Thursday, November 30, 2006

Respect for what

My current job at the YMCA, although my thrust is rock wall instruction, likes for me to have a time of the class when I talk with the kids about character values. These character values are specifically caring, honesty, respect, responsibility. Since the class consists of younger kids around 7-8 years old, it is tough for them to articulate things and so I try to help them along as they do their best to communicate these words. Normally it's a pretty good time.

Yesterday we were up to the word respect. After we had talked about respect I, as I normally do, asked for examples of the word that we're talking about. This time though, I did it a little bit different in that I asked two questions: "What are some ways that you can respect people" and "What are some ways that you can respect the environment". I sat there in absolute amazement as they could rattle of dozens of ways to respect the environment, but yet could not come up with a single example of how to respect a person.
I was struck with how misaligned we are as people. Where we could but more emphasis on the things around us than the people around us. God's heartbeat is for people, not the bald eagles. God is after the hearts of men, not the hearts of artichokes. I pray that the Lord will align our culture with Him. Be in prayer for the young people of today, this is the kind of society we live in today, and they are being influenced greatly. We need to educate them with the Word of God.

Prayer Card

We just had our good friend Jamie Towle make us our very first prayer card. We are really excited as to how it turned out. It will be such an asset to us as we finish up with this phase of New Tribes training and enter into the next phase in a few months.

Monday, November 27, 2006

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The Mysterious Church

The church in more than one place in the Bible is referred to as a mystery. To some this word “mystery” poses a tension point. In order to relieve this tension this concept of mystery needs to be addressed. But first we need to define how we will be using the word “church”. The church, if used extremely generally, can mean any group of people. This is not the meaning that we will be using. Rather, when I say “the church”, I am referring to those believers of this present age, both Jew and Gentile, being united into one body of which Christ is the head.

A mystery, in Biblical terms, is simply a new piece of information that could not be understood without direct Divine revelation. Therefore when we say that the church was a mystery, all that we are saying is that this present church age could not have been understood prophetically before Christ’s death. Nothing in the Old Testament talked about a church age. Nothing described a period of time with the unique things that we experience today. It was a mystery.

What is it about the church that makes it a mystery? There a couple of key mystery aspects to the church clearly laid out in Scripture. The first and most extensive of these is when Paul discusses the aspect and the Jews and Gentiles being united in one body and made co-heirs of what is theirs in Christ. This is contrary to anything in the past. Israel was told that obedience would lead to blessings above that of other nations. (Deut. 26:19) It is also contrary to the future for we see that the Messiah Jesus will be ruling from his capital city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2-4) which shows the priority that Israel will have in the future over other nations. Only in the church age are Jew and Gentile made one. This was a mystery.

The other major aspect of the mystery of the church is the fact that God literally indwells every believer in this age. (Col. 1:27, Eph 1:13) This was not true in the past. Only in this present church age do we see that God lives in us. In the past, God’s spirit would come upon people for a limited time in order to perform a specific task. (Ex. 31:3, Num 11:17, Judges 6:34, 1 Sam 10:10) However, the Spirit could also leave them. (1 Sam. 16:14) Never was it foreseen that the Gentiles would be filled with the Holy Spirit outside of the Kingdom. The prophet Joel had said that Israel would receive the Holy Spirit in the Day of the Lord, (Joel 2:28) but this is seen as strictly Jewish. Who could have fathomed such a mystery as Christ in you?

When it is observed that God is currently doing something with the world that He has never done in the past and is not going to do quite the same way in the future, the church is truly a great mystery. There is nothing mystical about it since everything is explained clearly in the New Testament epistles, but without those we would have been clueless as to what God is doing right now. The church is a mystery revealed to us in this age. (Eph 3:5)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh Turkey Day

Jen and I enjoyed a nice thanksgiving break. Jon's parents arrived on Wednesday after a safe drive from Virginia. On Thursday morning we all got up and drove to my uncle Rod and aunt Carol's house in Midland MI. My cousin Julia was also up from Jacksonville so it was a good time. We ate a lot of food and had a nice time of sharing around the table.

Friday, after driving back to Jackson MI, we decided to go out to eat to El Ranchito (where Jon worked for a year) to get some authentic Guatemalen food. It was delicious. Then we went to the YMCA (where Jon currently works) to do a little rock climbing. For my mom and two sisters they had never done it before so that was exciting. It was great fun and it was good to have them here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hell? Yes...

Hell. If just saying the word sounds controversial, how much more is its reality controversial? The reality of hell ranges from beliefs that it is real geographical location to a metaphor. It ranges from a place of torment to a valley in Israel. It ranges from eternal to 23 minutes. As always, I find that the only way I can be dogmatic is if I quote the Bible. The Bible has the answers on hell.

Hell, in the most normally used sense, would be the place of punishment for all the unrighteous of all time. However there are several different words in Scripture that are translated as hell. Sheol (Gen 37:35), Hades (Matt. 11:23), Gehenna (Matt. 5:22), The Pit (Job 33:24), Unquenchable Fire (Matt. 3:12), the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20), and the Grave (Ps. 30:3)1, to name a few, are all different words referring to hell, but they aren’t all exactly the same although there is definitely overlap in meaning. Context would determine what the Bible is saying in each case.

Most every human (with the exception of the church and a couple other unique cases) will experience death at some point. Before the death of Christ both the righteous and the unrighteous dead went to the same place however there were different components to this place. (Luke 16:23) The part of this place that was for the unrighteous we know consisted of fire and suffering. (Luke 16:24) However, this is not the destiny or the final resting place of the unrighteous. One day, they all will be resurrected, only this resurrection will be unto death. (Rev. 20:12-13) Once resurrected, they will be judged and cast into the lake of fire which will be their eternal “resting” place. (Rev 20:15) Therefore, hell when looked at with all its components is a place of confinement, a place of judgment, and a place of torment. It was made originally for Satan and his angels who will be sentenced there and those of them who are already there. (Matt. 25:41, Rev. 20:10, 2 Peter 2:4) This however will also be used for all the unrighteous humans of all time as well. (Rev. 20:12-13, Matt. 25:41)

Some would try to say that hell isn’t a literal place but a concept. However the Bible gives us a geographical location for where hell currently is. Jesus said that when He died, He was going to go to the center of the earth. (Matt. 12:40) At that time the place of torment could see paradise. (Luke 16:23) Jesus went to paradise (Luke 23:43) which He said was in the center of the earth, and since you can see paradise from the place of torment, it must also be in the center of the earth. The Bible also states that when Christ went to paradise and led captivity captive, that He had descended into the lower parts of the earth.2 (Eph 4:9) Hell is currently in the middle of the earth, however we do not know the location of the future lake of fire.

Hell is laid out very systematically in Scripture. We know the plan, purpose, and location. With such specific details one should come to the conclusion that this place is real and that God thinks it very important that we know about it. He doesn’t desire anyone to perish there (2 Pet. 3:9) but unfortunately people are perishing. Such knowledge of hell should spur the believer on to spreading the gospel to help people avoid this fate.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Our adversary the devil

Over the years, I have shared the gospel with a few people. Many of my conversations with people have been based on the premise that God cannot be in the presence of sin. The line of thought went something like this: God lives in heaven, God cannot be in the presence of sin, you cannot go to heaven, you are sinful, you need to be forgiven of your sins or you will go to hell which is the only other option. This may “work” when sharing the gospel but it brings up a question: “If God cannot be in the presence of sin then why is Satan allowed in heaven?”

The fact that Satan is allowed in heaven can hardly be debated. The very first place that we see Satan in the Bible (Genesis 3) he is already sinful. He had already committed his act of pride against God. However later in human history we know that Satan was in heaven. In Job 1:6 Satan presented himself to God along with other angels. In Zachariah 3:1 we see Satan not just in the same general area as God but literally at his right hand. He was right there next to Him! Finally in Revelation 12:10 the fact that Satan is allowed in heaven is elaborated further by saying that he accuses Christians in heaven before God 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So we see that Satan’s access to heaven is not just occasional but constant.

How can it be that we see Satan in heaven if God cannot be in the presence of sin? In all actuality there is little biblical support for such a statement. God hates sin, and this fact is undisputable from Scripture (count the amount of times God says that something is an “abomination” to Him). The closest verse to support the before mentioned statement is Habakkuk 1:13 which states that God cannot look upon evil. However, context would clarify this verse further to mean “to look upon with approval.”

I think by making a statement such as “God cannot be in the presence of sin” and believing it, we can come away with the mentality that sin is some sort of “kryptonite” to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is not “put out” by sin. Rather God has conquered sin and death. (1 Corinthian 15:56-57) While He never lost control over the situation when sin entered the scene, He completely realized His victory over sin at the cross of Christ. Sin doesn’t hold power over God, God holds power over sin.

What is important to remember from this is that Satan is in heaven accusing all believers right now, and will be until Revelation 12. But praise God we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1) Although Satan is our accuser, there is no accusation that will hold any weight in heaven before God that has been covered by Christ’s blood, which should give you and me great confidence to live today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cheese Please

This weekend I had the great opportunity to visit our sister school in Waukesha Wisconsin. For me this was my first trip ever to Wisconsin. I wanted to get some cheese, but didn't get the chance. That's probably a good thing because I don't know what I would have done with cheese anyway.

So there I was in Wisconsin for a friendly football game. Every couple of semesters our school's play each other just for some fun and to familiarize ourselves with working with other people within the mission. Waukesha won the game which I wish we hade won but it was a fun and I got to meet some neato people.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Having a Bad Day??

Well, I thought that I was having a bad day until I passed the coke machine. I'm sure that this guy was not a happy camper when his hard earned buck 50 was spent on this defiance of physics. The bottle would not come out for anything. Stuck there wedged between the glass and the water.

Why was I having a bad day? I felt like I was just too busy today. Maybe I was pretty busy, but so what? Does that give me a right to be all "woe is me?" My wife prayed with me and got me to course correct my thinking and consequently my attitude. The day didn't change and get better, but my heart changed. God's too good to me for me to be down. Just a quick word of encouragement to the down and out tonight.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guardian Angel

It's a wonderful life was a wonderful flick wasn't it? I think its probably impossible to have watched that movie and not fallen in love with Clarence. Clarence the guardian angel. Remember? He jumped in the river to distract Jim from committing suicide and then later he showed Jim what a wonderful life he had and Jim in classic form screams "I want to live again!" The movie climaxes for Clarence at the end when he receives his wings.

So, uh, where did the whole concept of guardian angels, bells, and wings come from anyway? Or should I even ask that question? Come on, it's common knowledge that people have guardian angels who like protect them and lead them to God. With something so Christian you would think we could find some scripture on it. Probably alot huh? Actually I could only find 4 passages that related maybe. So I sat down and looked at those passages and was pretty surprised at what I found. I want to share the most used passage specifically.

Matthew 18:10
"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."
Put cut and dry right? Well let's look at this because this seems pretty bizarre. Like anything we do, let's start at the beginning. It all starts with one simple question by the disciples to Jesus "who will be the greatest in the Kingdom?"

Jesus does not beat around the bush (rarely did). He picked up a kid and said that children are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. So does that mean that adults won't be great? No! Because Jesus says that they need to become like children. Jesus wasn't saying that "children" per se were the greatest but those with the "attitude" of a child. What is this attitude? In verse 4 we find out that it is humility.

Remember where Jesus is. He is in Israel, the Messiah, ready to usher in the promised Kingdom, but yet the entire nation was in pride and sin. The Kingdom coming was contingent on their repentance in humility. "Blessed are the humble, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. 5:3) Israel was hung up on the Kingdom and rightly so, but they wouldn't even be able to enter it because they had not become like a child. They had not humbled themselves.

Jesus after explaining the need for humility goes into a discorse on causing a child (a Jew who was humbly repentant before God) to sin. It would be an understatement to say that Jesus discouraged this. God was after the hearts of the Jews as the parable of the lost sheep that immediately follows illustrates for us. Jesus once said "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matt. 23:37) God was after Israel desperately, but they wouldn't humble themselves before Him.

That brings us to our verse. What do I know? I see an interpretation that makes the most sense contextually, and it's that one that I feel the most comfortable on. The thing that Jesus is trying to communicate is that God will know if you are a stumbling block to a child (a Jew who is humbly repentant before God). A child is right in front of God's nose. Do you think they go unnoticed? Well, they don't. In fact, God loves His children so much that if just one was led astray, He would leave His 99 sheep in the fold to find it. Not one sheep escapes His notice.

Why would so desperately try to prove the existence of guardian angels? I'll tell you this: if we do have guardian angels, they don't want attention. Angels, everywhere in Scripture, hate attention. They are constantly giving it away to God. You know, ultimately, whether I have an angel or not, God is my guardian. I have a guardian God. Look at Paul. Don't you think God looked out for him? He will me as well. (Matt. 6:25-26)