Friday, January 28, 2011
I think life is the same way. For a while, we enjoy this world, but eventually, we grow weary of it and long for the warmth and comfort of that heavenly home that awaits the faithful. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:9, "Rejoice, o young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth," and in 12:1, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'" It is common for young people, and even young Christians, to prefer this life over the life that is to come. It's like the lyrics of a Kenny Chesney song (which I despise, by the way): "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now."
But despite the euphoria that many feel in this world, difficulties will come. You will grow weary of temptation. The pain and setbacks of aging will eventually strike. The longer you live, the more you will find yourself saying, "Enough of winter!" Enough of this life, I want to go to heaven!
You know, I may be tired of winter, but that doesn't change the fact that winter is here. Likewise, we may be tired of this life and we may long for heaven, but that doesn't change the fact that we are here now. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:23-24, "For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you." While on this earth, we must "redeem the time" (Eph. 5:16). Avoid that "winter depression" that often comes upon Christians who are anxious for heaven. You will see the blossoms of the Tree of Life soon enough (Rev. 22:14). So, like Paul, make the most of your time here.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I just opened my own publishing company----Silver Falls Publishing.
Check out my website. Buy some books. You'll enjoy them. So will your kids.
Thanks!!! And let me know if you have any questions.
I know what you're thinking.
You're probably thinking, "Casey, you're crazy. The Bible doesn't say anything about doing jumping-jacks for salvation."
If that's what you're thinking...well, you're right. But neither does the Bible say anything about being saved by faith-only. "Even the demons believe--and tremble" (James 2:19). Neither does the Bible say anything about the sinner's prayer. God doesn't hear sinners (John 9:31). Not once was anyone ever told to pray for salvation.
So yes, I would be wrong in saying that one must do 20 jumping-jacks to be saved, but it is equally wrong to teach salvation by faith-only or the sinner's prayer. The fact is, one must believe, repent, confess and be baptized in order to be saved (Mk. 16:16; Ac. 2:38; Rom. 10:9-10). Any plan of salvation OTHER THAN the plan of salvation taught in the New Testament is unacceptable and will not save anybody!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The Sadducees were an elite party of Judaism, comprised mainly of aristocrats and other prominent citizens. They denied the resurrection and scoffed at the existence of angels and spirits (Acts 23:8).
The Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the law, but they were equally adamant concerning their own traditions. Scribes were men who wrote copies of the law for the people. Jesus condemned them both, saying, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Mt. 15:3), and later, He rebuked them again, saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Mt. 23:13-39). The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to appear righteous, but really their hearts were far from God.
The Essenes were even stricter than the Pharisees. They often lived in monastic-type communities, secluded from the rest of the world. Essenes rigorously maintained ceremonial purity, and believed that members could lead virtually spotless lives.
Was Jesus a Herodian (Mk. 3:6)? Herodians were basically Sadducees who were especially devoted to the house of King Herod. Or was our Lord a Zealot who staunchly opposed the Roman empire and craved the independence of the Jewish state (Lk. 6:15)?
Which Jewish denomination did Jesus join? The answer is, "none of the above!" He was simply a Jew whose focus was on obedience to God's law (Lk. 10:26). In fact, Jesus condemend these Jewish denominations in Matthew 15:13 when He said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted."
If Jesus was undenominational, we should be as well!
We are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of different denominations and Christian sects. Instead of aligning ourselves with one of these denominations or sects, we should seek to align ourselves with Christ Himself. Avoid manmade denominations and seek to practice simple New Testament Christianity.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
What makes worship pleasing to God?
To be frank, most religious people assume that their worship is pleasing to God because it's pleasing to them. It makes them feel good, it makes the church feel good, it's exciting, it's entertaining, it's what they're comfortable with, and hey, the Bible is opened at some point during the service, and hey, everyone claims to "love" the Lord and so therefore...it must be pleasing to God.
Think about it. How often do church-going people talk about how the choir sang so "beautifully" in last Sunday's service? Or how perfectly the piano accentuated the prayer? Or how preacher so-and-so's lesson was so moving? Or how touching the skit was that the youth group put together? Or how cute the kids were during "children's church" when the music minister asked them about Adam and Eve?
People assume that if the worship was pleasing to them, that it must be pleasing to God. If I think the choir is amazing, then God must think the choir's amazing. If I think the keyboard solo is incredible, if it tugs on my heart-strings, then God must be quite impressed as well.
Dear reader, I would contend that this approach to worship is completely incorrect.
Worship is not pleasing to God on the basis that it's pleasing to us.
Worship is pleasing to God if it's the worship that HE COMMANDED!
Consider the example of King Saul in 1 Samual 15. God, through Samuel, commanded Saul, "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing, child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" (vs. 3). When Saul led the armies of Israel against Amalek, they indeed destroyed the people, but they "took Agag king of the Amalekites alive" and "spared...the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them" (vs. 8-9).
Did Saul obey God? Of course not! That's clear to any honest observer. But notice Saul's excuse when Samuel confronted him about his disobedience.
"Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, 'Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.' But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?' And Saul said, 'They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed" (vs. 13-15).
Sure, they had disobeyed God, but at least they had a good reason. Even though they should have killed all the livestock, they thought that it would be good to keep the best of the livestock to offer up as a sacrifice to God. I'm sure this made perfect sense to the people, and to Saul. How could God refuse such a worshipful gesture?
Well, notice Samuel plainly told Saul in verse 22, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
God didn't want their sacrifices, nor did He appreciate their "kind" gesture. Even though their motives may have been altruistic, God was absolutely DISPLEASED with them. All he wanted was their obedience.
GOD IS PLEASED WITH OBEDIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It doesn't matter how you feel or what you think. When it comes to serving and worshiping God, you have to dispose of your thinking and adopt God's thinking; get rid of your opinions, and adopt an attitude of complete submission.
Friend, there is only one right way to worship God: HIS WAY. And "His way" is revealed to us in the holy scriptures, specifically the New Testament (Mk. 7:7-9; Jn. 4:24).
Amazing Grace may sound amazing on the church organ. The church choir may belt out The Old Rugged Cross in such a way that your arms are covered up in goosebumps. The preacher's sermon on Once Saved, Always Saved may appeal to your emotions. That church member that suddenly leaps up and starts "speaking in tongues" may get your heart pumping. But that doesn't make ANY of these activities right.
Where is the New Testament authority for instrumental music in worship? (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)
Are not ALL Christians commanded to sing in worship? (ibid.)
Isn't the doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved foreign to scripture? (Gal. 5:4)
Didn't miracles cease when the New Testament was "perfected? (1 Cor. 13:8-10)
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.
What makes worship "pleasing" to God? When we worship God HIS WAY!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
But is this what Jesus looked like? In short, NO! But let's take a closer look.
First of all, Jesus wasn't a white man. He was a Jew from the middle-east. Like all other middle-eastern Jews from that part of the world, Jesus would have had a darker complexion. I'm not saying he was black, but I think we can almost definitely say that he wasn't a pale white man.
And Jesus didn't have long hair, folks. Sorry to burst your bubble. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:14, says, "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?" Would Paul have written such things had Jesus worn His hair long? No! If "nature" teaches that men are NOT to have long hair, then surely Jesus' hair was short. Moreover, history teaches us that the men of Jesus' day wore their hair short. Not only did they keep their hair short, but they generally did not have thick, grizzly beards either. It wasn't until the second century that beards became "fashionable" again.
Was Jesus some beautiful man with soft, pale skin? Not at all! Jesus was from the lower class and his father was a carpenter. In that day, the sons adopted their father's trade, which means that Jesus, too, would have been a carpenter. Poor carpenters are not going to have soft skin. Their skin is going to be rough and calloused, and probably dark from working long hours in the hot sun. And take it for what it's worth, but Isaiah 53:2 says regarding Jesus that "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." I take this to mean that Jesus wouldn't have been a very attractive man physically.
So what did Jesus look like? Again, we don't really know. But I think we're safe in saying that the modern-day pictures and statues of Jesus are absolutely incorrect in their depiction of Him. He was your average middle-eastern man with short hair and perhaps a short beard.
Now you might be thinking, "Casey, why does it even matter?" Well, I think it matters for two reasons.
First, the Old Testament condemned the making of any image or object that has "any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath..." (Ex. 20:4). Now, I don't believe we're bound to the old law, but this same principle is taught throughout the New Testament. We're told to "flee from idolatry" (1 Cor. 10:14). The point is this: when we surround ourselves with images of Jesus and statues of Jesus, we are, I believe, engaging in a subtle form of idolatry. We're turning what ought to be spiritual into something physical; we're debasing the very concept of faith and morphing pure Christianity into something akin to pagan idol worship.
Why do we need statues of Jesus anyways? Especially when we KNOW the statues and pictures are incorrectly portraying the Lord! Is not the gospel of Christ good enough? Are we not content with Jesus as we see Him in scripture?
Second, this is an important discussion because how we view Jesus' physical appearance may affect how we view His character? So many people view Jesus as...as a wimp...as a skinny, pale, long-haired girly-man. Is it any coincidence that these same people often see Jesus as a laid-back, come-as-you-are kind of guy; as Savior but not Master, as ALL LOVE and NO JUDGEMENT? Sure, Jesus was and is a Savior of compassion and tenderness (Mt. 11:28-30), but He also overturned the tables of the moneychangers (Jn. 2) and condemned the scribes and Pharisees as "hypocrites" (Mt. 23). He spoke not only of heaven (Jn. 14:1-4) but of hell and eternal punishment (Mt. 10:28; 25:31-46). You can't live in sin and expect to be rewarded with heaven (Rom. 6:1; 1 Jn. 3:6). Homosexuals, drunkards, fornicators and the like will NOT inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We have to stop viewing Jesus as some weakling. He is the Son of God. He is the King. He is Master and Lord of all!
What did Jesus look like? I don't know. But I do know what He DIDN'T look like.
We don't have to SEE to BELIEVE (Heb. 11:1). Our faith rests in the promises of God's word!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
In this chapter, Paul is dealing with issues of liberty, where no sin is committed one way or the other. These are matters of opinion that are not to be bound on one another. For example, it is neither right nor wrong to eat meat. However, if someone is not comfortable eating meat for conscience reasons, we are not to cause trouble over it. If a brother doesn't feel comfortable working on Saturday because he grew up in a Jewish home observing the Sabbath, so what?
Really, in all of this, the apostle is promoting unity among disciples. There are times when we need to stand up and be insistant (Ac. 15:1-2; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5), but there are a lot of issues that are not worth fighting over. Just let it go.
The problem is that there are a lot of good, faithful Christians out there who don't know how to let it go. They are critical of a brother with whom they disagree, and even though no sin is being committed, and even though the law of Christ is not being violated, that brother is mistreated and abused and slandered and treated as an inferior Christian. In the process, the brother who is doing the criticizing stoops to a lower-than-low level.
It's not worth it. Not only are we creating division within the church and hurting innocent brethren, our reputation is tarnished. In the eyes of others, we become harsh, judgmental, intolerant, and divisive.
Sure, we may have differences of opinion when it comes to all kinds of issues, but we need to learn to choose our battles carefully. When the law of Christ is at stake, by all means, discuss it, debate it, and be adamant about the truth...don't back down! But if it's a matter of opinion...sure, the opposing brother may be wrong, they may be weak...and talk with them if they're willing, but by all means "do not let your good be spoken of as evil."
Monday, January 17, 2011
One such title is Reverend. Please note that this word is used only once in the Bible. In Psalm 111:9, the psalmist says regarding God, "Holy and reverend is His name" God is worthy of our reverence and praise, for He is an awesome God. But no man deserves this title, and in fact, it is blasphemous to refer to any man as "reverend."
Another common religious title that ought to be avoided is Father. We see this title especially in the Catholic Church. But Matthew 23:9 says, "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is Your Father, He who is in heaven." It is therefore sinful to call a man "Father" in the religious sense.
Finally, let us examine the term Pastor. It is generally assumed that all preachers are pastors, but this is not the case. The term pastor (Eph. 4:11) literally means "shephered." As seen in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2, the work of shepherding the flock is given to the elders. Elders are men who have met certain qualifications (Titus 1:5-9) and serve together as a plurality in governing the local church. A preacher may become a pastor if he meets the qualifications and is appointed along with other qualified men, but not all preachers are pastors.
If you have any questions, comments or disagreements, leave them below, or shoot me an email.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Even though a lot of the psalms look alike, they are so wonderful because even though the psalmists relate to us their worries and concerns, they unashamedly and unreservedly worshiped and served God as the Almighty.
In Psalm 27, we find a wonderful little message.
In verse 4, David says, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." In other words, David's favorite thing to do was to worship God...and he desperately wished that he could spend all of his time doing just that.
How many of us have this same mindset today? Do you LONG for the worship assembly just as David longed to be in the temple? Do you CRAVE to be around the people of God just as David craved to dwell in the house of the Lord? If you had your way, would you be spending more and more time in Bible study, prayer and meditation? Do you have these desires and yearnings?
I know I don't always have this same hunger for God...but I wish I did.
Well, I can. And you can. Just as David did.
Notice verse one of the same psalm: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Why did David have such zeal for the Lord? It was his constant recognition of who God was and what God had done for him...and continued to do for him.
I'm convinced that the more we dwell on the Lord, the more we will want to serve Him.
Maybe we need to spend less time watching TV and more time studying the Bible.
Perhaps we need to MAKE TIME for private prayer and meditation, even if it means waking up thirty minutes earlier.
Maybe we need to look for more opportunities to open up our home to fellow Christians. Maybe we need to be talking to more people about Jesus. Perhaps we ought to take a little initiative and SEEK GOD rather than waiting on Him to bless us.
Hey, listen, I need to do these things, too. It's easy to become complacent...really, really easy.
So, like David, let's constantly remember the Lord so that we may develop a greater spiritual resolve in our personal lives.
Monday, January 10, 2011
I would contend that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, not literally, but representatively through the word of God. My evidence for such a position? Read on...
First of all, the New Testament tells us that God the Father and Jesus Christ dwell in us as well. Paul writes in Romans 8:10 that "Christ is in you." God is in us according to 1 John 4:4. And then Colossians 3:16 says that the word of Christ dwells in us! We dwell in God based on 1 John 4:13 and Paul declares that sin dwells in us (Romans 7:17).
Now, either ALL of this is literal or NONE of it is literal. Because what happens so often is that religious people want to say that the Holy Spirit dwells in us literally, but that the Father and Christ do NOT dwell in us literally. And let me ask you this, how does the word dwell in us? Like John, are we to "eat the book" and hope that the pages of the Bible are exempt from the normal digestive process? Of course not! The point is that the word dwells in our hearts in that we develop a relationship with the word through diligent study and meditation. Likewise, sin dwells in us when we serve sin and have a relationship with sin. The same is true with the three members of the Godhead.
So then how does the Holy Spirit dwell in us, if not literally? What evidence is there that the "indwelling" of the Holy Spirit is indirect and representative?
The best evidence I've seen is found in 1 Kings 8. In this great chapter, King Solomon is dedicating the newly-completed temple. He says in verses 12-13, "The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever." According to Solomon, God would dwell in the temple? But now? Let's read a series of passages from this chapter...
"'Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.' Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel" (vs. 16-17).
"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (vs. 27)
"...Hear in heaven Your dwelling place..." (vs. 30)
Solomon uses the same language here that we find in the New Testament. God would dwell in the temple just as the Holy Spirit is said to dwell in Christians. But clearly, based on the language of 1 Kings 8, God didn't literally dwell in the temple. He couldn't! Rather, the temple signified God's presence in Israel; His "name" was there. Over and over again, it is stated that God is actually and truly IN HEAVEN (see John 14:1-4, the Father's house).
Do you see what I'm trying to say? There is nothing in the Bible that demands a literal and bodily indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The evidence actually points to a representative indwelling. The Spirit dwells in us through the word (Eph. 6:17).
Maybe I've missed it somewhere. If so, let me know. Leave a question or comment.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
One of the members of the Corinthian church was living in sin. Specificially, he "had his father's wife" (1 Cor. 5:1). In other words, he was having sexual relations with a woman that was married to his father. This was a deplorable act and Paul chided the Corinthian Christians for their lax approach to this immoral brother. Paul commanded them in verses 4-5, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." This sinful brother was not to be tolerated. Instead, he was to be "delivered to Satan." He was already serving Satan by living in sin, and it was important for the church to acknowledge the man's spiritual condition.
Why was it important to discipline this man? Well, in verses 6-7 Paul makes the point that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump...therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened." When the church tolerates sin among its members, the church becomes impure. By withdrawing from a wayward brother or sister in Christ, we are in effect purifying the church.
So what does church discipline involve? Are we just acknowledging a sinful Christian's spiritual condition and apostasy from God? No, there's more to it than that. In 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul adds, "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person." The inspired apostle clearly tells us that when a brother or sister in Christ is living in sin, we are to cease normal social interaction with them. Think about it. If we continue to socialize and eat with the errant Christian, will they not feel justified in their sin? Will they not have less incentive to repent if we ignore their sin and act like everything's okay?
And so 1 Corinthians 5 tells us two things regarding the errant Christian.
- There is to be a public acknowledgment of the errant brother's condition in the church assembly.
- On a private basis, we as Christians are not to socially interact with the errant Christian.
Later, in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, Paul says, "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition he received from us," and then in verse 14, "And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed." This only reinforces what was said in 1 Corinthians 5.
How can we ignore this command? It may not be pleasant, but it is given to us by God and therefore we must submit to it.
What are your thoughts?
Monday, January 3, 2011
The last article revolved around Romans 4. Today, let's examine a VERY misunderstood passage in the fifth chapter. Read verses 12-19 with me...
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--(for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous."
This passage of scripture is often misused by certain denominational preachers to teach the Calvinistic doctrine of "Total Depravity." I imagine the Catholics use it in support of their doctrine of "Original Sin." Both of these doctrines are rooted in the concept that we are all born GUILTY of sin because of the sin Adam committed in the Garden of Eden. The difference is that with Calvinism, not only are all men born sinful, but we are so sinful and corrupt and depraved of goodness that we cannot and will not CHOOSE the right path.
I think it's obvious why Calvinists LOVE this passage in Romans 5. The point is made in verse 12 that "through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin." And then in verse 19 Paul adds, "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners." Just these two statements alone seem to be saying that we are all sinners because Adam sinned and by extension, we are all SPIRITUALLY DEAD because of Adam's sin.
And this is true, to a certain extent. But the key here is free-will and personal accountability. In other words, there is nothing "automatic" about effects of Adam's sin on the rest of us. Look at verse 12 again: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men..."
"...because all sinned."
Yes, we are all spiritually dead, but it's not the automatic consequence of Adam's sin; spiritual death is the consequence of OUR OWN sin. Adam introduced sin into the world and we have all chosen to follow in his footsteps by committing sins of our own (vs. 14). All men are spiritually dead because all men have sinned (compare to Romans 3:23). By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve introduced to the world the "knowledge of good and evil." Regretfully, that knowledge of good and evil leads us to rebel against our Maker. But it's OUR choice. It's not automatic, nor is it hereditary.
Interestingly enough, if we are all spiritually dead and wicked at the point of birth BECAUSE of Adam, then by necessity, we are all AUTOMATICALLY RIGHTEOUS because of Christ. Again, verse 18: "Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life." If the consequences of Adam's sin are automatically imposed upon all men, then the benefits of Jesus' death are automatically imposed upon all men, thereby countering the effects of Adam's "original sin." If not, why not?
This passage makes no sense in light of Calvinism, but it does make perfect sense when we read this text with the understanding that men are free-moral agents; we have the ability to choose evil, but we also have the ability to choose good.
So, are there any Calvinists out there reading this passage who can address these points? Any "original sin" advocates that would like to offer an explanation? Have a go at it. I'd love to see some lively debate.