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Faith that Jesus Desires
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Thursday, January 24, 2008
Becoming Christ Centered in the New Year
It is January 1, 2008 at 12:46 AM. I am currently sitting at my laptop at a friend’s house contemplating the upcoming year. We have been enjoying one another’s company all night and now as the night presses on and a new year is birthed I look with eager anticipation to what lies ahead. I recall earlier when the television was on and the New York City ball was dropping, and preparations were being made to announce (at least to those of us on the east coast) that a new year was about to begin. Now as I hear the television on in the background, there are concerts going on and I know celebrations will continue late into the night and into tomorrow morning.
It is quiet here and my thoughts are on our Savior. What is on His mind this January morning? What are His thoughts about the upcoming year? I know He is the Alpha and the Omega knowing the beginning and the end and doesn’t live in a time tempered world as we do, but He is concerned with the affairs of mankind for some strange reason that is truly far beyond our finite minds. This is what captures my heart and mind in these early moments of 2008.
My heart hungers with a great passion for the working of the Holy Spirit in the bringing of a great revival to this nation and our world. This will only come when the people of God rend our hearts and come humbly and yet boldly before the merciful throne of grace declaring with sincerity and fervency an utter disdain for our sinfulness and the compromise that has been the signature of our generation and its relationship with this world. We are called by Jesus to be different from this world, engaging it as salt and light seeking to see the families, communities, cities, states and nations around us bowing before the cross of Jesus Christ surrendering their hearts and minds to Him This is my desire in the year to come, that the people of God with eager and zealous hearts would seek the Lord for the souls of those around them.
I am praying for a powerful hungering and thirsting for righteousness to rise in the hearts of God’s people. I am hoping that the distractions of this world would fade and the Great Commission of Jesus Christ would continuously and clearly come into view taking over our passions and hopes. We are so easily distracted with the appealing attractions of this world. It seems daily that our focus vacillates from the Christ-centered position that God desires to a blurry mixture of the poisonous man-centered concerns and pleasures of this world.
May God forgive us for this great rebellion. Oh, that we would resist and flee from these distracting deceptions the devil continues to offer. Oh, that our hearts and lives would have a single passion and be solely devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ. What a shallow view we must have of our Lord, for with passivity and minimal effort we actively pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus. Our devotion to knowing Him and following His will is continually tripped up as we refuse to say no to the sinful desires and passions of our flesh. Jesus said, “If any man would come after me let him deny himself take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). There is no doubt that a loss will be experienced when we fully devote our lives to Jesus. When surveying His life we find that it was not full of pleasures and self seeking treasure hunts. No, He came with a purpose in mind and faithfulness to the call of His Father. We as believers and followers of Christ must mediate upon and ponder the depth of the truth of our adoption into God’s family and the subsequent devotion to His plan and direction to go into all the world preaching the truth of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. We must call this world to repentance from sins and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that this will be our single passion in 2008. My hope is that we devote ourselves anew to the Scriptures. The Bible is the only thing that can change our lives and continue our transformation into the image and likeness of Christ. We cannot be victorious in this life without a devotion to God’s Word. Jesus said if we love Him than we would keep His commandments. Nothing in this world trumps the power of the Bible in our lives.
I complete this article not hoping to come across with a condemnatory attitude of judgment towards my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. On the contrary, I pray that this will instead spur each of us, especially myself, to a deeper relationship and passion for our Lord. May we join together in resisting the temptations of our adversary in this most vital age. May we seek with precision and purpose the distinctive calls that Christ has place on each of our lives - working together, fitted together as the mighty body of Jesus Christ built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness. May God bless us in 2008.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Mormonism in a Nutshell
Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world and that he became a god by following the laws and ordinances of his god on his home world. He brought his wife to this world, a woman he had married on the other world. She is, essentially a goddess.
In his present god-state, he rules our world. He has a body of flesh and bones. Since god and his wife are both exalted persons, they each possess physical bodies. In their exalted states as deities, they produce spirit children that grow and mature in the spiritual realm. The first spirit born was Jesus. Afterwards Lucifer was born along with the rest of us. So, Mormonism teaches that we all pre-existed in the spirit realm having been produced from the union of god and his goddess wife. Therefore, we all existed in spirit form before coming down down and entering the bodies of human babies that are being born on earth. During this ‘compression' into the infant state, the memories of their pre-existence is 'veiled.'
God the father, who is called Elohim, was concerned for the future salvation of the people on earth. In the heavenly realm, the Father had a plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus endorsed the Father's plan. Lucifer did not. Lucifer became jealous and rebelled. In his rebellion he convinced a large portion of the spirits existing in heaven to side with him and oppose god. God being more powerful then they, cursed these rebellious spirits to become demons. They can never be born in human bodies.
The remaining spirits sided with God. Since they chose the better way, when it comes time for them to live on earth, they have the privilege of being born in races and locations that are relative to their condition and choice made in the spirit realm.1
In the Mormon plan of salvation there needed to be a savior: Jesus. But Jesus was a spirit in heaven. For him to be born on earth, Brigham Young the second prophet of the Mormon church said that instead of letting any other man do it, God the Father did it with Mary. He said that the birth of our savior was as natural as the birth of our parents. Essentially, what this means is that Brigham Young taught that god the father came down and had relations with Mary, his spirit daughter, to produce the body of Jesus. Though many Mormons will not entertain such incestuous thoughts about God and Mary, this is what Brigham Young taught and as far as we know, this has not been denied by the Mormon church.
Nevertheless, Jesus was born, got married, and had children.2 He died on the cross and paid for sins -- but not on the cross only. According to Mormonism, the atonement of Christ was not only on the cross. It began in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.
In Mormonism, men and women have the potential of becoming gods. President Lorenzo Snow said, "As god once was, man is. As God is, man may become." In order to reach this exalted state of godhood, a person must first become a good Mormon, pay a full ten percent tithe to the Mormon church, follow various laws and ordinances of the church, and be found worthy. At this point, they receive a temple recommend whereupon, the Mormon is allowed to enter their sacred temples in order to go through set of secret rituals: baptism for the dead, celestial marriage, and various oaths of secrecy and commitment. Additionally, four secret handshakes are taught so the believing Mormon, upon entering the third level of Mormon heaven, can shake hands with god in a certain pattern. This celestial ritual is for the purpose of permitting entrance into the highest level of heaven.3 For those who achieve this highest of heavens, exaltation to godhood awaits them. Then, he or she, will be permitted to have his or her own planet and be the god of his own world and the Mormon system will be expanded to other planets.
1. Page 616 of Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie
2. Jedediah M. Grant, second Counselor to Brigham Young said so in Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pp. 345-346.
Apostle Orson Hyde stated it in, vol. 2: 210, 328; vol. 4:259-260; vol. 13:309; Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 825; The Seer, page 172, 158, -- Note: These references are not official Mormon scripture and there is disagreement in acceptance of this teaching among Mormons.
3. What's Going on in There? An Exposing of the Secret Mormon Temple Rituals, by Bob Witte & Gordon H. Fraser. Gordon Fraser, Publisher.
(All information taken from www.CARM.org)
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS AND RESEARCH MINISTRY
Copyright Matthew J. Slick, 1996 - 2006
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
~As for Me ~
A Battle Cry for the Youth of this Generation
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16-18(NIV)
I am writing this article to the youth of America. I know that each point I make can and should be heeded by every person of any age but my emphasis will be directed intentionally toward the youth.
In Exodus 20 God commands, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Today this command is more relevant than ever before. Now more than ever you, the youth of America are under a vicious assault! No matter where you turn you are being bombarded with the temptation of complete and utter self-indulgence and sadly this assault is being perpetrated in part by some in the Church. From television programs and teen magazines to the self-absorption of today’s greatest athletes the devil is seeking to deceive you, as he did Eve in the Garden, by tempting you to exalt yourself over Almighty God. The world, under the direction of their father Satan, has set before you a great ‘golden image’ of self-centeredness and on their command demand you bow your knees and worship the god of Self. "Do whatever you want," the world says, "and let no one get in your way. Your happiness is all that matters." Whatever makes you feel good, go on, indulge yourself." He desires more than anything to be successful in this campaign and will stop at nothing to see it accomplished. The battle is raging and it is for your very soul.
So what must you do? God has called us to treasure Jesus Christ over everything else in this world, including ourselves. This treasuring of Jesus is not simply calling yourself a Christian; it is full devotion to the person of Jesus as your Lord and Savior and an unabated obedience to the directives of Christ for this life. I believe God is calling me to shout with all my might "Stop and think about where your allegiance is." Who or what is lord of your life? Are you consumed with yourself? Do you follow after the ideas and passions of this world? Do you look just like those around you? Is your speech different, or the same? What do you watch? What do you listen to? Is there any difference between your lifestyle and your un-Christian friends? Do you find yourself overlooking sinful behavior and even catch yourself doing the same? Answer this question. How can you ever expect to make a difference in this world when there is no apparent difference in your own life? Jesus doesn’t save us from our sin in order that we may go about living how we like and sinning all the more. On the contrary he has called us to "be separate from the world," and to "come out from among them." Romans 12:2 says that we are no longer to be conformed to this world. That word conformed literally implies to wear a mask as one would in a masquerade ball. "To appear as one you are not", is another way to put it. Are you so consumed with blending in and fitting in that you compromise your obedience to God’s Word? These are tough questions. I am not writing this article or preaching this message in order to bring a heavy load of condemnation into your life. On the contrary I am writing this most difficult message in order to encourage you to come to the Lord with a broken and contrite heart. Fully repentant and willing to lay down your life for Jesus Christ. The "fun" life this world offers is so shallow and so self centered. It appears to be a great life but on the inside it is one full of emptiness and depression. Jesus is the only God and He is the only One who can fill you with a passion and zeal for life and a mission to keep you fulfilled for the rest of your life. I compel you today to come to him and seek him with your whole heart. We all are tripped up from time to time and fall into temptation but just as the Old Testament shows time after time God desires His people to come to him and repent, seeking his restoration and his direction for their lives. Don’t let this moment pass you. We are in a battle of epic proportions and you have been born into this time in history to bring glory to Jesus Christ in all that you do.
In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the Old Testament book of Daniel, the king had set up an image and demanded that everyone bow and worship this man made creation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were followers of Almighty God and they knew that He was the true God and refused to bow their knee in worship to the golden image. The king threatened them with death by being cast into the fiery furnace but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego still refused. Their statement to the king was one that also must be heeded today. "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16-18(NIV)
Today you are being slammed on all sides to bow down and cast aside your beliefs and blend in with society. You are told to keep your Christianity to yourself and quit being so judgmental of everything around you. The world wants you to look like them, feel like them and act like them, no matter the level of their debauchery. Your answer to the world must be a resounding, unshaking, unswerving NO! It is time for the Christian young people in this nation to rise up and stand on principle. You must clothe yourself with the full armor of God and dedicate yourself anew to being a doer not simply a hearer or reader of the Word of God. I tell my youth group all the time that the Christian life is a life of thinking and doing! The Bible has much to say on the subject as I have used several references already. In the book of I Timothy (written to a young man) the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy not to let anyone despise his young age. Instead he encouraged Timothy to be an example to other believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity. You are called to be living epistles before this world Christians and non-Christians. People should look at you and see the working of Jesus Christ in your life. They should see a young person consumed with passion to follow the commands of Jesus. They should see a person who is in love with Jesus. Fully devoted and fully committed. I know this is a high calling for a young person; it is a high calling for any person. In fact it is an impossible calling to fulfill if we do not rely fully on the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us. Unfortunately many young people today are consumed with having nothing but a fun time and many youth groups around the country advertise a youth group with nothing but food and fun sprinkled with a little Bible lesson. This makes me sick to my stomach because people are taking the lives of precious young people and treating them like they are small children in need of a Barney movie and a pack of crackers.
For you to answer this calling will surely bring hardship to your life, Jesus never promised that our lives would be care free and fun, his life was full of hardship and so will ours. This doesn’t mean that we never enjoy times of peace joy and happiness, but we mustn’t live for these things. That is idolatry because it makes our happiness a greater value to us than the will of Jesus Christ. In II Timothy 2:3 Paul again speaking to Timothy says "You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this world, that he may please the one (Jesus) who enlisted him." Paul is saying what I just said at the beginning of this paragraph. We must cast aside anything that keeps us back from full dedication to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one true and only way. He has called you to STAND and take your place is this battle. Remember not to get entangled in the sinfulness of the world; do not masquerade around as if you are just like them. Read and study your Bible. Pray and submit to God. One thing that is absolutely imperative is that you join a Bible preaching church and youth group. Yes you need to be in a Bible preaching youth group! By this I do not mean some wishy washy group that opens the Bible to a feel-good set of verses and have a measly little devotion. I am calling you to join a group of young believers who are on fire for God and who are dedicated to personal purity and wholehearted discipleship. I will tell you that this is not popular today. It might be that you are currently in a very shallow youth group, one whose mindset is simply to entertain and "baby sit" you. I cannot begin to tell you how many of these groups exist around this country. This summer while on a youth trip one of the youth asked why so many youth pastors talk to their students like they are toddlers. The fact is there are thousands of young people who hunger to know Jesus more intimately. They seek to follow Him and desire to devote their lives to the mission of reaching the world for Jesus Christ, but are stifled in their attempts because of the influence of the "Christian" leaders in their lives. You might be one of these youth. If so I want to encourage you to not forsake the call of Jesus in this hour. This might require you to find a group where Jesus is exalted, a place where you can learn and be discipled. I have met so many young people whose greatest complaint about their Christian walk is that they have not and are not being discipled.
In closing I want to encourage you, in fact plead with you not to give in to the culture around you. You must rise up as young Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did and declare that you will worship Jesus Christ and Him alone will you serve. Encourage your friends to join you in this declaration. You can make a difference. I am praying for you that God would use you to reach your school for Jesus Christ. Dedicate yourself to praying for revival to sweep through your school and pray by name for the salvation of your unsaved classmates. Who knows if God might use your diligence to bring a mighty move of His Spirit. Be bold in your dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God unto Salvation to those who will believe (Romans 1:16). If you would like to contact me with questions or prayer requests I am available and desire deeply to encourage you anyway that God would allow Crosswalk483@yahoo.com . Please don’t stand on the sidelines and be silent. Join the many young people around this nation and Rise Up and Speak Out against this age of selfishness cry out to your peers to repent and come to faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks powerfully about the mouths of young people and together we can help take back this nation for Christ. Remember the words of God to Joshua in Joshua 1: Be strong and very courageous!
The battle cry has been sounded!
Will You Answer the Call?
For Christ Alone,
Students, parents and youth pastors: I would hope that if this article has touched your heart you will print this out or email it on to those young people in your life. Whether they be your friends, children or young people you serve our youth need to hear this message and stand for righteousness. I am praying with you and for you.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Cheese or Pepperoni Church Youth Group?
How about neither! In this article my aim is to show you why you should refuse to be a member of what I call a pizza party youth group and demand a ministry that truly ministers to your soul and not simply your stomach. Some of these arguments might rub your flesh the wrong way, but if you desire to be a true follower of Jesus Christ then comfort and ease are not part of the equation. I know this sounds radical in an age where comfort is everything but my friend I am going to tell you the truth, God�s truth. My prayer is that it will resonate in your heart and set you on a quest in search of righteousness and truth.
The question that I seek to answer is �What are the ramifications of being satisfied with a �pizza party youth group�?� The answer I believe is direct and straight to the point, death! The fact is the leaders of these �ministries� are not ministers at all. The objective of youth ministry is to call young people to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. To direct them in the paths of righteousness that lead to life, to call them to a life of holiness and model this life in front of them. It is not to entertain and appease their sinful flesh.
In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul unashamedly describes the spiritual state of both you and I prior to regeneration. In verse 1, he explains how we were dead in our trespasses and sins, destined for eternity separated from God, condemned to eternal punishment and torment in the flames of hell. The word �dead� can be translated corpse. It describes an utterly hopeless existence void of any hope of life. It has been said that the only difference between a spiritually dead person and a physically dead person is six feet of dirt. Paul goes on to explain that it is only through the regeneration of our souls by a most merciful God that we have any hope of life beyond these few years on this earth. We must be cleansed of our sinfulness and made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit through the blood of Christ Jesus.
My purpose in bringing up this most humbling truth is to ask you whether or not you have ever heard it preached in the latest pizza bash you attended. If you have heard it then this article is not for you. Unfortunately the majority of these shallow ministries is strictly entertainment in the name of God. Their stomachs have been filled with melting cheese and pepperoni, but their spiritual man is left starving and empty.
So what are the ultimate outcomes of this backward method of ministry? Below I will describe three scenarios:
First: The unsaved visitor
�He has been invited to the youth group to have a �good time.� The selling points for his coming were pizza, games and girls. (Notice coming into a right relationship with God was never mentioned). Sure the pizza was great and who wouldn�t want to spend a few hours playing the latest X-Box & DDR games. As for the girls the jury is still out, but what about his eternal soul? Well, the answer is that unfortunately with ten minutes left before calling it a night the youth leader gathered everyone together and mentioned that he hoped everyone had a good time and told them what would be coming up in the following weeks. He then closed with a five-minute devotion, mentioning how Jesus wants them to have a good life and how they can live forever in heaven by simply praying a short prayer. He followed the devotion with the �bow your head and repeat this prayer after me� stunt, and after reassuring everyone that they were in good standing with God and telling them how cool they were He closed the night in prayer. Result you now have a young man who doesn�t know what he �prayed� and doesn�t understand his real sinful state but feels that he is �ok� because that is what the leader said. He leaves the meeting and reassures his friend he will be back next week.
Next: The regular member of the youth ministry
Odds are at one point or another he was the �unsaved� visitor who also feels secure in his �salvation experience� even though he continues to live a compromising sinful lifestyle. He never hears the message of daily repentance and of needing to live a holy and righteous life depending fully upon the power of the Holy Spirit to grow deeper in His walk with Christ. The food and games are his favorite part of the youth group and he faithfully follows the directions of his youth pastor to invite his friends to the next week�s meeting. What we see is at best a malnourished young believer who will most certainly grow up to be a shallow self-centered Christian and worst of all he is still lost in his sinfulness without a clue that he is on His way to hell. I know these words are sobering but how long will we ignore what is happening to our young people?
Finally: The Youth Intern
This for me is the saddest state of the �pizza party� youth group. It is here that the transfer of ministry knowledge takes place. This young man has been in the group a long time. He has been faithful to participate in all the group�s activities and really shows some real leadership qualities. The youth leader inquires as to whether or not he would be interested in interning during the summer and learning the ins and outs of youth ministry. The student jumps at this opportunity because He loves kids and wants to make a difference. Unfortunately He is taught all of the same shallow methods that He experienced growing up. Who knows how many young people will now be influenced by his continuation of this shallow self-centered practice called youth ministry.
Many might believe that my assessment is too harsh and unfounded but I have been around many young people and I have seen the tragic lives that they live - lives without any purpose except fulfilling their own desires. There is no devotion to Jesus and His purpose for their lives. There is no concern for the lost souls around them because it is possible that they too might be in the same boat.
My prayer is that we would return to real Biblical Christianity. Let us call this generation to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is the only way. It is not old-fashioned nor out dated. If we don�t begin now to call these young people to a real walk with Christ based upon the truth found in the Bible, we will not only lose them but many generations after them. We must answer the call and stand Truth.