t even truly follow Him.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. – Mark 1:16-18

The Lord Jesus Christ did not tell Peter and Andrew to become like Him, He said “Follow Me…” and so we see this pattern repeated in the gospel accounts.

Mark 8:34 …”Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

This is interesting, because now we see that following Christ is expensive. It costs us something. It means picking up a cross and denying ourselves. Immediately this thins the crowd doesn’t it?

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:21-22

Very expensive indeed for this young man… In fact, more than he was willing to pay.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

Apparently following Christ will now cost you your life, all your possessions, your nets, and force you to pick up and carry a cross. How many people are still in?

These didn’t seem to care for the cost either.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:58-62

And let us not forget that the world will think we are crazy if we decide to follow Christ, because He has some pretty extreme demands.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. – John 6:54

…”Does this offend you?” – John 6:61

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. – John 6:66

So before you tell someone to be more Christ like, we better first find out if they are willing to follow Him, then we’ll get to the tough stuff. More on that next time.

Kevin

What Should Tullian Do Now?

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I decided on the spur of the moment that this article needed to be written. Not because I have anything important to say, or anybody important will read it, but because maybe someday the information will be useful to me. I serve as a Deacon in a small Reformed church in a semi-small town on the east side of nowhere Iowa. I don’t know why I felt compelled to write, but I think it’s important among the cacophony of voices I say my piece.

I don’t know Tullian and I don’t know anybody that does. I’ve never heard him preach, but I’ve observed his life from a distance for a few years. I’ve not even been saved as long as he’s been a pastor most likely, so why do I have the authority to write about him? Because I think God’s word speaks clearly about his life and he should listen. If he could hear my words, or read what I write I would want him to know a few observations I’ve had and what I think he should do moving forward.

Some of you probably don’t know of him or probably don’t know what I’m talking about but Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham. He had been going through some marital issues and it was revealed that affairs had occurred within the marriage. Mutual affairs. A very sad and awful thing for a family to go through and especially for the children, nobody sees the devastation of sin from the before pictures, only the after.

Tullian is well known, in many circles, for what most would say are Antinomian tendencies.   He doesn’t seem to worry, or focus as much on living a holy life as he focuses on the grace of God. What I write is well documented in other places, and I care not to write about it here, but for some of us that cared this was a shipwreck waiting to happen.

A couple days ago it appears he has filed to divorce his wife and with that as the backdrop here are the things I would say to Tullian if I ever had a chance. I will write to him as a brother since I’m not aware that he has denied the faith, but his actions are questionable at best. Regardless, I’ll treat him as if he is indeed in the faith for the time being.

Don’t Divorce – I don’t know if Tullian knows that God hates divorce? I would imagine he has read the Scripture, but this is imperative; does he not remember he made a covenant with God?

…Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.   “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” – Malachi 2:14-16

Get Wise Counsel – I have no idea how the leadership of his church plans to restore this man, and he may very well need to seek someone outside of this body. That would indeed be a travesty if he cannot find men that would tell him the truth and not what he wants to hear.

Where there is no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14
It seems if there was good counsel in the first place, this may have turned out differently, but I don’t know the structure of his church, I hope they will learn from this.

He Needs to go Dark – Get off social media! I’ve seen some of his tweets and other things floating around, and for the life of me I don’t see a man that is broken by his sin, but a man that appears to believe God is visible in the clouds. God is visible in His written word, and this is where he needs to have his face buried.

Proverbs 10:19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

His Elders should put a restraining order on his activities and have him in intensive biblical counseling along with a thorough examination of what went wrong. This didn’t happen overnight. It was playing out in front of us all.

Repent in Biblical Fashion – David was a murderer and an adulterer, and many Christians are quick to point this out. Yes, of course, we know that, but look at how David handled his sin.  We see a disturbing pattern among “celebrity” Christians and that is to acknowledge their “mistakes” but never repent of their wicked and evil hearts.

For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight… Psalm 51:3-4

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Endeavor to lead a Quiet Life – This goes along with getting out of the spotlight. It would appear he enjoys the attention and that will always keep him where he cannot focus on God, because he wants to focus on himself. He should flee attention, go spend a month in a cabin. I know of one if he needs a place to go. Better yet go serve the poor somewhere in some third world country and don’t tell anybody but your Elders where you are going. Drop your phone in the toilet on the way to the airport.

…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. – 1 Timothy 2:3-4

Realize his Wretched Condition – Tullian is a sinful man. I am a far more sinful man than he is, and I can easily prove it. I expect he grew up in a very moralistic fashion, just like Josh Duggar. I was a fine sinner, perhaps as good as almost anyone and by the grace of God He picked me up and breathed His precious Spirit into my dead, cold heart. I don’t know if Tullian realizes his deplorable state. Perhaps he does, and I just don’t see it coming out of his mouth, but I confess that I don’t hang on every word he says, so I may have missed it. Can he echo what Paul said, what I say about myself?

This is a faithful saying and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

What a proclamation by Paul! Do you realize this? Do I realize this when I think highly of myself? Do I realize that pride comes before a fall, and that by the grace of God and that grace alone, He keeps me from falling off the cliff every day? Oh the riches of His mercy, how amazing they are, for wretched sinners just like me and I hope for a wretched sinner like Tullian.

Kevin

What Your Children Say About Your Life…

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The purpose of this article is not about me, or my children, but in some sense it is about me and my children. The whole summation of this begins with a question. What is the purpose of children? Why do we have them? How many times have you heard it said, “why would I want to bring children into this world?” The inference is that the world is so incredibly evil that I wouldn’t want to have my children suffer the consequences.

But the reality is a focus on self. Those of us that steward children realize that it’s hard work. There is rarely a time for a “break”. Even in the middle of the night there are bad dreams, or illness and countless other issues. So why bother? I guess it depends on the camp you reside, and if that camp is Christianity, then the way you raise your children speaks volumes about your life. Quick disclaimer: my children are as bad as yours, and I have the same problems raising them that you do, so this is not an article that claims I’m the model of parenthood. Lord knows my daily failures. This article hopes to encourage, and to spur the believer on to love and good works.

I’ve written on Psalm 127 before, and it always bears repeating… Children are a blessing, children are a heritage from the Lord, and children are to be raised to perpetuate the gospel. They are to be trained and they are to be sharpened that they might be sent out into the world to be arrows, to pierce through the hearts of sinful man with the sword of the gospel. That is obvious, and notice that this Psalm begins with this little phrase, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” – Psalm 127:1

If you are not raising your children for the glory of God, if you are not allowing the Lord to build the house, you are laboring in vain, and I suppose you have not considered this verse, and possibly your eternal standing before God. I hope you will give that consideration today if that is your situation.

For those that desire to raise children to the glory of God it’s important to think about those children as a testimony to our lives. The children you nurture in your home are speaking loudly to the world around you. I have several examples from my own life, and I only desire to talk about those to point people to Christ, not to say what a great parent I am. Jesus said that wisdom is justified by her children, and this means that our salvation becomes evident to all by the fruit that is produced through our lives. Our children bear witness to our lives.

The biggest question that a Christian can and should ask themselves is do your children look different than the rest of the world, or do they blend quite nicely? I’m not necessarily a proponent of our girls wearing matching calico print dresses with little napkins on their heads to be different, but how they act and the message they give out when they are around other people speaks about the training they receive in the home. We certainly don’t have to go very far to see how the world justifies her children. It’s pretty obvious that a kid will have their head stuck in their cell phone, and they can’t engage an adult in much more than a one word answer. They are a rebellious sort, with a sarcastic look on their face. Of course not all of them, because we also get the outwardly compliant child.

This also is a danger, that we raise them to be well behaved. We train them to be counter-cultural only in their external actions. We can train them for our own benefit. To be different, for sure, but it is training in self-righteousness. They can justify themselves through their “good” actions, when inside they are dead men’s bones. It’s a virtual mine-field of parenting to know which side to land on. The bible makes no absolute promises that the children of believing parents will become believers, although I know some groups that try and claim that. I don’t fall into that camp, and I realize from conception my children are hostile to God. They come out of the womb sinners, and I must present the law and the gospel to them and trust in God’s mercy for their souls.

However, when I disciple my children to the glory of God, they will look different. There is just no other way around it. They will be a testimony to the change in my heart, wrought by God. Are we different because we are home-schoolers, or because we attend a certain church? Yes, but that is not the point. The point is to raise your children to see their need for Christ. It always comes back to man’s greatest need is for salvation in His name. He came to seek and save the lost, and for those that have no understanding of their “lostness” then He is not worthy of their pursuits.   He must be the greatest treasure, the pearl of great value.

That is the point. That is why we, that call ourselves Christians, must train and disciple our children. We must do so with great effort. All day, every day.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. – Deuteronomy 6:7

Kevin

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