Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Call to Worship

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”, Philippians 2:10-11
All rational beings will acknowledge Christ as Lord.
Philippians 2:10-11 affirms that the whole intelligent universe is called to worship Christ. They are specified as those “in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” (v. 10). “Those who are in heaven” consist of two groups: God’s holy angels and the spirits of the redeemed believers (who await the resurrection of their bodies). Those who are in Heaven already acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Throughout their time in Heaven they’ve been worshiping the Lord of glory.
“Those . . . on earth” (v. 10) also consist of two groups: the obedient and the disobedient. The obedient refers to us. By God’s grace, we have submitted to Christ as Lord and Savior (cf. Rom. 10:9). The disobedient will also bow before Jesus Christ—by compulsion (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-9). When Jesus returns to subdue the earth, He will remove the wicked from the earth, cast them into Hell, and establish His kingdom.
“Under the earth” (Phil. 2:10) refers to Hell, the place of eternal punishment, which is occupied by all the damned—both demons and unsaved people. They will also acknowledge the lordship of Christ—not by enjoying His reign, but by bearing the unending expression of His wrath.
Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe. Therefore, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (v. 11). To confess means “to acknowledge,” “affirm,” or “agree.” By “every tongue” Paul didn’t mean every physical tongue in every mouth but every language. Another way to express the idea is to say that all rational beings will acknowledge His lordship.
History is moving toward the day when Jesus will be acknowledged by all as the supreme ruler of the universe. He already sits in that seat of power but has not yet brought the universe fully under His authority. We live in days of grace, during which He brings men and women to acknowledge Him as Lord willingly rather than by force. Rejoice that He still provides that opportunity.
Suggestions for Prayer:
Pray for lost relatives and friends to submit to Christ willingly.
For Further Study:
In Psalm 2:12, what warning does the Lord give?

Source: http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals/strength-for-today

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Starting Gospel Conversations: Christmas Edition

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On Being a Pastor

I have been reading a book called: "Understanding our Calling and Work- On Being a Pastor" by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. This is a great resource for anyone in the ministry. I wanted to highlight some great quotes from the book here.

"We may not always be aware at first as to whether God's call is to give all or part of our time to shepherding and teaching-for there is a place for both. That ought not to be a major preoccupation, in that such uncertainty simply indicates that the time is not yet right for action. At the appropriate stage, God will make it plain." (pg. 24)

"The preacher's gift proves its value to the body of Christ as his character demonstrates the truth of what he declares."  (pg. 37)

"Shepherds and teachers are for churches, not churches for shepherds and teachers. Churches do not exist for our benefit or for our livelihood. We exist rather for their good." (pg. 47)

"Every time we teach, it is appropriate to ask, "Am I providing good pasture for God's flock? Will this nourish their souls by causing them to feed upon our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and to respond to Him in obedience?" (pg. 49)

"Shepherds and teachers' particular responsibility is to prepare God's people for their individual works of service.....we should seek to identify the gifts of each member of the flock and to encourage them." (pg. 56-57)

"Nothing fires evangelism more than our people glorying in the gospel message as they hear it proclaimed." (pg. 59)

"A preeminent purpose of our devotional life is to keep ourselves in step with God, to check, as every day opens and closes, that we are in harmony with Him." (pg. 83)

"We must aim to read the Scriptures for ourselves first, rather than for others. What we discover for ourselves, we can then share with Christ's flock with integrity." (pg. 91)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Atheism, Israel, and the Virgin Birth

Excerpted from  Cosmos, Creator, and Human Destiny  —  by Dave Hunt
We have tried to be fair in our citing of much scientific evidence refuting atheism, materialism, and
evolution. These three fit hand-in-glove with one another and really constitute a rival religion to theism. We have shown that in spite of much effort on the part of their loyal adherents, they still lack convincing scientific evidence and must be taken by faith.
Arguments of a purely scientific nature could continue, but these alone would still leave the two sides far apart and with differences unresolved. There can be no argument, however, with clearly stated biblical prophecies or with the history recording their fulfillment.
Atheists know that they must destroy the Bible, and they have been attempting to do so for many years. Biblical Christianity, with the virgin birth, sinless life, death on a Roman cross, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel and the world, must be proved to be contrived fables. Together, in the final analysis, these attempts to discredit the biblical testimony are a rival religion—they must also be taken by faith.
Richard Dawkins calls the resurrection of Jesus Christ “petty, parochial, trivial, unworthy of the universe.” This statement makes him not only “anti-God” but “anti-Christ.” The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are foundational to biblical Christianity. As did Carl Sagan, Dawkins (along with his fellow “Four Horsemen” and many other atheists) literally hates God but reveres the cosmos that he denies God created. Instead, atheists insist that it came about through a giant explosion of something called energy (though no one knows its origin or cause), leaving in its wake a chaos of gasses. The gasses that came out of this mysterious explosion somehow gathered themselves together into clumps, which, over an unknown number of billions of years, developed by chance into the cosmos that we are still trying to fathom today. What is energy and why does it exist? In spite of diligent effort and brilliant discoveries, scientists have found no answers to this or the many other “why” questions, to some of which we have already referred.
The Battle for Truth Heats Up
Declaring that theists don’t know the meaning of “theory” when they attempt to demean evolution by calling it “only a theory,” Christopher Hitchens says a theory is successful “if it survives the introduction of hitherto unknown facts. And it becomes an accepted theory if it can make accurate predictions about things or events that have not yet been discovered, or that have not yet occurred.” Evolution fails on both of these counts.
Sam Harris repeatedly betrays his monumental ignorance of the Bible and biblical Christianity while pretending superior knowledge of both. He also displays a perverse refusal to admit the vast differences between the many religions. Apparently, he sees no difference between Islam’s firm declaration that there is only one true god and Hinduism’s embrace of more than 300 million. Addressing Christians, he says, “CONSIDER: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian.” He couldn’t be more wrong. The reasons a Christian has for believing in Jesus Christ and all that the Bible says about Him are as different from a Muslim’s reasons for believing in Allah and Muhammad as day is from night.  We just mentioned the resurrection and the fact that no leader of any religion rose from the dead except Jesus Christ. The Qur’an denies the death and resurrection, plus almost everything else foundational to Christianity. Yet Hitchens and most atheists treat all “religions” as if there were only petty differences among them.
As we have already noted, the God of the Bible is called “the God of Israel” more than 200 times. Not once is He called the God of the Germans or the French or the Spanish or the Arabs or the Muslims, although He gave His Son to die for all mankind. The Bible was inspired through 40 different prophets over a period of 1,600 years. We have their names and sayings and historical documents in support of each. They were from different times in history and widely different cultures. In stark contrast, Muhammad claimed to be the  sole prophet  of Allah, who allegedly inspired him  alone  to write the Qur’an. The claim that Muhammad is the sole prophet is an integral part of Islam, including the confession that every Muslim must make and every convert declare. In contrast, every prophet inspired to write the Bible has 39 other witnesses to what each one of them declares. We have only Muhammad’s word that he alone was inspired by the Prophet Elijah through the angel Gabriel to write the Qur’an. This one fact alone separates Christianity from Islam and from every religion in the world.
Betraying Their Ignorance and Bias
The Christian has archaeological, historical, and scientific proof for the Bible. Where else in the world’s religious literature is such proof offered? The Bible, the God of the Bible, and Jesus Christ as the Messiah are proved irrefutably by  hundreds  of prophecies. Nothing comparable is found anywhere else. Certainly atheism can offer no proof for its religious faith. Yet Harris mistakenly declares that Christians and Muslims have the same reasons for what they separately believe. It simply isn’t true. This is only one example of the disinformation Harris foists upon his unsuspecting following and to bolster his own faith in atheism.
Hitchens and the rest of atheism’s “Four Horsemen” condemn “religion” because many religious people are zealous in their attempts to make converts. With the broad brush he typically wields, Hitchens declares that religion “ must  seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths.” Isn’t this the very same reason why atheists write books and spread their “gospel”? As we have shown, Richard Dawkins declares: “The  atheist movement  has no choice but to aggressively spread the good news.  Evangelism  [to convert the world to atheism] is a moral imperative.”
When I was an undergraduate math major at UCLA nearly 60 years ago, I read everything I could find that the atheists, skeptics, and critics had written against God, Jesus, and the Bible. The more I read, the more it strengthened my faith and confidence because the critics’ arguments were devoid of substance. One would think that in all the time that has elapsed since then, their rebuttals of the Bible would have improved. In fact, the same worn-out arguments are still in vogue, such as the denial of the prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. Here is the most maligned of those prophecies in the Old Testament: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [ almah ] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Sam Harris comments:
Unfortunately for the fanciers of Mary’s virginity, the Hebrew word  alma  (for which  parthenos  [Greek for virgin] is an erroneous translation [in the Septuagint]) simply means “young woman,” without any implication of virginity. It seems all but certain that the Christian dogma of the virgin birth, and much of the church’s resulting anxiety about sex, was the result of a mistranslation from the Hebrew. . . . It would appear that Western civilization has endured two millennia of consecrated sexual neurosis simply because Matthew and Luke could not read Hebrew. For the Jews . . . the dogma of the virgin birth has served as a perennial justification for their persecution, because it has been one of the principal pieces of “evidence” demonstrating the divinity of Jesus.
First, let’s correct a few of Harris’s most obvious errors. There is a vast host of Christians today (and there has been throughout history) who believe in the virgin birth and the divinity of Christ but would never persecute a Jew. In fact, they have a special love for Jews as God’s chosen people and as Christ’s brethren. The persecution came from the Roman Catholic Church because of its unbiblical teaching that the Church had replaced Israel as the people of God and that the Jews deserved to be hated because they had crucified Christ. Nor is the Christian belief in the virgin birth “one of the principal pieces of ‘evidence’ demonstrating the divinity of Jesus.”  Harris simply doesn’t understand the Bible, though he may have read it, and that makes his ideas about Christianity not only mistaken but inexcusably ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is the idea that these two disciples, Matthew, a Jew, and Luke (though a Greek, an educated physician), both living in Israel, couldn’t read Hebrew. How does Harris know this?
Harris reiterates this argument elsewhere, as do other atheists. The skeptics have directed their attack against the virgin birth by focusing on Isaiah:7:14. Let’s examine not only this prophecy but the many others that teach a virgin birth. Yes,  almah  means a young,  unmarried  maiden. Though not true today in Israel, in Isaiah’s time an unmarried maiden was sure to be a virgin. Nor would it be a sign from God for a woman who was not a virgin to bear a child. Further, Immanuel means “God is with us.” Israel was sinking deeper into apostasy, and God’s judgment upon her had been pronounced by many prophets, including Isaiah, from his first chapter onward.
Therefore, this name could not have meant that God was with Israel to bless her but that the child would be God himself, born in Israel. Could any other child be called “God is with us”? And how could such a child enter the world except by a virgin birth? The only other use of this word is found two chapters later, when Israel is called, “thy land, O Immanuel.” So God’s land, the land of Israel, belonged to this child named Immanuel. But this is only one of numerous prophecies in the Bible, all of which corroborate one another.
The Overlooked, Irrefutable Proof
The Bible is about 28 percent prophecy. Its major subjects are Israel and the Messiah. Biblical prophecy has four primary purposes: 1) To prove irrefutably the existence of the Creator and that He is “the God of Israel”; 2) To identify Israel beyond any doubt as the chosen people to whom that disputed land in the Middle East was given by God for “an everlasting possession,” and thus belongs to them today; 3) To prove that the Bible is the Creator’s Word to mankind (there are no such prophecies in the Qur’an, Hindu Vedas, Baghavad Gita, Ramayana, sayings of Buddha, or Confucius, et al.), and 4) To identify the Messiah beyond dispute so that Israel would know who He was when He came. The fulfillment, without fail, of so many specific biblical prophecies given centuries and even thousands of years in advance proves all of these points for those willing to face the facts.
Later in Isaiah, the prophet presents a clearer prophecy concerning the “child” previously spoken of: “For unto us a child is born . . . a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David . . . even for ever.” This can refer only to the promised Messiah, who (as many other biblical prophecies foretell) will reign on David’s throne in endless peace. The declaration is also unmistakable that this babe is God’s Son and yet is God himself come to earth as a man. God is His Father, yet He himself is called both God and Father. Certainly, this one is Immanuel—and only a virgin could have the honor to be His mother. The rabbis picked up stones to kill Him when Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” but His claim agreed with the Hebrew prophets.
What about this claim to be the one and only son of God? Jews in particular reject this term, claiming that it is found only in the New Testament’s record that when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary, an astonished young virgin, that she would bear a son, she was told that “He . . . shall be called the son of the Highest. . . .”
The prophet Micah declares where this amazing babe, the “son of David” and heir to his throne would be born: in Bethlehem, the city of David. The prophecy that He “shall be ruler in Israel” once again identifies this one as the coming Messiah. At the same time, Micah reiterates the fact that Israel’s Messiah could only be God himself because He existed eternally before being born of a virgin into this world:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
These are not the only prophecies declaring that the Messiah would be God, virgin-born into this world. Similar prophecies come from many different biblical prophets who never knew one another and who lived at various times in history and were part of diverse cultures. The critics never present the entire scope of biblical statements concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah. The atheists hammer away at Isaiah:7:14, but that Scripture is only one of many prophecies, which all speak with one voice....
With the threat by the pope of burning him at the stake, Luther bravely declared, “I stand captive to the Word of God. I can do no other.” Atheists likewise stand captive to the Word of God—not because they love God or believe His Word but because they passionately hate Him. A way of escape through faith in Christ is offered to atheists, but they refuse to accept it. One day, Christ’s warning will haunt them, “The words that I have spoken will condemn you in that day.”
We will give many other prophecies that are precise and that have been or are in our day being unmistakably fulfilled. Any honest reader will be forced by his conscience to concede that these prophecies (which are merely a sampling of hundreds in the Bible) could come only from the one true God, speaking His infallible Word to mankind.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Secret of Biblical Self-Improvement - Part Two

As we noted in part one of this series, everyone wants to improve himself or herself, whether it’s
one’s situation, condition, image or whatever else people feel would make them happier. The world has conjured up a host of approaches in attempting to accomplish that goal, but its successes are rare and, at best, short-lived.The biblical approach, on the other hand, has, as its objective, temporal improvement and eternal outcomes. In His Scriptures, God has given mankind instructions that will vastly improve one’s condition on earth as well as prepare us for eternal rewards to come. As our Creator, God alone knows every aspect of every human being, from the most minute part of our physical bodies to every thought our mind thinks. In other words, there is nothing that God doesn’t know about us. Therefore, as we deal with situations and circumstances that come our way, we can’t do better than to turn to the One who knows us best.According to the Manufacturer’s Handbook (the Bible) the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created in perfection but then disobeyed God, which resulted in the corruption of their natures and subsequently the natures of their offspring (Romans:5:12). Their sin affected their relationship with God, separating them and all mankind from Him spiritually and physically for all eternity (Romans:3:23; 2 Thessalonians:1:7-9). Yet God in His mercy sent Jesus to pay the infinite penalty required for mankind to be reconciled to Him. Our Lord’s sacrifice satisfied God’s perfect justice and made the way for all who by faith accept Christ’s payment on their behalf to receive the gift of eternal life (Romans:6:23).Those who put their trust in Christ are born again spiritually. Their nature has been changed from one that is in bondage to sin and under God’s condemnation to one that belongs to God and is no longer controlled by sin. A born-again Christian still retains his old nature and can therefore choose to sin, but his new nature enables him to refrain from sinning. Although his sins—past, present, and future—have been completely paid for by our Savior Jesus Christ, thus securing his eternal destiny, whatever sins he may commit nevertheless still have temporal consequences. They adversely affect his relationship with the Lord, the answers to his prayers, and his relationships with others. He will reap what he has sown, experience the ill effects of immoral activities, will have to pay penalties for breaking civil laws, and so forth.Those consequences can be avoided by simply obeying the instructions that God’s Word presents. That’s the “secret” to biblical self-improvement, which, as I mentioned in the first part of this series, is only a secret in the sense that too few Christians know their Bibles well enough to be aware of the instructions of the Scriptures. Even if a believer is willing to obey God, he can’t do what God wants if he doesn’t know His instructions.That brings us to the first imperative of biblical self-improvement: we have to know what God says, and that can come about only by diligently reading His Word. A habit of reading the Scriptures daily is not only the best habit a believer can have—it is critical to his having a fruitful life in Christ and maturing in his relationship with the Lord.Self-improvement, biblically, as we have noted, is diametrically opposed to the world’s way of going about improving “self,” as well as being contrary to the world’s understanding regarding “self.” The world sees “self” as inherently good; it is to be highly esteemed and held foremost in one’s endeavors; it is to be loved above all, and even deified, according to some religions and psychotherapies. The Bible, in contrast, deems “self” as mankind’s major problem, as inherently evil, as continually biased toward the person himself. Even among believers, it is their greatest hindrance to a life of following Jesus, which is what Christianity is all about. In Matthew:16:24, Jesus declared to His disciples: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Nothing and no one must come before our Lord. Moreover, believers are to consider others before themselves. That’s what the Bible teaches, and when we do what it teaches, the effect is that our temporal lives, whether as individuals, families, or churches, are transformed because we are drawing closer to the Lord.Biblical Christianity is all about selflessness. It is about being “other-directed,” putting others first. Jesus exemplified that and taught it: “…But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister [servant]; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant [slave]: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto [served], but to minister [serve], and to give his life a ransom for many.” “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Matthew:20:26-28;Mark:9:35).Our Savior’s sacrifice for us on the Cross was the supreme act of selfless love, as Charles Wesley noted in his hymn: “Amazing love! How can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Jesus not only paid an immeasurable ransom for our salvation; He gave us a commandment that reflected His sacrificial love in our relationship with others: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John:15:12-13).Too often we think of astounding acts, such as a sacrificial death on someone else’s behalf, and miss the everyday opportunities that we have to manifest selflessness. Jesus gave us such an example when He washed the feet of His disciples: “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John:13:12-17).Foot washing is certainly a wonderful act of humility, but the Lord’s example is much more than that. Jesus is telling us that serving one another needs to be the rule in the realm of everyday life. Foot washing was a very common activity when the chief mode of traveling to and from was walking on dirt paths in sandals.Consider verse 17: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” This is the “secret” to biblical self-improvement, which has been displaced in our Laodicean, humanistic, psychologized, self-serving end-time church. The church is not “happy” because it isn’t practicing what Jesus, our Lord of lords and King of kings, demonstrated and taught. The consequences are that there is little difference statistically between the ills of the world and the problems that beset Christendom, i.e., both professing Christians and true believers.Take, for example, divorce among believers. If there is a case in which one’s self-interest on the part of one or both is not the root problem, I haven’t seen it in my experiences over the years in ministering to couples considering divorce. What about relationships that are mostly in turmoil among family members—husband and wife, parents and children, between siblings themselves? Pick an issue and consider whether or not self has raised its ugly head in causing dissension. That is the battlefield we are all in. The Apostle Paul in his letters (inspired by the Holy Spirit) describes the battle regarding “self” and the condition of the combatants. The troubles among the Philippians were caused by their doing things through selfish ambition and conceit. Paul’s corrective instructions zeroed in on the “self issue”: “…but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other[s] better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Paul underscores the fleshly “me-first” bent that we all struggle with from time to time: “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:3-4; 21).Again, being a bondservant of the Lord, putting Him first, serving others and putting them before ourselves, are the marching orders for those who have received the “unspeakable gift” of eternal life. Scriptures abound with teachings regarding selflessness: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians:8:9). “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans:12:10). “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities [scruples/conscience]of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Romans:15:1-3). “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Corinthians:9:19). “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth [well-being] ” (1 Corinthians:10:24).“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians:10:33).In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, who were racked with selfish leanings, he wrote a profound chapter on love, in which he stated that true love “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians:13:5). In other words, biblical love is concerned first and foremost with others.The Corinthians of Paul’s day were not the only believers with a “self” problem; it was a characteristic of many believers in all of the churches, with notable exceptions such as the church of Philadelphia (Revelation:3:7-13) and others of similar mindsets down through history. Yet Paul prophesied of a “ perilous ” time prior to Christ’s return when a chief characteristic on earth would be that “ men shall be lovers of their own selves ” (2 Timothy:3:1-2). That prophecy, as noted in Part One of this series, not only has been manifested in an unprecedented way in the last hundred years in the world, but incredibly, it has become a false doctrine in the church and is taught by many popular evangelical preachers and Christian psychologists. This is a shocking development in the face of so many Scripture verses that clearly teach the opposite. Yet in light of another prophecy by Paul, we can see how it was possible for such false teachings (self-esteem, self-love, self-image, self-worth, and on to self- ad nauseam ) to enter the church: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy:4:3).Prophecy, however, is not deterministic. God’s foreknowledge of events that will take place doesn’t predestine individuals to fulfill the prophecies regarding these events. His knowing that the “me generations” will manifest themselves in our day does not relieve those generations of being held accountable for their self-serving choices. Although the acts and consequences of selfishness are seemingly everywhere, that doesn’t mean that believers have to conform to them or be controlled by them. The solution to preventing our lives from reflecting the destructive “self” litanies of our day are hardly complex. In fact, many of those problems of living can be averted by implementing two words: Stop it!Temptation comes along, whatever it may be, and we can either buy into it…or not. We can stop it before it becomes sin. The “stop it” solution can certainly be overstated, but too often we bypass the truth that correcting a sin or a potential sin is always a matter of our wills. Scripture, for example, tells us to flee youthful lusts. That’s what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. We don’t find him standing around hoping and praying that the Lord would take his lust away as she grabbed him by his garment. No. He split, leaving his garment behind. James tells us to resist the devil. Peter writes that we are to “resist stedfast in the faith.” Obviously, we are to make choices. We either choose to serve ourselves and sin or serve God by acting in righteousness. In our willingness to please God rather than self, we have God’s grace, we have the true wisdom from the Word of God, and we have the help of the Holy Spirit, the prayers, encouragement, and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ.Here’s a very short “self” checklist for our consideration and correction: 1) Am I making decisions based on what pleases me rather than what pleases the Lord? That’s a self-love issue: Do I love me more than Jesus? Think about our situations regarding the opportunity to sin. Guess what I’m going to decide if I love me and want to please me rather than loving Jesus and pleasing Him! 2) In a marriage situation, are we giving preference to ourselves rather than to our spouses, and in the process not treating each other with loving kindness, affection, and respect? 3) What about the way we talk to one another? Does our communication with others reflect a sharp tongue, sarcasm, and put-downs rather than loving and esteeming them? Regarding 1 through 3, two words need to be implemented to correct the problem: Stop it! 4) As parents, are we teaching our children to obey the Scriptures in the way that they treat their siblings and friends? 5) Are we examples to our children regarding the Bible’s instructions, and do we consistently and biblically correct them when they act selfishly toward others?Although this list is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the application of God’s Word for living our lives as biblical Christians, I guarantee that even those few things, when obeyed according to the Scriptures, will have a transformational impact in our personal lives, our family relationships, our relationships outside our families, our witness to unbelievers, and, most important, our growth in our relationship with Jesus. Why am I so confident? Simply because we are doing what God tells us to do, and in doing so, we will be enabled and supported by an abundance of His grace through the Holy Spirit.So the “secret” of biblical self-improvement has been exposed in the light of the Scriptures. Let it no longer be so removed from our lives that it seems a mystery to us. Rather, by God’s grace and enablement, let the application of biblical service and selflessness help to demonstrate to the world the truth of the Bible and the reality of a Christianity that obeys what our true and living God has communicated to us. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Contend 2014: A Student Worldview Weekend (Free)

January 2-4, 2014
Bring a Group or Just Bring Your Own Student
Point of Action: We just dropped 26,000 pieces of mail to get the word out about this free conference. But I also need your help in getting out the word. Will you e-mail this letter to your family and friends? Will you post the information on your Facebook page or tweet out the URL: www.contend2014 and let everyone know it is free as a ministry of www.worldviewweekendfoundation.com
As a parent or grandparent would you like the opportunity to bring the high school or college students in your family to a Biblical worldview conference that is specifically for them? Have you ever thought about sending your student to a worldview camp but the $1,400 or more in tuition, plus transportation, was a barrier? Colossians 2:8 tells us to:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Are you concerned that the students in your life may not be fully equipped and Biblically prepared to resist and refute the man-centered philosophies and empty deceit of this age? Can the students in your life destroy every argument raised up against the principles of the Lord as we are called to do in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5?  
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,   casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Being a parent and grandparent today that is seeking to encourage the students in your life to follow the Lord and love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength presents challenges not even comprehended by your parents and grandparents. Sometimes the questions your students ask may frustrate you because you wish you had an answer for them. Perhaps you are worried about your students being included in the nearly 80% of young people that are walking about from the faith?

If the questions I have asked you have you concerned then I think you are going to be encouraged by the free Contend 2014 conference we are hosting January 2-4, 2014. We are bringing in some of the premier Biblical worldview speakers to address the major issues facing today’s high school and college students.
A sweet family from Iowa recently sent us this e-mail. I hope this is a challenge to other adults to take the leadership and ministry opportunity to do the same. The January 2-4, Contend 2014 conference will have an eternal, life-changing impact on countless young people for the gospel and church.
Why would you not take advantage of a free Biblical conference like this and organize a group of young people? Why not? We eliminated the $99 admission free to make it free because it is that important. We are doing our part but are you? As an adult will you partner with us by sponsoring and organizing a group of young people and hosting them? If you cannot bring a group then just bring your own student with you parent! Here is the testimony from this family and I hope it is a challenge to you and inspires you to follow their example. They wrote:
 So excited to be bringing 11 young people to your conference in January! Thanks for the hotel discounts - my husband and I are renting a van and paying for three hotel rooms with our Christmas cash. Cannot think of a better use for that money! The college-age youth that are coming are really looking forward to the conference also.  Thank you...thank you...thank you!"
Here is a link to the conference for complete details, topics and speaker bios:  www.contend2014.com The conference is free but you must register online so we can save everyone a seat and have the free resources waiting for each student when they arrive. Some parents have asked if they can also attend the conference with their students and the answer is an enthusiastic YES!
A Short List of Some of the Topics to be Covered at Contend 2014:
  • Persevering Through Persecution and Prevailing For the Gospel by Michael Furchert
  • Why Christians Are Not Called to a Social Justice, Social Gospel, or Missional Agenda by Jesse Johnson
  • True and False Converts: The Biblical Hallmarks of a Christian by Brannon Howse
  • The Jesus of the Cults Versus the Jesus of the Bible Jared Carlson
  • Question of Origins: The latest discoveries in Cosmology, Chemistry, and Biology and exposes the evolutionary errors that lead to the acceptance of the molecules-to-man theory by Jason Carlson
  • Revealing The Trustworthiness and Supernatural Nature of God’s Word by Dr. Jimmy DeYoung
  • The Real Face of Islam by Usama Dakdok
and much, much more including lots of question and answer time throughout the weekend. Students will be able to ask their question in front of the entire group or if they prefer they can walk right up to the speakers during the breaks and visit with them.
The church in America is in critical condition but you can help by simply bringing your student and maybe some of their friends to Contend 2014. Sadly, self-professing Christian adults and young people alike embody worldviews that are no different from those outside the church. Researchers of the problem continue to come up with increasingly grave statistics that explain how serious the condition is. Among Christian adults:
◾64% believe moral truth depends on the situation;
• 60% believe male/female co-habitation outside of marriage is acceptable;
• 55% believe a good person can earn his or her salvation;
• 44% believe Jesus Christ committed sins while on earth.
And consider the peril of college students:

◾67% of college professors approve of homosexuality;
◾84% of professors approve of abortion;
• 65% embrace socialist and communist ideals;
• 88% of students from "Christian" homes deny their faith before they graduate from college;
• 91% of students from evangelical churches do not believe in absolute moral truth.
Recognizing the life-and-death nature of the issue, the Southern Baptist Convention, to its credit, has even done a self-study and found that 88% of young people from SBC homes deny their faith before they graduate from college.
 Unfortunately, even many Christian parents are more concerned about good grades that hold down the price of car insurance than about the spiritual price their student will pay in life because the home has not taught them a solid Christian worldview. Parents too often neglect the scriptural commands to train their children in Biblical principles (see Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:6-7, 32:46; Psalms 78:3-8; II Timothy 2:2; Judges 2:7-14).
Not long ago, a Worldview Weekend article noted that churches too often sell short young people by dumbing down youth programs, focusing almost exclusively on nothing but fun and games. A teen-age reader of the article responded this way:
All I can say is AMEN !!! I'm a 17 year-old and am so saddened that adults somehow think that they always have to entertain and attract us to youth group. Adults HAVE NO IDEA that half of the kids in their youth groups ARE serious about God but don't ever go deeper because they are still being spoon-fed along with the half that doesn't care!!!! Herein lies the problem; half the teens are so ready to go deeper and grow in their faith but the adults are only teaching us about the complete basics. If adults want teens to grow spiritually then give us something to grow off of. Stop assuming that we don't care. Give us the teaching we crave and the half of us who care will become warriors for God and the half of us who don't care will leave.
Is there a resource that can be offered to parents and grandparents and church leaders to assist them in equipping student with a solid Biblical worldview? Yes, there most certainly is. And at the risk of sounding self-serving, Worldview Weekend has the statistics to prove what it is:
◾83% of adults and students that have attended a Worldview Weekend score as "Solid Biblical Worldview Thinkers."
I'm not suggesting that Worldview Weekends alone are the ultimate solution. What the 83% number shows in contrast to the previous statistics is that when people are taught clearly what the Christian worldview is all about-regardless of where they learn it-it preserves Christian life.
Most of America's Christian families find plenty of time for football practice, baseball practice, soccer practice and their associated games; for cheerleading, gymnastics, music lessons; time with friends, movies, hunting; hours and hours for television; leisure to spend on concerts, evenings out to dinner, professional sporting events; yadda, yadda, yadda. But when it comes to Biblical worldview training, the calendar is too full and interest is minimal, to say the least. How upside down are those priorities?
At this point, I'm supposed to say, "Well, of course those activities are fine and can be a legitimate part of a godly upbringing as long as they are kept in the proper perspective." But I refuse. I won't relent on this point because these activities are virtually never kept in the right perspective with respect to our families' deeper needs to be nurtured in faith that will bring them victory for all eternity-not just at a Friday night ball game. All the "good" things, to borrow a cliché, consume and overwhelm the best things.
Many parents have forgotten or don't even know the many Biblical commandments to train their children in Biblical principles. Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:6-7, 32:46, Psalms 78:3-8, II Timothy 2:2, Judges 2:7-14.
Sadly, this attitude all too often trickles down from "the top." What is important to church members is often what they've seen is important to the pastor. And what is important to parents is generally important to their children.
In very few of our youth or Sunday School programs do teens learn the Biblical worldview for the question of origins (critically needed to confront teachings in every public school in America), much less how we know the Bible is true, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, why we know Jesus is God, or the defense of any other foundational Christian doctrine.
To show you how culpable church leaders can be: A pastor at a church that hosted a Worldview Weekend conference informed one of his staff that the youth "would not be interested" in attending a Worldview Weekend even if it was held at their church. Needless to say, the youth of this church were not present.
Worldview Weekend does not boast the latest rock band or offer all the pizza they can eat, yet students show up with Bibles and notebooks in hand. At our question-and answer sessions, students line up at the microphone. (Sounds like they're interested in worldview to me, pastor.)
On a regular basis, shell-shocked parents contact Worldview Weekend wanting to know what they can do to get co-ed Johnny or Susie back on the "Christian" track once they've left for college. They're beginning to taste the bitter fruit of having spent money, miles, and countless minutes on sports and entertainment-very trivial pursuits in light of seeing a children or grandchildren setting their hearts against the things of the Lord as they grow up.
After fielding questions and e-mails from thousands of students, I can tell you they are eager for worldview training. In fact, they're dying for it (pun intended). What they cannot figure out is why you are not interested and why you think they would not be interested. They even wonder why you don't make them go through worldview training regardless of whether they say they want to or not. After all, your kids were not interested in eating their vegetables, but you made them. They didn't want to sit in a car seat or wear a seat belt, but you insisted. They balked at having to check in with you and tell where they were going with their friends, but you required it. You were resolute in making sure they were physically nurtured and protected, but are you know going to throw them to the wolves spiritually?
Most students say they did not learn enough Bible content growing up to enable them to make biblical life decisions, let alone defend essential Christian doctrines in the face of vicious opposition. That is because no one made them. Hence a crisis in the church and home is upon us. Many of the 88% that are denying their faith before they graduate from college never return because they were never truly saved; they are false converts.

Let’s not just complain about the state of modern Christianity but let’s do something about it. Join us January 2-4, 2014 for Contend 2014 in Memphis, TN, which is centrally located. Check the map and you will see that Memphis is a day’s drive from about half the population in the United States. Parents, if you want to bring your student or a group of students and attend the conference that would be great. If you just want to bring them and then you spend the time exploring Memphis, then that is fine as well. Either way, please partner with us through this ministry opportunity.

Finally in closing, if you agree with our stepping out in faith to host this free Contend 2014 conference please consider helping us with the cost by making a tax deductible contribution on our website at www.worldviewweekendfoundation.com  At the very least, please join us in praying for a great weekend of ministry that will have an eternal impact on the life of these young adults.
Brannon Howse
Worldview Weekend
Worldview Weekend Foundation

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Does the Bible Define a False Convert?

The most terrifying words any professing Christian could ever hear would be the irreversible words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Depart from Me, I never knew you" (Mat. 7:23). Tragically, Jesus will turn away "many" who call Him Lord on judgment day. They are people who may have been loyal to their denomination, who did mighty works and prophesied in His name, yet they will be unqualified to enter into heaven (Mat. 7:21-23). The phrase "Depart from Me" is the final sentence to hell as noted when Jesus uses it again in Mat. 25:41. He declares: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." You would think this unexpected and horrifying judgment would cause Christians to wonder who these people are and, if in fact, they could be one of them. Some would dismiss any idea that the warning applies to them because they know they believe in Jesus. But how do they know their faith is genuine? 
James describes two kinds of faith in his epistle. He contrasts a living, genuine faith that justifies with a dead, spurious faith that gives only a false hope. James is warning professing Christians, whose faith is barren and unfruitful, that they are foolish if they don't recognize their faith is dead and useless (Jas. 2:17, 20). Only genuine faith bears fruit. Faith without works is the faith of the devils, mere intellectual assent without repentance. When James says, "show me your faith," he is asking for evidence of their new life in Christ (Jas. 2:18). Since faith is invisible, it cannot be seen by other men. Likewise, no one can see a gusting wind, but they can see its effects. True faith is vindicated by those who are "doers of the word and not merely hearers" (Jas. 1:22). That is why James said: "I will show you my faith by my works" (Jas. 2:18).
James is in harmony with our Lord Jesus who said those who bear fruit prove to be His disciples (Jn. 15:8). They are the branches that abide in Christ, the Vine. A professing Christian who bears no fruit is separated from Christ (John 15:6). The Lord's illustration makes a distinction between true and false converts, those who bear fruit and those who do not. The fruit reveals whether one is in Christ or separated from Christ. Fruit that glorifies God is the evidence of an abiding, living faith in Christ Jesus. True justifying faith will be evidenced by works and obedience to God's Word. Those abiding in the Vine will live to glorify God while turning from "lawlessness" (Mat. 7:23; John 15:4-8). 
What did Jesus mean when He said, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness"? Clearly, He is omniscient and knows everyone. However, He does not know everyone in the sense of having an abiding, intimate, covenantal relationship with them as His disciples. This is similar to those who say they know Jesus, but do not know Him in a relational, experiential way. They may know that He was a historical person and even believe some facts about what He did, but they may not be personally involved with Him or experience Him in an intimate bond of love. It was for this reason, Paul said, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).

Just as no one will know they are deceived until they are confronted with the truth, no one will know they are a false convert until they experience true conversion. May I lovingly invite you to examine yourself today and test your faith to see if it is genuine (2 Cor. 13:5). If you are truly saved by God's grace, it will give you further assurance of salvation. However, if you fail the tests that are given in James 2 and 1 John, trust the objective Word of God and not your subjective profession of faith. We have several links and resources available if you would like to study this important issue further. You can listen to the broadcast interview I did with my pastor, Jesse Barrington, on False Converts and Biblical Assurance. We also offer a DVD message on False Converts in the Church. If you would like to know how to help people examine their faith, listen to this message given by Jesse Barrington on "Walking Others through Biblical Assurance."