Years ago I learned the “language” of Kansas City.Now, Kansas City is half in Missouri and half in Kansas, so there are municipalities called Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas – two very different cities and very different environments.There are also quite a few different cities comprising the suburbs, on both sides of the state line.
With regard to the language, I learned that when someone from Kansas City is asked where they come from by someone who lives in Missouri or Kansas, if they answer, “Kansas City”, you can be assured they mean Kansas City, Missouri, since that is the local, understood default.However, sometimes the name is used in a generic fashion because the person is only making polite conversation and it is understood by the one answering that the questioner either doesn’t really care, or wouldn’t understand if they did.Aren’t humans fascinating?!
In my old line of work, I used to ask people where they came from on a daily basis. It wasn’t frivolous, but rather a professional inquiry.I would routinely get answers like, “Illinois” or “Montana”, and then I would follow up with another politely asked question, “All of it, or can you narrow it down a bit?”
With regard to the question, “What does it mean to have ‘faith in Jesus’?”, the same complexity occurs, but perhaps it occurs to our own detriment.The default answer usually seems to be that having faith in Jesus means very little until death, then it assumes gigantic proportions.It is just like a life (death) insurance policy you can’t file a claim on unless you’re dead.But then, of course, the insured can’t really benefit at all since he’s dead.(Come to think of it, that’s pretty astute).
Did Jesus die so Christians could have an eternal form of insurance, or did He provide much more?I say much more, and it’s important we learn about it.
Jesus said He had, ‘come that they may have life, and that they may have [it] more abundantly.’ [John NKJV]
In our lives as believers, the ‘state line’ divides our life into two parts: here and now, and eternity.Jesus came to provide us with abundant life on both sides of that line, but then it gets difficult, because it is much easier to have faith for heaven after we die than to have faith right now.Ask yourself, is it easier to have faith you will go to heaven when you die, or be healed of the headache you have right now?
If we let ourselves become part of the Christian crowd who believe that ‘faith in Jesus’ simply means salvation from hell after death, we will find it almost impossible to live the ‘Christian life’ as set forth in the New Testament.Those early Christians in the New Testament believed they were walking (and working) with God in this life, and living for God wasn’t just an insurance policy to them – and it wasn’t meant to be an insurance policy for us, either.
Just as a business takes inventory, and for the same reasons, it’s important for us to take an inventory of our faith on a regular basis, because if we don’t, we will fall back gradually into the “default” of having faith in an insurance policy.Jesus came and died for more than that, and as I’ve always said, “If it has my name on it, I want it!”
The ‘abundant life’ is supposed to be an exciting adventure – on both sides of the line.
I admit I neither have the mental capacity to waste or any desire to keep a catalog of the various common errors represented by the various cults.I once had a clever publication that detailed their minutia and compared it to basic Christianity, but I never had it handy when it was needed.
We’ve all had the experience of having “missionaries” ring our doorbells, handing out innocent looking printed material (for free!) or attempting to engage us in erudite discussions of the Bible.And usually, although we pick up a pervasive flavor of error (at least we should!), it’s a rare person who has studied the particular cult enough to know the details of their errors.
I have to admit if I had the time or inclination to study cult theology, I’d feel embarrassed about not giving my Bible equal or greater time.But even if I read my Bible all the time, I’d probably have some trouble fielding the multiplicity of errors against the well-trained cadres of cultists invading my doorway.So let’s make it simple, and boil it down to the two common denominators we can understand?
Most of the common, well-known cults, no matter how they say they use the Bible or purport to know the Bible texts, have two things in common:
1.A denial that Jesus is God in His very substance, and
2.An affirmation that you and I can be sons of God “like (or as) He was”.
And of course, for us to be sons of God we have to work, (and that explains why the cult missionaries are canvassing the neighborhoods).They have a goal – usually to eventually be made sons of God through their work.It’s really not too difficult to grasp for the average Christian, except for the “semantics”.
Well trained cultists will turn a Christian’s words and a Christian’s own scriptures against him.It will genuinely appear that they understand the Bible better than we do, but they are using semantics against us.
The Christian’s use of the term “Son of God” is totally at odds with what the cultists mean when they use the exact, same term, however, no definition delineating the difference is provided (or admitted).Without knowing this, the Christian is at a disadvantage from the beginning of the discussion.And to make it more confusing, the cultists probably don’t share a concern for truth-telling, with regard to their mission.Pinning them down, for the average Christian, is like tackling a greased pig – and is usually no more rewarding.
Let’s go back to the origins of cults.In Isaiah 14:12-14, we are told Lucifer (Satan) stated in verse 14, ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’And by the way, only God could have heard this because verse 13 plainly states Lucifer said this in his ‘heart’.I believe that is the underlying basis for the belief that we can work our way into “Godhood” (point #2, above).
In Matthew 4:1-11, the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness. In the first two temptations, the devil led off by saying to Jesus, ‘If You are the Son of God..’.These statements show the devil was casting doubt on Jesus’ essential divinity, (point #1, above) and if Jesus had given in at the slightest, the cultists would have solid standing to argue for works.
To sum up, you and I must recognize completely that Jesus is now, and always was, God – Himself.He may have been brought forth as Jesus the Christ at His advent in Bethlehem, but even prior to that (and afterward) He was, and is God – in substance.
In addition we need to be fully convinced that no matter how sanctified we ever become, we will always be created beings.We will become “like” God, but we will never share his substance by “being” God – no matter how many doorbells we ring.
Large portions of the bible seem to have been written by mostly average individuals, some we might even call simple, in the sense of uncomplicated.The Apostle Peter, for instance, was obviously the same blue-collar kind of guy we would still expect to find on most construction sites.But even the more educated of the writers all possessed a similar, simple quality that allowed them to be the vessel the Holy Spirit needed; I think it’s called Humility.
With that in mind, can any of us contrast the Peter we see in the gospel accounts with the writer of 1st and 2nd Peter without marveling over the Holy Spirit working within him?If the contrast isn't clear enough there, at least we should marvel that so many educated intellectuals have, for over 2000 years, written volumes of books in attempts to explain the writings of a Jewish fisherman.It is safe to predict it won’t happen to my writings!My point of course, is the marvelous Holy Spirit.
We really are strange creatures!We hear a lot these days about biases.Quite regularly we are reminded that we all bring to our bible reading-times our own biases, and we are encouraged to get rid of them and view the meaning of scripture through someone else’s biases.In fact, that’s what being un-biased is – getting rid of our own, while assuming someone else’s.Now that’s strange!But we are told that it’s alright if the someone else is more educated than ourselves.No, I’m not taking a slap at the pastorate - I have a lot to learn – a ton, and it’s easier for me to learn from someone else’s education than go back to school myself.But here’s my point: if biases are inevitable, let’s consider adopting the bias of the true writer of scripture - the Holy Spirit.
I like to think of the Holy Spirit as the divine Spark Plug in the engine of scripture.No matter how well educated you may be, if you leave out the Spark Plug you’re going to have engine trouble, and unfortunately, engine trouble usually causes another book to be written – with engine trouble built in!Gag.And the engine of scripture wasn’t canonized so the vehicle (us) could remain parked.
To muddy the mental waters even more, is the human propensity for problem solving.We love to solve problems – and we like to be the persons solving them because it can build our pride.In fact, we love to solve problems so much we’ll manufacture problems just so we can!That’s strange too.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning the nuances of scripture exposition, unless we discover that our knowledge is building up our pride.If that is the case, we have damaged ourselves more than we’ve furthered the Gospel, and the cure must be our immediate return to the bias of the Holy Spirit, for only in Him will we find humility.
Over several decades I’ve periodically run into well-intentioned, usually well educated individuals, who have told me what God won’t do.Their reasons are sometimes well-presented, and their arguments are sound, based on human judgment, but I’ve always experienced a sinking, disappointing feeling in my spirit.
I don’t mean things God won’t do like lying and murdering; I’m talking about putting limits on the Holy Spirit, as this is the most common form of the issue.
I maintain that our human condition totally precludes any need to know what the Holy Spirit won’t do – instead we desperately need to know what He will do, and the vast numbers of empty churches on Sunday mornings attest to it.
Just being honest here; I don’t want to worship a God who is anything less than explosive, and I don’t think you do either.When we place [our] limits on God, we always lose more than we gain, and I don’t think it honors Him when we do.After all – we’re the ones in need.
I’m not saying we limit God with malice, but rather with ignorance, or bias.Here’s a truth you can always rely on: we never see ourselves as well as we think we do – never.Most often, we don’t see ourselves as ignorant, particularly when we are ignorant.
There will always be more of God, and I mean a lot more.He has only revealed a very small portion of Himself to us, no matter how complete you think the scriptures may be.There is always more of Him.That’s more of God the Father, more of God the Son and more of the Holy Spirit; a LOT MORE!Not less – ever!
Over the years I’ve tried to become sensitive to my own biases when I read scripture, and do I have them!So each time I read scripture, I play a game with myself; I tell myself to read it as if I’ve never read it before.It’s not an easy game to play, but when I do it successfully, I see brand new things, hidden in plain sight for decades!It can be exciting.(When I don’t play the game, I often get bored and fall asleep!).That’s how I try to adopt the divine bias, and many times it works.It’s also a good check on what I thought I already knew.Works for me…
According to the dictionary, the word, “Boast” connotes exaggeration and pride in oneself.I think most people find arrogance (pride) offensive, particularly when arrogance is boastful, as it usually is.
Yet in the bible, we find another use of boasting.Psalm 34, verses 2 and 3 read, ‘My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad’.
We should be proud, indeed are encouraged to be proud, of our God.In what ways should we be proud?In my opinion we should be proud of Him in all His ways: His attributes (and lack of others, like lying), His beauty, truth and honesty, His judgments (which are always right), His righteousness, His wisdom and knowledge (personified by Jesus himself), His sheer and awesome power, His magnificent love (again, personified in Jesus), His wrath (which is always pure), and His patience and endurance towards us,and of course, His mercy and grace – every day.
This list will never be complete because God is too big to compartmentalize.I’m sure you’ve thought of some glaring oversight of mine already, because God is very nearly indescribable in His entirety.In other words, we should be honored to boast about our God.He doesn’t mind.
Of course, in order to boast about God, it’s vital that we know the Object of our boastfulness, rather than just know about Him.I’ve made the point before that even people not in my earthly family felt they “knew” my father, and they did – but not as well as I knew him.
When we consider God as a topic, there is no shortage of educated people willing to pontificate about Him, but the waiting sewers of the world need to hear from those who know Him.Now, I’m not taking a stand against the theologians, but I am saying their words are just verbiage unless they also know Him personally and intimately.
Put yourself in the sick person’s place.Which would you rather hear from those ministering healing to you, 1.) God healed in the bible, so He is at least able to heal you, or 2.) I know God’s will for healing, and I’ve experienced His healing.Not too difficult to figure that one out, is it?
Let me digress.For the minister of Christ, there are three broad areas that almost always create a firestorm:
1.The Holy Spirit (particularly as seen in the book of Acts)
3.Deliverance from demons
If you talk about any of these “Big Three”, you will usually step in a deep hole if you only have words – you absolutely must have personal experience, and God will give you credentials, but you must want to have them.
The point has often been made that we can know what God considers important by the opposition it causes.Satan hates it when we know what we are talking about, and he hates the big three with all of himself.He hates God, and he hates God’s people – but he especially hates the ones who know their Redeemer and have experienced Him and know their authority.He doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about theology as long as it’s toothless.
So, my evangelistic message for the day is this: Know and experience Him yourself (‘taste and see that the Lord is good’), then boast away with gladness.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day: “My dog is smarter than your honor student”.I’d like a bumper sticker that says something like: “My God is better than your Greek”.
One of the most familiar passages in the Bible occurs in 2 Chronicles 7:14.In the King James Version it reads as follows:
‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and willheal their land.’
This verse has been at the root of much organized Christian prayer and fasting for as long as I can remember, however, I think something needs to be said about it that is often neglected, namely, “What then do we do?”
All too often we pray and fast for our country while fully expecting Him to take care of the answers, while not addressing the issue of our possible involvement.Having prayed and fasted while presenting this verse to God, we back out of the process hoping He’ll take care of things without any of our further participation.
May I suggest that God may want to use these times of prayer to instruct us concerning His will for our individual lives.He may want to show us how to “partner” with Him in bringing about the answers to our prayers, but are we listening for His instructions, or are we patting ourselves on our backs for another completed fast?
In my life thus far, I have to admit to being a back-patter, but today, as I began to pray a prayer of repentance for my country, it turned inward and I began to see how I personally had let God down in my Christian walk.I began to feel sorrowful for many things, most of which centered on how I had not assumed my God-given Christian responsibility within my city and my country – indeed, anywhere.Worse, my sorrow at my sins seemed shallow and disengaged, and I stand helpless to change my hard heart by my own effort.
I am against abortion – it really is murder, and the only real “choice” is the individual one to be a murderer or a murderer’s accomplice, and for that choice we already possess free will.I am against lying, stealing, cheating – or as God would classify it – ‘moving the boundary stones’, but other than opposing these issues in my heart what have I done?Perhaps the question should be, have I done all God wanted me to do?Maybe, and maybe not, the problem remains that I just don’t know – and as I prayed I realized I should know.I can imagine myself standing before Christ, finally, and telling Him about my fastings and my prayers……but what if I missed His voice in all of it?Did I have any responsibilities?
Many years ago I remember praying that my paycheck would increase.Do you know how God answered that prayer?He doubled my wage – by doubling my work!I was a bit shocked by His response because I just wanted the pot of gold rather than the work.
In like manner, when we pray for God to heal our land, is it logical to assume He may require something of us?After all, we are His body, aren’t we?
God placed us where we are and with whom because He had plans for us.None of our lives was the result of biological randomness.We are living as Christians in America during these momentous times precisely because He planned it that way.
We are right now, the body of Christ in our communities, states and country for a reason – and that reason does NOT include the ‘separation of church and state’.It is quite likely we DO have social responsibilities given to us by Christ.If that is true, it is way past time for our churches and church leaders to take the lead they signed up for through ordination, by leading their congregations in these areas of responsibilities as well as in biblical training.
We are NOT the body of Christ only as we sit in our churches Sunday mornings – we are His body in every area, all the time, and I believe with all my heart He wants us to get involved – constantly, completely, loudly and without fear.
Soon enough we can expect real persecution to begin as we let Him use our lives as a resource owned by Him, and for His glory.But we have to be willing – that’s our reasonable sacrifice.
It’s our job to make sure the persecution is for the right reasons.Myself, I want to be “deserving” of it.
Here’s a little tidbit I picked off the Quotable Quips (.com) website this morning:
From Aesop’s Fables:
When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony."Familiarity Breeds Contempt"
And I would add this from personal observation:for the Christian, familiarity not only breeds contempt, but it results in unbelief.This concept is amply demonstrated in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6: 1-6.
How many of us feel comfortable being unwelcome?We’ve all had that experience a time or two.Among His other attributes, the Holy Spirit is very sensitive.He does not usually hang around in places where He is unwelcome.
Over the last 30+ years, I’ve felt His presence many times – and just as often I’ve felt Him leave.To me, it feels like a plug has been pulled out of a bathtub – an empty, vacuous feeling.It’s a divine version of, “Elvis has left the building”.And after that, nothing much matters.(I suppose the comparisons I’ve used would have no impact on assemblies where He never shows up in the first place!).
For some time now, I and many other Christians have felt a growing urgency to warn other Christians who may have grown “comfortable” in their lives and churches.God will not allow His people to remain plugged into dead outlets much longer.Many things ‘begin at the house of God’, judgment being only one, and the time for getting deadly serious about our faith has already begun, and it’s going to be a small window of time.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus taught a haunting parable about the ten virgins.Five of them were foolish – five were wise.This parable always clutches at my throat when I apply it to myself.Notice that all of the virgins were together, and all were engaged in waiting for the Bridegroom.Until the arrival of the Bridegroom became imminent there was no outward sign that five of the ten virgins were foolish, but as His arrival was announced, they were not only seen as fools, but too late to avoid judgment.
I contend the Bridegroom is warning his “virgins”, His bride – “Make yourselves ready, and do it now”!And to do this, each of us has to divest ourselves of the easy familiarity with which we approach the Lord.Not so, you say?; then why do we act surprised when God answers our prayers?Why do we, by our actions and sometimes our words, indicate our shock that God is really real?
It’s time NOW to get on our knees and beg the Holy Spirit to tear from our innermost selves any unbelief we’re comfortable with.It’s time to re-discover the Lord as the Lion He is.
The other day I got “familiar” with my stove – the result = I got burned.I’m convinced that with God the same lesson applies.I don’t want to need oil for my lamp when I should already have it.
And notice the obtaining of the oil was the responsibility of the virgins themselves.
When I was a young believer I was only sure of one thing – Jesus, the Son of God, died in my place.And although I learned some biblical facts about my new inheritance, I really didn’t understand much about it – or indeed, how my life had fundamentally been changed.This relative ignorance hung on for many years, to my shame, and ultimately resulted in the chaos of divorce.
Like so many other so-called believers, I fully recognized Jesus as the Son of God, but denied Him lordship over my life.Unfortunately, I think that’s a common scenario.As such, Jesus was just another facet of my life – another “thing” in it, like an eternal insurance policy; my hedge against hell.
Since 1972 I knew I was a believer, but I hadn't taken the time to build a relationship with Him, and consequently had been living as an unbeliever – with corresponding “benefits.”After my divorce I tried to rebuild my life, and it seemed prudent for me to re-connect with Jesus, Who had remained an unknown quantity all those years.
Looking back on my divorce and subsequent loss of my entire family, I could no longer run from Him; I could no longer deny my desperation, and I understood that only Jesus could bring light back into my darkened world.
As I began to rebuilt my life around Jesus, I became aware of my immediate need of Him, and an ongoing, growing need for Him.No longer was I satisfied to have Him as an insurance policy in the bank vault – I not only needed Him, but needed Him more each day.My testimony now is that Jesus met with me in my darkest hours, and still does.While He meets my needs today, He also grows my needs for Him tomorrow.I never need Him less, regardless of circumstances, instead, at all times I need Him more.
But even now, sad to admit, I sometimes overlook building on the one relationship that is most important to me, and when that happens I get bitter, angry, and easily distracted by the myriad of non-essentials this life presents, and the variety of non-essentials seems endless.But He remains the same – an immovable Rock in all storms.
So today, I say this to Jesus, “My Friend, my God, my Life and my Lover, now and forever, I need You more today than ever before, and I am so very grateful that I do.Thank You so much for showing me my growing need for You.”
My life now consists of my need -growing, growing, and gone (home); and if you’re honest with yourself, I think you’ll find your life in Him is just like that too; growing, growing, gone…thank God!
Name: John Miltenberger ChristiansUnite ID: jmilty Member Since: 2006-08-22 Location: Estes Park, Colorado, United States Denomination: Born-again believer About Me: Retired from Overland Park, Kansas and now living in Estes Park, Colorado. Another escapee from the Midwest!!