The Heavens Declare that He is GOD

Occasionally you see something that leaves you breathless.  The visuals just seem beyond imagination.  That is how I felt when I saw this video on FB today.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world.  In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.  Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. – Psalms 19:1 – 6

Time-Lapse | Earth from Bruce W. Berry Jr on Vimeo.

The Bible: Is it Just A Good Book?

The History channel has just completed its 10 hour mini-series, The Bible.  I have had mixed feelings about the series.  What I really thought was interesting is how it pushed a lot of people to read the Scriptures, some for the first time.

The Barna Group has just released the results of a survey indicating how Americans view the Bible.  The trend is downward.  How do you view the Bible?  And more importantly  how does it effect the way you live your life?

How America Views the Bible

It is Your Choice to Be One of the Elect, so Choose!

For centuries theologians have debated Predestination v Free-Will.  It can be a hotly debated topic and one that can be very divisive.  I don’t mind the debate, but I DO NOT want to be divisive.

According to John Calvin,

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.” – Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 5.

The Beginning Point

To unravel this question, I believe you must begin with God.

One of the incommunicable attributes of God is His omnipresence.  This means that God is at all places in all time at the same time.  In other words, God is.

Yahweh is God’s name.  It is how God referred to Himself with talking to Moses in the burning bush.  The name means “I am.” (Exodus 3:14)

This doctrine is described for us in several places through out Scripture.  My favorite passage related to His omnipresence is Psalms 139.  In verses 7 – 8, the Psalmists ask where one can go to get away from God.  He recognizes that no matter where he goes, God is there.

The omnipresence of God is a critical component in understand the relationship between Predestination and Free-Will.

Which came first?

The abbreviated version of the debate is based on the idea of it being EITHER  we were either predestined and our salvation was determined by a game of pick by God in eternity past OR we pick God if he wins the contest of religious systems.

It is almost always defined as either . . . or.  Which came first, the predestined or the free will?

Opposite Sides of the Same Door

I believe that we are actually dealing with a BOTH . . . AND . . . scenario.  Here’s how.

If God is omnipresent, this means that ALL of time exist as the present with God.  When the Holy Spirit pulled at my heart to accept Christ as my Savior, that was the eternal moment of election.  It was that moment.  It wasn’t something that took place in eternity past that has finally arrived 10,000 years after the election.  The invitation from the Spirit of God was the election.

God choosing me and my choosing God are the same event.  I view the event as a linear progression through time, but with God it simply is.  My past and future are present with God.

I Am Elected So I Choose

This is why God can declare things to be.  It’s not because He is looking into the future and therefore knows what will happen.  It is happening.  Everything is happening.  The creation, the crucifixion, my Salvation and the resurrection of the saints are events that are happening.  With God, these are not past or future events.

My Election was not an event in the past.  My election by the sovereignty of God and my choice to accept his gift on my own free-will are the same event, just a different perspective.

The Scriptures Agree

Look at the progression in Romans 8:29-30.  Those who He predestined, he called, and those who He called, he justified; those he justified, he glorified.  Paul is communicating the fact that the event of being predestined (election) is also the event of justification (salvation) and the event of glorification (sanctification).  This is a singular event from the perspective of God.

In Ephesians 1, Paul communicates the same story.  We are predestined according to the purpose of His will.  We are predestined and completed according to His will at the same event.

We were not chosen in the past and offered salvation in the present to be glorified in the future.  That is a linear perspective limited by our humanity.  From God’s perspective, we are chosen and offered salvation and glorified NOW.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Our Prayers Change the Mind of God

Prayer

Flickr - Chris Yarzab

Do our prayers really matter?

If we believe that God never changes, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, then do our prayers really matter (Hebrews 13:8)?  Can they really change the mind of God?

I Will Destroy Them

When the children of Israel made it to Mount Sinai, the LORD called Moses to Himself and delivered to him the Law.  After forty days on the Mount, Moses descended holding the commandements on stone tablets.  When he reached the lower parts of the mountain, laid before him was a scene that sent Moses into a rage.

The people had compelled Aaron to craft a golden calf.  They were worshiping this idol as many had done back in Egypt.  When Moses saw this scene, he threw the stones and chastised the people.

The response of God to this scene was even more severe.  God tells Moses to leave him alone for He is angry at the people.  He declares that He will destroy them and Moses will be the new father of His people (Exodus 32:10).

The decree of God has been made.  His Will is declared.  His plan and purpose revealed.  The people will be destroyed and He will begin again with Moses.

Moses prayed before the LORD.  He reminded God of His promise.  Moses prayed to God to change his mind. . . and He did (Exodus 32:12 – 14).  The scripture says that God changed His mind.

So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people – Exodus 32:14

 King Hezekiah is About to Die

King Hezekiah was a good king of Judah.  He introduced religious reforms and brought back the Law of Moses to the land.  He destroyed the high places and the idol worship from the land.  He helped return Israel to following the LORD.

Hezekiah became sick to the point of death (Isaiah 38) and Isaiah the prophet went to him and declared the message of the LORD.  Hezekiah would die.

This news struck the heart of Hezekiah.  He prayed to the LORD.  He asked God to remember him and to spare his life.  Hezekiah prayed earnestly with bitter weaping (Isaiah 38:2-3).

The LORD heard the prayers of Hezekiah the king and sent Isaiah the prophet back to him with a message.  God said that he heard his prayer, that he saw his tears and that He would add fifteen years to his life (Isaiah 38:4-5).

The plan for Hezekiahs life was changed because of prayer.  If the prophet of God delivers a message to you that your life is over, your life is over.  The prophet Isaiah is not going to Hezekiah on his own volition, but as the mouthpiece of God.

God’s will was for Hezekiah to die.  His prayer changed the mind of God.

The Power of Prayer

The balance that exist between the Will of God and the Prayer of Man is one of time.

When we look at the two examples above, we must continue to the end of the stories and note that the decree or will of God was not changed.  The change was with the timeline.

When God declared that He would destroy the people, that decree was unchanging.  What Moses’ pray did was alter the timeline.  If you remember from you Bible lessons, every one of those worshiping the golden calf were destroyed through wondering in the wilderness.  It took 40 years for the destruction to occur, but God’s decree was unchanged.

When God told Hezekiah that he was going to die and not live, his prayer did not change that decree.  It did, however, add 15 years to his life.  The will of God was not changed.

Its Really About Time

Because God is, he has no past or future.  He is!  This means that the will or purpose of God is!  It is not going to happen, it is.  This is a very important distinction.

God’s Will is NOT changed.  It cannot change.  Because that would indicate a past and a future and God does not exist in that space-time continuum.  Our prayer’s can effect our linear timeline, but the plan of God is.

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Church: An Introduction

The purpose of this series is to provide an introduction to the purpose and role of the Church.  We will look at the role and purpose of the Church and how that applies to us today.

What it Means

The Greek word used in the New Testament is ‘ekklesia.’  It is a compound work derived from the word ‘ek,’ which means ‘out,’ and the term ‘kaleo,’ which means ‘to call.’  The term literally means ‘to call out.’

The Church is literally those who are “called out.”

In the NT it is used to describe believers who met at a location together.  When Paul referred to the church at Galatia, he was referring to the people who gathered together in Galatia.

No where in the NT is the term used to describe a building, a denomination, or an organization.  The term is reserved for people.  A collective group of “called out” believers who meet together.  This is the Church.

The Body

Throughout the NT, the church is described in a variety of ways.  Scripture frequently uses imagery to communicate a deeper message.

Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12:12.  Paul states that the believers, those who are ‘called out,’ are the various members of the Body of Christ.  Each person has an important role and is essential to the body.

The body is composed of many members, toes, eyes, kidneys, but it is a single body.  The body is designed to function a single unit.  Each of the members are important and help the body carry out its function.

We are the members of the body of Christ.  As we work together in unity, we allow the body to function as it is designed.  The Church is then able to carry out the mission and purpose of Christ.

The Temple

The church is also described as the Temple of God.  In I Corinthians 3:16, Paul ask the rhetorical question, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (NASB).  We are the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.

Peter emphasizes this concept in I Peter 2.  Peter compares us to the living stones of the “spiritual house.”  We are being used to build up the temple of God of which Christ is the cornerstone (I Peter 2:7).

An interesting observation is that a temple is built and finished with all manner of stone.  Some of the stones are positioned in places of honor and covered with ornamental coverings, while other stones are buried in the ground as foundation or support.  Each stone is important.  There are no stones that are insignificant or irrelevant.

Believers are the stones used in the building of the Temple of God.  Some stones are used in places of ‘honor’ and others are used for foundation and support.  Rest assured, that your position in the temple is designed and ordered by God and that it important and essential to the plan of God.

The Purpose

So what is the purpose of the church?  What do these illustrations of the church help us understand about the role we are to have?

First, we are to continue the work of Christ.  Since we make up the body of Christ, when we are doing what we are designed to do, we will continue to do the work of Christ.  If we are his body, we do his work.

Second, we proclaim his message.  As the body and the temple, part of our responsibility is to continue to communicate the message of Christ, the good news, the gospel.

Third, we are to server as an example or demonstration.  When people see us and watch how we live, our lives should reflect the character of Christ.  If we are his body, we should live a life that is worthy of the name.  If we are the Temple of God, the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, we stand as an example of the work of Christ to the world.

 

Steve Jobs Leaves a Legacy

In case you don’t know, I am a HUGE Mac fan.  My entire computer world is connected to a Mac.  I left the PC world several years ago and have never looked back.

Much of it has to do with how easy it is to use and how “it just works.”

I have grown to appreciate Steve Jobs and his genius as I have enjoyed his products.  He had such an ability to look into the mind of the consumer and develop products that we wanted before we even new we wanted them.

He has left an imprint on our culture that will have long reaching effects.  Years from now, people will be talking about Steve Jobs with the same reverence and/or disdain as we now speak of Walt Disney or Henry Ford.

He passed away today, October 5, 2011.  After fighting cancer and a liver transplant, Jobs went on to grow a company to the wealthiest company in the world during the worst financial crisis since the great depression.

At one point, Apple had more cash in reserves than the entire US Government.

He has a legacy and one that will live on into the future. . . .

In my limited knowledge and study of Steve Jobs, I do not recall any mention or conversation about his eternal destiny.  As I thought about the impact that he has had on many of our lives, my heart began to get heavy.

Is Steve in heaven?

Did he make the decision that really matters?

I pray for his family that they may be comforted.  I pray that those close to his family will be able to share the love of Christ.  I pray that the legacy left by Steve Jobs will be more than Apples and iPhones.

What will your legacy be?

Liberal Preachers in Our Pulpits

I don’t know if you realize it or not, but there are a lot of liberal preachers in our pulpits across this country.

They talk about ‘social justice’ and ‘gay rights’ as Biblical rights and responsibilities.  From women pastors to beer parties after church, there is an every growing change in the fabric of the church.

I tend to avoid pastors whose ideology differs so widely from my own.  I’m not opposed to the exchange of ideas and the opportunity for debate.  I just prefer to listen to my pastor teach the word without having to ‘filter’ out any social or political mumbo jumbo that I disagree with.

Face to Face with a Liberal

Our church invited Tony Campolo to speak on Friend Day, 2011.  I only knew of Campolo because I was familiar with the sermon, “It’s Friday, But Sundays Coming.”  I emphasis familiar, because that is all I knew.

When it was announced that Dr Campolo would be preaching at our church . . .from the pulpit . . . on Sunday morning . . . the news began to travel across the social network.  Really?  At our church?  The conservative, right leaning, Southern Baptist church was going to have a bleeding heart liberal stand in our pulpit and preach the sermon.  Really?!?

Sure enough on Sunday morning, there he was.  The Eastern University professor who was the ‘spiritual adviser’ to President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky “issue” was in my church about to take the platform.

Hmmmmmm.

And Them He Preached!

I had decided to be open minded and listen and engage.  After all, isn’t that the point of developing a Biblical worldview?  I need to be able to listen and filter according to the Scriptures.

I tuned my filter and prepared to listen and take notes on the issues that I would need to address in my Sunday School class.  After all, I might need to set some things straight.

He didn’t open the Bible like one would expect.  As a matter of fact he didn’t have a Bible at the pulpit.  He took out his note cards and began to deliver the message.

Did I Hear that Right?

His message was really simple.  Tony Campolo said that there is a separation or divide in the life of the modern believer.

There are some who have a deep understanding of Theology and really have the knowledge and understanding of what it is to be a Christian.  The problem is that they do not have much application, so that knowledge has little value.

There are some who are steadfast and active doing what they believe to be the work of the Lord.  They are working hard and diligently, but they do not have an understanding of basic Bible doctrines.  And as a result, they are often led astray or misguided.

The point of the Christian faith is to have an understanding of Theology that leads to a working of that faith in deed.  It is the knowledge of our faith that causes us to be doers of our faith.

The Challenge

I remember listening and pausing his sermon in my head.  I wanted to linger on his point.  I wanted to digest this a bit more.

I know that I have a tendency to lean heavily on Theology and Doctrine.  If a quiz on the Basic Bible Doctrines was the standard or measure of my faith, I believe I would do well.  The problem is that the standard or measure of my faith is based on my actions or behavior.

James puts is so clearly when he says that faith, apart from works is dead.  If we say we are a believer and have all knowledge and understand all mysteries, and do not put that faith into practice in a tangible, real way, then our faith is useless, a sounding gong or tinkling cymbal.

Our belief in Christ is more than a series of tenets or precepts.  It is an expression of Christ dwelling within us.  We are to live a life that demonstrates the work of the Savior and not just the precepts of the Scriptures.