Friday, November 28, 2008

Frequently Asked Friday

Kronk and his shoulder angels.

This is the first part of a greater subject that is far too great for a single post. Subsequent parts will be posted each Friday. By the way, the picture for this theme is inspired by Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, which is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. For more information on the shoulder angels, click here. While the picture does tie in with what I'm talking about, the shoulder angels aren't my focus. LOL!

What Is Sin?

I have never found an outright definition in the Bible, but here are some scriptures that shed some light on the nature of sin:
  • "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).
  • "... For whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b).
  • "All unrighteousness is sin" (1 John 5:17a).
  • "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).
  • "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14,15).
  • "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.... Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:20-22,27,28).

So, sin is breaking God's Law, as a result of lust, lack of faith, or disobedience. Also note that Jesus raised the bar, by stating that even dwelling on sinful thoughts count as sin. But what Law is it a sin to break? The explicit details of the Mosaic Law? "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Romans 7:6). Apparently not, for the Law of Mount Sinai was fulfilled by Jesus, who gave us the two commandments that we need to follow. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:37-39).

Sin, therefore, is breaking Jesus' commandments to love God above all else and others as ourselves. Sin is thoughts, words, or actions that originate from misdirected or insufficient love. Think about it. Every sin that you've ever committed can be traced back to loving yourself, or something, more than God or your fellow man (or woman).

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Cloth and Wine

Note: Posted by Farrah -- Greg has been busy!

Matt. 9
[14] Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?[15] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.[16] No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.[17] Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

John’s disciples and the Pharisees were accustomed to following the Old Testament laws and traditions that they had grown up with. They were used to fasting regularly and couldn’t understand why Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast as well.

One might ask: What is the purpose of fasting? I see it as a way of showing God how serious we are about wanting an answer to prayer or to draw closer to Him. But what would be the point of doing so when God is standing right there, big as life, talking to you? Jesus’ disciples had no reason to fast. Anything they needed to discuss with God could be addressed immediately and receive a direct flesh and blood answer.

There was a problem with the Old Covenant. It was insufficient in that it could not result in a changed heart or clear conscience. The Word says that the law was our school teacher and a shadow of things to come. We would not know what sin is unless there is a law telling us what and what not to do. The law was meant to open our eyes to our inadequateness for meeting God’s approval. It showed our great need for a Savior, the perfect sacrifice that could actually cleanse us from sin and write the law on our hearts, giving rise to real change.

One thing we know about old clothing and wine bottles is that at one time they were new. You might say the first covenant was beautiful in its youth. Imagine God carving out the Ten Commandments with His own Hand so that Moses could deliver them to His people. Picture a law that could bring peace and prosperity if God’s people would only follow it. Envision the temple in the time of Solomon with all of its earthly glory – the gold and precious stones, the carved flowers, cherubims, and the priests with their long and ornate, robes.

Yet the garment wasn’t perfect, and as time went by that became ever clearer. The threads began to wear as God’s people repeatedly disobeyed and were punished. The riches in His house were plundered, His temple destroyed, and by the time Jesus was born the last remnants of the first covenant were barely recognized. God’s house was overrun with corrupt Pharisees and opportunists seeking only prophet. It had become a den of thieves.

We know that there were good pieces of cloth left, people who were sincere and devoted, anxiously awaiting the promised Messiah. We get to meet a couple of them in Luke 2. There was Simeon, the priest who had been told he would not die until he had seen the promised Christ. And there was Anna, a widow of “great age” who rejoiced to see Jesus and spoke of him to those “that looked for redemption in Israel.” It’s interesting to note that these two people themselves were not unlike an old garment, being near to the end of their lives.

In both of Jesus’ examples, a problem was implied. The old, worn-out garment was in need of a patch, else why would a new piece of cloth be added? And the old wine bottles were empty, else why would we consider refilling them? In the same way, the Old Testament laws were worn-out and “ready to vanish away.” They were insufficient for meeting our spiritual needs. History was on the brink of prophecy fulfillment, the desperately needed “patch” had arrived, the new wine was about to be poured out. But some wanted to keep their old ways and traditions. They were comfortable with their old clothes and wine bottles.

The problem is that it won’t work. Remember that the garment has a hole and the bottles are empty. So what did God send to fix things? A patch? No, a brand new replacement, a set of divine royal robes far superior to anything the law could give. Jesus did not die simply to patch things up. He died so that old things could pass away and all things could be made new. He came to fulfill the law, not fix it. The law was trying to make us show love without having it in our hearts. Jesus came to give us a brand new garment and new wine to put into new bottles. If we attempt to cling to our old life or our old traditions or even the Old Testament laws, it just won’t work. The tear will be made worse and the bottles will break.

It can be hard to let go of traditions. To the Pharisees the old wine was best, and in real life old wine really IS the best. But they didn’t realize that the bottles were empty. With the death of Jesus approaching, those old bottles were going to be as dry as a desert. Once a better way has come, and the old and new are viewed side by side, the old looks even worse. Imagine an old shirt with holes. Next to it is a brand new one. Which of the following would you do: Cut pieces from the new shirt to patch the holes in the old one or toss the old shirt and wear the new one? People do a great disservice to Jesus when they try to keep their old ways and Him, too. It detracts from what He came to do and makes it appear as if He is insufficient. It interferes with His plans for our lives and causes us to miss out on blessings.

What the Pharisees didn’t realize is that with Jesus’ presence on earth, He had already initiated the abandoning of the old garment for the new. John had prepared the way for the New Covenant. Soon Jesus would be crucified and rise again. Then, He would return to heaven and send the Holy Spirit, which would guide men in their new lives. There would still be times for fasting and prayer, but not because of old laws and traditions, not the way the Pharisees viewed fasting as something that must be done repetitiously and out of duty.

The new garment is the only garment worth having.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ray Boltz and Homosexuality

Note: Posted by Farrah

Several years ago, we bought some albums by Ray Boltz. Though he wasn't our favorite, we thought several of his songs were really wonderful. He hasn't made any new albums in many years, and I thought perhaps the Lord had called him into other things. Perhaps touring in another country, spreading the gospel, similar to David Meece. Until I stumbled across the following article copied and pasted onto a Christian's blog:

Gospel singer Ray Boltz - who has sold about 4.5 million LPs, cassettes and CDs - has come out of the closet publicly in an interview with Washington Blade.

The formerly married singer, who has four children, came out to his family and friends several years ago. While sitting around the kitchen table at his daughter’s house in December 2004 - the same day as the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean - Boltz’s son, Philip, asked him what was wrong.

“I thought, ‘Well, I can just do what I always do and hide the truth or I can take a risk and be honest,’” Boltz says. “That day, with the tsunami, has become very symbolic in our family.”

Nobody was sure, at the time, what the ramifications of the revelation would be, least of all Ray.

“It’s hard to say I came out because I didn’t have all the answers. I just admitted what I was struggling with and what I was feeling. It’s hard to go, ‘This is the point where I accepted my sexuality and who I was,’ but I came out to them and shared with them what I’d been going through.”

Continuing to pretend, Boltz says, was no longer an option.

“I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’”

His family’s reaction took time.

“I don’t want to downplay it like it was just, ‘Oh, well that’s OK.’ It was a very tough time for them too, but the bottom line was they loved me and they still love me … it’s been an amazing journey of acceptance on their part … I was offered support and love from each member of my family, including my wife.”

I was very sad to discover this, and we had to throw away his CDs. Until we know he has come back to Jesus, we will not enjoy his music. On the brighter side, there was a comment left by a lady that really touched and encouraged me:

There is no sin that is not common to our flesh. In our flesh lies no good thing. We are all potential homosexuals, murderers, etc. One drop of blood from Jesus washes away a multitude of sin. I was saved at 13. I saw and recognized the horror and depth and vileness of sin within me though I barely had committed any known “labeled” sin in my loving Christian family life… least not at that time in my life. When my womanizing husband left me and I was thrown into a partying lifestyle, it didn’t take long for people to no longer recognize the person I had become. So I “came out” proclaiming I was no longer a Christian. Not that I had homosexual tendencies but that I was validating that “I no longer have to live a nice Christian walk, attending Church and living celibate. That proclamation I thought gave me freedom to join the world doing the same as I was. There was pleasure in that partying lifestyle…”for a season” but I did come to an end of myself.

I would like to say that I reached out to Jesus but I didn’t. HE REACHED DOWN IN MY DESPAIR AT THE POINT OF SUICIDE, WANTING TO DIE, BELIEVING THAT I DESERVED HELL…and literally told me to be still and let HIM love me. He spoke to my heart and told me that He would take away everything that did not please Him and make it easy for me to walk with Him. He only required one thing of me and that was “that no matter how unworthy I deemed myself, that I would consider that He is a God worthy of praise, and that I would promise to “Get up anyway, go on anyway, and praise Him anyway.”

So whatever the sin, whatever the trouble, I will go on! He is constantly bringing up things in our lives causing us to recognize those fleshly “tendencies” within ourselves until we can look to Him, and say, “Ah Lord, I never want to do that again”. If the “tendencies” are stronger than we can conquer sometimes only Jesus can come into that place in our hearts and work righteousness. It is a precious repentant heart that is pure before Him.

We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Let us pray that Ray is brought into a “testimony”…a story of victory. This is a battle I am glad I haven’t been called to conquer. With all our prayers of love and compassion let us pray for our brother that God deliver him from these ungodly desires that he obviously so far has not found victory over.

I have a cousin that “came out” to his family, wife, and four grown daughters. After the divorce and living the lifestyle for 5 years, one day God got hold of his heart, led him to an unknown church where he walked in and saw his wife with the whole congregation praying over her and him. He says after a lifetime of believing he was gay, God gave him something he never really had experienced ...”a physical desire and attraction for the opposite sex of which his wife was the ultimate desire of his “body”." She was already a part of his soul which had never left him.

Years later he tried to convey to his own nephew his testimony. That nephew told me that he wanted to believe him and prayed so hard, and tried so hard to just not live the lifestyle but the attraction for men instead of women was always there. After several years of “praying…trying” he gave in and began living with this older man. Within 2 years this handsome, precious, loving, nephew died a horrible, lonely, death of aids he got from that man.

Let us pray for Ray Boltz and his family.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jesus, Our King

While leaving a comment on GGM's blog, I was reminded of something I received from the Lord, a couple years ago. I had it posted on our original website, so instead of typing it all over again, I'm presenting it here, with some edits. Enjoy!

Since before He created man, God has desired to be our king. But in the waning years of Samuel, Israel's last judge, the people demanded that he appoint them an earthly king. They saw how nations around them were governed, and so they wanted the same for themselves. They wanted to be more like other nations! (Does this sound familiar?)

This greatly displeased God. Not only did He want them to set themselves apart from their neighboring idolators, but He Himself wanted to be their King. He warned them, through Samuel, that in desiring a man for king, they were rejecting God, and that their new king would lead them to suffering, ruin, and disaster. But the people did not listen.

Even though it was God who chose Saul for their king, from that day forward, the nation of Israel was essentially divided. No longer did the people have One Leader, but two. There were those who continued to trust in God, to whom it probably did not matter who wore the earthly crown; and there were those who rebelled against the Lord and chose to put their trust in their new king, and him alone.

The Bible chronicles the ups and downs that the nation of Israel went through, under their various rulers. There were some kings that truly loved God, but most of them turned their backs to Him, inviting God's wrath and a nearly uninterrupted string of invasions by Israel's enemies.

But God never gave up on His people. He had promised them that an heir would arise, from the lineage of King David (Israel's 2nd king, and arguably their greatest, though not without flaws), who would establish an eternal Kingdom and rule over it forever. Now clearly, that would be impossible for a mere man to do, since men are mortal. But God had a different plan. A perfect plan.

He eventually sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be our King. Born of a virgin, Jesus was at the same time, fully God and fully man, of the lineage of King David. Because of His unique nature, Jesus re-unified God's people under a single King. The two kingdoms became one, because Jesus is heir to both!

Jesus, the Son of God and the heir to the throne of David, came to re-unite God with His own people. Through Jesus, God brought the long rebellious line of kings back under Himself and re-established Himself as the One and Only King of His people. All we have to do is individually accept Jesus as our personal Lord, Savior, and King.

Two thousand years later, we live in a country that was unquestionably founded on God's Word. Most of our nation's founders were devout believers, who relied heavily on God's principles, in creating the government and laws of our land. But as God blessed us with bounty, success, and power, people relied less and less on Him, and more and more on themselves and their elected leaders. Morality became subject to the fad du jour. Acts and beliefs that were once reprehensible (by God and man) are now condoned and even encouraged. Our justice system now relies more on the letter of the Constitution than the intent of its designers. We're even looking at other countries, to assist in court rulings! We are barrelling headlong down a slippery slope of no return!

The only way back is to return to the Lord, individually and as a nation. We each need to repent of our sins and surrender our will to Jesus Christ, Our Savior and King. We need to rely on the unwavering truth of God's Word: the Bible. Only then will He again bless our nation and defeat our enemies, both outside and within.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In the News

U.S. Elections

Yes, we all know how that turned out. I was reading an article on CNN today, that tried to explain why the win seemed so lop-sided. While the statistics are not yet fully analyzed, the percent turnout was much higher among Democrats than Republicans. This means that while Obama's supporters were energized to vote, many more of his detractors (not all of them actually supported McCain) stayed home.

But here's something very interesting, that should give us all hope. As you can see from the map above, both Florida and California sided with Obama. However, both states also voted to ban gay "marriage". In California, voters were almost 2:1 for Obama, yet a decisive majority were for the ban! Furthermore, while Floridians narrowly favored Obama, around a 2:1 majority were for banning gay "marriage"! In fact, all four gay "marriage" bans passed, which is encouraging news to me that there is still a strong air of conservative values, across our country.

For the past couple elections, I noted a very interesting statistic that most (if not all) of the urban centers lean Left (some overwhelmingly so), while less populated areas lean to the Right. This split is particularly obvious in our own Washington state. It seems something happens when you cross the Cascades! Maybe it's the thinner air or reduced humidity. Someone should totally do a study on that!