Category Theological musings

Reasons Why I Don’t Use Soap

Reasons why I don’t use soap: 

  1. Because I was forced to use soap in childhood
  2. Those who use soap are hypocrites, they think they’re cleaner than everyone else.
  3. Because nobody taught me how to use soap in my childhood
  4. I only use soap for special holidays – Christmas and Easter
  5. None of my friends use soap.
  6. I’ll begin to use soap when I get old and dirty
  7. I just don’t have time for using soap
  8. Soap manufacturers are just out to make money.
  9. I’m clean enough without using soap.
  10. All the wars in the world are because of soap.
  11. Science proved long ago that no soap, even the most perfect kind, gets rid of every molecule of dirt. So washing is not rational and soap only serves as “opium for the dirty.”
  12. Compared to other people, I’m not that dirty.
  13. It’s not right to teach children to use soap from childhood. When they grow up they can decide for themselves whether they want to use soap.
  14. I’ll only wash with soap when I fully understand it from a scientific point of view.
  15. I was turned off of soap by those selling it on TV.
  16. I tried to wash once, but then I got dirty again.
  17. I don’t believe dirt really exists.
  18. I don’t believe soap really exists.
  19. Soap is only for old people who have nothing else to do.
  20. Soap is just a crutch.

We found and translated the above from a Russian website and added a few more of our own as well 🙂

THE MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE!

THE MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE!

I’d really love to pray more,” he said to me, “but I just don’t have the time!

Many of us have heard – or said – something similar to the above statement.  It seems to be a common excuse for the prayerless life.  However, I firmly believe that it’s not that we don’t have the time to pray – it’s that we don’t have the desire.  We haven’t made prayer a priority in our lives.

Imagine with me, if you will.  A representative of Coca-Cola comes to your door with an amazing offer.  He says, “If you can get up at 6:30am every day for a month without missing a day, and watch a half-hour presentation on our company, we’ll give you a million dollars!  Wow, what a deal!  What do you think you’d do?  Would you say, “Sorry, I’m not a morning person, I don’t have time for you or your million bucks!”  No!  With great excitement you’d tell your family about the offer and get them pumped up about the prize money.  Perhaps you’d encourage them to get up and watch with you.  You’d tell your friends and remind them not to call you after 10pm as you had to get to sleep early; you would cancel your late-night hockey games; you would put your kids to bed early; you would set 5 alarm clocks instead of just one.  In short, you would do whatever it takes to reorder your lifestyle for that one month in order to get up early for that presentation!  That prize of a million dollars would spur you on!

The truth of the illustration is this: we make time for what is important to us.  If socializing is important to you, you’ll prioritize that over prayer.  If entertainment grabs your heart, you’ll stay up late for that.  Whether its money, sports, internet, shopping, work, golf…if you’re passionate about it, you’ll make time for it.

So we see that, except for those very rare occasions, it’s not that we don’t have time for prayer, it’s that we don’t have desire.  Unfortunately most of us wait for moments of crisis to pray…as that’s when desperation and desire kick in!  In crisis we suddenly become aware that we need to shuffle our schedule and priorities to pray.

The men and women of God who have made a difference throughout history knew and prized and treasured Jesus more than anything – even more than their sleep.  They didn’t wait for crisis.  They made prayer a priority, despite busy schedules, heavy workloads and crowds of children.  They rearranged their schedules and learned to say no to things that would have taken away their time and attention from the priority of prayer.

People often ask me, why don’t we see God move here in North America like you say He is moving around the world?  Part of the answer is that they have desire and desperation – while we are content for life to keep on going as it’s always gone.  Poverty or persecution spurs them on.  Affluence and ease lull us to sleep.

What we need is a God-given passion.  The Kingdom of God and the salvation of the lost are worth more than a million bucks…Are you up to the challenge?

Below are a few ideas to help us practically grow our desire for God

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit for a renewed passion for Jesus and for prayer (“You have not because you ask not” – James 4:2)
  2. Set a schedule…and an alarm clock if necessary!  (You schedule everything else that’s important to you, why not prayer?)
  3. Get friends together and pray.  (That’s what the early disciples did in Acts – gathered daily and from house-to-house.  It helps keep us accountable…and helps spur each other on).
  4. Fast and pray – as you learn to fast and say “no” to earthly appetites, you’ll be surprised how your spiritual appetite will grow!  When you unplug from the world, it’s easier to plug-in to God!
  5. Read and/or listen to those that were passionate about the things of God.  Their fire can help ignite yours!  I’d suggest pretty much anything by Keith Green, Leonard Ravenhill, Charles Finney or John Wesley…or pretty much any one of these men of God.
  6. Meditate on eternity.  Once you grasp the reality of hell and the necessity to reach the lost, you’ll find a new fire and passion kindling in your heart!  You’ll begin to agree with Charles Spurgeon who said:“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies.  And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees…let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

 “Could a mariner sit idle if he heard a drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you damned?”
– Leonard Ravenhill –

Jesus, Judgment and the reality of Hell

What Jesus said about hell gehenna

Jesus, Judgment and the reality of Hell

 

Judgment and hell are difficult topics to write about.  If eternal punishment is real, then it is a cause for much soul-searching and should fill us with an incredible sense of urgency and compassion for any who might befall that fate.  It definitely is not something to be treated flippantly…nor is it something to bash people over the head with in condemnation.  If we can’t talk about hell with tears in our eyes and pain in our heart, we should probably remain silent!

In a previous post I highlighted a few areas that I disagreed with Rob Bell about regarding his presentation of hell in his book “Love Wins.”  In this post I am going to try and show (a) what the Bible teaches about hell and judgment and (b) why it matters, especially today.  Because of the nature of the subject, and the way it has been (mis)treated by many today, this will take a while to unpack.  However, I encourage you to take the time to think through the Scriptures we’ll talk about.  I especially encourage you to read through what Jesus says about hell and judgment in Matthew 13:37-42; 13:47-50; 18:7-9; 18:32-35; 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25:41-46.

  1. As a matter of life and death the topic of eternal punishment and hell are vital for us to grasp.  We should be wary of those that try to explain it away in the name of ‘love’.

If eternal punishment is real, it would be more foolish for someone to misdiagnose this topic than for a doctor to misdiagnose a life-threatening disease.   Likewise, if you were seriously ill, would you go to a doctor who downplayed your illness and only tried to make you feel happy, or to a doctor who could treat your sickness?  Which would be most caring?is hell real

If your car needed major repairs would you take it to someone who explains away the problem while making you feel good about yourself?  Or to a mechanic that can actually fix your car?  Who would be the most loving, the most helpful?

Unfortunately, this is what many do with the topic of hell.  In the name of compassion they pretend it doesn’t exist.  They ignore Jesus’ words and explain it all away.  They emphasize love and compassion, but at the same time withhold the truth that could bring healing and salvation.  Again, if hell is real, then it would be totally unloving to treat it flippantly, to ignore it, or to redefine it to suit our own desires.

Jesus – the most loving person who ever walked this earth – certainly didn’t explain it away.  He talked of it with both clarity and certainty.

  1. Jesus is God – and is therefore smart!  He knows better than anyone else why hell was created and what will happen in the future.  If we are to learn about hell, then it is His words we must listen to.

I’m amazed at how many people say they love Jesus – but don’t actually pay much attention to what he says!  Gandhi once said, “Everybody is eager to garland my photos…But nobody wants to follow my advice.”[1]  Unfortunately, this seems true of Jesus as well!

If Jesus truly is God (and I believe he is!)[2], if he is the Creator of all things (and Scripture says he is)[3], then he would certainly know better than anyone else what hell is like.  He would have been there when it was made and he would have known what it was made for. We need to listen to what he says about it!

  1. Jesus spoke more about hell and judgment than anyone else in Scripture.  He always treated it as something real…and something terrible.  Furthermore, the rest of the New Testament writers agree with everything Jesus taught on hell and spoke in similar words as he did.

A. Jesus spoke about hell and judgment an astonishing number of times! In Matthew alone Jesus speaks about eternal punishment and the Day of Judgment over 25 times! (See the full list at the end of this post).  In fact, Jesus spoke about hell more than all the other New Testament writers put together.

But why would God reference such a terrible thing so much?  Simply because it is real, it is terrible…and he doesn’t want anyone to go there!

rob bell love wins hellIf you’re a parent like me you know that if something is really important you’ll repeat it to your kids.  You say over and over, “don’t play near the road!”  Why?  Because it could be a matter of life and death and you realize your child doesn’t quite grasp the consequences as you do.  So you repeat it over and over, you make sure it’s ingrained in their minds, you passionately warn them.

That’s what Jesus does: over and over he warns his listeners about hell – especially since it’s a topic that’s hard for us to grasp.  He cares deeply for us and wanted to do everything in his power to make sure we got the message!

Now, if it’s true (as some say) that everyone will end up in heaven anyway – why would Jesus talk about hell so much?  Why was he so concerned about it?  If hell doesn’t exist then Jesus really wasted a lot of breath!  If judgment isn’t real then the only thing we can say is Jesus was terribly confused!  Not many would actually say that out loud…but many people quietly (or not-so-quietly) imply that by their shallow view of hell.

Among other things, Jesus referred to hell as:

  • A place of fire (Mt 5:22; 18:9)
  • Where the “Fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43)
  • Where the “Worm does not die, fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47,48)
  • Which destroys the soul and the body (Mt 10:28)
  • A place of “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; cf Luke 13:28)
  • Fiery furnace (13:42, 50)
  • A place of Darkness (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)
  • Eternal fire (Mt 18:8; 25:41)
  • Eternal punishment (Mt 25:46)

In the same way other New Testament writers referred to judgment/hell in these words:

A place of: “eternal destruction” – 2 Thess 1:9; “eternal judgment” – Heb 6:2; “punishment of eternal fire” – Jude 1:7; “judgment and destruction of ungodly people” 2 Peter 3:7; “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” – Rev 20:15 (see also Rev 21:8).

B. Jesus spoke of it as something incredibly terrible. Jesus referred to hell using the Greek word “Gehenna.”  As I mentioned in my last post, Gehenna was a place outside the city where people threw garbage and corpses and left them to decompose or get eaten by scavenging animals.  It was a place of filth and of death – you could smell it, hear it, sense it…and you did all you could to avoid it.  Jesus used this language to make his listeners realize that hell isthe worst thing imaginable.

Now some have said that all these images Jesus uses aren’t meant to be taken literally.  However we need to remember that these descriptions are the same throughout all Scripture – from Isaiah to John the Baptist to Jesus to Paul to Jude and the Apostle John.  They all speak of hell in the same language, with the same urgency and with a literal emphasis.

Furthermore, when Jesus uses descriptive words it is not to belittle the image he is talking about.  Rather it is to highlight to frail human understandings a truth that is greater than they can grasp.  Something more powerful, magnified and on a larger scale than they can imagine.

C. If the images of hell Jesus uses are ‘just’ metaphors, then hell is unthinkably worse than mere fire.

A professor named Dr J. Budziszewski (try pronouncing that!) recently noted,

“Some writers have said that the flames of hell are not real flames but mere metaphors for the agony of being left to ourselves…but remember that a metaphor is just a shadow of the real thing; if flames are a mere metaphor for that agony, the agony must be worse than flames.”[4]

And John Piper notes,

“Even if I try to make the ‘lake of fire’ (Rev. 20:15) or the ‘fiery furnace’ (Matt. 13:42) a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality.  Jesus did not choose these pictures to tell us that hell is easier than burning.”[5]

This may sound strange, but I hope that Jesus wasn’t just using metaphors…if he was then hell is much, much worse than anything we’ve yet imagined!

Furthermore, as stated above:

  1. Jesus spoke more about hell and judgment than almost any other topic he taught on!  If we are to ignore him on this, wemight as well ignore him in every other area as well.  There’s just no getting around what he had to say about it.

Jesus only references being “born again” twice in Scripture (John 3:3,7)…but most people will tell you that Christians think it’s a pretty important thing!  If we ignore Jesus speaking about hell and judgment – when he mentions it over 25 times – we can probably ignore the “born again” bit as well, don’t you think?  While we’re at it, we should forget the “love your neighbour as yourself” part because he only said that twice (Mt 19:19; 22:39).

Do you see what I’m trying to get at?  We focus on the passages that sound nice or are a little easier to swallow, but we try to ignore those that we don’t understand or aren’t ‘politically correct’.  Why is that?

I’ll say it again – Jesus talked about judgment and hell more than almost anything else in Scripture.  So if we ignore what he says on this topic, we might as well ignore everything else he said as well.

Either he was God and knew what he was talking about, or he was slightly confused and we can’t rely on him at all.

The foundational issue here really isn’t about hell, it’s about Jesus: do we really believe who he says he is?  Do we believe he speaks truth?  That’s the first issue we need to settle in our hearts.

If we say yes to that, then we need to seriously take his words regarding hell and judgment to heart.

  1. Jesus taught that hell was made for the devil, not for humankind.  He taught that it was a real place, a place of eternal torment and punishment.  He used images people could understand to reveal that it was the worst thing imaginable.

A. Hell was made for the devil. Jesus said: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41).  So we see that hell was not originally made for humans, but for the devil.  It was not God’s original intention that people enter hell and eternal fire.  However, once sin came into the world we came under God’s judgment.

He is totally holy and sin can’t come anywhere near his presence.

B. Jesus also taught that because of sin this world is now under the control of the devil, the “evil one”. Jesus called the devil the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) and the “ruler of this world” (John 14:30 and 16:11).  He also said to Paul, “I am sending you…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18. See also 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2).

All those verses are to show this one thing: Because of our sinfulness, the devil has rule over us.  And if he is the one ruling us, our punishment will be the same as his.  If we’re following him in this life (and by default of our sinfulness everyone is) then we’ll follow him into eternity.  However, if through repentance and faith in Jesus’ sacrifice we have turned “from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God” then our sins are forgiven.  The great news is that there is forgiveness of sins and if we follow Jesus in this life, we’ll follow Him into eternity!

C. Hell is a place of punishment and torment.

  • Jesus said it was a place of eternal punishment (Mt 25:46) and,
  • A place of “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; cf Luke 13:28)

D. Hell and punishment are eternal.

  • Eternal fire (Mt 18:8; 25:41)
  • Eternal punishment (Mt 25:46)

Note that in both these places “eternal” is the Greek word “aionios”, which can only be translated “eternal,” (never ‘temporal’ or ‘a period of time’).  It is used 68 times in Scripture and most often refers to “eternal life” but also refers to the eternal nature of God; the Holy Spirit; salvation; the Gospel; and God’s covenant.  It is never used for anything less than eternal.

  1. Hell is a very real and terrible place.  Jesus himself said so many, many times. But we don’t bash people over the head with this truth, because the reality is ALL OF US deserve hell because of our sinfulness.  NO ONE is good enough to enter “eternal life” and the presence of God.

hell and holiness of GodIf I have a huge glass window in the front of my home, it doesn’t matter if you throw a big rock through it or a little rock through it…both will shatter the glass.  And it doesn’t matter if we’ve “sinned big”, or “sinned little,” any sin will shatter the holiness necessary to come before God. Only through Jesus can we be forgiven and be remade into the type of people who can enter His presence.

  1. But why such a harsh punishment? Why would the things done in this short life have such huge consequences?  Doesn’t that seem a little unfair?  That’s a good question.

My first response is – I didn’t make this up, it’s what Jesus clearly taught (over and over) by referring to hell as a place of eternal torment.  Again, read Matthew 13:37-42; 13:47-50; 18:7-9; 18:32-35; 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25:41-46.  You can ignore it, but you’ll be ignoring Jesus.

Secondly, I want us to step back and look at another area of life that provides a great analogy in regards to eternity – the womb.

My wife just gave birth to our second son.  While pregnant she was very careful what she ate and what kind of exercises and work she took part in.  Why?  Because those 9 short months (doesn’t feel short at the time!) will affect the baby for the rest of its life.  She didn’t drink alcohol, barely touched caffeine and didn’t do belly-flops at the pool from the high-diving board.  Why not?  Because she knew it would affect the baby!  Her choices during those months would have consequences for decades!heaven free books

In much the same way, these few years here on earth are preparing us for the thousands of years in eternity.  For a physical life to be born, there’s this stage of growth in the womb.  For a spiritual life to come to maturity, there’s also been appointed this time on earth.

Our choices in this life affect the next.  Whether we like it or not, we can’t get around it.

Third, we need to remember the Justice of God.  What would a country be like if the government didn’t punish murderers, rapists, thieves?  It would not be loving – it would be chaos, it would be hellish!  God is the ultimate judge, he knows the hearts and deeds of all, and one day he will judge with justice.

Fourth, God is a holy God.  Sin is an offense against HIM.  We need to understand that the greater honor someone deserves, the greater the consequences for dishonoring them.  For example, if you slap me, that won’t get you into too much danger.  But if you slap the president – you’ll be in trouble!  God is the ultimate authority, worthy of greatest praise and infinite honor.  The natural consequences for spitting in the face of infinite honor is infinite punishment.  Whether we understand it on this side of eternity or not the reality is that “the punishment fits the crime” – for all of us.

At this point I want to remind us, this punishment was NEVER intended for us – it was made for the devil (Mt 25:41).  But because of our sinfulness, we’ve all become aligned with the devil in this life and so will enter into his punishment in the next.

Again, the reality is that NONE of us deserve life/heaven.  ALL of us deserve hell.  All of us have dishonored God, have broken his laws, have spat in his face.  The surprise isn’t that hell exists.  The real surprise is that heaven exists – and that we are offered the opportunity to actually be with God forever!

  1. SO WHAT should our response be?
  • We should stand in awe of God for his mercy. The reality is that all of us deserve hell.  The fact that the door to eternal life has been opened is incredible grace!
  • We need to live in light of eternity with the way we live and the choices we make.  This life is short – it would be foolish to focus on this brief existence, ignoring the reality of eternity to come.  As someone once said,“Only one life, it will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
  • We need to share the news of God’s grace with others. We don’t bash them over the head with ‘turn or burn’.  Rather we gently share the reality of eternal things, the reality of how sin kills and how we need God’s love to bring us to wholeness.   Paul, after talking about Judgment Day, put it this way:  “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people…” (2 Cor 5:11).
    That’s why Jesus was so clear in telling his disciples to “GO into all the world” and share this message.  We all deserve hell…but he’s made a way out!
  • Finally, we must always speak the truth with heartfelt love, sharing the same attitude as Jesuswho “wept over Jerusalem” (Luke 19:41) and Paul who “never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).

For Further Study:  Verses from Matthew on Hell and Judgment:

5:22,29,30; 7:13,19, 23; 8:12; 10:15, 28; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41, 42;

13:40-42; 49-50; 18:6.8.9, 34; 22:7,13; 23:15,33; 24:51;

25:11-13, 30, 41-46

 


[1] http://ahssan.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/remembering-mahatma-gandhi/

[2] See John 1:1; 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-12; 1 John 5:20; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 for a few examples.

[3] See John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10

[4]  J. Budziszewski, How to stay Christian in College, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), page 42.

[5] John Piper, Brothers We are Not Professionals, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2002), page 114.

On Diapers and Good Deeds

discipleship growth christian life

On Diapers and Good Deeds

It always amazes me how many diapers we go through each month with our baby.  Thankfully though, we’ve been through this routine before and I know that one day he’ll grow out of them.  He’ll go on to maturity: he’ll start to feed himself, dress himself and make his own bed (well…maybe not that one!) and eventually make it through school.  His growth won’t be easy though – it will require some work and training: potty training, piano lessons, homework, chores…but it’s our prayer that one day he’ll be both mature and fruitful in life.

It also amazes me how many Christians pay little attention to their growth in godliness.  In my last post (WWJD: What Would Jordan Do?) I talked about the importance of practicing the spiritual disciplines that Jesus did.  However, talking about “disciplines” may make some uncomfortable.  Since the Reformation, it seems, many of us have a fear of “good works.”  However, I believe one of the biggest lies of the devil is that any emphasis on deeds or works immediately means legalism.  Some might say: “We’re saved by grace, we don’t need to focus on works!”  Unfortunately, that is plain unscriptural!

Now obviously it’s true that we’re saved by grace alone – but that doesn’t negate the need for us, as believers, to emphasize good works.

I want to share with you a distinction that has helped me tremendously.  It’s the simple truth that there is a vast difference between one’s IDENTITY and their MATURITY.

As a believer you can’t change your identity – you are IN CHRIST.  The moment you repented and turned to Jesus you became a child of God…works won’t make you a Christian or make God love you more.  That’s your identity – you are a CHILD of God.  However, you can change your level of maturity.

A baby doesn’t work to be born….but to grow to maturity requires LOTS of work!

No matter how long my boys stay in their diapers, they’ll always be my kids…their “works” won’t change my love for them.  However, their “works” will change their maturity, their growth and their fruitfulness!  When my son is 18 and heading off to college, my guess is that he won’t take a box of diapers with him!

YOU ARE IN CHRIST…your works can’t add to your identity.  But the question is – are you going to be a BABY in Christ or an ADULT in Christ?  Are you going to go on to maturity, to fruitfulness?  If you are, that will take work!

That’s why the Scriptures are full of exhortations to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18) and to “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5, 15; 3:14; Heb 12:14, etc) and to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7,8)…and that believers are to “prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20 – heard a sermon on that one lately?).  And that’s why Jesus said “by your fruit you will recognize them” (Mt 7:20) and why he declares over and over in Revelation “I know your deeds!” (not just “I know your intentions!” – see Rev 2:2,19,23; 3:1,8,15).

Your deeds – your works, growth and fruitfulness – are of extreme importance both here on earth as well as on judgment day!  (See Rev 22:12 and 1 Cor 3:11-15).

Martin Luther himself, in his treatise on “Christian Freedom” said, of course, that Christians are “justified by faith,” yet he also was emphatic that while still on this earth the believer must:

“give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith…True then, are these two sayings: ‘Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works’” (Martin Luther – Concerning Christian Liberty ).

That’s why spiritual disciplines are so important – like a child learning practicing piano, or a basketball player doing training – disciplines and good works help us grow in spirit and have a positive impact on the world around us.

Works won’t save you.  But they’ll sure help you get out of your diapers and make a difference for Christ!

=========================

Recommended Resources:

=========================

=========================

WWJD – What Would Jordan Do?

prayer disciplines free christian books

What Would Jordan Do?

Reflections on personal discipline…

A while ago it was vogue in Christian circles to ask WWJD: What Would Jesus Do?  But it got a little over-hyped and largely under-practiced (which often happens) and has since received its fair share of criticism.

While I agree that asking WWJD is biblical – Jesus, after all, told his followers to follow him – I think it has inherent problems.  The main one is this: we can’t do what Jesus did just by asking that question.  For even if we think we know what Jesus would do the reality is that we often don’t have the spiritual reserves to follow through.

By itself asking WWJD is just as unreasonable as asking “What Would JORDAN Do?

I enjoy basketball and always held Jordan’s abilities in high esteem…but I’d never ask that kind of question.  Why?  Because even if I knew the answer, I still wouldn’t be able to do what Jordan did!  I can’t jump like him, shoot like him, or stick out my tongue like him.

And here’s the key point: Unless I practiced the way Jordan did in private, I’d never be able to do what he did in public.   It’s not enough to know what he’d do in a given situation – I must have the strength and ability to do it as well.

The same is very true in our Christian walk.  We’ll never do what Jesus did in public until we learn to do what he did in private.  Unfortunately, a lot of us wear the Jesus-jersey, skip out of practice, then wonder why we’re so lousy when it comes to game time!

Jesus’ life of prayer, sensitivity to the Spirit and obedience to the Father laid the foundation for his amazing ministry.  He knew Scripture inside out and walked in intimacy with the Father.  Doing what Jesus did without his focus and prayer life is like me getting up off the couch and doing a 360 slam dunk from the free throw line.  Ain’t likely that’ll happen!

Dallas Willard puts it this way: “As Jesus’ disciple..I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens as he would lead my life if he were I.”

So this is a call back to the basics – a call to do things that Jesus did and that his early followers put into practice.  If we want to see even the beginnings of a Jesus-kind-of-life we’ll need to get back to the core practices of fasting and prayer, simplicity of life, memorizing Scripture, self denial and intimacy with God.  Once we begin to do these things not only will we be able to discern what Jesus would do, we would – by His grace – have the power to be able to imitate him as well.  So while it wouldn’t fit a lot of bracelets or make a lot of sales, I would suggest this question is much more appropriate: “What Did Jesus Do in order to Do What He Did?

I’m never going to be Michael Jordan, but it’s my prayer that each day you and I will grow to be more like Christ!

 

Getting to Know the Great One

great christian books

GETTING TO KNOW THE GREAT ONE

 

Wayne Gretzky (“The Great One”) retired years ago, but he’s still a legend when it comes to hockey.

He holds or shares over 60 NHL records including most goals, most points and most assists.  One of my favorite stats of his is “most goals for one season” – he comes in first at 92 goals (’81-’82) as well as second with 87 goals in ’83-’84 (and eighth, and tenth…)

During the 80’s you could turn on the TV and watch him play, hear commentators tell how amazing he was, you could follow his stats, collect his memorabilia and chat with your friends how great he was.  In other words, you could know a lot about him…and you could celebrate a lot about him.

But…does that mean you really knew him?

It’s one thing to know about someone and entirely different to really know them, to be counted as their friend.  Do you have his cell phone number? Do you get together for coffee? If I happened to be walking down the street and Gretzky passed me by, he probably wouldn’t stop and say, “Hey man, great to see you again!”

Again, it’s one thing to know and celebrate someone…it’s another thing altogether to know them deeply.  The unfortunate thing is that many of us treat Jesus like we do Wayne Gretzky (or insert your favorite sports hero here).  We talk a lot about Him, we go to large gatherings to celebrate Him, we hear commentators talk of His greatness, we collect His memorabilia.  But do we really know Him?  Personally?  It’s one thing to know about Jesus…it’s another thing altogether to have a deep relationship with Him, to be an intimate friend.

It’s not enough to know His stats, it’s not enough to read of His records or to celebrate His deeds.  What he wants…what he longs for…is for us to know him deeply, intimately.  His deep desire is that we meet with him on a regular basis so we get to the point of knowing his voice and understanding his heart.

We’ll spend tons of money and lots of time to stand in line and see sports stars or the famous.  But we bemoan the fact we have no time to spend with God.

Yet in God’s presence is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11), strength (Is 40:31) and peace (Mt 11:28).  As we wait on him he’ll direct us, empower us, provide and guide us.  As Robert McCheyne once said, “a calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man!

Jesus is the Greatest Ever…let’s make time to spend with him this week!

Did George Muller Really Live By Faith?

george mueller christian book orphans prayer
Did George Muller Really Live By Faith?

 

Over the years many have held George Muller up as an example of someone who lived by faith.  It was often said (by himself and many others as well) that he maintained the work of the Orphanages and the Scripture Knowledge Institute “by prayer alone, never asking anyone for help”.

For example, in the introduction to the “Autobiography of George Muller” we read that Muller:

“Wholly destitute of funds, is supporting and educating seven hundred orphans, providing everything needful for their education, is in himself an extensive Bible and Tract and Missionary Society, the work is daily increasing in magnitude, and the means for carrying it on are abundantly supplied, while he is connected with no particular denomination, is aided by no voluntary association, and he has asked the assistance of not a single individual. He has asked no one but God, and all his wants have been regularly supplied.”

Now, right from the start I’ll say that I definitely think he was an amazing man of faith.  And I think it was incredible what God did through Muller’s life and fantastic how he was able to depend on God to help so many thousands of lives.

But – from a missionaries perspective – I think there’s more to the story than we sometimes see.  I’ve often seen people today who feel called to missions either  (a) feel guilty because they need to raise funds to work overseas…and therefore don’t feel as spiritual as Muller, or (b) shy away from raising funds at all, trying to imitate Muller’s faith (without always seeing his results!)

The interesting thing is that if you read Muller’s autobiography, you quickly notice that while, technically, he told no one but God the needs that he had, there were many ways he used to make that need indirectly known, and to raise support.

For example,
1. “The Box” – Muller was also a pastor and lived by faith for his support (in contrast to the many pastors who charged “rent” for their pews in the church).  He felt renting out pews was contrary to Scripture and instead put up a box in the church for people to put in their freewill offerings.  This was a radical step for the times.  But it was also a continual reminder to the people that their pastor was depending on God (and indirectly on them) for support.  Every week they saw the box and were reminded of this fact.  He states this in chapter 4 of his autobiography:

“I read Philippians 4 and told the saints that if they still had a desire to do something towards my support, by voluntary gifts, I had no objection to receive them, though ever so small, either in money or provisions…For these reasons especially, there was a box put up in the chapel, over which was written that whoever had a desire to do something towards my support might put his offering into the box.”

2. His “Narratives” – Muller started writing his autobiography and published it within two years of starting his orphanage ministry.  (The first part was printed in August 1837 and covered what was to become the first 8 chapters of his present autobiography.  He continued to publish many additions to it every few years).  Not only did the sales of his narrative bring in a little support, but his book let everyone know that he was living by faith and would have served as indirect encouragement that they could (if they so felt led) support his ministry like the many dozens of people he had written about.

3. Corporate Prayer Meetings – Muller began meeting daily with his staff (those that worked with him in the orphanages, etc) to pray for the needs that they faced in their work (see chapter 12).  So he changed from saying “I told no one but God” to “we told no one but God” about the needs.  While I agree that this still required much faith, the reality is (as told in his autobiography) that it was often the workers themselves, who knew of and saw the financial needs, that gave out of their own money to help the work.

The reason I bring this up is so that missionaries who do raise support do not feel discouraged or unspiritual for using various means to make their needs known.  Obviously, our Heavenly Father knows what we need, He is the one that we go to first, and it is through persistent believing prayer that God can move the hearts of men and women to support the work.  But we also don’t despise means for communicating the message – Muller used his narratives, and many today use newsletters; Muller had a box in the back of the church (and orphanages) and some today have “boxes” on websites, allowing donors to give.

The reason Muller wrote the narratives was to encourage faith and stir the church to attempt great things for God through faith – not to discourage those stepping out in faith!  So yes, Muller lived by faith and it’s my prayer that more and more will likewise live radical, prayerful, faith-filled lives as they attempt to see God’s kingdom impact the nations!


eBook Availability:
George Muller’s “Answers to Prayer” is available below:

THE GEORGE MULLER COLLECTION (5-in-1)
** SALE: 5 books for under $3.00!
** Less than $1 each!

George Mueller online books

 Formats Available:
George Muller books free online Kindle eBook
George Mueller books free online Kobo/Sony eBook
George Muller iTunes iBook iTunes iBook

George Muller (1805-1898) was a man of prayer and courage who through faith established orphanages and schools for thousands of children in England in the 1800’s. He was also well known for his preaching, teaching and missionary work. His life and legacy has been an inspiration to countless thousands of Christians worldwide!

This Collection contains:
1 – Biography of George Muller by A. T. Pierson (1899). A captivating biography of Muller by the missionary statesman A. T. Pierson. (24 Chapters)
2 – Muller’s “Autobiography” (also titled “The Life of Trust”). This is the 1861 version of his larger 6 volume “Narrative”, edited and condensed for a wider audience.
3 – “Answers to Prayer” – a compilation from his “Narrative” recording specific answers to prayer that he experienced. It also includes, among other things, powerful teaching on “How to determine the will of God,” “Five conditions of Prevailing Prayer” and teaching on “Reading the Holy Scriptures”
4 – “Counsel to Christians” – compiled in 1878 (and also known as “Counsel to Converts”), these are excellent messages and sermons of Muller’s on growing as a Christian.
5 – “Preaching Tours and Missionary Labours of George Muller” – compiled in 1883 by his wife, it contains the fascinating accounts of his 9 missionary journeys around the world (North America, Europe and the Mid East).

* Fully searchable, edited and with an Active Table-of-Contents!

 


 

THE GEORGE MULLER COLLECTION, Vol. 2  (6-in-1)
** SALE: 6 books for under $4.00!
** Less than $1 each!

George Mueller online books

 Formats Available:
George Muller books free online Kindle eBook
George Mueller books free online Kobo/Sony eBook  (coming soon!)
George Muller iTunes iBook iTunes iBook  (coming soon!)

This new volume of the works of and about George Muller contains:
George Muller online books

1. A Brief Account of the Life and Labours of George Muller (by his wife)
2. Jehovah Magnified: Addresses by George Muller (34 sermons and addresses)
3. Sermons and Addresses by George Muller (20 sermons and addresses)
4. George Muller: The Modern Apostle of Faith (19 chapters)
5. Ten Years After: A Sequel to the Autobiography of George Muller (11 chapters, 30 illustrations)
6. Andrew Murray on George Muller
George Muller online books
Let your faith be strengthened and your prayer life renewed as you read of the life and ministry of this great man of God!

Green Card Christianity

discipleship prayer books

Green Card Christianity

Years ago the movie “Green Card” came out.  The plot revolved around two strangers getting married – not out of love, but out of convenience.  The one would get an American green card, the other a fancy apartment.  After the wedding the two would separate, get on with their lives, and live life as they wanted (at least, that was the plan)…

Unfortunately, it seems, some people go through a similar process in becoming a “Christian”.

They hear that the heavenly country is a little better than the other option and that if they say a prayer and sign a card, then presto, they get citizenship and all the rights that go with it!  So they say “I do” to Jesus and then keep right on living as they had before…

But is that what coming to Christ is all about?  Saying “yes,” then living as you please?  Does going to church or saying a prayer mean you are “in”?

Well, it may – if it’s the start of a life-long passionate relationship with the Son of God.

But, on the other hand, it may not.

Jesus and the disciples seemed to suggest that there was much more involved than a good beginning.  When our Master walked this earth he didn’t tell people to just say a prayer.  He told them to follow (Mt 4:19; Lk 5:27).  He called them to repent (Mt 4:17[1]) and leave their old ways behind, walk with him and make him central to everything they would do from that point onwards (Lk 9:23-25).  Saying a prayer is a good way to start…but it needs to be followed up with a life that’s radically centered on Christ.  It means intentionally switching allegiance from self to Him.  It transforms the way we think and talk and spend our money and use our time and talents.  Everything becomes surrendered to Jesus and his kingdom.  Jesus talked about a narrow door and a narrow way (Mt 7:13,14)…not a narrow door with a broad way, where we squeeze in then live as we’d like.

In the movie, things unraveled when an immigration officer checked in on them and discovered the truth.  And I sometimes wonder what would happen if someone checked in on us and our devotion to Jesus?  Would they see much in common with him?  Would our love for each other be visible?  Would we know his ways, spend time together and be growing daily in our relationship with him?

Just as in a marriage you need to continue to love each other, serve each other, live with each other, listen and talk to each other – the same is needed in our relationship with Jesus!  There’s no such thing as “Green Card” Christianity, if by that we mean saying “I do” then living as we want.[2]  You might be able to fool the government, but you can’t fool Christ!

 


[1] The exact same message of repentance was preached by John the Baptist (Mt 3:2), Peter (Acts 2:38) and Paul (Acts 26:20) and recorded by the apostle John (Rev 2:4,5).

[2] Just so there’s no confusion, let me say that I have nothing against people getting Green Cards.  In fact, my wife is in the process of getting one.  (Actually, being Canadian, it’s commonly referred to as a “Maple Leaf Card”).

When is the End of the World?

when will Jesus come back free books

END OF THE WORLD?

Lessons in the obvious and the obscure 

We’ve probably all heard about the group that’s been proclaiming the end of the world on May 21st, 2011. I just don’t get how people can ignore plain teaching of Scripture and hold on to hidden obscurities.  It just doesn’t equate!

Jesus clearly stated in Matthew’s Gospel:

  • “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven…” (Mt 24:36).
  • “Keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord comes” (Mt 24:42).
  • “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Mt 24:44).
  • “Keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour” (Mt 25:13).

And if that wasn’t enough, when they asked him later about it, he reminded them:

  • “It’s not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).

It just boggles my mind how someone calling themselves a follower of Jesus can ignore something so obvious!  But while it’s easy to get exasperated at these kind of doomsday predictions, the truth of the matter is we often do the exact same thing: ignore the obvious teaching of Jesus, while holding onto the obscure.

Below are a few more things – obvious things – Jesus said that we tend to ignore:

  • The “Great Commission” – Jesus told all his followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).  We need to get involved at ‘home’ and around the world.  We can pray, give, go…but we can’t ignore him and do nothing!  It’s high time we made his last command our first priority!
  • The Poor – Jesus said to his disciples “sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Lk 12:33).
    If you read the book of Luke he actually states that 3 different times to 3 different groups (the Pharisees, the disciples, the rich ruler).  But it seems we think that since we live in the West we’re somehow let off the hook and can live as affluently as we’d like!  We’re not called to poverty, but we’re called to radical sacrifice and joyful generosity!
  • “Don’t store up treasure on earth” – Jesus said it as clear as day (Mt 6:19).  Yet for most of us (myself included) it’s just so easy to store stuff up!  But why do we think we’re exempt?  Consumerism, materialism and self-centeredness are killing the church and robbing the poor.
  • Jesus also said, “You’ll have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word you have spoken” (Mt 12:36).  Ouch!   How many careless words do we say each day?  If Jesus is saying the truth here (and I’m quite sure he is!) then a lot of us will be in a lot of trouble when that day finally does come!

This list could go on and on!  So while it’s easy to blast doomsday predictors, I think it’d be much more fruitful if we repented of disobeying the obvious teachings of Jesus that we ourselves have ignored!

Don’t Get Too Radical!

moses christian books

DON’T GET TOO RADICAL!!!

A while ago I was reading the dialogue between Pharaoh and Moses over letting “My people go.” As I read I began to see how it parallels the way the devil often tempts us to compromise total obedience to God. Check out Exodus 7-11.

The first compromise Pharaoh suggested, was for Israel just worship God near Egypt (“Don’t go too far away!” Ex 8:28). When that didn’t work he suggested, “Ok, you can worship – but not as families!” (Ex 10:10,11). But that wasn’t good enough for God. Pharaoh tried another tactic…”ok, you can go…but leave your goods, the stuff you own, with us in Egypt” (10:24). But Moses wasn’t taken in. Finally, after the Plague of the firstborn & the entire land of Egypt was devastated they were allowed to leave.

In the same way, when God gives us a dream and we attempt to head out to the Promised Land the devil tempts us in similar fashion. “You wanna worship God, eh? Go ahead…but don’t be too different than the rest of us. Don’t get too radical or do anything too drastic…just stay nearby, so you can return with ease and settle back into “normal” life again…” That liar will try to keep us as close to the world as possible, he’ll want us to compromise and think, “well, after all, I am worshipping God, aren’t I? I know I’m not totally sold out, but that doesn’t matter does it?”

If that doesn’t stop us he’ll try his next tactic, “Ok, go ahead and be a worshipper of God…but just don’t let it spread to those around you. Keep it private and personal…don’t let your family know about it (they may think you’re weird anyway!)” And we’ll begin to separate our lives into a few areas: Here’s my God part (that’s on Sunday) and here’s the rest of it. I’m already sacrificing on Sunday…what more could God want?

But the radical ones won’t be taken in by that scheme. So that ol’ serpent will hiss another line at you, “Okay, be a worshipper…you can even let your family in on this too…but leave your goods, your wealth in my care. Don’t be too radical now, you’ve given God your life and family…giving him your earthly goods is WAY too much!” Even the devil knows the truth of Jesus’ words “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!” But the God-fearers, those whose hearts have been won by the Almighty, they won’t let the devil take care of their resources! Like Moses, they know that their wealth is to be a “sacrifice” and that they’ll use these gifts of God to “worship the Lord” (see 10:25,26).

And so the Moses-like, the Radical ones, turn away from Egypt and give their all to the King of Kings. Like Elisha, they burn the ties with their old life (1 Kings 19:21), like the disciples they forsake their old life for the glory of being in Jesus’ presence (Mt 4:18-22). They don’t worship half-heartedly, in the world and hidden away, with their treasures secure in satan’s grasp. They give their all, they sacrifice, take up their cross and see the wonders of an obedient life!