Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Imaginary "god"

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)

The "god" of many professing Christians in America and much of the western world is a figment of our imagination. But please don't be alarmed because this is not the God revealed in Scripture. The God of the Bible fills the universe with his power and presence. This new weaker "god" is being embraced by  those that have "the appearance of godliness but denying its power." What power is being denied? It's the power of the Holy Spirit to heal, change, restore, and to transform the human heart. 

When we refuse to take up our cross and follow Jesus we begin to see God as being like us. He becomes a "god" of our own imaginations. This "god" doesn't make many demands on us and exist for our personal happiness, but not our personal holiness. This imaginary "god" makes very few moral claims on us and doesn't require discipleship. 

The root of this problem is the lack of belief in the authority of the Bible. It is currently being reinterpreted and undermined to fit our sexual desires and materialism. The Church in American is at a crossroads, we will either return to the God of the Bible or continue to follow this false deity - the "god" of our own imagination.  - Bobby

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Once and Now by Dudley Hall

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away…
Colossians 3:7-8a (ESV) 
In humanity’s search for authenticity, we often demand that others accept us as we are and overlook our deficiencies. Of course we all want a break when it comes to our failures, but our demands have often locked us into prisons of defeat.

     There are some things about us that we should accept and celebrate. Jesus warned that we can’t add one cubit to our height, and that we should not fret over such things. It is amusing how we feverishly search scientific progress for ways to change physically. We try to grow hair on bald heads, get face lifts, erase wrinkles, pin back ears, etc. in an effort to change the way we look. On the other hand, we easily conclude that character issues cannot be changed and simply must be accepted as normal. We tend to give free reign to our sexual desires, our quest for notoriety, our greed, our critical speech, and our self-focused agendas. “That’s just the way I am,” we protest. Then the debate over normal begins. Gordon Dalbey says, “When sickness becomes normal, the healthy are marginalized, and the healer is crucified.” There are some who become angry at the very suggestion of change. The only change they want is in the definition of normal—but they are left in their bondage.

     The hope of the gospel includes the power to change. We all once walked in such self-obsessed blindness, but something as radical as death has altered that. The things that seemed so important in the old life have lost their life-controlling value. We have been indwelt by the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son. He is continuously opening our eyes to the liberty of the life we share with God. Those idols that once seemed so necessary to our happiness are exposed as the enemies they really are. They are thieves of life masquerading as benevolent friends. We have been empowered as liberated sons to put to death those enemies that held us in the clutches of deception so long. With the simple declarative act of faith, we can enter the blessings of being crucified with Christ and raised with him to a new life. This does not make us perfect in behavior, but it does make us so conscious of being loved that we find ourselves loving instead of taking. 

     There is a difference in once and now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Snatched Up For A Meeting by Gary Manning

"The release of the movie Left Behind has again drawn attention to the Christian belief in the rapture. The movie tries to portray the chaos in the world as millions of Christians suddenly disappear. This image has interested Christians for quite a while. I recall watching the Thief in the Night series of movies back in the 1970s (the Antichrist had sideburns!). But I am interested in a question that is often overlooked: what is the point of the rapture in the Bible?

The idea of the rapture is based primarily on one passage in the Bible. In referring to the second coming of Christ, Paul says:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive who remain will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

The word "caught up" translates the Greek word ἁρπάζω (harpazō), which merely means to catch, snatch or take away. Our word rapture is based on the Latin translation of that word, raptus.

But I think that the purpose of the snatching is more important than the snatching itself. Paul says that we will be caught up "for a meeting (ἀπάντησις, apantēsis) with the Lord." What kind of meeting is this? (I hope it's not like some of the meetings that I am summoned to!) What did it mean to the first readers of Paul's letter? 

The word ἀπάντησις (along with its verb form ἀπαντάω and cognate synonyms ὑπάντησις and ὑπαντάω) is often used for a specific kind of meeting. In the ancient Mediterranean world, arriving rulers and other respected figures had to be met and welcomed outside the city.

A quote from Josephus illustrates this well-known custom:

But while these kings were spending time with him [Agrippa I], Marcus, the governor of Syria arrived. So the king [Agrippa], in order to keep proper respect toward the Romans,went out of the city to meet him [ὑπαντάω], about seven stadia [= one mile]. (Josephus,Ant. 19.340)

Agrippa (known in Acts 12 as the Herod who executed James and died of a worm infestation) showed respect by giving a formal welcome (ὑπαντάω) to the Roman governor a mile outside the city. Josephus uses the same set of words to describe the triumphal entry of Alexander the Great in Jerusalem (Ant. 11.327-329), as well as triumphal welcomes to other notables such as Vespasian, Titus and Jonathan (see Ant.13.101, Wars 7.100, 7.119, Life 1.411).

This custom of welcoming outside the city is also found in the Bible. When residents of Jerusalem come out to meet Jesus at his triumphal entry, it is called a ὑπάντησις (John 12:13). Sometimes it is practiced on a smaller scale. In Jesus' parable of the virgins, the bridesmaids are called outside to meet the bridegroom (Matt 25:1, ὑπάντησις; 25:6, ἀπάντησις). When Jesus goes to see Mary and Martha, Martha comes to meet him (ὑπαντάω) outside of town; quite likely, Jesus stops there and sends a messenger in so that she can meet him (John 11:20-30). 

The servants of the Galilean nobleman meet him (ὑπαντάω) outside when he returns to find his healed son (John 4:51). When Paul comes to Rome, Christians come out to meet him (ἀπάντησις) at Three Taverns, eleven miles from Rome (Acts 28:15). Other examples of this custom (and the same ἀπάντησις word-group) can be found in Gen 14:17, 18:2, 19:1, 33:8, Jdg 4:18, 11:31, 34 and Matt 8:34.

So this kind of meeting is a formal welcome, like a triumphal entry. Residents of the city go outside the city to welcome the visiting king and bring him back into the city. It is a time both of celebration and honor for the arriving dignitary. This meaning fits very well in the passage in 1 Thess 4. The Christians in Thessalonica were uncertain about what happened to their brothers and sisters who  died (1 Thess 4:13-15). They did not know if those who had died would be able to participate in the return of Christ. 

Paul encourages them: not only will "the dead in Christ... rise first," but all the saints, living and dead, will participate together in a triumphal welcome of Jesus. Just as residents of a city go out to welcome a king and accompany him in, all the saints will rise to welcome Jesus to earth. The point of the snatching is not to escape, but to be part of a "meeting," the triumphal entry of Jesus." 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Soul Food

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20 ESV)

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! (Psalm 119:25 ESV)

The soul is the immaterial part of us that houses our thoughts, emotions, and our wills. It is the very core of our being. Our souls have the capacity to grow and become stronger and more in tune with God. But they must be fed. The word of God is what our souls must feast on to grow and to stay healthy.  The soul has the capability to grow and expand as it receives and obeys God's Spirit anointed words. But if we neglect our souls they will begin to dry up and shrivel spiritually. The Scriptures bring wisdom, understanding, and discernment to our inner person.

When God's words are distorted or taken seriously out of context, they can become destructive to the soul. Satan himself quoted Scripture to Jesus out of their original context. Lies and distortions of the truth create strongholds in our minds that negatively effect our souls, which results in bad behavior. When our souls are living in constant contradiction to the truth we stay in a state of prenuptial anxiety.

Distorted views of God and false religious beliefs bring our souls to ruin. Our souls were created to commune and to be with God forever. So, receive the word of God within yourself gladly and obey the commands of Jesus, and abide with him. - Bobby

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Do You Hear Him Calling?

Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? (Psalm 10:13 ESV)

if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 ESV)

The attitude of many in our nation has been to renounce God and the authority of his word. This new sense of "enlightenment" mocks God and seeks to eradicate his name from our national life. We have allowed great spiritual darkness into our land. The present course that we are on will prove to be disastrous, if we don't turn back to God. 

The church in America must be awakened to turn from our own sins and to pray. We are responsible for much of the moral chaos that we see in our culture. The lack of teaching on discipleship in many of our churches has resulted in many false conversions. Following Jesus as our Lord and walking away from our sinful, rebellious and self - centered lives is not optional.

The darkness that was sown into our culture during the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's has resulted in a harvest of lawlessness, and we are presently reaping what we have sown. Sexual sin (both heterosexual and homosexual) has gone unopposed in many American churches. Truth and compassion must be expressed as we all take inventory of our own lives and repent of our sins. Greed and excessive materialism has infiltrated the Church, and with some, it has become its main message. 

We are called to be in the world, but not of it. God is full of mercy and it's time for his people to return to him. Do you hear Him calling? - Bobby