Posted by: futurefaith | August 9, 2012

Chick-fil-a, Home Depot, and Spiritual Warfare

I have, up till now, refrained from making any kind of comment on the Chick-fil-A fiasco (or any concerning the Home Depot and Pepsi issues for that matter) but now that it has simmered down just a bit and I have had some time to think about it, I just wanted to make a general observation. This is simply my observation and I know it will be in opposition to many of your observations. However, I wish only to think on these things in ways that are biblical, right, and holy. I understand that there is much to consider spiritually and biblically and I am trying to keep that in mind so I am open to your understandings, insights, and observations in response (just remember to pack it in a sweet spirit).

Now, let me say this on the outset. I am in complete agreement with the position held by Dan Cathy the owner and CEO of the food chain. As a Christian and Pastor I affirm the biblical teaching of marriage, that is, that marriage is between one man and one woman. The picture of marriage is clearly identified in the Bible, specifically in Ephesians 5:22-33 and has much to teach us of Christ. Homosexuality is not God approved and same-sex, life-partner commitments do not qualify (in the eyes of God) as acceptable marriages. This is not a hate speech against, or an attempt to harass homosexuals this is a moral reality. Having had family members, co-workers, and acquaintances who were homosexual/lesbian, I have always treated them like what they are, human beings and I will vocally oppose anyone who does otherwise. I will help homosexuals in their time of need, do business with them in the work place, and acknowledge their personal, civil rights as Americans. They are not in any way inferior as human beings. However, when it comes to their life activities, it is here that I believe I must make my stand. I cannot endorse them (their life styles), accept them (again, the life styles), or ignore that their activity is in violation of God’s Word, for it is.

For me, the attempt to identify marriage as simply, “The official act of unifying two people who love each-other” falls short of the clarity God has already revealed about marriage and breaks a natural law discerned and followed from ages past. Now if this was meant to be a thesis on why Christians oppose homosexuality or gay marriage I would endeavor to lay out my biblical, historical, and social arguments. However, this is not the point of my observation. In fact, this article isn’t even addressed to the homosexual/lesbian crowd. It is meant for Christians.

The whole Chick-fil-A “Appreciation Day” event was, as I kept hearing, the right to express an opinion and the freedom of speech (and I assume, of action since the fact that Dan Cathy supports biblical marriage type organizations was part of the “outrage”) and this is precisely the area of my observation. Not too long ago I was e-mailed a Home Depot boycott document to sign. I didn’t sign it. Why? Here was the stated purpose:

“The Home Depot’s sponsorship and participation in homosexual events is a corporate endorsement of a dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle. The fact that The Home Depot also encourages the attendance of children at these events is disturbing to me. Until The Home Depot agrees to remain neutral in the culture war, and stop supporting homosexual events, I will boycott their stores.” (bold font is my emphasis)

While the events shared in this statement are indeed troubling to me, as I compared the Chick-fil-A movement with the stated purpose of the boycott document I noticed some things even more troubling. First, I saw this as an affront to the civil liberty of the CEO and owners of the chain store (Home Depot) in the area of (ironically) freedom of speech and action. Now to me this was not just ironic, but embarrassing. As I thought about this a bit I saw that Christians were being encouraged to help attempt to squelch the right of the owner(s) of Home Depot of their right to voice their opinion and do with their money what they wanted to do with their money which happened to be the very same thing vast numbers of Christians went out in support of for Dan Cathy against the homosexual and liberal outcry. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this? Christians are attempting to silence the position that they don’t agree with and are asking their opponent to “remain neutral” yet many of the same Christians (and I know not every Christian has boycotted Home Depot) fully supported the right for Dan Cathy not to “remain neutral in the culture war”. I understand that the current position of the Home Depot is unbiblical and thus unrighteous. I don’t deny that. I know God isn’t pleased with it and I denounce it personally. But the Home Depot boycott and the Chick-fil-A “Appreciation Day” agenda exposed a huge hypocrisy of the “Christian Right”. We basically seemed to be saying you can’t speak/do freely for your cause, but we can for ours. On a civil/national level this is hypocritical.

This, however, revealed an even more troubling reality, at least as I see it, and that is the reality that we turn all too quickly, and rely all too heavily on our civil rights, liberties (like boycotting) and on fleshly means (federal law) to fight battles that exist in the spiritual realm. In other words, Christians in general have picked up the wrong weapons, and are declaring war in the wrong realm. Consider:

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

I recognize that presently we live in a physical realm and many of the attacks on godliness and righteousness come in the form of earthly laws and actions (thus the “rulers” and “authorities” in this passage.) However, to make this a battle of “rights”, “land laws”, and “majorities” is not where we should expect the victory to be had and misses the point of Paul’s admonition. Though we see spiritual attack’s coming from our rulers and authorities, the reality is they are being driven by the spirit of and forces of “evil” and “darkness”. Thus the battle isn’t about who can bring the majority, or pass the most and strongest laws, but rather, what spirit is controlling the hearts and minds. While I can see and understand the righteous intent behind using physical means (and I have been and am in support of many of them) we must remember that the problem cannot be solved through mere legislation or an out-pouring of a moral majority. Battles like this one (for that is what it has become) will not be won because Christians have dominated the worldly realm. The problem is a spiritual one, a heart condition. If you don’t agree with Home Depot then don’t shop there, that is certainly your right and left to your liberty, but be very careful when you endeavor to take action that enters the realm of “this dark world” (NIV). I am all for taking informed, deliberate actions that are at my disposal as an American Christian, but this whole observation has led me to a self-check. A check that helps me balance and accurately discern my emotions, passions, and the biblical validity of my actions and positions. When everything is finished and the whole of the matter is set before us, may we not make this a battle focused primarily on this earthly turf, and by all means, may we carefully discern the end of whatever participation we may take in the courses of action available so that we don’t find ourselves wallowing in any kind of hypocrisy.

As I bring my musing of these things to a close, I would ask us to consider this. No homosexual is going to be brought to Christ because you made a visible act of support against homosexuality (Even as good as the chicken sandwiches are). And certainly, no homosexual is going to be moved to see their sin and the error of their way because we try and squelch their civil right to opinion, speech, or action. No! The only way this battle is going to be won is by Christians who are living in a state of intellectual integrity, who will take the gospel message in its soundness and clarity to the opposition, in the spirit of the love of Christ. We must remind ourselves. We are not against people. We are not against homosexuals. We are against sin and sin must be fought in its own realm, with the weapons meant to fight there. Let us study the Word faithfully, preach the truth lovingly, and pray for God to work his grace mightily to bring about the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Paul’s words remain crucial for all such situations, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Tim. 2:1-4 (ESV)

Posted by: futurefaith | November 2, 2011

Book Review

I received a review copy of the book “Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time” by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker from ‘Blogging for Books’. This was a book I have read before but one that I really wanted to review for several reasons. First, due to the over stimulation of sexuality in our culture there is nothing more prominent or accessible than sex. When we consider that of all those things a man may be driven by in his life, sex is right there on the top of the list. Secondly, as a pastor I am always looking for spiritual helps in my endeavors to biblically adjust the powerful, fleshly drive shafts of humanity. This book was refreshing in that these authors have a personal history with the sexual issues they write about (and that most men deal with), but even more so in that they found victory over these struggles.

Now I feel I should mention right away that this version is for adult men. Unless, a teenager is found stuck in the middle of major sexual captivity I would suggest that fathers first read the book themselves. Their judgment in passing this on as a “preventative measure” for their junior high or young high school age boys is needed here. I think there is actually a “lighter” version for teen-aged boys. At any rate, be prepared to hear it straight-forward with no punches being withheld.

The approach is Bible based, so those wanting a more humanist or philosophical approach (non-religious) to “curbing” the sexual appetite will not find what they are looking for here.
They present biblical examples of men who disciplined their eyes and hearts. They give insights step by step concerning the sexual based sins and often times these “little” insights find themselves as “crucial” insights to those sexual based sins that have been so hard to break. There is also a workbook section in the back that I found helpful as a great review and reminder of the steps needed to be taken in my own life to ensure a victory over the battle of sexual temptation. This would be a help for a group leader who would lead a study of this book.

The only negative that I had toward the book was that I felt there was an over-emphasis of the individual in the battle over sexual temptations. Due to my theological position and understanding several statements made me a little uncomfortable especially in the chapters titled, ‘Choosing True Manhood’ and ‘The Time to Decide’. Honestly, if it was just a matter of deciding it would be a whole different story (at least in my book). However, it just seemed to me that while there were those “God can do anything” clauses being made, the success of the outcome, I felt, was laid too heavily on the powerless individual to somehow show power from within his sin-struck heart in breaking what he could not otherwise break. On this I would just like to counter with Phil. 2:13, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose” (HCSB). I think the authors should have rested on the biblical reality that it is by God’s Spirit in you and the Power of the Word before you, that obedience to Christ will prove victorious for you. This is not to say that they don’t make the effort to say this, they do. I just felt that the man who is all bound up in sexual captivity is going to wonder in what way is he ever going to start this whole unraveling process. He’s bound up tight in it. Others may read the book and not agree and I understand that. In spite of my little, quirky, theological ought against its tone, the book was a tremendous enlightenment and encouragement.

The book measures 8 in. long X 5 3/8 in. wide X 5/8 in. thick. It has a very attractive paper cover. The pages are made of the “newspaper” gray stuff. The text type is very readable, while the text size was about size 8 or 9 in my estimation. The price on the back cover has it listed for about $15.99 US dollars, but can be purchased cheaper online.

As of right now I would definitely recommend and use this book in my counseling, and teaching. I would have to emphasis some areas differently but on the whole, I would say that this is a must read for every Christian man. I was hindered in going into too much detail due to the graphic nature of the book, but if a Christian man would trust the judgment and insight of another Christian man, then I tell him get it and read it. Mothers, wives, girlfriends, this would be a great gift to your beloved man (men…if you’re a mother). My prayer is that God will use this for the strengthening of His Kingdom.

Posted by: futurefaith | July 19, 2011

Galileo

I recently read a book for review that I found absolutely intriguing. The book was by Mitch Stokes titled ‘Galileo’ and is part of the ‘Christian Encounter’ series. The book was a biography of sorts and did an excellent job of connecting the reader to the person, age and events of this historical figure. One of the misconceptions that many have (and I had) was that Galileo was on a quest against Christianity. In fact, quite the opposite was true. Galileo held both the Church and Scripture in high regard and, as he on many occasions would reiterate, the scripture is inspired and infallible. He always kept that before him as he progressed through his “investigations”. What was really in conflict was the view that the Church took concerning the celestial structure and function. The problem from the very beginning was that the Church embraced a pagan’s philosophy of the universe. The Church had embraced Aristotle’s terrestrial (and the Ptolemaic celestial theory of) physics and philosophy which obviously did not take into account any biblical statements concerning the universe (if they did the world would not have been flat for so long). Early on, Aristotle became the one-man-band and civilization embraced everything Aristotle (i.e. logic, rhetoric, poetry, ethics, physics, zoology, cosmology, and metaphysics. As such, the wisdom of the day said that the earth was the center of the universe and everything rotated around it as based on the Ptolemaic system. However, Galileo became convinced of a theory more along the lines of Copernicus’ theory, which simply put, puts the Sun at the center of the celestial spheres, though not necessarily as the celestial center.
The Church, however, was stuck on interpreting the Scripture, for the most part, on face-value. This brought Galileo in conflict with passages like Joshua 10:12-13, “At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day.” The Church took a literal stand which made the earth (at least) the center for the sun and thus the Aristotelian understanding was consistent with the scripture. This was the Church’s official stance. Galileo however, argued that since both nature and the Scripture were revelation from God they each functioned in accord with one another. The Scripture was not primarily a work of scientific facts as it was a detail revealing of the personal God in relation to man. They do not oppose, they compliment. Galileo said, “Though Scripture cannot err…some of its interpreters and expositors can sometimes err in various ways. One of these would be very serious and very frequent, namely, to want to limit oneself always to the literal meaning of the words; for there would thus emerge not only various contradictions but also serious heresies and blasphemies…” Galileo clearly believed, depending on the topic, that the Scripture doesn’t always speak literally. The battle, therefore, wasn’t about faith vs. non-faith. It was about taking the scripture and scientific fact and showing how the two speak in unison to the God of creation. The error wasn’t necessarily on Galileo’s side. It was on the Church’s side. They embraced the humanist and self-sufficient philosopher’s theory and made it dogma. And when that happens, old habits die hard.
The book itself is a very easy read. The font size looks like 12 pt. There are about 29 lines to a page and the book is very well written. The book sizes 7 in. x 5 in. x .5 in. If you like history, science, philosophy or theology there should be enough to keep your interests all the way through. As a minister and a lover of history this was right up my alley. I would definitely recommend this read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Posted by: futurefaith | May 17, 2011

A Disciple Is Discipled and Disciples

As I present this final excerpt from my larger series on Discipleship, I would like to stress several crucial points concerning Biblical discipleship. As I mentioned in the first excerpt, disciples are students. By this, it is meant that disciples never stop learning. Paul says in his letter to the Colossians (1:10) that one of the many things we will be doing as followers [disciples] of Christ is “increasing” our knowledge of God. In his letter to the church in Ephesus (3:18-19), Paul says that we should be having our comprehension of God strengthened for the purpose of being “filled” with the fullness of Him. In 5:10 of the same letter we read that we are also to be learning what pleases the Lord. Elsewhere, Paul states that if we ever come to a point where we think we have arrived at an exhausted knowledge of an issue, the truth is we have not yet come to know as we ought to know (1 Cor. 8:2). For a true disciple of Christ, our education never ceases and will never end this side of heaven. Disciples are always learning and are always being taught. It is the most unbiblical thing for a Christian to say, “I am too old to learn/adjust”, or “It’s too late for me to learn/adjust”. This is against the teachings of the Scripture its self. Disciples are always learning, always growing, and always conforming to Christ. If you stop or have stopped pursuing the faith, truth, you’re done for! The only options left to you are to stagnate, or go backwards.

Disciples are discipled.
If it is true that disciples are always learning. It would do us good then to see how they will receive their instruction. The scriptures show us several ways a disciple is discipled.
1. The Scripture itself. (2 Tim. 3:16) (Acts 17:11).
2. The Elders/Leaders. (1 Titus 1:9) (Heb. 13:7).
3. Other Believers. (Col. 3:16) (Acts 18:26).

What this means for the disciple:
1. The disciple must walk by the Spirit. He teaches the deep things of God.
2. The disciple needs to be teachable.
– This does not mean be “open-minded” (you will need a shut door somewhere at some time).
– This does not mean you have to accept something or anything.
– It does mean you are willing to take something for the purpose of
proving it or learning about it. You must be able to be instructed and challenged. I will always take a doctrine, theology, or interpretation when presented to me by another person. I test that which I have been given by the scripture and then “Hold fast that which is good” – 1 Thess 5:21 (ESV)

Disciples disciple.
The key of discipling is found in Matthew 28:19-20:
1. Go. (Pro-active, motivated, responsibility)
2. Make. (Purpose, focus, exertion)
3. Teach (Knowledge, comprehension qualification)
Teaching:
The biblical prerequisites for teaching.
1. Spiritual maturity (1 Tim. 1:7) (Heb. 5:12-6:3, 11-12).
2. Sound, disciplined, study habits (Heb. 5:14) (2 Tim. 2:15).
3. Faithful to and with the word (hermeneutics, exegesis, etc.) (2 Time. 2:2) (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
4. Doctrinal [Theological] soundness (1 Tim. 6:20) (2 Tim. 4:2-4) (Titus 1:9-11,13; 2:1).

Posted by: futurefaith | April 29, 2011

William and Kate Commemorative King James Version of the Bible

There was so much “to do” about the royal wedding today. Americans enamored with England’s Royal family (which I find interesting due to our history with English royalty) tuned in with sleepy eyes to watch the “historical” event go down. More interestingly (to me at least) was the article I read in my “Time” Magazine recognizing the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible in the “culture” section of the publication. In the closing of the article was a passing statement to the fact that there will be a Commemorative “Royal Wedding” King James Bible printed in their honor. Surely, King James “purists” are jumping up and down elated at this fact. But in reality, the Royal couple is not associated with this translation because of some “undying” (or for some, a worth “dying” for) allegiance or conviction to a human translation of God’s Revelation. So then, the question is WHY? Why is the Royal couple connected to a 400 year old translation (depending on which of the almost dozen editions was used) for their ceremony? The answer is very interesting to me. Allow me to share a little bit of history about the King James Bible:

“The Authorized King James Version is an English translation by the Church of England of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611. First printed by the King’s Printer, Robert Barker, this was the third such official translation into English; the first having been the Great Bible commissioned by the Church of England in the reign of King Henry VIII, and the second having been the Bishop’s Bible of 1568. In January 1604, King James I of England convened the Hampton Court Conference where a new English version was conceived in response to the perceived problems of the earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within the Church of England.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorized_King_James_Version

“With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Prince James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. The Protestant clergy approached the new King in 1604 and announced their desire for a new translation to replace the Bishop’s Bible first printed in 1568. They knew that the Geneva Version had won the hearts of the people because of its excellent scholarship, accuracy, and exhaustive commentary. However, they did not want the controversial marginal notes (proclaiming the Pope an Anti-Christ, etc.) Essentially, the leaders of the church desired a Bible for the people, with scriptural references only for word clarification or cross-references.
This “translation to end all translations” (for a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The great revision of the Bishop’s Bible had begun. From 1605 to 1606 the scholars engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609 the work was assembled. In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known today as “The 1611 King James Bible” came off the printing press. A typographical discrepancy in Ruth 3:15 rendered a pronoun “He” instead of “She” in that verse in some printings. This caused some of the 1611 First Editions to be known by collectors as “He” Bibles, and others as “She” Bibles. Starting just one year after the huge 1611 pulpit-size King James Bibles were printed and chained to every church pulpit in England; printing then began on the earliest normal-size printings of the King James Bible. These were produced so individuals could have their own personal copy of the Bible.
The Anglican Church’s King James Bible took decades to overcome the more popular Protestant Church’s Geneva Bible. One of the greatest ironies of history, is that many Protestant Christian churches today embrace the King James Bible exclusively as the “only” legitimate English language translation… yet it is not even a Protestant translation! It was printed to compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible, by authorities who throughout most of history were hostile to Protestants.” – http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/

And,

“James I the King of England was the Head of the Church of England [commonly known today as the Anglican Church], a split off of the Church of Rome. Next in the chain of command was the Archbishop of Canterbury. Diocesan bishops were under the Archbishop. It was King James I who in 1604 approved the idea of a “New” English translation that would eventually bear his name.
Those who were commissioned by King James I to work on this “New Bible version” were men deemed to have special skills and learning in Hebrew and Greek. Also, they were from the established (state) church, although some had Puritan leanings. So we can see their Bible was meant to be a Church of England or Anglican version. All of them had to have the approval of the king and the Church of England hierarchy.
In the “Epistle Dedicatory” [“letter of dedication”, which was printed in the front of the 1611 KJV, and is still printed in some editions of the KJV] the translators called King James I [who was the head of the Anglican Church]”The principal mover and Author of the work”.
The 1791 edition of the KJV on its title page said that this translation was “Done by the Special Command of his Majesty King James I, of England”, and most editions printed today still bear his name gilded in gold on their leather spines and covers.
King James I had Anglican Archbishop Richard Bancroft oversee the translating of the KJV, which was published in 1611. In their preface to the King James Version, the Translators referred to Bancroft as the “chief overseer and task-master under his Majesty, to who were not only we, but also our whole Church, much bound.” Thus, Archbishop Bancroft was known for his determination to make everyone conform to the views of the State Church, the Church of England. He harassed and persecuted the Puritans and other Non-conformists, including Baptists.
It was Archbishop Bancroft that approved or made the rules for the translation of the KJV. By his establishment of the rules and overseeing of the actual translation, Bancroft had great influence on the KJV. Bancoft’s chaplain, Leonard Hutten, was one of the translators. Several other Anglican bishops such as Belson, Andrewes and Abbott [Abbott became Archbishop after Bancroft died] who were in agreement with many of Bancroft’s views and were directly under his chain of command were also translators.
The makers of the version in their day felt that the work called for some explanation and defense, and entrusted the writing of a suitable preface to Myles Smith, of Brasenose College, Oxford, afterward Bishop of Gloucester. His Preface for many years stood at the beginning of the version. In spite of his great influence and authority over the translation, the finished work of the KJV translators did not satisfy Bancroft. This proud Archbishop had to make some changes in the translation before it was even published. Paine noted that Miles Smith, final Editor of the KJV with Thomas Bilson, “protested that after he and Bilson had finished, Bishop Bancroft made fourteen more changes” (MEN BEHIND THE KJV, p. 128).” – http://www.ministers-best-friend.com/KJV-Translator-Rules-The-Anglican-Bible.html

While these articles are not necessarily “approved” historical accounts, it does go to show that the KJV is by and large the work of a watered down version of the Catholic Church, and that it (the Anglican Church) was instrumental in and the driving force behind the translation of the KJV. Even this Anglican KJV site is eager to make the Anglican influence of the translation known. The royal family being Anglican (the head of the Church) surely would use the translation the Royal family “ancient” brought into print. Certainly God has used it, and His word has been preserved in it (as it is in every work of man that seeks to accurately express the words of the original languages in English or other spoken languages of the world). And yes, He blessed many peoples and nations through the years by it. BUT we cannot forget that it as a translation is merely the result of a human work. The translation is not perfect, it is not infallible. Only the originals given too and written by the prophets, scribes, and apostles can make such a claim. The reality concerning the origin of the KJV was brought home again to me as I read the magazine article and watched the ceremony (reruns) today. May we not worship the commendable, pious results of man’s efforts, but worship the Christ and the righteousness of His Words that drives men to undertake such works in the first place. God promised to preserve His Word but he did not tell us how and where. The King James Bible is beautiful, sound, persevering, and English! Love it. Thank God for it. But understand its limitations. It’s a human transcribing of Divine Words, and it’s Anglican.

Posted by: futurefaith | April 29, 2011

Living the Christian Life Is Work.

The Christian life is a call to action. It demands vigilance, dedication, and a preemptive approach. The Christian life concerns itself with functioning within the will of God as revealed in the Scripture. This is why historically true Christianity claims the Word of God as the SOLE source for faith and practice.
The Christian life is not a normal routine for humanity. In fact, the Scripture refers to it as being something “new” to a man (2 Cor. 5:17). When this “new” thing is created by God for the individual who is now “in Christ”, a new experience begins. Where once life flowed easily without much contention, now, a new situation develops. There is now a tension in their life. A tension between what they used to always do, and what they understand they are supposed to do. This conflict is described by Paul as “warfare” (ESV) [Gk. strat-ti-ah] (“strategy”) (“fight”- NIV) (2 Cor. 10:4). We see Paul later encourages Timothy to wage the “good warfare” (ESV) (“fight the good fight” – NIV) (1 Tim. 1:18). So we are able to see from this that the Christian life doesn’t function automatically within man, he must take action and move toward it.

Understanding the Struggle: The scriptures tell us that we have been “created” in Christ for a certain function (Eph. 2:10). The creation was “FOR” good works, works that had been appointed for us to do (to live in) “in advance” (NIV) (before the world was created). So our “new creation” was for the purpose of working spiritual endeavors…the Christian life.
We may ask ourselves a couple of questions here. First, “to what end are we to be working?” and secondly, What are we to be working against?”. Perhaps we should start by answering the latter question first.

“What are we to be working against?” The answer to this question is had in parts.
1. The Flesh/Sin nature (Rom. 7:23-24) (Gal. 5:17-18).
2. Principalities and powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12).
3. The prince of the power of the air (pertaining to the lower atmospheric regions) (Eph. 2:2) (1 Peter 5:8) (Eph. 6:16).

“To what end are we to be working?” The answer to this question is one (being conformed to the image of Christ) but has many aspects.
Ephesians 4:12:
1. Attain a unity of the faith.
2. Attain knowledge of the Son of God.
3. Attain a mature status.
4. Attain to the measure [standard] of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

So we see, true discipleship is the endeavor of every believer, the end design God has intended in giving us faith to put in Jesus Christ. The question then is, “Are you working at living a “disciple’s” life?” While I do not mean to say that this is accomplished by mere human means or in human might alone, I do wish to stress the “responsibility” God has given every believer which is that we are to “be holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) (ESV). Are we striving for the mastery of that for which Christ has saved us? It isn’t easy, but it must be pursued. And as we do we are confident that we are more than conquerors through Him that saved us. After all, He as given us His Spirit and thus His mind. By the grace of God pick up your sword and join in the fight. The richness of the blessings that will be found in “disciple living” can not be compared.

Posted by: futurefaith | March 15, 2011

A Biblical Disciple, Part I

As promised (months ago) I am going to share some thoughts from a Bible Institute class I taught at our Church on ‘Biblical Discipleship’. I hope these thoughts provoke us to consider ourselves and our responsibilities through the lens of Scripture. What is a Biblical Disciple? This is a question that haunts Christianity and has for a while. Many believers make claim to being a Christian or a disciple, yet few of us really match what a ‘Biblical’ Christian/Disciple really is. Webster defines “disciple” as: 1. Any professed follower of Christ in His [Christ’s] life time. 2. A member of the (12) Disciples of Christ. 3. A pupil or an adherent of another. General enough, this certainly would allow for just about anyone who goes to church and/or reads their Bible to place themselves within the confines of this distinction. But, what examples does the Scripture give us that would help us define a biblical disciple? Early followers of Christ [true believers] were initially called “disciples”. Such examples can be found in these scripture references (Acts 1:15 (KJV). This is actually a variant reading. The greater MS evidence as well as other ancient versions read “brothers”; 6:1; 9:1). Later, due to the closeness of their life style to that of Christ’s, they were known as Christians (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:13-16), a term given to slander those who followed Christ. Their life so emulated Christ’s that the term was given to them as a means of mocking this association. It seems clear that the term “Christian” was synonymous with “Disciple” in the Scripture, and one would not dare put these two terms at odds by making a distinction between them. The current distinction between the two labels is a modern “degeneration” of the definition of Disciple. It has become acceptable to be something less than a disciple. For such a “lesser” distinction we simply permit the label “Christian” (a religious affinity). That still sounds very nice. No wonder that today, EVERYONE is a Christian. It is also interesting to see that Corinth was the first place that a group of believers evidenced the fact that being a “believer” doesn’t mean that one is a true Disciple/Christian (1 Cor. 3:1-3). They certainly were “disciples” but of the wrong person (1 Cor. 3:4-5, 21-23). Later, we see that even the writer of Hebrews needed to address the same problem with his readers (Heb. 5:11-6:3). In both places such a distinction was not acceptable to the author of the epistle. What is a disciple? Biblically, a disciple is a follower, a student of a certain teacher. The Greek word “ma-thay-tace” is always associated with a type of devoted following. In other words, a disciple is a person of concrete action and commitment. So what does the biblical, “devoted” disciple look like? Consider.

A Biblical Description of a Disciple:
A disciple…
1. Is willing to deny self, take up his cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23-25).
2. Puts Christ before self, family, and possessions (Luke 14:25-35).
3. Is committed to Christ’s teachings [His Word] (John 8:31).
4. Is committed to world evangelism (Matt. 9:36-38) (John. 20:21).
5. Loves others [believers, neighbors, and enemies] (John 13:34-35).
6. Abides in Christ, is obedient, bears fruit, glorifies God, has joy, and loves the brethren (John 15:7-17). This is a pretty good summary of everything.

Now some of us, about right now, are cringing. Having considered these six things, you might be saying to yourself, “That looks nothing like me!” and you may be feeling a little discouraged and/or convicted. But be encouraged, the good news is, disciples are MADE not BORN (Matt. 28:19). In the posts yet to come we will consider some things that might help us achieve the end design of our calling to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30). In closing, I hope and pray that God will work in us to correct the error of our day, that error which allows the separation of the terms “Christian” and “Disciple”. I wish to leave you with this biblical thought. “When a disciple is fully taught, he will be like his teacher” – (Luke 6:40)

Posted by: futurefaith | February 12, 2011

‘Desiring God’ by John Piper

I recently received a free copy of the revised addition of John Piper’s most popular book, ‘Desiring God’ from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I have a personal history with this book. It was the very first book I read by Piper and the content completely transformed my thinking about my relationship with God, His Word, and the way I approach Him. The concept “Christians Hedonist” did not initially settle with me (as I am sure was the case for many other readers). I had to wait until he finished the initial explanation which he does very well in the introduction. Several points that this book wishes to make are: 1. That God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him. 2. A “Christian Hedonist” is not someone who is living to satisfy and please themselves and just happens to be a Christian. In fact, quite the opposite is true. A “Christian Hedonist” seeks to glorify and delight God by finding their delight (and satisfaction) in Him [God]. 3. We are far too easily pleased…with trivial, earthly, half-hearted things.
You will find behind every word a heart convinced of the expressions that the words make. I remember, back in 2006, when I read this book for the first time being overwhelmed with my own joylessness and lack of satisfaction in the God who saved me, and the complete ease and conviction with which John Piper expressed his own journey in learning to desire God. I am confident that a true believer will not be able to read this book without being effected toward a newly developed desire for God. One of the great things about the revision is the inclusion of a “study guide” that should be extremely helpful in small-group sessions. This aid would be great for book studies or even for personal reflection. The point of the book is applied to many areas of the Christian’s life. There are chapters attempting to apply this focus in our Conversation, Worship, Prayer, Money, Marriage, Suffering, and many other life situations. Finding God as the satisfaction in our management of all the areas mentioned in this book reminds us that God is in all and is over all.
I highly recommend this read for every Christian. It has been recommended reading in many of my pastoral counseling situations. It is easy to read, relevant, and absolutely captivating.

Posted by: futurefaith | January 11, 2011

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

The Lucado ‘Life Lessons’ Study Bible is quite unique. Having spent some time in this particular Bible I have noticed several things. The Bible uses the New King James translation which is a sturdy translation to work from. The Bible is edited by Max Lucado and is something different than I have seen before in the “Study Bible” format. The Bible text is in single column form, something I really like in a Bible. The notes have been placed on the outside margin of the pages. The study notes are not necessarily theological or textual. This Bible is geared towards being “Inspirational”. The notes are primarily devotional and application oriented. Perfect for the one who wants to read the Bible through. Each page has a story, illustration, or series of questions to make scripture sections applicable for the reader. The Bible has in the front a ‘Two-Year Devotional Reading Plan’, a ‘Devotional Index’ where you can find a devotion on any particular issue in mind. In the back it has a five-section “spiritual growth” help. Section titles are ‘He did this just for you verses’, ‘Spiritual growth verses’, ‘30 studies for new believes’, ‘The big picture: A 30-day overview to the New Testament’, and ‘”Where to turn when” index’. The only draw back is that there are no maps or a conventional concordance in the Bible. So to look up words or specific names will not be easily obtained by the study helps themselves. The Bible is smythe-sewn and well bound. It comes with a dust-cover. The paper is thin and white with maroon colors and picture graphics. The dimensions of the Bible are 6.5 in. wide x 9.5 in. tall x 1.5 in. thick. The Bible isn’t so much a “Study” Bible as much as it is a “Devotional” Bible. It would make a great gift for the Christian who has everything “spiritual”. I do have to say that the format and clip-art is some what “girly” if I can use that word. As a man, I don’t think I would get this for another man. Over all, it is quite unique, very well bound, attractively published. I would recommend this for anyone wanting to give a gift of encouragement, or if they wanted a different way to read through the Bible. I really like the Bible as a whole.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com http://BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Posted by: futurefaith | December 1, 2010

Start! The Bible for New Believers

Recently Booksneeze provided me with a complimentary copy of “Start! The Bible for New Believers” edited by Greg Laurie and published by Thomas Nelson. The “Start!” Bible uses the New King James Version of the Bible, a commendable translation. Its notes and commentaries are geared for the new convert. After taking several weeks to explore this Bible I have developed some particular thoughts on it. At first glance (or at just a glance) this bible looks like any other book. The “Start!” seems to be marketed to look like a modern publication (a regular book), something I noticed right off and wasn’t impressed with. Secondly, the commentary could be sparse and absent in many areas (especially in the O.T), though the New Testament seemed much more adequate. Thirdly, the commentary contained a theological bias in the way it interpreted and explained salvific passages. I understand that establishing theology isn’t the focus of the commentary, however, understanding most always determines interpretation and as such will be factor of concern for many in circles outside of the General Editor’s persuasion.
As for the things that I did appreciate about this Bible. The fact that the Bible was focused on new believers was commendable. The “Secrets to Spiritual Success” in the front of the Bible was a very good idea and helpful for giving the reader understanding of what it means to be a believer and how they should start their new life in Christ once they have come to faith. I loved that each book had a small introduction to it. My favorite portion of the commentary was the “Essentials” section at the end of the Bible which explained in detail the attributes of God and Jesus Christ. This section made God (and consequently Jesus) tangible and personal. This was well done and a great way to finish this particular Bible.
As for the publication itself. I liked the size. It measured literally 8 3/8 in. tall, by 5 3/8 in. wide, by 1 in. thick. A perfect size to carry or pack. The print size was perfect for me, but then again I have the young eyes of a 31 year old. Someone with poorer eye-sight may not appreciate the smaller font size. The font type was good, very readable and typical. The format was good and everything was easy to find. The use of colors was a help, mainly black, red and gray. The paper was thin, but durable (I didn’t underline or mark on it). The spine was glued, but laid open very well. The cover is laminate so the plastic separates from the paper cover quickly with consistent use. The Bible is priced somewhere around $16. As far as a personal recommendation I would say it depends on one’s understanding of salvation since this Bible is heavily concerned with that area. If you are of the Arminian/Free Will persuasion. I would say buy it by the case. If you happen to be of the Reformed/Predestinarian persuasion, you should look elsewhere.

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