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Archive for April, 2012

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Hebrew 6:4-6

Have you ever read this portion of scripture and thought that you were most certainly doomed [because] you walked away from your God-given faith for a season? I know I have. For me, it is the toughest piece of scripture in the Bible and I know it is for many of you as well. I suppose there is someone, somewhere that these verses don’t apply to, but I don’t know any of those people.

Before we address it, we first need to know that the passage means exactly what it says, “It is impossible for those…(that fell away)… to renew them again to repentance.” We also should know that the word impossible (adunatos in the Greek) is translated:

  1. without strength, impotent, powerless, weakly, disabled
  2. unable to be done

In other words, impossible means impossible.

So What Do We Do?

Some people address the issue by reading into the verse doctrine that isn’t there. ‘This passage is making reference to those who were never saved to begin with,’ they might say.

Stretching the vocabulary to make it fit a particular situation (real or imagined) is entirely the wrong approach and at best it only serves to sidestep the solution. The best way (again) is to take these words at face value.

For whom are we told it is impossible?

For those who fell away; they are the powerless ones unable to do anything to renew their repentance. That should remind of us something; weren’t we also powerless to save ourselves initially?  What does Titus 3:5-7 tell us again?

 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

But Wait!

That certainly addresses when we first came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but the writer of Hebrews said after we fall away it was an impossible feat to accomplish. How can we possibly get around the impossible?

The solution is so easy, you’re liable to smack yourself in the forehead when you read it.

(Jesus) said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:27

Yes! Let the Master handle it!

Nothing has changed. As it pertains to our salvation, our works are as filthy rags.  However nothing is impossible with God! At this juncture, there is only one question left to ask on the matter, “Is God a liar?”

…It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18b)

  1. What do these verses tell us about God?
  2. What do they tell us about ourselves?
  3. What changes do we need to address?

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For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31

It Just Got Worse

The good news is that Dan Savage, the founder of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign, has revealed his true colors. It would appear (in this video) that Dan Savage does not practice what he preaches — bullying teens is apparently okay, as long as they don’t agree with Dan Savage.

In the Youtube video erroneously titled, “Dan Savage Discusses Bible at High School Journalism Convention,” Savage lives up to his surname when he attacks God, the Bible, and the teenagers who chose to walk out on his foul-mouthed rant. In addition to calling God’s word bulls**t, this openly gay, anti-bullying crusader-in-sheep’s-clothing actually called these Christian kids pansy-asses.

Savage wolves have come among us indeed!

Why Should We Care?

If it were just about Dan Savage cursing God and God’s word, I wouldn’t care; God can most certainly take care of Himself.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. Galatians 6:7-8

However, this is more about protecting the flock, particularly the younger members of he fold. Sadly, bullied teens have latched onto this supposed champion based largely on media/government pushed, emotionally logical, anti-bullying sound bites (after all, who can’t get behind a campaign like that). But Dan Savage, and guys like him, have a hidden anti-Christian agenda. As advocates for the devil, their true goal is drag teens down to their death and bully anyone else who doesn’t agree with them.  As stewards of the faith, it is a believers responsibility to sound the alarm when these wolves enter the camp.

Our Other Responsibility

We need to be crystal clear, this is not about bashing or even bullying Dan Savage. Heaven for bid; we need to pray for this guy and not condemn him. As long as he has breath in his lungs, he has the chance to repent. So, as we warn and pray for the sheep, pray for Savage and those like him who are living in darkness and appear clueless to the evil in their midst.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

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For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack–that there may be equality. 2 Corinthians 8:13-14
Good Things?

How can it be that when we give to those who lack, that God can give something in return in order that both giver and receiver may have equally? The answer is found in these four words, It’s a God-thing.” The Apostle Paul’s report concerning the open-handed Macedonian church (in 2 Corinthians 8:3-5) gives us some more insight.

For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

Notice…

1. They gave themselves to Jesus
2. They gave according to His will
3. They gave beyond their ability
4. They begged Paul to take their gift.

They gave first to the Lord first and what they first gave was themselves — Jesus Christ was their top priority and their obedience; their giving, was in accordance to His will. God wants us! Amazingly, it was that type of faith that enabled them to give beyond their ability to give. And it was by that same faith that, although quite poor themselves, they literally had to beg the Apostle Paul to take their money. As it turns out, these folks weren’t so ordinary after all!

Have You Ever Begged to Give?

These folks were insistent because they knew the power of God and the blessing of koinonia; the fellowship and communion of the saints. They grasped the importance of obedience, commitment, and submission. I further submit to you that they gave as a continual sign of their love and gratitude to their Lord and Savior.

When was the last time we asked God, “How can we give today?”

For the love of Christ compels us… 2 Corinthians 5:14a

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But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

My wife had to be the first to know

Several years ago I approached my wife and told her there was something I needed to tell her. “You should sit down,” I cautioned her.

“What is it,” she said nervously.

“You are not number one in my life anymore,” I determined the remark must sear both our hearts.

Quickly (and I do mean quickly) I explained how Jesus Christ was numero uno and why that was important to our relationship. Our relationships with Jesus Christ could not take a backseat to our relationships with each other.

Am I number two?

“Well honey, maybe.” I expected a handful of coasters to come flying in my direction.

“In God’s economy,” I continued, “everything is number two.”

What I finally was able to convey to my wife is that Jesus Christ is our top priority and we must depend upon Him to prioritize the rest of our lives. In so doing we can trust that all our relationships will be enhanced, not to mention all our other needs.

The List

Many Christians have them. “On my list,” they might say, “God is number one, my wife is number two, my kids are number three, my job is number four,” and so on and so forth.

Friends, we should toss out those lists. Why? Because God is not a respecter of individuals, therefore our lists should not reflect that we are.

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality” Acts 10:34

If you have a list, go back to it for a moment. Imagine you took the day off from work to celebrate an anniversary with your spouse when the school calls announcing  your child was just rushed to the emergency room. Let me ask you,

Who is number two on your list now?”

And if I may be so bold to ask, where does a stranger fit on your list? Number five? Six? Fifteen?

But (a certain lawyer), wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ Luke 10:29-35

I can’t help but wonder where the Samaritan was going that day. Did he have a list? Was he walking to ‘number four’ (work)? Was he rushing to ‘number three’ (to see his son’s athletic event)? Wherever he was going doesn’t really matter, because when he encountered this situation, it took priority.

Think about it; the priest and the Levite (who ignored the stranger) did so because they were selfishly locked-into some prioritized and pre-manufactured list. What a shame. Not only did they miss out on an opportunity to help a stranger, they totally ignored the divine appointment God had specifically arranged for them before the beginning of time!

Essentially their list became their stumbling block.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Time is Short…Toss the List

God has set our priorities. Don’t allow some list to stand in the way of what He would have you do today. Throw out the list and trust God to provide your spouse and family with their much-needed ‘number two’ time. You should because He will.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33

  1. What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What changes should we prayerfully consider?

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An Ugly Poem about Saving Lives

Do you remember that fateful day
When about three thousand passed away?
Passed away? Sorry, I am mistaken,
They did not pass, they were taken.

Agonizing as this might be,
Envision another scenario with me.
Assaulted and collapsing towers
Three thousand dead every three hours.

Over and over the casualties mount
At day’s end, thirty thousand is the count.
Praying, wailing, a shocked world frozen,
Were we providentially chosen?

Wondering why I would propose
Revisiting horrors such as those?
Because that many die each day,
Just not in that appalling way.

Thirty thousand kids under age five
This time tomorrow will not be alive.
A child’s death: is – it – as – profound
As when the towers came tumbling down?

Critics may shout, It’s not the same!
The fittest survive, were not to blame.
The words of Jesus would not agree,
What you do for them, you do for Me.

What can be done in this our nation
To surmount this desperate situation?
In Jesus name, reject this crime

By helping one person at a time.

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You’ve been shot? Wow, I’m real sorry dude. Didn’t you tell me you believed in bullet-proof vests? I’m thinking maybe you should have put one on.

Of course this isn’t a real conversation, but an illustration of how knowledge alone doesn’t do anything unless it is practiced religiously. In other words knowledge does not become wisdom until it is applied. Just as every intelligent person knows a bullet-proof vest must be worn to work properly, every Christian knows Jesus must be put on in order to be both effective and protective. Knowing what Christ accomplished does not save a person; He must be worn as one would put on a bullet-proof vest or a parachute and kept on until you safely arrive at your destination.

Putting on Jesus also speaks to obedience. Faith without obedience is akin to believing in your bullet-proof vest, but keeping it in the closet. If you truly believe in Christ Jesus, in earnest gratitude you will do what He says to do. If you aren’t seeking to obey Him, then you are not a believer.

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:4-6)

At the end of the day, faith (like love) is an action. We can say we belief in Jesus all we want, but if we purposely disobey His instructions we aren’t believers, we’re deceivers

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh… (Romans 13:14)

But my bullet-proof vest is so uncomfortable. I can’t move around as freely as I did before.

Isn’t that what so many people say about Jesus too?  Well here’s the reality: Jesus said that His yoke (teaching) is easy and the burden He asks us to carry is light. Since we know that Jesus cannot lie, we must take what He says at face value, hence putting Him on will NOT restrict our freedom.  The fact is the opposite is true: fully grasping that we’re saved eternally is the most freeing and comfortable and peaceable thing a human being can experience this side of Heaven.

Do you believe in Jesus or do you believe in Jesus?

If you were arrested for being a Christian today, is there any evidence that could be presented to bring about your conviction?

Is a dusty Bible enough evidence?

  1.  What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do hey say about you?
  3. Are there any changes you need to make?

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I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, And the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, And disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, And count all my steps? Job 31:1-4

Really?

In chapter 31, Job lays out for God ten sins that he is not guilty of, beginning with lust. I read that and said to myself, “Really Job? You’re not guilty of lust? Every other guy I know is; how did you achieve this impressive feat?”

Is Job lying?

The short answer is no. What Job is more accurately declaring before God is that the sin of lust is no longer an issue in his heart because he has changed his mind regarding the misbehavior.  Job has in reality committed himself to what the Apostle Paul would later prescribe in Colossians 3:2; he has “Set (his) mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

At this point we might be asking ourselves what does changing our minds have to do with changing our hearts? Well, the very first thing we need to understand is that we are not capable of changing our hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

In God’s opinion Job was a faithful follower and a righteous man, therefore it stands to reason that Job knew that a man’s heart is deceitfully wicked. In the same regard, Job likely knew what God knew, ‘That every intent of the thoughts of his heart (that is, a man’s heart) was only evil continually.’ (Genesis 6:5). This knowledge compelled Job to forget about changing that which he couldn’t change (his own heart) and focus on the thing he could change; his mind. Here’s why…

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:10

Job came to realize that only God can change a man’s heart and that He will only do so if first the person changes his mind; if he makes a conscious decision in his mind to reject the evil that percolates up from the heart and submit himself to God’s will.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

The Work is God’s

We cannot clean our own heart — it is impossible.

In Job’s case, he made a choice and God did the work. Doesn’t that make perfect sense? I don’t know about you, but that information is marvelously freeing to me — the bonds of sin are loosed when by choice we mindfully decide to not sin. Incredibly, and in God’s perfect timing, He changes our hearts and the illicit urges that once gurgled within slow and eventually will cease. I can certainly bear witness to that slowing part. Now, when I read a passage like,

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

…I understand the implications! When I (when we) purpose in our minds to change behavior, God will honor those decisions by changing our hearts. This doesn’t mean we won’t sin (although we do possess the power of God to not sin), but rather we sin less and less as we’re mindfully submitted to His refining process. Consider how setting our minds on Heavenly things jives with this promise of God:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Now consider the flip-side — those who would opt to not change their thinking face this reality:

God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. Romans 1:28b

Those who have been given over to debased minds are those who are stubbornly determined to pursue the lusts of their deceitful hearts. That doesn’t sound all that appealing to me. Like most of you, I partook (in great excess) to what the world had to offer and I found it to be severely lacking of anything of substance or eternal worth. It was only when I decided to listen to wise, godly counsel that I discovered the purpose the Father had planned for my life.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

  1. What do these verses say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What kind of changes should we be considering?

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