Archive for December, 2009

 

Twenty-second in the series Get close to God

 

Everyone will get fed no matter what religious entrée you choose.  And heaven is the dessert at the end of the line, right?

Welcome to America, where we practice tolerance and freedom of religion.  Here you can sample and choose whatever brand or style of God that appeals to you.  But are they all nutritious soul food or will the wrong choice give you heartburn or even food poisoning?

Jonathan Morrow brought some alarming statistics to my attention in one of his recent posts on his blog, ThinkChristianly.org.  According to USA today, surveys over the last two years have shown that 47-59% of Americans have changed religions at least once and 70% said that many religions can lead to eternal life.  Since most Americans claim to be Christians, this means one of two things: they don’t know what their Bible teaches or they don’t believe it. 

The most important decision in your life is the one you make about Jesus.  Just who was he, anyway?  Islam, along with some other religions, acknowledges that he was a great prophet and teacher.  They just don’t believe in the Incarnation, that he was God in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God.  Did Jesus himself make such claims?  Let’s hear from him:

“Before Abraham was born, I am!…I and the Father are one… Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father….”  (John 8:58, 10:30, 14:9)

Words like that are what almost got him stoned, and did eventually get him killed, although that was God’s plan all along for the redemption of mankind.  “We are not stoning you for any of these (miracles),” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”  (John 10:36) 

I heard it said that if you don’t believe Jesus is who he said he was, then he must have been a great liar or a raving maniac, but certainly not a great teacher!

Another thing we need to understand is why Jesus came.  It wasn’t just to help people and tell us how to live: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45)  “he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  (Hebrews 10:9b)  The only way we can have right standing before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin is to accept the sacrifice Christ made for us when he took on our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.  In fact, that’s the only way we can spend eternity with God, because we will never be good enough on our own strength.  I don’t understand why God set it up this way, but “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (Hebrews 9:22b.)  Mohammed can’t do this for you, neither can Buddha.

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9)
“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)  “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  (1 Timothy 2:5)
“There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven
that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
  (Acts 4:12)

I’ve been using scripture to support my case for Jesus, and if you don’t accept the Bible as truth, this post is probably not helping you much.  I don’t have time in this post to defend the Bible but if you have any doubts about it, please wrestle with it until you find your answers.  Start with Jonathan’s web site; it’s filled with resources.  Don’t dismiss the Bible as an old-fashioned book full of myths that don’t relate to us today.  Values like honor, justice, love, and integrity, just to name a few, are timeless and there’s no better place to learn about them than in the Holy Scriptures. 

Apologetics alone will not convince you to trust Christ, however.  There comes a time when you must let go of your common sense and give the Lord a chance to break through and connect with you.  It’s like how a pilot needs to fly by his instruments when everything within him wants to go the other way.  Faith is the ticket your spirit needs to enter the spiritual realm.  Intelligence is not enough, if anything it can make you overconfident and close-minded to new ideas.   When you are born again and become a new creation, it isn’t your body that goes through a change, it’s your heart, soul, mind and spirit.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  (1 Corinthians 3:9)  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  (Proverbs 14:12)

Once upon a time, everyone thought the world was flat.  When anyone suggested that it might be round, and that the sun is not really rising and setting everyday, that it’s the earth that’s moving, they got laughed-out-of town.  The same thing applies with the Intelligent Designer of the universe.  We can’t begin to understand his ways until we become his child.

OK, maybe you believe the Bible has a lot of wisdom but you just can’t accept it’s “narrow” plan of salvation, warnings against homosexuality, or descriptions of Hell.  I would strongly caution you not to pick and choose what appeals to you and throw out what you don’t like.  If you don’t believe all of the Bible, how do you decide what’s true or not true?  I’m afraid more and more people are trying to do that anyway, just doing what’s right in their own eyes.  That’s what the Israelites did when they turned from God to idolatry and it resulted in moral and cultural depravity.

The Christian way of salvation may appear to be exclusive, even though God “is not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9b)  I hope people don’t think I believe I’m in some kind of elite club, that somehow I think I’m better than anyone.  On the contrary, believing what I do about the road to salvation makes me want to warn others not to try certain “entrees.”    There is more at stake here than what church you’ll end up attending on Sunday morning- it’s where you’ll spend eternity! 

My fellow Christians, it’s time we took Jesus out of the closet and start introducing people to him and quit worrying about appearing intolerant.  I know I can’t stop Titanic America from sinking down into the depths of the politically correct sea, but I’ll launch as many life rafts as I can to rescue as many as possible.

Will you join me?

 

Click here for the entire Get Close to God series

 

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Our Western North Carolina Vacation

Posted: December 26, 2009 in Videos

If you want the beauty of the Smoky Mountains without the crowds, check out what Western North Carolina offers in this 5 minute video of our 5 day vacation.

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If you haven’t read My utmost For His Highest, a daily devotional book by Oswald Chambers, you really need to.  For several years it was the top-selling Christian book in America and it has been challenging me every day. 

I like how he explains the significance of the Incarnation and how Christ becomes manifest in us, as well.  I will just let Oswald do the talking in this post, so here is his devotion for December 25:

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HIS BIRTH AND OUR NEW BIRTH

“Behold, a virgin shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  Isaiah 17:14

His Birth in History.  “therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1:35.)  Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it.  He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside.  Jesus Christ is not the best human being, He is a Being who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all.  He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from outside.  His life is the Highest and the Holiest entering in at the Lowliest door.  Our Lord’s birth was an advent.

His Birth in Me.  “Of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”  (Galatians 4:19.)  Just as our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from outside.  Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God?  I cannot enter into the realm of the Kingdom of God unless I am born from above by a birth totally unlike natural birth.  “Ye must be born again.”  This is not a command, it is a foundational fact.  The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me.  Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.

God manifest in the fleshthat is what is made profoundly possible for you and me by the Redemption.

 Oswald Chambers

 

Have a GREAT CHRISTMAS!
Rob

 

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Bah-a-a-a

Posted: December 19, 2009 in Candle Lights

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     In my younger years, I would often proclaim “I can take care of myself.”  I was strong-willed, determined, and independent, and I just could not seem to relate to being a sheep.  I often wondered why Jesus called us sheep.  Why not lions or tigers, or panthers?  An animal that is more magnificent and fearless.  But Jesus knew me better than I ever could.  I am a sheep, always have been, and always will be, and I need a Shepherd.

     Looking in the rearview mirror of my life, I can see times when I blatantly displayed certain sheep-like characteristics.  I also can see the rod and staff of my Shepherd guiding me and caring for me.

     Sheep can be perverse and stubborn and will insist on doing things their way.  They will even eat poisonous plants or drink dirty water.  At times, I have insisted on doing it my way only to end up with poisonous plants and dirty water.

     Stampedes can occur in a flock of sheep because sheep are vulnerable to mob psychology.  One cry of “Wolf!” and panic will set in and they will follow one another off of a cliff.  They react to the other sheep instead of staying by the shepherd.  I have been there.

     Because sheep are fearful creatures and are easily panicked, the shepherd is the most effective, calming influence on them.  When I look back on my life, I can see the times that I was so wounded by life’s circumstances that only the presence of my Shepherd was able to calm my fear and panic.

     I understand more now that I am not so young, and I find contentment and peace in being a sheep.  A sheep who is content where she is in life and who can rest in the peace of her Shepherd.

Diane Padgett 5/13/09

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What were you THINKING?

Posted: December 12, 2009 in Get Close to God

 

 Twenty-first in the series Get close to God

   

As he thinks in his heart, so is he. 
Proverbs 23:7

   

The most important battles in life are waged in our minds.

The war is won or lost in our hearts

 

All behavior has its origin in our hearts and minds.  We speak and act out of our beliefs and passions.  Think about some people you know who tend to be negative, critical, and sarcastic.  How successful relationally are they with their lives?  How is that attitude working for them?  Since negative thinkers look for the worst to happen, their lives become self-fulfilling prophecies of bad outcomes which they experience with other grumpy people since misery loves company.  Positive people, on the other hand, look for the best to happen and find ways to succeed, even amidst struggles and hardships, which attract other achievers to join them along the way.  Studies have shown that our mental health affects our physical health as well.

While thinking positive is a good start, it is not enough; just like singing all we need is love doesn’t change much.  That’s because we need Christ to overcome our moral depravity.  But what is our responsibility and when does God get involved?  To find out, we need to understand the roles of our hearts and minds, and the differences between them.  They are not the same.  Notice they are both mentioned separately in the greatest commandment:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  (Mark 12:30)

There are almost 900 references to the “heart” in the Bible and none of them concern the organ that pumps our blood.  The word “mind” is only mentioned about 90 times.  Your mind considers ideas and concepts but your heart takes ownership of them and commits your body to act on them by adding feelings and emotions into the mix, fueling your passions.  Your heart is your central core, your innermost being.

You know about God in your mind.  You know God in your heart.  You accept Jesus into your heart.  This is more than a mental acknowledgment of him.  The demons do that much (James 2:19.) 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  (Proverbs 4:23)

Since our beliefs and passions are stored in the heart, we must protect it at all costs.  Our effectiveness as Christ followers is at stake.  So, how can we do this?  This is where our minds come into play.
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The mind is the gatekeeper of the heart.
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The first line of defense is to apply content filtering to our senses.  We’ve got to shield our eyes and ears from picking up harmful ingredients that feed our minds an unhealthy diet of lust and worldly ideas that move us further and further away from God.  This includes everything from media to keeping bad company.   A subtle but powerful tool that Satan has in his arsenal is America’s favorite past time: hours and hours spent in front of TV’s, monitors and movie screens that incrementally water down our morals and desensitizes us to evil.  We are so used to hearing our Lord’s name taken in vain that it doesn’t bother us that much anymore.  We’re concerned about nutrition but feed our souls junk food!  Each new generation becomes more tolerable of all this than the last, which is scary.

We are told to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5.)  God will not control our thoughts and attitudes.  We must do it.  If we don’t, they will control us!  It’s amazing how our mind can play tricks on us.  It exaggerates and lies and leads us to believe things that aren’t true about ourselves and other people, leaving us feeling either conceited or insecure.  It beats us down by recalling our failures and filling us with regret, yearning for the good ol’ days, as if our best years are behind us.   It makes us bitter from nursing grudges.  If Satan can get us to feel defeated and depressed, he has won a strategic battle.  I’m not saying we can change our feelings, but there is some wisdom in the song Don’t Worry, be Happy.  Notice what comes first in that line?

Are we holding our thoughts captive or are our thoughts holding us captive?

Some thoughts leak through anyway, but we don’t have to give them much air time.  We can choose to dwell on lines of thought that feed our anger, anxiety, and doubts, or decide not to be conformed to this world and focus on Christ.  This doesn’t mean there aren’t things here for us to enjoy.  The Christian life isn’t just about giving up sinful pleasures.  There is such a thing as good, clean, fun.   

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (Romans 12:2)

This is more than just using positive thinking or willpower.  It’s getting so close to God that you actually have the “mind of Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 2:16.)   Spouses demonstrate this by thinking and acting alike from being married a long time.  They have also learned they can trust each other, just like a closer walk with our Savior dissolves our fears.  We no longer hope he’ll come through for us, we know he will, no matter how big the challenge!

Paul understood that it’s easier to replace thoughts than to get rid of them.  That’s why he advised:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

Finally, guarding your heart will result in behavior that is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”  (Galatians 6:22-23.)  We don’t make the fruit grow.  We provide hearts with good soil and allow the Holy Spirit to nourish our souls. 

Changing the way we think will not happen overnight.  It’s hard to undo years of mental neglet.  I wish I could fix my mind like I can a computer; just reformat and reload to get rid of all the corruption!  But progress can be made one thought at a time and one prayer at a time.  It’s a battle worth fighting. 

Be proactive with your thought life.  Your heart depends on it!

 

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WWJD?

Posted: December 5, 2009 in Candle Lights

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What would Jesus do?  For awhile this was the catch phrase.  WWJD could be seen everywhere on clothing, Bible covers, jewelry, and stationery.  Hopefully, seeing WWJD caused some of us to stop and think before acting.  If we cannot imagine Jesus doing a certain thing or going to a certain place, then we should not do it either.

When reminded to do what Jesus would do, we often visualize Him ministering to the poor, speaking kind words to society’s outcasts, overthrowing the tables of the money changers, and loving little children.  Wanting to be like Him and to do what He would do, we work in the local soup kitchen, say hello to the bum on the corner, are careful what we support, and sign up to work with the 3-5 year olds.  We are doing what Jesus would do!

It is not hard to do what Jesus would do or is it?  My Father has a way of reminding me of how much I fall short of being like Jesus, and how much I need Him to conform me into the image of His Son.

To be like Jesus, doing what He would do, we are to be kind.  Ephesians 4:32 tells us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving as we are forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).  Luke 6:35 reminds us that God “…is kind unto the unthankful….”  The unthankful live in our homes, are in our families, sit on the same pew in church as we do, they work where we work, and go where we go.  They are among us!  They are us.  They are me.  As a child of the Highest, He is kind to me even when I am unthankful.

Dear Father, help me to be kind as You are kind.

Diane Padgett 8/12/2009

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