MonthSeptember 2017

Do You Know God?

Do you know God? If you answered, and proclaim to be a Christian, more likely than not you said yes, almost without thought no doubt. That question is such an important question, yet when asked, an answer is not always well thought out. Is that to say that “yes” is the wrong answer to the question? Perhaps, it may be. Let the Bible explain.

I John 2:3 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

Do you know God? Is your answer different than when asked the first time? God draws a line between having the title of a Christian and actually living up to the title of a Christian through service and obedience to God. Reading on in the passage:

I John 2:4 – He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Going to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night, and whenever the doors are open does NOT make you a “good” Christian, and does NOT exempt one from obeying the commands of God. The same goes with any Christian ministry. The only standard that God places on Christians to be what man calls a “good” Christian, is to keep His commandments, not serving in bus ministry, or working in the nursery, or going to church every time the doors are open.

This is not to say that any of the previously mentioned activities are bad. Through keeping God’s commandments, a Christian will most likely be serving in ministry and going to church regularly. But man is not to judge a Christian as unfit for Christian service because he misses a service. Paul judged John Mark unfit for ministry and Paul eventually admitted that he was wrong (recall II Tim. 4:11). Men ought not to judge other men, as Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-3.

Matthew 7:1-3 – Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Do you know God? Are you keeping his commandments? Are you judging others? Judging others is something Christians are commanded not to do. Do you want to obey God today?

I John 2:5-6 – But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry … For Today We Have Grace and Tomorrow We Have Heaven

(Today’s post was written by a guest writer, my dad, Ken Lengel. Enjoy!)

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This article has been in the works in my heart and mind for some time now.

I have been thinking about how believing Christians: evangelicals, fundamentalists, and non-affiliated believers alike, have become more and more like the world in their behavior.

I have been struggling with this issue as I raise my two teenage sons. We have been working thru the concepts of worldliness and being separated unto God.

But before we get to far along, let’s start with a definition from Webster’s on the meaning of worldly.

Worldly is commonly defined as “of, relating to, or devoted to this world and its pursuits rather than to religion or spiritual affairs.”

This is a vital building block of defining what being worldly is and how one ought to view the many liberties taken by believers in the name of grace and Christ.

This article can hardly cover the topic of worldliness in any great depth, but I will attempt to summarize one of the more pressing arguments used by believers to promote and live worldly lives while declaring their actions acceptable under grace and before a holy God.

Straw Man Argument #1 – The Bible doesn’t say I can’t (fill in the blank).

Many believers use this argument to support different behaviors.  Rather than falling into the trap of mentioning a specific behavior, I want you to consider the following.

If the Bible doesn’t say you can’t (fill in the blank again), Does it say that you can?

If you can’t answer in the affirmative, it means that the choices you make in these cases require you to follow principles in the Scriptures to determine if an activity helps you to relate to God or to the world.

People mistakenly think that because we are under grace and not the Mosaic Law, that we no longer are responsible to follow principles on how to live our lives. They believe that because there is not a specific command against doing a specific thing, allowance of the behavior is left up solely to a person’s conscience.

However, the law of Christ is what governs how believers ought to live and behave. In the New Testament alone, there are over 1100 commands given to believers. In them can be found many principles that can be applied to the choices we make.

Let me challenge you with this… How much time have you spent searching the Scriptural commands in the New Testament to determine how to avoid sin?

Paul stated when discussing grace: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”  I believe that all of us, myself included, can spend more time making sure our lives are not a reason for grace to abound.

It is much easier for believers to simply say that they are under grace, so they can do what they want, as long as their conscience does not bother them. (more on that in another article.)

This straw argument is one that is commonly used by believers to justify certain behaviors because God didn’t specifically mention all things directly related to future cultures. Because of this, believers have taken it upon themselves to use this argument to justify many behaviors not pleasing to God.

In addition, we live in a time and culture where the nuancing words is preferred rather than discussing the exact truth of a matter.  People find ways to cover their tracks as a defense mechanism. They use the Word of God to deceive or mislead people by asking them “to believe all things”, when in their hearts they know that they have not revealed the entire truth to us.

So, after all this, why is this important?

Let me close with this.

Those who live apart from God, separated from Him, have stated: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for tomorrow we die.

Believers who are worldly have slightly altered the statement to: Eat, Drink and Be Merry, for today we have grace and tomorrow we have Heaven.

It’s time to ask ourselves, (behavior announcement alert – go to your safe space if you need it) if we listen to the worlds’ music, watch the worlds’ entertainment, and participate in the worlds’ behaviors, how are we able to be the salt of the earth? How are we different from unbelievers? How are we then separated from the world?

Is it only by love whereby non-believers should know we are His?

Shouldn’t our behaviors and actions scream from the hilltops, “this world is not my home”.

Or perhaps, maybe it is.

Perhaps you aren’t seeing people repenting of their sins any longer.

Did you ever think that no one seems to know what is sin any more?

Do you?

I fear we, as salt, have lost our influence in a lost and dying world, because there is very little that differentiates our lives from theirs.

How are you different from those you know without Christ?

Are you?

Can that difference be attributed to being a believer?

May the answers open our eyes.

Walk in the Light

What does it mean to walk in the light? What happens if one is not walking in the light? How does one stay walking in the light? Why is it important to be walking in the light? The first epistle of John gives the answers to these questions, and that is what this post will be about today.

What does it mean to walk in the light?

1 John 1:5 – This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

John reminds his readers that God is light, and that He has no darkness is in Him. The light is representative of holiness, and darkness is the example used here for sin. Walking in the light then, would mean to walk in the path of God’s holiness, and not stepping out of the light into the darkness.

What does it mean to not walk in the light?

1 John 1:6 – If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

If a person walks in darkness, and not in the light, they do not have fellowship with God and are not following the truth. What then is darkness? Darkness, in this sense, could be defined as anything not following the principles of the Bible; a few examples would be worldly music, vulgar speech, and rebellion against authority.

Why stay walking in the light?

1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is overlooked by Christians sometimes. Christians have fellowship with the God of the universe! Think of this. If one is in fellowship with God, they will be protected by the God who created the universe! Walking in the light is all God asks, which is simple obedience, and every Christian should be willing to follow.

Does God Care?

If God cares, why (fill in the blank)? Perhaps a reader has found himself/herself asking that question. Often a Christian undergoing trial will look for God’s purpose in the trial. One must remember to never question God’s authority however. Christians are the servants of God. While God is our authority, He takes care of His own through ways that perhaps the human mind cannot ever understand. In II Peter, Peter gives example of the care and protection that God gives His true servants.

II Peter 2:5 – And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

There was one righteous family in the entire known world in the eyes of God during the years leading up to the flood: the family of Noah. The author would wonder how the family felt boarding the ship, knowing everyone they knew, outside their family, was about to die over the next period of forty days and nights. But God saw the world, and in His righteousness saw evil and wicked ways and decided to start over. But God cared about Noah, and his family, just as Noah had cared about the things of God.

II Peter 2:6-7 – And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:

This situation is very similar to Noah’s. There was only one righteous family in Sodom and Gomorrah. God decided to destroy the city, again, in His divine unquestioned authority. But God saved Lot, again showing his care for the righteous.

People will take examples such as this, and say that God is a hateful and vengeful being and could not possibly care about people. What they struggle to understand is that God has both the qualities of love and of judgment (among others). Love cannot supersede judgment, and judgment cannot supersede love. God’s love for His creation is shown in Christ’s dying on the cross for the sins of the world; all someone has to do is accept the gift. God is Holy, and cannot allow sin in Heaven, so He must judge the world based on that standard. One cannot live up to God’s standards, but one can accept the free gift of salvation that will get them to Heaven.

II Peter 2:9 – The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 

What a statement for a Christian to live by. All one as a Christian must do is follow the just ways of God, and God’s protection is upon that Christian. If God’s protection is on someone, the world cannot harm him.

 

Beware of False Teachers

How do you determine who to follow, as a Christian? There are many different “religious” people from different sectors of Christianity with different ideas on how to live life on this earth. Since one has so many different paths that he/she could follow, it would be wise to learn which paths are good, and which paths are not so good. Peter gives a description in II Peter of the false teachers.

II Peter 2:1a – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you,

In the first part of this verse, Peter essentially states that we, as Christians will deal with false teachers. It is not an issue for debate and as we will deal with them, we must know how to deal with them. Keep this in mind when dealing with strangers, and obviously do not believe man’s doctrine without studying it out for yourself in the Bible.

II Peter 2:1b – who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Take note of the word “privily”. False teachers, when they come, will not teach heresy boldly. Instead, they will slowly change the group through quiet methods so that they are not discovered. One must be careful and see these “changes”, and not be influenced by them.

II Peter 2:2 – And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

Peter states that many will follow the ways of these teachers, and from that Christianity will be evil spoken of. Perhaps this is why the world sees Christians as hypocrites? While the previous statement is just an opinion, it is interesting to note that many unsaved people are turned away from Christianity because of hypocritical testimony that some Christians have. Instead of having a testimony showing Christ, some Christians have a testimony of the world. Why would the world want to change if they see us as Christians exactly like them?

The author would like to put forth a few questions for today in closing. One: What leaders are influencing you; are their views biblical? Two: How are you influencing others; are your views Biblical?

 

Being a Fruitful Christian

What do Christians have, through salvation, that the world needs? The answer, from the author’s study, is twofold. The more commonly stated reason is to avoid going to Hell for eternity. Two, salvation gives the Christian the power over sin. Peter in his second epistle begins the book with the description of such power as well as a call to be a fruitful Christian.

II Peter 1:3 – According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

This verse is referring to what a person gains upon salvation. Once a person is saved, he receives all of “things that pertain unto life and godliness.” That sounds great, but a question to this statement might be: Why? Peter uses the final phrase of the verse to answer that question: “through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The purpose of the unsaved man in this world is to glorify himself or gain temporal rewards. The purpose of the Christian in this world is to glorify God and gain Heavenly rewards. There must be a mindset change in the heart of the Christian who follows after the ways of the unsaved man. Peter goes on to discuss the world’s corruption in the next verse.

II Peter 1:4 – Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Peter is effectually saying that because the Christian is saved, he is to take part in serving God instead of serving lust. Once a person is saved, they ought not to be doing activities that the Bible states as wrong and the world finds to be acceptable. For example, Christians ought not to listen to music that does not honor God, as it is self-serving to the flesh. Our flesh is not to be served; it is to be kept under control.

II Peter 1:5-8 – And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter then lists a group of characteristics that are needed to be fruitful for God. Rather than chasing worldly desires, the Christian should chase godly qualities. The result at the end of verse 8 should be the desire of every Christian, “.”

II Peter 1:9 – But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

This verse describes the Christian who does not have these characteristics and is not pursuing them. Perhaps the pleasures of this present world and the snare of the devil turned his eyes off of God, and he is no longer following after righteousness. Based on the author’s study of the bema seat of Christ where Christian’s lives are examined by God, when this Christian is called before God to give account of his life, it will be a very solemn time. Imagine the scene, if you will. A person became a Christian and went away from God; how would he face the God he turned away from?

If a person claims to be a Christian, let that person live their life so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind.

Salvation of a Wicked City

Jonah 2:10 – 3:1-2 – And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

What a way to be thrust back into the ministry! Vomited out of a fish onto dry land, Jonah hears God calling him again to go to Nineveh. When Christians fail, God doesn’t put an end to their ministry; He justs helps them back to their feet to serve Him again.

So this time, Jonah is commanded to go to Nineveh a second time. Jonah got a second chance from God, and God was trying to, through that experience, teach Jonah to give others second chances.

Jonah 3:3-4 – So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Jonah’s recorded message to the Ninevites was simple and short. It did not tell of who was going to overthrow the city, but either the Ninevites knew of the true God in Heaven or there is some unwritten communication here. In any scenario, the King of Nineveh ordered that the city repent of their wicked ways before God, that they may not be destroyed.

Jonah 3:6-10 – For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

God gave Nineveh a second chance after seeing their change of heart. The entire city was ordered to put away wicked  ways and cry unto God for forgiveness. If preachers today could get such a result, the author would wonder how they would respond, as compared to Jonah, as noted in chapter 4.

Jonah 4:1 – But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

This was the response of a preacher to the salvation of God of a very wicked city. This Jonah, a man who God entrusted to deliver messages from God to the children of Israel and quite possibly a man of some status in the religious realm at that time period in Israel. Jonah was angry that God had chosen to save Nineveh. Not only this, Jonah knew God would save the city if they had repented, and for this reason, by Jonah’s own admission, Jonah did not want to preach the message of God.

Jonah 4:2 – And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

One should strive to be different than Jonah in the preaching of God’s message. Any vile person can repent of their sins and come to God; it makes no difference if a five year old girl gets saved or a old drug dealer repents of his sin. “Salvation is of the Lord.”(Jonah 2:9b) How quickly Jonah forgot that salvation is not on his terms; it is on God’s terms.

Forgiveness From God

As seen in the previous chapter, Jonah was punished for his disobedience of God’s direct command to go to Nineveh. He was in the whale for three days and nights, before he finally broke down and repented of his sin before God. Jonah realised that his sin was wrong, and that he needed to confess it to God before he could open communication with him. Sin can only be reconciled through sincere confession, and that is what Jonah did. God graciously gave Jonah a second chance; likewise Jonah was to give Nineveh a second chance.

(Author’s note: For sake of space the entire passage will not be quoted to the post, but it would be good to read all of Jonah 2 with this post)

Jonah 2:1-2,10 – Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

Jonah confessed his sin to God, and God forgave him and put him back on his feet. While this seems simple, it has much greater meaning. Jonah, who 3 days before had rejected the call of God to preach salvation in Nineveh, was given a second chance. Since God will forgive that, and then help us back up, even if we struggle with sin God will be there. He is not going to leave us behind because we sin; but do not use that as an excuse to sin freely. As seen in the previous chapter, God will punish sin; perhaps not by throwing disobedient servants in a great fish, but by other means that will get the attention of a person. Make a note of this as you go about your day.

 

The Disobedience of Jonah

In the book of Jonah, there is a common story that most will have heard taught in Sunday School as a young child. For the next few posts, the author would ask that the readers look at the story in a different light, to see some important truths contained in the text. Behind the children’s Bible story is an important message that can apply to any Christian today. In today’s post, chapter 1 of the book of Jonah will be covered, on the disobedience of Jonah.

Jonah 1:1-2 – Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

The first point that can be brought of this first chapter is that Jonah was called to preach in Nineveh which possibly, from further study of the city, could be on par with today’s Las Vegas, or its nickname: Sin City. A preacher, or in this case, a prophet, would probably not be excited to have to go and preach there, due to the possible hostility of the crowd. However, sometimes a person has to go and do something that they do not want to do; whether it be cleaning the bathrooms at a job or preaching against a wicked city. The principle applies to any job that one may face.

Jonah 1:3 – But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Jonah’s reaction to God’s calling is probably the same response that most Christians today would have to a task they know they should do, but don’t want to do. One may say: “Well, I didn’t jump on a ship to run away from God,” and you probably didn’t. But not doing what God asks you to do is just as bad as running away from Him. You may not be running away from God, but you won’t be running to Him either. And as one will see in the next few verses, one will never have the time or money to escape from God.

Jonah 1:4 – But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

The Lord had never lost Jonah, and when He saw that Jonah has disobeyed, While God is a loving God, sin must and will be punished, and God punished Jonah through the storm and having him thrown into the sea, to be swallowed by the great fish. God uses every situation for good however, and the storm led to the salvation, if you will, of the mariners.

So when God calls, Christians ought to obey. While we may not get swallowed up in the great fish like Jonah did, by disobeying God we lose contact with him, until we confess our sins, and go obey God.

Jonah 1:16 – Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.

 

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