Tag Archives: religion

Behold

UniverseWhat is the glory of God?

The truth is, we don’t know. Sinful humans cannot look upon His glory and live. However, the Bible declares in Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

The “heavens” are what astronomers call the “observable universe.” It refers to the “limit created by the speed of light. Any object further away than light can travel in the age of the universe (about 14 billion years) has not even reached us yet.”

This “observable universe,” we are told, is now about 46.5 billion light years in radius, or 93 billion light years in diameter. One light year, the distance light travels in a year, equals about 6 trillion miles. Early in 2017, an English team of astronomers estimated that within this observable universe are at least 2 trillion galaxies, each with billions of stars—10 times more than previously thought. The human mind cannot fathom such numbers.

All of these stars and galaxies, however incomprehensible their numbers and sizes, still represent only 4% of the total mass of the universe. The remaining 96% comprises other matter that the astronomers haven’t even been able to identify yet!

All of this represents only the “observable universe!” Most parts of the universe are simply too far away for any of us to observe with any telescope no matter how advanced because we live in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light.

None of us can fully comprehend the universe, but the Bible tells us that the very size and complexity of the universe declares His glory. The God who created it all holds this universe in His hands.

In His hands. Think of it—the vast universe in which we live only hints at the glory of God. In the heavens, God has left us a big hint of His glory, so obvious that none of us can miss it.

As Christians, our growing knowledge of the universe’s expanse should declare to us that God is even greater than our godly forefathers knew. His love and grace are more boundless than we thought, His incarnation more miraculous, His humbling of Himself in Jesus Christ is more stunning. His sacrifice is more sacrificial, His character more outstanding, His trustworthiness more pure, His Word holds greater value.

In your spirit, enter the Bethlehem stable with its pungent smells of hay, straw and animal dung. Listen to the bleat of sheep and goats, the lowing of cattle. Note the young woman who lovingly watches over a red-faced infant, fresh from her womb, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Look again at the newborn baby lying in the straw. This male-child is the creator of all the stars, planets, galaxies, dark energy and expanding universe. He is the Lamb of God, soon to bear your sin and my sin, the sins of every person who ever lived or will live. He is about to enter us into a new humanity that will one day astound the angels of heaven.

Behold the love of God that will not let us go. Then fall down and worship Him.

Behold the glory of God. He is the one Person whose relations with us makes every difference. Let us make sure that others know Him.

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True or False: Teachers

Blackboard with chalkA man looks at a sore on his neck that does not heal. He worries—is it cancer? Someone tells him, “Go to a doctor you feel comfortable with.”

The man decides he most wants a doctor who will tell him what he wants to hear. The medical practitioner he contacts is a very pleasant man with an impressive looking diploma. He assures the man he does not have cancer. He covers the sore with a bandage so the man doesn’t see it, and says, “Don’t worry.” Elated, the man goes home. However…

Six months later, the man dies of an aggressive and painful cancer that spread throughout his body. The doctor who gave him the “good news” is a charlatan. If the man had gone to a real doctor, he would have heard unpleasant news. He would have faced surgery, but he would also have lived a normal and useful life.

In spiritual matters, this same kind of foolishness happens repeatedly when we seek our teachers in false messiahs who tell us only what we want to hear.

The Bible portrays Jesus as the Great Physician. He tells us uncomfortable things. We don’t like to hear we are all sinners before a holy God, on our way to hell. We don’t like to hear we have terminal cancer of the spirit and only Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, can remove it.

Like surgery, Jesus’ crucifixion for our sins seems too bloody, ugly and primitive. We know we need help, but we seek our help in people who claim to be divine, even Jesus Himself, who tell us the easy way to the good life that fits our preconceptions.

Jesus Himself warns us about the dangers of following those who promote a different gospel from the one He taught—a “gospel” that leaves out sin, the cross and repentance, judgment and hell. He warns us about people who preach God’s love but not His holiness, His forgiveness but not His hatred of sin and the penalty for sin.

Jesus warns us that some false teachers may awe us with great miracles. But if they deny the gospel of the cross, Jesus says, “Stay away from them.”

How will we know when the real Christ appears? We will know by the manner of His second appearing which He makes very clear in Matthew 24:27: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

He will come “in the twinkling of an eye.” He will appear in glory, with myriads of glorified men, women and children from every time and place. His Second Coming will surpass all power to imagine or describe. (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17; 19:16). No other so-called “christ” can match it.

Those who undergo the surgery of the gospel will welcome the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It will come as a terror to those who refused His spiritual surgery. The Second Coming dwarfs all other so-called “christs” and reveals them as fakes.

How vital for us to know our Bibles, both Old Testament and New Testament, to find the true Jesus. The more we know the “real thing,” the easier for us to spot the counterfeits.

Let us tell others about Him, that they may also stand before Him in joy and gladness.

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The Relevant Testament

hebrew-text-closeup

A grave error is making its way into the church and into our culture as a whole: the belief that we don’t need the Old Testament.

Let us cast aside this relic of the past, we are told. Let us devote ourselves, instead, to preaching the gospel only. Let us follow the religion of Jesus.

Every day, our modern media reveal that in spite of superior technology, human nature has not changed in 3,000 years. We are still governed by the same passions that destroyed ancient Sodom, Ur and Babylon.

This stubborn and unchanging quality of human nature is the subject of the Old Testament. That alone makes our study of the Old Testament relevant. We must put aside our smug ways and realize that things have not changed as much as we like to think.

God is a holy God. He wants to reconcile us to Himself, to set us free through His Son, Jesus Christ. He begins to fulfill this grand purpose in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament tells us how God deals with awed human nature through the Jewish nation. It is a historical record about real people who actually lived— people whose lives and experiences can influence our own if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Old Testament is a selective record of how God works through the Jews to accomplish His purposes to save men, women and children of every background for His higher purpose. The Jews are God’s chosen instrument to accomplish His salvation for all peoples (Romans 1:16). As Jesus says in John 4:22, “Salvation is from the Jews.”

We must study the Old Testament because Jesus Christ Himself insisted upon it. Jesus was born a Jew, and He studied the Jewish scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.

The New Testament portrays Jesus as God’s fulfillment of His covenant with the most prominent Jewish ruler, King David. He was speaking of the Old Testament scriptures when he said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In Matthew’s gospel, the writer repeatedly refers to Old Testament prophecies to show how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jews.

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus went through the entire Old Testament to show His dejected followers that His death and final glory was the final plan and purpose of God.

Paul constantly refers to Old Testament scriptures. In his Book of Romans alone, he makes 100 quotations from the Old Testament coming from 16 different Old Testament books. He sees Jesus Christ as the key that opens up the door to the full meaning of Old Testament scriptures.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ in relation to the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and His perfect sacrifice found in the Old Testament scriptures. The writer of Hebrews also holds up many Old Testament men and women as examples of faith that we of the New Testament covenant should emulate.

Those who reject the Old Testament for a “religion of Jesus” not only reject the Old Testament but the gospel and person of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the New Testament. Let us all resolve to become better students of the Old Testament that we may better know Jesus Christ as our Savior, Lord, Messiah and Friend.

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Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

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God Introduces Himself

God introduces Himself . . . This fact makes the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ different from any other religion.

In all other religions, a celebrated philosopher, teacher or prophet tries to introduce us to God. But humanity’s ideas about God, no matter how seemingly noble and high-minded, always fall short. We always reduce God to something less than Who He is because that is what sinners always do—they fall short. We are all idolaters.

This is a constant danger for all of us, even if we call ourselves evangelical Christians. We all have this tendency to simplify God, to make Him less offensive, to reduce Him to the most common denominator so as to include as many people as possible within the fold. I constantly must watch this tendency in myself.

As sinners, we tend to become attracted to the spectacular, to the “big show.” The people who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry exclaimed at His miracles and followed after Him to see what He would do next. But later, they shouted out, “Crucify Him!” Amazement at Jesus’ miracles does not translate into falling at His feet and crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

As sinners, we naturally like an easy-going God of love who forgives us (i.e., winks an eye at sin) and fulfills our every wish and dream. Many false prophets today, who call themselves “Christians,” promise this false god and attract multitudes. This god is tame and controllable, like a domesticated cat. He is also powerless to save anybody.

All of these deadly tendencies are why we desperately need God to tell us who He really is.

We know God best by how God introduces Himself to us in the Bible through such names as I AM WHO I AM and ELOHIM. God reveals Himself in many such names throughout the Bible.

In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby lists more than 350 ways God introduces Himself to us through His names. These names God gives to Himself reveal His character, not only as a God of love, but as pure and righteous, a hater of sin, with no beginning and end, three-in-one and one-in-three, unchangeable, everlasting, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, King of kings–and utterly holy.

I AM WHO I AM dies a humiliating and unspeakable death, and promises to come back as judge to separate the sheep from the goats. No simple God here, and multitudes don’t want Him. They don’t want this holy God over whom they lose all control because He is in control, not them. Little do they know, He is the only God who can truly help them.

This is the God we are called to proclaim to the world around us. Through Jesus Christ, I AM WHO I AM is the only God who can save us from our small ideas and even smaller power. He is the only God who can redeem and transform our lives, give us a glimpse into the future, and create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

When God introduces Himself to us, we had better accept Him for Who He really is, not the domesticated fantasy He is not. Our eternal destinies (and the world’s) depend upon it.

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God is the Owner

“Stewardship is another term for fundraising.”

How many times have you heard or thought that? This common misconception permeates our culture, even in the church, but it is heresy of the worst sort.

“Stewardship” comes from the Greek word, oikenomous, from which we derive our words, “economy” and “economics.” Originally, it referred to someone who managed a household. He did not own the household, but held it in trust for the owner. As Christians, our owner is God. We are to maintain and manage our “household” on His terms, not ours.

Our “household” contains all that makes up who we are and have, and the environment in which He places us, all of which He owns. We are not the owners but the managers of our abilities, gifts, talents, money, time—and our salvation.

Stewardship is another word for ministry, and ministry is another word for service. Both “ministry” and “service” come from the same Hebrew and Greek words. Stewards are servants used by others for their purposes. True Christians are “on call” by God for His purposes, not our own. His purposes always involve us and the redemption of the lost, of renewal and restoration, and re-creation.

Servants obey the orders of their master, but we serve a Master who has already proven His service to us. We do not serve a tyrant but One who has already served us beyond the call of duty. When we were sinners, Christ died for us. He took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7) when He put aside His glory and came from glory as one of us.

As Christians, to become a “steward” is another way of saying, “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This servant attitude includes such qualities as encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion, a spirit of unity, oneness of purpose, humility of spirit, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Paul responded to Jesus’ servanthood by saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In other words, stewardship means more than just how we use our money (although it includes that). It is a way of life. It involves our whole beings in relationship to Jesus Christ and others in the light of how He has served us, as individuals and as the church. It is using our lives and experiences to serve His purposes for this world and for the New Heaven and New Earth.

Stewardship means learning to see where we are now and where we would have been apart from His foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying us through Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Stewardship is our response to the staggering realization that out of His pure mercy and grace alone, we are part of His royal family.

There are no small people in God’s royal family. If you are part of His family, whatever your gifts and life experiences, you have a strategic place as God’s steward. Someone has said, “[A city] can manage quite well for a long time without a mayor, but we can’t manage many days without garbage collectors.”

Whether you are a mayor, a garbage collector, or something else, others are depending upon your service and ministry right now. Don’t let them—or Him—down.

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