Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Are you a good person?

This past week, I was reminded of a technique popularized by Ray Comfort that leads people to Jesus by showing them their sins.  It is the "Are you a good person?" technique.

It first asks the person to rate their goodness on a scale of one to ten with Hitler being number one and perhaps (in honor of his homegoing today) Billy Graham at ten.  Compared to these two people I would probably rate myself at a 7.  I know I'm not perfect. (Neither was Billy Graham).  But I've never systematically slaughtered millions of Jewish people.

But the problem is that God will not judge our perfection based on other people.  He will judge us based on himself and his own standards.  Jesus Christ was the only perfect human being to live and he was God.  We will be judged against him and by him.  Matthew 5:48 says to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Jesus achieved that.  I have not.

Then we go through all the ten commandments to show how rotten we really are.  Really commandments 2 through 10 are just a reiteration of the first.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.  Is there something I love more than Jesus that I look to for answers more often than him?  I know that is the case.  My heart is an idol factory just like John Calvin said.  I love friends, family, church activities, my job, and the comfort of my couch and bed, which often satisfy me far more than our Lord at times.

2.  You shall not make a graven image of God.  Presbyterians like myself interpret this commandment to mean that we shall not assign any image to God.  That means if we take a picture of the Milky Way and call that God, that is making a graven image.  Ancient folks would make idols and bow to them.  Even today, sometimes you can't think of Jesus without thinking of Jim Caviezel or Robert Powell or Bruce Marchiano who have portrayed him in films.  Is that sinful?  I don't know, but to equate them with Jesus is.  I even have a picture of Jesus laughing.  Is that a graven image?  I think so.  All I know is that I have not moved it to my current house.  But have I taken something I can see and equated it with God?  I think so, whether it be food, my guitar, or someone I love.

3. You shall not take God's name in vain.  This one is tricky because it does not mean to not cuss.  I try not to do that but I have before.  I know I avoid using "God" the way you see people at work and at school do when they say "OMG."  But that doesn't bother me nearly as much as when they do that with Jesus's name.  I mean, God can be anybody, basically.  And the F and S words don't bother me nearly as much as when someone shouts, "Jesus Christ," when they drop hot soup onto their pants because you know they are verbally attacking the God who sent him which is the true and only God.  I don't do that.  But I call myself a Christian and live under Christ's name and sometimes commit serious errors that call shame on him.  So yes, I have taken God's name in vain.

4.  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  Well, I do work on on Sunday nights (though my job has graciously let me have Sunday mornings off and I didn't even ask them to until this week).  And I don't know how to stop.  So yes, I commit this sin, although Monday this week was the closest I have come to intentionally doing nothing.  And it really helped.

5. Honor your mother and father.  Sorry Dad, but yes, I commit this sin.  I remember the summer after my freshman year in college when I was home where I committed this sin against both my parents, but I commit it more against dad than mom.

6.  Do not murder.  I am in CR for recovery from anger.  Just feeling hatred at someone is mental murder.  I have hated, and I am ashamed.  I don't think anger is always wrong or a form of hatred, but it can lead to it.

7. Do not commit adultery.  I'm so glad nobody can read my mind.  From the time I hit puberty around 11 years old till I got married, I did lots of fantasizing.  I think we all have.  You can't live in this TV and movie culture and not.  Yes, I commit this sin.

8. Do not steal.  Claiming something to be mine which actually isn't legally.  that's the fruit of the tenth commandment.  I've stolen answers on tests and passed them off as my own.

9. Do not lie.  Unless you are Jesus, you have lied.  The end.  We have all done that.

10.  Do not covet.  Want something so bad that you will stop at nothing to get it.  Wishing you had kids and envying those who do.  Wishing you were married and envying those who were when I was still single.  We all lack something that we want so badly that we will pay and do anything to get it.  Yes, I commit this a lot.

I've committed all 10 categories of sin.  When you compare yourself to this list, you will notice that you have too.  And if you break one commandment, you've broken them all.  And no amount of good deeds will balance it out because your sins are like a tattoo.  It's permanent and will haunt you the rest of your life.

You have to perfectly keep the commandments to be saved, but you haven't.  There's a problem.  It's like trying to jump across the Grand Canyon by yourself.  You need help.

That is why we need Jesus.  Jesus kept all the commandments.  He lived the only perfect life.  And then he died in my place because it is impossible for him to stay dead since he was perfect.  And he stands before his Father in heaven to plead my case.  If you believe in him, he will take on your sins and give you his perfect righteousness so that you can come before the Father on the day of judgment completely absolved of your sins.  You don't have to do special penance or any rituals.  You just have to believe.  And when you do, you will receive the Holy Spirit who will shape you and guide you to the Scriptures so that you can finally follow those commandments.  You won't do it perfectly in this life.  You won't be sinless, but you will sin less.  1 John 1:9 says that if you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.  Jesus's most simplest sermon is "repent for the kingdom of heaven is near."  Don't just turn from your sins.  That won't save you.  Turn to Jesus.  If you do, he's already saved you.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FISH: Jesus is calling you

Step 1: Realize that you are dead in your sins.
Step 2: Answer God if he is calling you, because he will pursue you until you do.
John 6:44 - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

The classic Augustinian/Calvinistic view of salvation that I follow is that when Adam and Eve sinned, all of their children, us, were born in sin and cannot approach God unless blood is shed.  It should be our blood, but God was merciful and sent a Substitute, the perfect permanent one, in Jesus Christ.  He died for the sins of his church and now sends the Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that they can love him.

The Pelagian view, which I consider unchristian, is that Adam and Eve’s sin did not cast all their children into sin.  We are born neutral and can made good, moral decisions to save us from our sins.  Jesus did not die as our Substitute because we did not need one.  He was simply a good, moral example of self-sacrifice.

Then, there’s the Arminian view, which is Christian.  Men and women are born with original sin and must have Jesus die in their place in order to have a good relationship with God.  But they can feely come to Jesus for their salvation without any coercion.

It’s Christian, and I count Methodists and Nazarenes who follow this view as brothers and sisters in Christ, but I don’t agree completely.  We have wills, but they aren’t free.  We can make decisions, but not for the Lord until the Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we can truly love God for the wonder that he is.

So now, I turn to Simon Peter.  He was a fisherman and a good Jew with no real direction.  And then Jesus called him to be a disciple.  He learned under Jesus for three years and then saw his master crucified, which was not supposed to happen to the Messiah, in his opinion.

On the night before Jesus was betrayed, Peter vowed that he would die with him.  Then, three times, he denied he even knew Jesus.  He also betrayed Jesus that night.

But here is the wonder of God’s mercy.  When Jesus died on the cross, and you believe in him, then that death had your name on it.  It didn’t made salvation possible for everyone but uncertain because of free will.  It made a definite salvation for all that the father intended to save.  And if you believe in Jesus as your Lord, then you have received that salvation.

Peter had received it.  Here is John 21:15-25

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Peter thought he was done and went back to his meaningless and unsuccessful job as a fisherman.  But Jesus lovingly showed him his sin, forgave him, and made him the leader of the disciples.  Not only did he call Peter to be a disciple; he called him to salvation.  And he wooed him until he followed.

Is Jesus calling you?  Then he will have you.  He will change your will and your heart so that you don’t love sin anymore and that you love him even more than you hate sin.  He did it for me and is still doing it.  This offer is open to you, too.

Found by Jesus
Instead of being lost in your sins
Salvation is definite
How could you reject such a salvation?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hosea: Application and going to other books

Here is my continuing monthly saga of following Kelly's class on inductive Bible study using the prophet Hosea. 

The first thing she emphasized is that the Bible is not a self-help book.  People often come to church and the Bible looking for advice on how to sin less, improve their marriages, be better at their jobs and with people.  The Bible is not about that and church should be teaching what the Bible teaches.  The Bible is simply God's communication to his lost people about why they are lost and who the solution is.  When man sinned against God he did not have to give them a way to get back into a good relationship with him, but he sent one way and one alone: Jesus.  He makes it possible to come back to God through taking the punishment for your sins and by giving you his righteousness.  He sends the Spirit to call you to him and to change your heart. 

But here is what happens when you do read the Bible: 

1) First, it will lead you to prayer.  The other day I was reading 1 John 2.  Usually when I read the Bible I have a notebook next to me of all the people and situations I want to pray about.  And although I follow that, 1 John 2 says, "My dear children, I write this to you so taht you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father -- Jesus Chrsit, the Righteous One." I thought of the children I used to care for at CCS after school and how my heart still aches for them.  Especially when I see them making the same mistakes over and over and after I've invested so much in them.  This passage caused me to pray for them.

2) It will lead you to repentance.  Another thing Kelly mentioned is that repentance isn't so much turning away from sin as it is turning to Jesus.  A lot of people can repent and not be saved.  Judas Iscariot repented of his betraying Jesus but he never turned to Jesus.  He took his life.  Peter also betrayed Jesus by denying him, but he repented to Jesus.  Actually, Jesus initiated that by calling him back again when he was fishing.  The same day I read 1 John 2, I also read Numbers 16, where Korah and other people didn't like how Moses and Aaron were leading Israel and insisted that God had appointed all Israel to lead Israel.  I had to repent of ways that I've been angry at certain leadership and people who get privileges that I don't get.  I need to recognize that God has them in charge for now.  Whenever I'm in charge, I simply seek my own glory and worship myself.  That is why I can't do it.  But I must not simply repent.  I need to turn toward Jesus.

3) It should cause you to worship.  The Bible's words all should be in red because they are all Jesus's words.  He is God's Word and he is very much alive and in your life.  This is the one book where the author is alive and in the room with you.  It should cause you to both talk to him and fall in love with him.  He chose you to be able to read this book and to read the words that cause you to come back to him.

Now for Hosea 13:4-8.
4 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. 7 So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open.

Think of these questions whenever you read a passage:

• Do I have any incorrect thoughts about God that need to change?
“God is a God of love that I don’t have to fear.”  If you forget God, he will not sit still.  He will not share his glory with another.
• Is there something to worship God for or thank Him for?
I need to worship only God and thank him that he will take vengeance on evil and all people who oppose him.
• Is this passage exposing sin, namely self-trust or self-worship, that needs to be confessed?
It is exposing people who claimed to be God’s people but who turned their backs on him and worshiped idols.
• Where is repentance (turning from self and clinging to God) needed?
It is needed so that God does not cast us into an eternity filled with his wrath.
• Is this passage revealing a truth about God or the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I need to believe?
It doesn’t seem to do so at first.  But all the Bible is about Jesus, both Old and New testament.  It shows the urgency to repent and turn to Jesus.  It is the only way God will forgive us of our sins.  And it mentions the “savior.”  Jesus is the savior.  We have no savior other than God, so Jesus is God.
• What false beliefs must I turn from?
That God will never hold people accountable for their sins.  Their sins will be punished.  Either in them or in Jesus.
·         What would my life look like if I believed the meaning of this text? How different is that from my life now?
I would probably be more open about sharing the Gospel because I no people all around me who live in sin against God and are not repentant.
• What actions steps do I need to take – empowered by the Holy Spirit – today? Make your application specific to your life, not just a general principle. Make your application realistic and doable.
Isn’t the Spirit a gift, someone I already have in my life?  I’m already empowered by the Holy Spirit.  I suppose I could ask him to show me where I need to speak up and also give me a way to do it.  Right now I can’t do it.
• Is there someone to pray for or something to pray about?
My co-workers who don’t know the Lord except as a curse word.
• Is there a verse or passage on which to memorize or meditate?
Hosea 13:7, I am to them like a ion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.
• Who can I share this with?
Duh, my blog.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ephesians 2: DEAD

Ephesians 2:1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time,gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Apart from Christ, a person is not enough.  I am not enough.  Not only am I powerless to do the good I want to do for the Lord, but because of my sin, I am dead. 

D - Dead people cannot make decisions.  If I went to a graveyard and invited the citizens there to a party, they would have the choice to come or not, but they could not make that decision.  I would have to somehow make them alive.  This is what Christ does for us.  If you follow him now, it is because he first loved you and made you alive by his Spirit.

E - Enough.  Any good thing you do is not enough to atone for your sin.  But Jesus lived a perfect life and his sacrifice is enough to cleanse you and make you alive again.  It is by grace you are saved. Not your free will.  Not your decisions.  Nothing in you caused God to choose you for salvation.  Jesus did it all. 

A - After you are saved, you will show the "incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us."  Your good deeds are an ends, not a means.  They don't save you.  They are a sign that you are saved.

D- Do what God has called you to do.  We are God's workmanship, created for good works in Christ.  Before the Holy Spirit came upon you, you could not do them.  After he has come, now you can. 

And step 1: remember you still have a sin nature, but praise God, it does not have to rule you.  But you still need discernment and the Scriptures to guide you as to whether you should follow your gut or not.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SIN acronym

Step 1: Remember that you still have a sin nature


Sold to wickedness
1 Kings 21:25, “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.”

What does Ahab’s wickedness have to do with my sin?  Ahab was one of the most notoriously wicked kings of Northern Israel.  He married the Phoenician princess Jezebel for a trade relationship.  She led him to worship Baal.  Baal worship included sleeping with prostitutes to induce the god Baal to sleep with his consort Asherah so that they could produce rain.  Some Baal worship also included sacrificing children in fire.

Has my sin ever been this bad?  I have never slept with anyone other than my husband and I have fought the pro-life cause for a long time.  But I have an idolatrous heart that places loves above my Lord and a wicked mind that takes pleasure in wrong things.  And everybody has some beset sin that they are born with.  Lady Gaga is right.  Before Christ saves you, you are born that way, though that way is sin, and it takes many forms.

God wiped out a whole generation of people in a flood because they were all naturally wicked, but he graciously saved Noah, Mrs. Noah, their sons, and their sons’ wives.   And those eight were sinners, too.

In sin did my mother conceive me, Psalm 51:5b

David wrote that line in a Psalm where he repented of his sin of taking a married woman as his own wife and then killing her husband.  Nobody knew about that sin except God and maybe Joab.  But God revealed David’s sin to Nathan who called him out.  And David repented.  Through God’s grace, David did good things.  He stood up for God against a nine-foot-tall Philistine that everyone else feared.  He spared his enemy, King Saul, when Saul tried to kill him out of jealousy and fear of God’s judgment.  He showed kindness to Saul’s crippled grandson, Mephibosheth, when he had every right to kill him.

But through all his goodness and devotion to God, David still had a prideful sin nature that came out the first time he marred more than one woman, and then really came to a head when he happened to see Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, bathing from a rooftop, slept with her, made her pregnant, and then had Uriah conveniently on a front line in battle and killed. 

And despite all our deeds, we still have pride, and our sin nature still lives.  We cannot be fully Christ’s until that sin is gone.

No one is righteous, no, not one, Romans 3:10b

Romans 7:24, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Paul captures the believer’s struggle perfectly.  Praise God, he sent Jesus to die for my sins and for the sins of all believers.  You don’t have to stay in your sin.  Even if you really love your sin, the Holy Spirit will convict you, show you Jesus, and change your heart so that you no longer desire it.  It will even become ugly to you.  And he will give you Christ’s goodness so that you can love Jesus more than you hated your sin.  Please believe in him.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Romans 7: which to follow: my heart or the Spirit?

I decided to read Romans 7 because it is one of the texts cited at Celebrate Recovery this past week.  I was wanting to read more of it because of Paul's struggle with sin even though he is a Christian now.

The first question that popped in my mind is about verses 1-6 when Paul talks about marriage and divorce.  A shallow question would be, is it a sin for a divorced woman to remarry when her ex is still alive?  Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.  I personally believe that she is free to marry if she did not initiate the divorce and if her husband has cheated on her or is abusive.  Jesus said she can divorce if the man is unfaithful.  Abuse is another form of unfaithfulness because the man has broken his vow to love and cherish his wife.  And she should be able to start again.

However, that is not the point of this chapter.  Paul is comparing our sinful nature as that ex-husband who is still alive and Christ as that new husband who we want to marry.  If you are in your sins, you cannot come to God because God cannot look on evil.  You will explode in flames of God's wrath.  Your sins will not be forgiven.  Either you will die for them, or somebody will take your place.  And that perfect somebody is the only perfect man, Jesus, who is also God the Son.  He takes that punishment, sends his Holy Spirit to change your heart, and now you can come to God through Christ and his blood that covers you.

Christ has taken all my sins on himself and given me his righteousness, and so I can come to God's presence humbled and grateful.  At the same time, I still live on this planet where Christ's kingdom has not been consummated.  And I still live in my old body and soul which has been weakened by sin.  Although I have God's Spirit inside me, I still have my old sinful nature nagging at me.  It's like, it's not quite dead yet (why does Monty Python and the Holy Grail come to mind right now?).  It's not getting better, but it is still kicking.  And that is why when I need to make a decision, I can't just go with my gut.  I have to take in serious prayer and Bible reading. 

Let's use Paul as an example.  Before he was a Christian, he hated Jesus and persecuted Christians, killing even women and children.  He probably had lots of anger and never struggled because there were no competing voices inside him.  Now that Christ has come and changed him, he probably still has anger.  You can see his biting sarcasm as you read scenes in Acts and in his epistles.  He now struggles between anger/hatred versus his new love in Christ.  He cannot just do what he wants because the old Saul still calls out to him.  He cannot go with his gut.  He must follow Christ.

I am a Christian.  I don't remember a time when I did not believe in God.  I remember being about 6 or 7 and saying to my mom, "At church, they talk about God as if he is real."  And she said, "That's because he is real.  He's just invisible."  So I believed.  Then another time we were talking about a sister I had that had died in infancy.  She talked about heaven, and I said, "Is heaven real?"  "Yes, it is."  So I believed.  Then when I was 11 years old, Dad came home from a Promise Keeper's conference and introduced me to Christian rock music, and I decided I wanted to follow Jesus completely and make him my world. 

Since then, I have struggled with making close friendships, loneliness, mental sins, bad temper, and even anger.  Although I have loved Jesus and believed him as long as I can remember, I still have sin, and so I can't just make decisions based on how I feel.  I must be humble and read Scripture, pray, and even take advice from others.  To do otherwise would be denial, the key word from CR, this past week.  You can't deny that you still have a sin nature, and you must not follow your heart.

Do you feel such tensions in your life?  How do you deal with them?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Hosea: fallow ground

In this blog on Kelly Needham's inductive study on Hosea, I will go through her techniques, and then just jump to my conclusion.

Here is the text: Hosea 10:11-15

11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off

1. Define words such as thresh, harrow, and fallow.

Thresh means to separate grain from a plant, usually with a flail or repetitive motion. 

Harrow is an implement consisting of a heavy frame set with teeth or tines that is dragged over plowed land to break up clods, remove weeds, and cover seed.

I usually think of the term "harrowing" to describe a scary experience.

Fallow means farmland that is left plowed and harrowed but unsown so that it will regain its fertility.

When God calls someone to repent, that person's salvation is all the work of God and nobody else.  Nothing you did made God choose you for salvation.  He just did it because he wanted to.  But afterward, you have to work to repent and change your life.  And God usually dumps your whole world upside-down. And it is harrowing.  I discovered anger and impulses in my life that need to be totally stripped away, and it has not been fun.  I've even experienced a threshing, a return to boring repetition that seems meaningless and back to square one.  Maybe soon I will see a light at the end of the tunnel and be restored to something else.

2. Look at the cross-references.

3. Use the rest of the Bible.

4. Reread the passage.

At the end, the main thing I thought about was the parable of the sower that Jesus tells.  There are four soils.  One is a path where seed falls, but birds eat it up and nothing happens.  The other soils are rocky or thorny.  Plants grow for a time but soon die away due to having no true root in Jesus or by being choked by worries and other people.  And the last is good soil where the plants thrive. 

And I think, the good soil was probably rocky and thorny once.  It might even have been a path.  But God came with a bulldozer and cleared the land and slowly chipped away things I thought were important so that I could focus on the Lord and not worry about what other people think.  It's painful, but it's wonderful, too.  It makes me realize that I'm not as amazing as I think I am.  But God is.  I am not enough, but Jesus is.