A Christian 4th of July Celebration

Isaiah 62:1 declares because I love Zion, I will not cease to pray for her or to cry out to God on her behalf until she shines forth in His righteousness and is glorious in His salvation.image

Perhaps the greatest of the prophets concludes his words by reminding Israel, through his personal example, to pray for their nation.

America could sure use some prayer.

Over its nearly 250 year history as a nation it has often been likened to Israel in its formation. God’s chosen people were small but were established by God in the beautiful land. The Pilgrims, as a part of the Church, were God’s chosen people and having suffered many trials were established in this beautiful land.

It was for freedom to worship God and live according to His commands that the Pilgrims came as did many of the earliest settlers laying a foundation of Christian principles that have served us over these past few centuries.

Today, America is maligned much by our media, schools and government. These entities no longer teach that our nation is special, that it is great and that it is good.

Far too many Christians have likewise bought into this perspective forgetting our founding and failing to see how this nation is still the world’s foremost provider of aid, compassion and relief to the world in chaos and crisis.

No, America is not perfect nor has she ever been but America is good and she is unique in the world.

We would all do well to visit Dinesh D’ Souza’s America movie as he portrays a world without her as part of our 4th of July celebration. Christians should do more though than just watch a great documentary about the greatness of our country.

Christians should echo Isaiah’s heart and pray for this nation.

America needs Christians to unceasingly pray for her to shine forth in righteousness and in the glory of His salvation. Christians are commanded by God to pray and to pray specifically for their leaders: our leaders at every level of government, education and media need our prayers for righteousness according to the standard God has recorded in the Bible.

Christians need also to work for this righteousness to be restored to this country. This means first orientating our own lives around the commands of God. Christians must be the first to repent and the first to do what is good and right in the eyes of God.

Then Christians need to share the glorious salvation of God in Jesus the Christ.

The best way to celebrate this 4th of July is to do good and to share good news after taking some time to pray for America.

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The Parent’s Prayer

Psalm 101:2 proclaims I need your help, especially in my own home, where I long to act as I should.image

There’s no place like home, Dorothy said, and no doubt we would all agree.

Home is where we are the most real and where those who know us best know best who we truly are. It is in the home we are most tested yet it is also the place we are most accepted. In public we bite our tongues but in the home we too often let our tongues run free. In public we smile and treat others with patience, in the home we criticize and demand.

The people we love most are those who live with us but they are the ones we most often treat the worst. It’s a common malady.

The Psalmist too faced this problem so cried out to the Maker of his soul for help to be the person he knew he wanted to be for those he loved.

God is in the restoration business. God desires a husband and wife to be one flesh even as the Trinity is One God.

God has commanded parents to teach their children His history, His commands and His promise so that they become children of God in addition to children of men.

Our children will struggle to believe in God if their parents live as though God didn’t exist.

Both the character of God, which must be modeled, and the Word of God, which must be taught, are necessary for leading children into faith in God.

The public education system teaches children there is no God, He made nothing rather they are a random accident following millions of years of cosmic evolution. They are taught there is no absolute truth, whatever one feels is right is acceptable as long as they don’t hurt anyone (the one absolute truth).

It is a difficult thing to combat the influence of school, peers and media and remain faithful to God’s command to train our children to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

Every parent serious about pleasing God must join the Psalmist in prayer for help to be the godly parent their children need for following Him.

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Good Intentions Don’t Count

Revelation 20:12 records the dead were judged according to the things written in The Books, each according to the deeds he had done.image

We’ve all been the victims of someone’s good intentions. Likewise we have all been the perpetrators of failure but with good intentions.

Believing in God without obeying God is like living in a perpetual state of good intentions.

God however will measure us not by our intentions but by our actions.

The Christian message is that no person is capable of doing enough to earn their way into heaven.

God’s standard is perfection and none of us, no matter how hard we try, accomplish that. Only one person ever lived perfectly and He was sacrificed as the punishment/payment for all of us who failed to do so. While His payment is appropriated to all those who believe in Him making them now acceptable to God, the Savior’s command for those who believe is to follow Him.

His beloved disciple said we must walk as Jesus did. Jesus came to serve and not be served placing the will of the Father above His own epitomized on the night of His arrest when He pleaded for mercy yet gave Himself fully to the will of God the Father.

God is recording the deeds of people just as He recorded in the Bible His own deeds for people.

Each person will be rewarded for those deeds whether heaven with God or hell with all those who rejected God.

Those with good deeds are those who trusted Jesus as their Savior then followed Him by making the will of God and the work of God their highest priority.

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Living as though God Ruled Now

Psalm 93:5 observes holiness is forever the keynote of Your reign.image

God reigns over the heavens and the earth. A fact to be observed by faith rather than sight at this point in our existence. Many of us have struggled to see His reign today as epitomized by the question, ‘if there is a God Who is good then why does He allow all of these bad things to happen in the world?’

God identifies with this struggle we have to experience His reign. When He lived among us as Jesus He was moved to weeping at the death of a friend, not because He was powerless to raise Him from the dead but because of the pain his friends were suffering as a result of his death. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but not before He wept with His friends.

Death is the ultimate mockery against Him Who is Life eternal. Jesus Himself proved His power over death after dying on the cross for the penalty of all humanity’s evil done against God: He rose from the dead promising eternal life to everyone who comes to Him for it.

This eternal life with God begins now on earth but will transport us to heaven when our current body dies, the consequence of evil, where our soul will take up residence until we receive our new body created to live forever on the new earth with God. This new earth and new body never suffer pain, evil or corruption for God will reign in person on earth with all of His people.

Those who belong to Him now are to live in recognition of His rule now just as they will for all eternity. What does this look like?

It means living a holy life as God is holy. Holiness can most practically be experienced through obedience to God’s commands. Obedience to God is the holiness of God made manifest.

On the new earth all people, animals and the earth itself will perfectly obey God because He is the Sovereign Lord of all Who is holy.

Recognition of this fact is to begin now by His people today living holy lives, obedient to all He has commanded us.

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God’s Purpose in Creation

Isaiah 45:18 declares God made the world to be lived in, not to be an empty chaos.image

While the heavens are populated with angels and other strange creatures the earth, God choose, to have populated by man himself. God only created two from which all of humanity would descend through arguably the most pleasurable process known to men (perhaps not so much for woman, certainly not at its conclusion).

As God is the Creator and Maker of all things visible and invisible so He choose to make people in His image and therefore we are co-creators with God of the lives of people who will live eternally with God in His heaven. Think of that! God is depending upon people to both procreate so that He has children in His heaven and to convert the rebellious to followers of Jesus in order to populate forever His eternal home.

What a tremendous responsibility placed upon people and the Church in particular.

This is why God hates both the murder of the unborn and divorce for they both lead to fewer people and fewer people in heaven. While God may choose to redeem the aborted, we cannot know this for sure, God does declare that His purpose for marriage is the raising of godly children (Malachi 2).

This too explains why those who practice homosexuality are an abomination to God for they do not focus on the will of God but their own perverted pleasure.

God, for His part, has supplied all we need on this earth for accomplishing His purpose. The earth will yield enough to feed us and clothe us if we care for it correctly.

Yet the current world, though not empty, borders on chaos. This chaos is a result of the denial of the One True God and disobedience to His command to love our neighbor as we love our self.

The problem with God is He believes Himself to be God and the problem with men is they too believe themselves to be god. There is only one God, the God Who has revealed Himself through the Judeo/Christian Bible and in person through Jesus Christ Who is also the Savior of the world. All of the other religions paint a picture of god who is nothing like the One True God, their requirements for salvation burden and divide humanity.

The One True God requires no works from men for salvation for we are incapable of living such perfect lives to please a perfect God.

The One True God requires repentance of our evil, trust in the works of Jesus alone for our salvation, and the living of lives in love for our fellow man as proof of our love for God.

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Rewarded Work

Revelation 14.13 promises they shall rest from all their toils and trials; for their good deeds follow them to heaven!images

God measures our performance.

The expectation of God is that we work to bring Him glory upon the earth as He is glorified in heaven.

This means both being good and doing good not as we, but as He, defines good. This being and doing of good is not easy for both we and the world are broken, diseased with the plague of rebellion against the goodness of God.

The world yields thorns and thistles where we planted good seed. We try and be good yet our thoughts and words continue to reveal an impatience with and a dislike for our fellow human being who has also been created in the image of God. These realities are not to be excuses for not being good or doing good but rather are to drive us toward our Creator for strength and mercy.

God, while living among us as Jesus, declared in this world we would have trouble but promised that He had overcome the world.

No trouble or trial we face today is greater than His presence in us including death for those who love Him shall rise with Him having completed this part of the journey as He completed His. For the Christian these times, no matter how good and certainly no matter how bad, are the worst of times, the best is yet to come.

The Christian awaits their entrance into the Kingdom of God where there is no more suffering, no more weeping and no more death. Until then we are to labor against our own flesh and the world’s brokenness to see as many people as possible join God in His kingdom.

The good deeds for which we will be rewarded and by which we shall be measured will be concentrated upon the work of winning people to God’s point of view.

It was the work of God in Jesus that made reconciliation with God possible.

It is the work of God’s people to share that message and to live that message so that the people in our lives become reconciled to God even as we have been reconciled to Him.

This is not an easy work but it is the work for which God rewards all those who do so tirelessly.

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Escaping Condemnation

Deuteronomy 15:9 warns if the needy man cries out to the Lord, it will be counted against you as a sin.image

God has commanded that we love Him first and foremost and that we love our neighbor as our self.

The practical application of loving God has been the practical demonstration of love to our neighbor. Loving God and serving God are to be done by loving people and serving them.

There are many instances in the Scriptures where judgment by God is tied to our love for people.

What if on that day of accountability God were to line up all those whom we offended and were unkind to for them to share their complaint against us? What if our final judgment were determined by the number and the degree of accusations against us by our fellow man whether acts of commission or acts of omission?

Who of us could stand before God not guilty in such a circumstance?

While God lived with us in Jesus He asked His audience who could identify one sin He had committed against them? No one could except perhaps the religious leaders who believed Him, God, a violator of God’s laws. I don’t think any of us will be so lucky.

This is why God commands us to pursue peace with all men and if while we are at church worshiping remember there someone who has an issue with us we leave immediately and first go make things right with them then return to worship God.

God commands we forgive to the degree we seek His forgiveness.

Tough standards indeed but if we would live forever with God in His Kingdom among all of His children we must become a people who love God by loving others.

We must seek to live such lives that the line of those who would condemn us before God is exceedingly short.

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Why Does God Need our Money?

Deuteronomy 14:23 teaches the purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.image

God doesn’t need my money, most of us have heard, said or felt at one time or another.

We have all seen the misuse of money particularly by those we entrusted with it. Perhaps the most universal complaint against the Church is its apparent need, demand and use of money. Regardless of which religious show you watch on television all of them will be asking for money.

On any given Sunday most churches will ask their congregation to give and will remind them of God’s requirement for them to put in 10% of their income.

If God doesn’t need the money why does He require it from us?

What do we love more than money or what money represents? Nothing really if we are brutally honest.

Money represents opportunities, freedom, comfort, pleasure, security and prestige. All of the best people have money and who among us doesn’t want to be one of the best?

But God requires we love Him first and most if we are to enter into His Kingdom.

When God lived among us as a man, the Savior Jesus from Nazareth, He warned us we cannot love God and money.

Those who fail to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength will fail obedience to His first command which makes doing the second one even more difficult which is loving our neighbor as our self.

Giving frees us from the prison of worry, selfishness and isolation. Giving connects us to God and others and demonstrates trust in Him Who feeds the birds and clothes the fields with flowers.

We need to give because we need to be free, free to love God and free to love others otherwise we will remain alone and imprisoned by our own selfishness.

A truly poor way to live indeed.

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Truth Seekers Only

John 18:37 declares by God, all who love the truth are my followers.image

What does it mean to love the truth? Or maybe we think, as the first person who heard this statement from Jesus did, what is truth?

One of the numerous things that made Jesus different from other religious figures and is part of the argument for His deity, is that He did not merely teach about truth but claimed Himself to be truth.

‘I am the truth,’ Jesus proclaimed, a bold even arrogant statement indeed if not true itself.

Doesn’t it make sense that if there really is a God that His word and ways would be the true word and ways and that He would want those clearly communicated to His creation?

The enemy of God has long been sowing the seeds of doubt into the minds of humanity the most recent example is our public education system teaching our children there is no absolute truth. Ask your high school or college student if they believe in absolute truth and unless they are truly born again they will likely tell you, ‘no.’

God declares Himself to be True and the source of truth.

Where can we find this truth?

In the Bible God has recorded His words and His ways even His mighty deeds before and after His personal appearance in Jesus the Savior. The Bible tells us of the beginning and the end of humanity and how we are to live between these two periods of our own lives.

We have a choice to make, believe the truth and seek the truth or reject truth and deny God’s truth preferring instead the claims of men.

But if God is real and true, only those who love truth, real truth, will live with Him forever.

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The World Could use a few more Priests

Revelation 5:10 observes You have gathered them into a kingdom and imagesmade them priests of our God.

The goal of God for His people is that each one live and serve Him and others as a priest.

We serve God by serving others.

A priest represents and instructs the will of God to people and petitions God on behalf of the people. A priest therefore seeks to make God and His ways known to the ignorant while seeking to make known to God the needs of His people.

A priest has the duel function of spending much time with God in order to know Him well and spending time with people in order to know them well. This is what God meant when He said love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

This life is the life God modeled for us when He lived among us as Jesus. Jesus spent many hours in prayer with His Father and many hours with humanity serving, teaching and modeling the life God intended for everyone to live.

The world could use the Christian community living as priests.

The world is desperately looking for those who really know the One True God and reflect His nature of compassion, love, mercy, grace and truth.

The world longs to feel the love of God through the hands of fellow human beings. The world needs help and hope.

God wants His people to live as priests in the world, will we take Him up on His offer?

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