Proving the Word to be Valid

I’ve heard it said that most in our Christian circles are “fed” with the Scripture, to the point that we have become “fat” after all the preachings and sermons we have heard. I believe this is incredibly true, as we put more focus on our attendance of meetings and listening to sermons than applying what we hear to our lives. We tend to automatically assume what is being said has no specific relevance to our life.

I say that to lead into this point:
When hearing sermons/messages, do we filter what is said through the speaker (who is a human with flaws but used of God for His glory) and not examine and prove/disprove what is said according to the standard that is the Scripture?

Our example should be the Bereans. Their story is found in Acts 17.
Verse 11 reads, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Paul and Silas came to Berea on Paul’s second missionary journey, which is believed to have taken place between 50 and 54 A.D.

They were found to have “more noble character” because of their eagerness to not only hear the Word that was spoken, but also to test what they heard and find it in the Scriptures.

My point is simply: When we hear a sermon or message from the Word of God through His messengers, do we approach it through the lens of understanding that God uses His servants, though they may be flawed and full of sin, to send His message? And that though we may not favor the speaker for whatever reason, the Word being spoken just may apply to us?

What distinguishes us as Christians?

A common theme has been recurring in several things I’ve been hearing/reading over the past few days, and it is centered in a question asked by Moses in Exodus 33:16 (NIV):
“How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

In the context of this passage, God had promised Moses that He would send an angel to lead the people into the Promised Land. But Moses’s passion was stirred, and he interceded for the Lord to personally lead the people. God answered his plea, and His presence is demonstrated personally to Moses in Ex. 33:17-34, 28; and publicly by the construction of the tabernacle (ESV Study Bible).
Moses understood that without God’s presence, they would not be a people set apart from other nations, so why travel any further?

But in the context of my point in this blog, what is it about “Christians” that separate us from nonbelievers in the world? Most of the people who identify themselves as “Christians” in today’s world talk the same, think the same, and do the same as any other person who does not proclaim faith in Jesus Christ. So why even bother being called a Christian? For appearance’s sake?

This has been provoking me personally lately, and the more I think about it, the more I realize it is time for those of us who claim to be Christians to stand for what we believe in and make our lives markedly different from nonbelievers. It is time for us to take the years of messages we have heard, and put some application into effect. Stop reading good books about how to be a good Christian; and just be one. To stop thinking that we are so good that we have the right to unnecessarily judge and criticize others, and to react to every situation seriously thinking, “What would Jesus do?” Would Jesus hold that grudge against that person? Would Jesus speak a harsh word unnecessarily, to tear an individual down, even if it’s not “that bad” in your personal biased judgment?

What will it take to convert those people around us who we want to become Christians? Many times, we ourselves are the stumbling block to others’ being saved. So why should someone follow Christ, especially when the person trying to convince them is not leading a Christ-like life?

I heard it said at a meeting regarding the subject of speaking the Word of God, that the worst thing we can do is push someone away from the faith by our lifestyle and actions, especially unknowingly.

Do we all share that sentiment? Do our habits, words, and actions speak Christ and life into others? Or do they speak harsh judgment and criticism? Do our lives lift others up or tear others down? And I mean our public and private lives.

Once you know that answer to that question, what is your response? Apathy or action? If it is apathy, please understand there is a world that needs Jesus, and there are people dying everyday without salvation.

If we have that sense of urgency, we will begin to change our lives. Then our world will transform around us. And Christ will be glorified.

I ask the original question again asked by Moses, posed to God, but in the context of today’s world: “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

Stepping Out in Faith, Expanding Your Box

The box. The box you don’t want to escape. The box that has four corners that contain your safety threshold. The box that keeps you stuck and not growing.

Your whole life, you hear that life is about progressive growth. Yet when the time comes to grow, you want to stay safe, in your box.

You’ve carefully constructed your box over the years, and you have deliberately chosen to limit the extents of your life, to not allow too much change in.

But there comes a point when you can stay at the same level of “good,” or what you consider “good,” for the rest of your life, or you can take a risk, a step, that has an unclear end, although it holds great promises.

I was privileged to teach a VBS class last week to 10-year-olds. When I taught the principle of faith, and the idea of stepping out in faith, it wasn’t difficult to grasp. In their 10-year-old minds, it was easy to figure out what it means, in words. But when you get older and the time comes for you to take a step of extreme faith and put it into action, it’s not so easy.

My personal challenge lately has been stay in the status quo and do what I’ve been doing, or do something extraordinary and progress in life. And as difficult as it is to make a decision that allows the foreign element of change into the box of life you’ve so carefully constructed, you must, or you will stagnate.

A lifetime ahead of me

For those who were at PCNAK in Houston a few weeks ago, you may remember Jason James’ message from Thursday night. In it, he mentioned the feeling of holding his nephew and envisioning that baby’s future. Today, I had the privilege to hold my niece Olivia Grace Varghese, and as she stared at me with her eyes wide open, I was in awe.

In awe of the fact that this baby girl is an innocent person, new to the world but known to God long before she was born. This baby girl has a chance to make a difference in this world, and she has no baggage behind her at this moment. But one day, when she is old enough, she will make a mistake, and another, and another, and fall into the trap of sinful mankind. I just want her to stay innocent like this as long as possible.

I saw my niece’s eyes searching today, searching her surroundings. It was something amazing, something I’ll never forget. My hope and prayer is that one day, those eyes will be searching for the good in the world, and bringing the joy of Christ into the lives of others through her life.

When I consider the innocence of Olivia Grace Varghese right now, I am saddened and frustrated by own shortcomings. I wonder how in 23 years of life I have messed up as much as I have. I want to go back to her stage, start over, start from scratch. It’s funny, I’ve heard my whole life the gospel and about the rebirth we have in Christ. But seeing a brand new baby girl born into the world with a chance to do something amazing is unique and unforgettable.

Yes, I’ve been saved. Yes I know the gospel. God looks at me with the robe of righteousness that covers my sin, and I have a divine purpose to accomplish. And by God’s grace I will accomplish those things.

But oh what it would be to go back and to correct those pitfalls I had. Those thoughts I shouldn’t have thought. Those things I shouldn’t have said. The things I should have done when I did nothing. But I can’t go back, only forward.

Olivia Grace has a lifetime ahead to accomplish great things. Though I have my scars and past sins, I am refreshed by the grace of God and have the chance to yet do that as well. Oh how great is the grace of my God.

Blogging on the Go – Where We Are

My first blog from my Blackberry, via the WordPress app. I’ve been in the world of the Internet since my first America Online email address in the ’90s with its accompanying “You’ve Got Mail” and annoying modem sound (You can’t forget those moments of impatience staring at a PC screen), and it is amazing how much things have changed. I always thought about and expected a day when I could use my cell phone to do unexpected things, but it’s interesting to have arrived at a place where I can take pictures/video, blog, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, get directions/see an image of your destination, play games, tell people where I am via an assortment of Internet apps, surf the web etc, all while on the go. Anyhow, just a moment of reflection on where we are in the world.

Are we worthy of His kingdom?

I take a second to challenge you: Are you really worthy of the kingdom of God? Does the following surprise you about the world we live in today? The reality is, we all need to check ourselves, especially if we are in leadership, for there won’t always be plenty of time to waste and not worry about our faith and relationship with God, and if we are being sincere about our faith, and our words/thoughts/actions match our beliefs.

“Although most Americans consider themselves to be Christian and say they know the content of the Bible, less than one out of ten Americans demonstrate such knowledge through their actions.” – Pollster George Barna

Barna came to this statement after the following statistics were evidenced:

-Among individuals who describe themselves as Christian, for instance, close to half believe that Satan does not exist, one-third contend that Jesus sinned while He was on earth, two-fifths say they do not have a responsibility to share the Christian faith with others, and one-quarter dismiss the idea that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
-41 percent of self-proclaimed Christians believe that “the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths”-despite the books’ vastly contradictory teachings on truth, salvation, and the nature of God.
-Only 46 percent of born-again adults believe in the existence of absolute moral truth.
-With over 173 million Christians in the U.S., there are tens of millions who say they love God and yet are liars, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, and child-murderers.
Stats regarding teens:
-63 percent of teens believe Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and all other people pray to the same God; and 58 percent believe all religious faiths teach equally valid truths.
-An “Ethics of American Youth Survey” revealed that in the prior 12 months 74 percent of Christian teens cheated on a test, 93 percent lied to a parent, and 63 percent physically hurt someone when angered.

Source: “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life” by Ray Comfort (2010)

Yes, these are statistics, and you can’t always trust them. Polls are meaningless, some argue, especially in heated political seasons.
But if there is any notion that the teachings from the Word of God, the unchanged and divinely inspired commandments of God, are honored and revered in today’s society, this is proof that our society is in a very scary position. The reality is most of us real “Christians” are quick to claim our faith on Sundays yet act without regard to our beliefs during the week.

I quote David’s words from Psalm 15 (NIV):
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

This psalm describes someone who is worthy of being in the presence of the Lord, in His holy hill, someone who:
-has a blameless walk
-does what is righteous
-speaks the truth from his heart
-has no slander from his tongue
-does his neighbor no wrong
-casts no slur on his fellowman
-despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord
-who keeps his oath when it hurts
-who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent

To be honest, I look at this list and realize I fail, on multiple levels. And I think most of us can agree that we are guilty of most of these things. If we can get past our pride, our egos, our masks, and see who we really are as displayed by our day-to-day lives, then we can really begin the reality of living like Christ, and stop living with a mask that shows others we are “religious” or somehow, completely perfect and sinless, and that we are sinners who have been redeemed and only have strength because of the hand of God in our lives.

I close with 1 John 1:5-10 (The Message):
5This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.
6-7If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.
8-10If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.

Let these thoughts impact my life and yours. God bless.

“Our true affections” – from David Crowder

An observation by David Crowder from his book “Praise Habit”:

Much of our energy as Christians-attempting-to-live-devoted-lives centers on the development of patterns or activities to strengthen or deepen our “spiritual” selves, … such as corporate worship, or scholastic theological study, or quiet times, or praying before meals. And we think that if we pray before a meal, it will set this moment apart and other unbelieving peoples might observe our devoutness and we will make a statement that will surely cause them to stop in their tracks. Then leaving that brief holy event well behind, feeling our obligation to “otherness” consummated, we engross ourselves in the devouring of burgers and French fries. But it is in the moments that follow our prayers that we are able to follow the trail of our true affections, our hidden motivations. It is in the gluttonous idolatry or tearful gratefulness that we consume the burger. It is in our conversations over the meal – the valuing or devaluing of the ones with whom we find ourselves exchanging conversation. It is found in the gratuity at the end of the meal.

“Praise Habits: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi” by David Crowder (Copyright 2004 David Crowder, THINK/NavPress)

The Time is … NOW

Read this quote from Franklin Graham, founder of Samaritan’s Purse and son of Evg. Billy Graham from a recent Charisma Magazine article regarding this year’s National Day of Prayer:

“I think no question … religious freedom is under attack,” Graham told The 700 Club in a recent interview. “There has been an erosion now for many years, but we have seen it really accelerate in the last 10 years.

“This political correctness that has crept in, that if we stand for what we believe in, [all of a] sudden we are not tolerant,” he added. “They almost make it look like we are participating in hate speech when we say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there’s no way to God except through Christ and Christ alone. They are interpreting that now as being hostile and hate speech.”

Read more: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/28222-national-day-of-prayer-may-be-largest-ever-#ixzz0nYCPczd6

When I read this, I am personally challenged. A casual observance of many believers today, including myself, is that we live with a sense of apathy toward God. And to read this quote from a Christian leader such as Franklin Graham is provoking, in the sense that it challenges the status quo life that I tend to lead.

Many of us claim to be believers. We go to church on Sunday, we even serve on worship and leadership teams in ministries, but does our life reflect a sense of urgency in making sure those around us who are unsaved have the saving knowledge of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does it matter? Does it matter when the beliefs we espouse so strongly at some moments of our lives are being looked at as “intolerant” when believing them used to be seen as living out your faith in Christ? Today’s world is all about relativism, nothing is wrong, live as you please, in the moment, satisfy your flesh for the moment and feel the regret later. It’s okay, God will forgive you.

The words of Phil Wickham’s The Time is Now come to mind:
VERSE 1:
The battle line is drawn, it’s all in black and white.
Hope is pulling forward, can feel it from behind, it’s time.
It’s time to make a move, so what will you decide?
The clock is ticking on, don’t let it pass you by, it’s time.
It’s time.
CHORUS:
The time is now, for lifting souls.
The time is now, for letting go.
From your skin, to your core.
Let light, and love, come rushing through the door.
Oh, come rushing through the door.
BRIDGE 1:
You’ve learned every song, memorized the verse,
took the bread and wine, and even bought the shirt,
it’s time.
VERSE 2:
it’s time to hold your shield,
it’s time to draw your sword,
let’s lead the resistance,
oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord, it’s time.
Yeah it’s time.
CHORUS:
The time is now, for lifting souls.
The time is now, for letting go.
From your skin, to your core.
Let light, and love, come rushing through the door.

If you are professed believer in Jesus Christ, are you taking a stand for him today? I know I’m not fully, and I must make the decison in my life to do so. Do you know where you are?

Potential: You have it in you, don’t let it go to waste.

Potential (as defined by Merriam-Webster):
“something that can develop or become actual”

Inside each person there is potential to become something great, but too often there are obstacles that stop many from reaching their full potential and thus impacting the lives they could have.

We are all designed by God with a specific skill set or talents to achieve a particular purpose, regardless of how worthless we might perceive ourselves to be.

Far too often, and this is especially true for myself, it is when we focus on comparing ourselves and our accomplishments to that of others that we completely miss what gifts and talents God has given us and forget that we can excel in something that others can’t.

Some people look at others and perceive that those people have it all together, their balance in life is good. And they begin to think they can never be like those “together” people. Like they’re too messed up to be brought back to order.

We all have a place in life, and even if it seems unimportant to us, understand that in God’s eyes your purpose is very important, even if it is something that you do not see as relevant and essential or as good as someone else’s position or role. Keep in mind that God has all of time in His hand, and nothing happens by accident to anyone.

Don’t let your life go by without using the potential God has given you. Let God use you, and be willing to follow where he leads; there is no other worthy route.

“Rising from the Dust”

The thought for this posting came from attending Pastor Glenn Badonsky’s evening meeting at First IPC, while at the altar call.

We were singing a prophetic song about rising from the dust, and the thought came to my mind about what it would practically take to really rise from the “dust” of our past, our afflictions, the things that have weighed us down so much in the past.

After this meeting was over, I was faced with the usual stigma of feeling frustrated over something really simple (not worth detailing) and I began to wonder did what I said at the alter really matter if I was already frustrated with something so simple and unimportant in the big picture?

A few thoughts that come to mind:

In order to completely rise from the dust of your past, you need to decide to change your old behavior patterns.
-If you have a bad habit or addiction you’re trying to overcome in your life and you make a decision to overcome that problem with the help of God, it does not make practical sense to put yourself in the same situations and places you were in before.
If you have a tendency to react negatively to what people say and it’s hard for you to let go of the resentment or emotions you feel, you have to make a conscious decision to look at that situation in a different light. If you have a tendency to respond to a harsh word with anger or outburst, you have to make a real effort to respond in a Christ-like manner; that is what demonstrates a real change of heart and effort to live as God desires.

Any thought that says it is right and acceptable to act in a manner that is clearly against the ways of God is a clear deception from the devil, and you must take that CAPTIVE and conform it to God’s Word.

Our lives are filled with deceptions from the devil, from thoughts that say immoral behavior and actions are appropriate in God’s eyes to thoughts that say it is acceptable to say a “half-truth,” leaving out part of the truth and thinking no harm was done. Or thoughts that say it is okay to gossip and trash a person behind their backs. Paul, in Romans 1:29, lists “gossip” as one of the problems along with envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. The New King James Version uses “whisperers” instead of gossip.
Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament offers this thought on “whisperers”:
“Those who secretly, and in a sly manner, by hints and innuendoes, detract from others, or excite suspicion of them. It does not mean those who openly calumniate, but that more dangerous class who give hints of evil in others, who affect great knowledge, and communicate the evil report under an injunction of secrecy, knowing that it will be divulged. This class of people abounds everywhere, and there is scarcely any one more dangerous to the peace or happiness of society.”

Are we “rising from the dust” of our past when we continue to talk about other people and put them down in the “injunctions of secrecy” that are mentioned above?

One of the biggest deceptions is that because of our past sins and mistakes, we are somehow not good enough for God. That is where the grace, or “unmerited favor” of God comes in. When we fall into sin and away from God, it is vital that rather turn to continuing that pattern of sin, we recognize the wrong we did and do an immediate turn on the road to God because He desires us to come to Him Through the death of Christ we are redeemed and have the right to approach the throne of God.

I’ll add more later, but to surmise for now, it is one thing to stand at an altar and say we’re going to change our ways, but when it comes to directly after the meeting we react the same way we used to react, did it all make a difference? Or was it for another motive? I challenge myself with this thought more than anything else.