Monthly Archives: April 2010

So You Want A Song of Solomon Woman?

Song of Solomon Woman for Literalist

This is an artist’s rendition of what a “beautiful” or desirable woman would literally look like according to the Song of Solomon. Maybe goats were more aesthetically pleasing back in biblical times. Maybe real beauty is deeper than outward appearances.

Whatever the case,

I received this picture from my OT II class in seminary, but I know not who actually drew it so I don’t know who to give credit to (perhaps they wouldn’t want credit). I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it?

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Nancy Reagan and My Wife, What Do They Have in Common?

Lacey isn’t the wife of the president or even a president. She isn’t politically minded and she isn’t the wife of an actor or former actor. She isn’t famous and she isn’t many other things that Nancy Reagan is or was.

What Lacey does have in common with Nancy Reagan is that she is a great listener and makes it a priority in her life.

Nancy and Ronald Reagan

Several years ago while we were getting ready for dinner, I shared with her that one of many things I appreciate about her is that when I am talking, I know she is listening. Not only does she listen when we are having conversations in the privacy of our home, but anytime I speak she is listening. For instance, if I am doing the announcements on Sunday morning she is listening. If I am facilitating a Core Group, she is listening. If I am preaching, she is listening. She is an intentional and disciplined listener. Unless Elijah or Luke need immediate attention then her eyes are on me (or whoever is talking), respectfully affirming me as a man, husband and leader.

Back to Nancy Reagan. What does Nancy Reagan have to do with Lacey being a good listener? When I was explaining to her how much I appreciated her listening and the affirmation I received from it, she told about the time she heard Nancy Reagan talk about listening to President Reagan. Nancy was doing an interview and said one of the greatest ways that she could respect her husband was when he started talking, her eyes were on him, listening intently. President Reagan gave speeches, and Nancy Reagan listened to speeches. I give announcements and talks, Lacey listens to announcements and talks. Both women listen with their eyes.

The application of being a good listener is endless. Whether it be listening to friends, teachers, preachers or God, intentional listening is a show of respect, teachability and maturity that many people lack (including myself more than I want to admit).

So I guess I want to affirm and acknowledge that Lacey is a great listener and we would all do well to follow her example. I thank God that He has allowed me to have such a partner. I hope her example inspires men and women both to be good listeners for God’s glory through Christ. Because my guess is that Lacey is really only modeling the life of Christ, the greatest listener in the history of the world. Afterall, think of all the prayers he hears each and every day.

Governor Brad Henry Vetoes Another Pro-Baby Bill

The following link is for an article from the front page of the Oklahoman that reports on Governor Brad Henry vetoing a pro-life/anti-abortion bill that passed both the house and the senate in Oklahoma. Article from April 24, 2010

Below is a blog I wrote on April 19, 2007 about Henry vetoing similar legislation. What I tried to do in the blog from 2007 was address Henry’s justification or defense concerning why he vetoed the bill. To summarize, Henry said he vetoed the bill because there was no provision for those who were victims of rape or incest. In short, I argued that two wrongs don’t make a right. I stand by that argument which is why I am reasserting a blog from 2007 that addresses where we are today.

Let me be clear about dissent toward those we don’t agree with, whether public officials or others. We don’t have to be hateful with our words to make our point. We don’t have to threaten people, be disrespectful and call our elected officials names. These actions, and worse, would be detrimental to our ability to be heard. We must however, humbly and clearly express a desire to do what is best for the unborn and their mothers and I’m certain that doing nothing is unloving toward both the mother and the unborn child. Passionately disagreeing with others does not require us to be zealously disrespectful and hateful.

I hope this might encourage you to exercise the freedom you have been given in this country to express concern and appropriate dissent. Again this is from 2007 but very relevant to the article linked above.

Brad Henry’s phone number is: (405) 521-2342. If you care about the defense of the unborn and the mothers who would abort them then you ought to call his office and tell him you are greatly disappointed that he vetoed Senate Bill 714 yesterday. Senate Bill 714 would get state government out of the abortion business by restricting abortions in state-owned facilities or by state employees. In other words, Senate Bill 714 outlaws all abortions, except in the case that the mother’s life is at risk, from being performed at government funded clinics or health facilities. So it prevents the use of my and your tax dollars from funding the murder of a baby. It doesn’t ban all abortion, just ones that are tax payer funded. I don’t want my tax money to be used for something I am against. Do you? Why should I be forced by the government to fund something that I find morally reprehensible?

Henry vetoed the bill saying the measure didn’t protect the rights of women who are victims of rape or incest. (From the Tulsa World) “A person who has been viciously and maliciously raped should have an option – an option after discussing all sides of the issue with her doctor and her family consulting her faith. They should have the option to terminate the pregnancy. This bill does not provide that.”

Before I go on and argue against Henry’s reasons for his veto I want to first say that I am not in any way trying to say that rape and incest aren’t atrocious and horrible acts. They are, but this is not the whole point. Victims of rape and incest deserve our deepest sympathy. After all they are real people just like you and I with real feelings. But this is the exact reason it is wrong for the same people to have abortions. Because they are aborting real people created by God with all the potential that you and I had when we were in the womb of our mother. An abortion is “viciously and maliciously” (Henry’s Words) taking the life of a baby.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Aborting a child because they are the product of violence does not give another person a right to violate someone else with violence. In both cases the person violated is done so against their will. In the case of the unborn baby, they are the most violated of all people since they have no ability to defend themselves. Having an abortion is doing that which the mother did not want done to her.

Furthermore, having an abortion does not necessarily heal the trauma of the rape or incest. In most cases it increases the trauma. I contacted Stillwater Life Service this morning and they said that a lot of research shows that actually going through with the birth of a baby from rape or incest is actually a healing experience. Besides you can imagine why it wouldn’t help because of the following scenario: The mother has already been raped, then she has an abortion and at some point realizes that she has just murdered a baby. What could be worse than that?

Of course, God is a forgiving God through Jesus, but we shouldn’t help people hurt themselves by letting our governor veto legislation that was overwhelming passed in a representative democracy. It’s true, Senate Bill 714 was passed by a vote of 32-16 in the senate and 73-22 in the house. That is an overwhelming vote that Governor Henry somehow managed to ignore. The people that represent you and I, overwhelmingly don’t know what is best for our state, or so Henry’s veto would imply.

So here’s what you can do. You can help override the veto. Efforts will be made to override the veto. Henry would need 17 votes in the senate and 34 votes in the house to sustain the veto. Contact your hometown representative and senator and ask them to override the veto. Ask them how they voted and why they voted the way they did and ask them to override the veto. Because if you don’t make your voice heard, people who voted for the 714 could flop and vote to sustain the veto. Don’t let them flop.

Here is a link to find out who your representative and senator is along with their contact information. Call them. Click here.

You have been told all your life that you have a civic responsibility to be involved, I am saying to you and anyone who will listen you have a divine mandate and responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves which is the very reason the Bible says God instituted government.

Finally, on a more hopeful note, the Supreme Court upheld the partial-birth abortion ban yesterday by a vote of 5-4. George Bush validated his presidency in part with that vote since he is the one who appointed two justices that voted to uphold the ban. Thank God for people who recognize the sacredness of life. May God give us greater conviction to defend the unborn.

Can a Person Live Without Sin in This Life?

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Can a person live perfectly, without sin, in this life?

I think some people read into this that we can be perfect on earth in our day to day living. We are perfect in Jesus (positionally in God’s sight) because Jesus was perfect and His perfect righteousness was imputed (credited) to us, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and it is not our righteousness but His. I don’t believe we can live practically perfect lives in this fallen world, in these fleshly bodies. We have to depend on Jesus perfection while striving by grace through faith for practical righteousness. Striving is a mark of a disciple/believer. I have actually heard people say they haven’t sinned in ____ amount of years. That simply tells me they know nothing of their own depravity or the holiness of God. Also, I think that this verse removed from its context and the greater context of the Bible, ca be taken to teach a works salvation, by which favor from God is earned through our righteous deeds. I think also, if you make this an attainable reality in this life on this earth, you are ignoring clear scripture and will eventually become quite cynical because on this side of heaven it is an impossible goal – practically speaking. 1 Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes. 7:20, 1 John 1:8, Matthew 6:12

I had a seminary professor who said that he believed practical righteousness was attainable in this life after conversion through the power of the Holy Spirit. I respectfully disagree with him and think this text, if interpreted that way, is understood wrongly. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have yet to read about or see such a person, save Jesus. Simply put, God has a standard and it is perfect Jesus accomplished it uniquely and our response is to pursue the standard by faith, in the strength that God supplies. 1 Peter 4:11

One Warning. It would be a massive mistake to think that there is no need to strive for perfection if we can’t attain perfection – practically speaking. Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24 Don’t miss this. Our sins were atoned for so that we might live to righteousness. God sent Jesus to die so that we might live for the glory of God by living righteously, not to earn favor with God, but because we already have favor with God through Jesus. God did not save you by the death of His Son so that you can live like you belong in hell. If you decide to live like hell on this earth then it may be to hell that you will go. Though you may not be perfect in this life, strive gladly for it in the grace of God by faith in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, because you were created for God’s glory and one day you will glorify Him perfectly in heaven.

Strive to live perfect – because in Christ you are perfect in God’s sight – and one day you will be perfect.

A Note of Thanks and Encouragement To Eagle Heights

I provide the content of this thank you note only to share with you the evidence of God’s work in our church. I would caution that we not become proud about such edification, but there is reason to share good news so that we might be thankful to God. One of the joys of being a pastor is knowing many of the good things that God is doing among us, things others may not know about. Remember though, God through Jesus is the end of all of our striving – let’s stay Christ-centered and thankful to God.

Here is a note of thanks and edification from Lacie Habekott. She told her story on April 11th as a part of our “Missions in Spring” emphasis. You can listen to her testimony by clicking on the link (the first 12 minutes is me talking about being blessed to bless – Ps. 67 – and how we spend our blessing) Lacie Habekott talk. Now the note:

Eagle Heights Family – Thank you so much for having me and for you gracious missions gift. I really appreciate the opportunity to share about military ministry and how God is working through our troops. Your church family was so open and I was overwhelmed by your kindness and the grace with which you received me! Your missional heart was so evident and I’m truly grateful and honored to be a partner in ministry with such a vibrant and healthy church that really gets what it mean to be on mission! Thank you for being such a blessing. Love and Gratitude – Lacie Habekott.

I would challenge you to pray for Lacie and her ministry to the military as a partner in Christ Jesus. May she be bold in sharing the only gospel.

Have You Made War? On Sin?

This is worth watching. I find this lacking in my own life – an all out war on the things that war against my soul and my devotion to only one who matters and will make all other things matter in eternity. We war not against people, but against sin and self. Do we? Do you?

8 Trajectories Toward A Gospel That Is No Gospel

I don’t know if it is good blogging etiquette to regurgitate a sermon from a conference, but on Tuesday (April 13) I listened to a message by Dr. Albert Mohler at the Together for The Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, which I found very helpful. The message should be available for listening in the future on the Together For the Gospel Resource Page.  Mohler titled his talk, “How Does It Happen? Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel”. How we get to adjusted gospels is an important to consider because if we do adjust the gospel then we have altered the gospel for what really is no gospel at all. (Galatians 1:6-9) We have heard this and know this and probably taught this – but do we really understand it and the implications? Can we identify the subtle beginnings of an adjusted and different gospel? Is it possible that we have let false gospels seep into our thinking and methodologies?

We better know and understand the gospel and our tendencies and the tendencies of others, because we can neither add or subtract from Paul’s gospel which Paul himself asserts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The objective gospel is not in need of our subjective diagnosis so that we might adjust it, making it more palatable, and that is why  I hope you find Mohler’s talk as helpful as I did because it describes and helps diagnose eight trajectories that would lead us to pollute the pure gospel of Jesus.

The following are all from notes I took from Mohler’s talk. My commentary or interpretation will be signified by italics. See if you notice any of these tendencies in your thinking, life and teaching.

  1. The Modern TrajectoryIn a scientific and advanced world we must accept that the Bible and its supernatural myths are simply the understanding of “rotten toothed, desert tribesman who wore sheepskin.” We must de-mythologize the Bible if we are going to communicate with a scientific and modern world. Mohler rightly says that we are going to have to just admit it, to the astonishment of some, that we believe the inspired tribesman, and just because it seems improbable does not mean that it is impossible for an infinite and sovereign God.
  2. The Postmodern Trajectory – Post-modernity came along and turned modernity into a contemporary myth to go along with the “ancient myths” (the Bible) that modernity exposed. After all, meaning is completely subjective because the reader is the one who identifies truth, not the author. This trajectory leads us to question whether we can know anything about what the authors of the Bible meant.
  3. Moral Trajectory – This category begins to critique the gospel and alter it because it is shocked by the immorality of scripture. For example, hell and wrath seem extreme for a God of love and mercy. How could a good God do those horrible and infinite things to finite creatures. Substitutionary atonement is viewed as “divine child abuse.” God, who loves His own glory, is portrayed as a selfish monster. God has to play fair, as though you can subject an infinite being to the idea of being fair.  This trajectory tries to make God more benevolent, taking off the undesirable and rough edges.
  4. Aesthetic Trajectory – As Christians we use beauty as an apologetic for God by saying that God has created us to see and understand that something is beautiful. We must be careful about making truth judgments based on aesthetic. The cross is not an aesthetically pleasing event and in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve observed that the forbidden tree was pleasing to the eye and good for food. Just because we don’t admire something as beautiful does not mean that we should dismiss it as being unhelpful or even untrue, and just because see something as beautiful does not mean that it is in keeping with the gospel. Looks can be deceiving.
  5. Therapeutic Trajectory – Oprah. Fundamentally we are sinful not sick. Our chief issue in this life is that we are sinners, and it is the root of sinfulness that makes us sick in every sense. We should be careful that we don’t reduce the gospel to trying to make people better without dealing with sin. Sin must be dealt with by faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection. Dealing with dysfunctional lives caused by environment is a secondary issue in the grand scheme of things. Helping someone overcome a dependency does them no good in eternity if they don’t have eternity with God through Jesus.
  6. Pragmatic Trajectory – We have a problem, let’s fix it. All solutions are practical and produce results due to good managerial/leadership skills. This approach is anti-supernatural and does not require God’s strength. I admit that this is my personal weakness as a pastor. With this trajectory the driving force or motivation is often results and numbers – the bottom line. We should do what produces the most and quickest results. When we buy into this system we create programs and ministries that produce crowds that aren’t churches and conversions that are not Christians. This tendency does not wait on God and does not have the confidence to pray and teach God’s word diligently.
  7. Feeling Trajectory – How do you feel about original sin – that your child was born a sinner? Feelings are not irrelevant, but they do not dictate or determine what is true. This tendency puts a premium on what makes a person feel better based on personal preferences and experiences instead of on the word of God and the way God reveals Himself.
  8. Materialist Trajectory (Prosperity Gospel) – The only people (and there are lots of them) living their best life now are people who are on their way to hell. Additionally, people who are living their best life now subscribe only to an “already” eschatology (study of end times) without the “not yet” eschatology. Unfortunately, this kind of tendency tends to appeal to the hurting, the sick and the poor. John MacArthur says that this is the most prominent perversion of the gospel he sees in the United States.

I say again, when the audio for this talk comes out, I highly recommend it for your listening enjoyment and edification. This written recollection  is my best effort to listen and write, while tweeting. I think the most convicting question I asked during the talk was, “Which of these trajectories has the greatest possibility of perverting the gospel that I live, teach and preach to myself, my family and others?” If I slide off into the ditch of another gospel, whether I meant to or not, there will be a great price to pay both now and in the days to come. Deception is subtle but deadly, so let us examine ourselves and pray diligently for strength and wisdom to love the exclusive gospel of Christ.

Young Adults; What is Really Going On In the Church?

I wish I would have put this in earlier but….. It is with much trepidation that I have written this blog. I don’t want to beat parents up – I myself am one and know how hard it can be and I know for me it will only get harder. We all know of parents who have lived and breathed the gospel as best they could only to see their children walk from the faith. It is gut-wrenching and disheartening. Some parents realize too late that they did not do what they should have been doing. Either way, we must depend on God for grace and mercy at every step. The worst thing we could do is ignore the reality of what is happening or could happen. I have two little boys that I love, and I weep over them for their salvation and their devotion to Jesus. Join me in longing that our children would long for Jesus. May God give us a balance of joy and mourning as we move forward together, however hard it may be. How Do I Become a Christian?

Soberly consider this statement and question:

Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions on youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey Scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure. Michael Spencer from: Coming Evangelical Collapse

If we can’t retain our children in the faith, what is really going on in the church? Richard Ross

The statistics vary concerning the dropout rate for churchgoing young adults (ages 18 to 30), but they don’t vary enough to dismiss the reality that we are losing our children at alarming rates. In Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts, Thom and Sam Rainer report that 70% of young adults drop out between the ages of 18 to 22 years. If you have attended enough meetings you will find that others estimate the number is closer to 90%. Any percent is one percent too many, but for certain the alarming numbers beg the question, “What can we do?”

I agree with Jeremy Freeman (Evangelism: Making Converts vs. Making Disciples), I don’t think that the solution to this problem is a denominational fix. As a matter of fact, I think the solution to this particular challenge is going to have to start at a much more fundamental level – in the home. The church should and will have to  play a big role in equipping parents to get the gospel to their children, but until we have Spirit-filled and empowered parents taking the primary responsibility for making disciples of their children, we are going to continue to see an evangelical collapse.

I recently attended the Missional Ministry Conference in Norman, Oklahoma and during one of the optional times I inadvertently ended up in a youth minister’s breakout. The time was led by Richard Ross who has been doing youth ministry for 30 years and is now a “professor to the next generation of youth ministers” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He began the session by alluding to the alarming drop-out rate of our young adults who have exited our youth groups and said, “We have found out that pizzas and lock-ins didn’t do it, so what is the problem?”

The problem is youth ministers and youth ministries should not be the primary strategy for making disciples of children. The home should be the primary place and parents should be the primary teachers. Ross illustrated this by using chairs to describe three kinds of parents and the kind of children they raise.

Categories of Parents

  • Chair 1 Parents – Chair number one parents deeply love Jesus and it shows in all their life. These parents look at everything through the lens of scripture in allegiance to Jesus and make decisions accordingly and their children see it. They are not perfect parents but they live all of life for the praise of God’s glory.
  • Chair 2 Parents – Chair number two parents are good people who mildly enjoy church. Ross calls these people, “good ‘ole Baptists.” They go to church and may be somewhat active in serving and giving, but at home their life does not reflect a comprehensively biblical faith that is devoted to God’s glory through Jesus. In the life of these parents their children see a disconnect between everday life and church or spiritual life.
  • Chair 3 Parents – Chair number three represents “pagan parents” or openly unbelieving parents. These parents go with the flow and have no interest in religion or faith as evidenced for example by their lack of connectedness to any church.

Results of the Three Parent Categories

It is worth noting that there are exceptions to these generalizations about parents and children, but Ross pointed out that the research he was using revealed the following results.

  • Chair 1 Results – Parents who are first chair parents tend to have first chair children. Again, sometimes first chair parents will have third chair children and most of us have seen this, but they primarily raise first chair children.
  • Chair 2 Results – Second chair parents raise third chair children. Ross asserts that this often is not seen immediately in the life of the child, but later on in life this child becomes a pagan person and parent instead of holding the middle ground.
  • Chair 3 Results – Third chair parents raise pagan kids –  with “wonderful exceptions.”

Why? Why is there no middle ground for parenting if we want to raise up disciples instead of “pagans” or unbelievers? Ross says, “Profession without life is a disconnect for children. There is no middle ground.” It would concern me if any seasoned Christian were surprised by this since Ross is essentially echoing the Bible and Deuteronomy 6:1-9 when Moses writes that the word of God and the application of it is to be a part the life of the family at every opportunity. In verse 7 the Moses instructs that the people of God are to diligently teach their children the word of God. Surely, if that has changed it is only in our minds and not in the word of God. Christian parents ought to be the primary disciple makers in their family. The book of 1 Timothy illustrates this point in the NT by asserting that a man must be able to manage his own house if he is to hold an office of leadership in the local church. It makes perfect sense doesn’t it? Why would we put someone in leadership over others in the local church if they can’t even discipline themselves to make disciples in their own home?

Ross also referenced the George Barna Research Group as saying that the foundations of faith are crystallized by the age of 13 years. Obviously that does not mean a child will be set doctrinally and theologically by that age, but even Richard Dawkins, “the world’s most famous atheist”, knows that if you can “indoctrinate” a child early on, they will have a faith foundation for the rest of their life. Children need to see and know that God is real in the lives of their parents and that in seeing it visibly lived out they also can bank all of life on the God of the Bible just as mom and dad have. If they don’t see a devotion to God in the lives of dad and mom why would they be more devoted? Christianity is not a half-hearted religion or faith. God demands that we love Him with all of our hearts and the reality is that we simply cannot hope that our children will be something that their parents are not. Life just doesn’t work that way. As the saying goes, “If you want the people you lead to bleed (Jesus), then you are going to have to hemorrhage (Jesus).

I am not saying that parents in the church I pastor are not trying to make disciples of their children (I know quite the opposite) and I of course can’t speak for other churches entirely, but I can connect the dots and I have been enough places to know that we are not winning the battle for the hearts and minds of our children in our “Christan” homes the way that God intended in His Holy word. Neither am I saying that evangelical Christianity (The Church) is on the verge of collapse for this reason alone, but I have to believe that this has as much to do with it, if not more, than our methodology deficiencies or need for denominational restructuring and reform. What I guess I am saying is that we have to help families do what the Bible says they need to be doing, and perhaps more than anything we need the Spirit of God to bring about a revival for loving and doing the word of God in our homes.

A Word About Youth Ministry and Local Churches

I want to tack on one other thought in defense of youth ministers. I am a pastor who has the privilege of working with a fantastic youth minister. He loves Jesus and loves our students and works very hard for God’s glory, but it is not his job to be the primary disciple maker of youth in our church body. It is the parents job. I’ll say it again, it is not the youth minister’s job, biblically speaking, to disciple the children of Christian parents. He may be an important influence and supplement in the lives of youth, but the parents should be the primary disciple makers in the life of their children. If the parents are ill equipped to make the home the primary place of discipleship, it is the churches place to equip and train and encourage them to be the kind of teachers and models that God intended them to be. If we have children and youth who have unbelieving parents, it is the churches job to take on more of the responsibility. If a home is a single parent home, it is the churches responsibility to partner with that single parent as much as they can to get the gospel to that person’s children. I am not trying to get the local church off the hook, but lets not make it so the youth pastor is beating himself up trying to keep children out of the third chair because the parents are doing a second or third chair job. Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that parents are the anti-drug because studies show that if a parent is involved in the life of their child and will listen, the child will be less likely to do drugs. Parents have influence even if they don’t know it, and they should use it to point their children to Jesus.

Ministries for children and youth should be supplemental. Christian parents must take responsibility to disciple their children, and pastors and churches must help them see and live this. If we do not grasp this with a deep and life-changing conviction our churches are going to bleed to death because we did not retain young adults. And all of what I have said only begs other questions. For example, if a person walks away from the local church made up of people Christ died to forgive, is that person really even a Christian. But that will have to be for another time.

Becoming a Christian and Knowing You Are a Christian

How Do I Become A Christian?

“Christianity is a rescue religion. It declares that God has taken the initiative in Jesus Christ, to deliver us from our sins. This is the main theme of the Bible.” John Stott

The main theme running through the whole of the Bible is that a perfect and holy God is redeeming sinful and imperfect people through Jesus Christ for the praise of His glory. (Ephesians Chapter 1)

In the beginning God created a perfect world, a perfect man and a perfect woman.
But perfection was not enough and the man and woman violated God’s only prohibition (Genesis 2:15-17) and when they did they plunged mankind into sin. (Genesis 3:14-19) From that point on the human race has been infected with sin through the first man, Adam. Man is born a sinner and is an enemy of God and acts out of a fallen nature. (Genesis Ch. 1-3;  1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

But the story does not end there. Despite the fact that we are all sinners and children of wrath, (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1-4) God being rich in mercy sent Jesus the Son who is God in flesh, (Hebrews 2:14) to live without sin and fulfill God’s perfect moral standard that we have all violated, to die as sin on our behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13) On the cross, Jesus absorbed the wrath that we deserved for sinning against an infinitely holy God. (Colossians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:24-25) Because God is infinitely holy, we deserved infinite wrath and punishment.

“But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Ephesians 2:4-5

So What Do I Do?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:14

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him (God) who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not pass into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

You acknowledge your sin before a holy creator God and you repent of your sin toward God and believe in Jesus for the  forgiveness of your sin. (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21)You call upon the name of the Lord. (Romans 10:13) You trust only in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on the cross because you can’t work for or earn your salvation. (Ephesians 2:7-10) You confess with your mouth and believe with your heart that Jesus lived and died for your sins and was raised from the dead victorious over sin. (Romans 10:8-11) Becoming a Christian happens by grace through faith alone. Baptism won’t save you. Church attendance won’t save you. Praying won’t save you. Trusting in Jesus alone is the only way to be saved. (John 14:6)

What does this mean? How do I know I am a Christian?

When a person hears the word of God and believes through the work of the Holy Spirit, God puts His Spirit in us. (Ephesians 1:13) We become a new creation. We become something other than what we were. In Christ Jesus we are meant to do good works. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10) We don’t do good works or obey God because we need to earn His approval. Christianity moves us from trying to earn righteousness to having righteousness in Christ, and this is not of yourselves but is a gift from God through Jesus. Jesus already earned our salvation on the cross if we believe in His finished work, but since we are a new creation, God’s Spirit produces in us the things of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) We know we are saved and in Christ when we want to love God and others. (1 John 3:23-24) We know we are saved when we abide in His word. (2 John 9) Jesus died and paid for our sins so that we might live to righteousness and not to sin. (1 Peter 2:24) You were created for God’s glory, (Isaiah 43:6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:31) and a new creation will want to live for God’s glory by obeying His commands. You were saved not by your own good deeds or works but by the blood of Jesus. Trust in it alone and God will produce in you fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8) An absence of evidence or fruit that is produced by the Spirit of God may in fact mean you are not really saved. Paul calls on every Christian to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5)

At Eagle Heights we are committed to helping you in this journey. If you have any questions or want to begin your new life with Christ, contact us any time. We would love to talk with you about Jesus, the one who rescues us from our sin.

From Cowards to Martyrs – The Power of the Resurrection

A Depiction of Peter's Martyrdom; Crucified Upside Down

I’ve read quite a lot about the resurrection and the case for it. Lee Strobel calls it the “best attested fact in ancient history.” The one historical fact that I can’t get over is the willingness of the apostles to die for the Jesus they tried desperately to disown. I am fully aware the people will die for a lie. Many have. But would a group of twelve men, everyone of them, lay down their life for a lie? If Jesus was a sinner, a mere human, just like His disciples, isn’t it likely that James, Jesus’ half brother, would have remembered the time adolescent Jesus stole a piece of bread from the market or back-talked to his mom? Wouldn’t he have thought in the moment that he was about to brutally die for his brother, “Jesus wasn’t really the messiah and there is no way I am dying for lying that He was and is. It was the people that knew Jesus the best that gave the most after He was resurrected.

Again, there is so much evidence for the resurrection, but it seems significant that the men who once were locked away in a room because they were scared of the same people who had Jesus crucified, are the ones who eventually gave their lives for Jesus. Not only that, but apparently they were so convincing that people like the gospel writers Mark and Luke also gave their lives for Jesus, though they never physically saw Him; as far as we know.  The bottom line is this, the apostles believed that Jesus was resurrected and they lived like it.

Here is a list of some of the apostles and men they influenced who gave their lives for the Jesus the saw, heard and touched. (1 John 1:1-3) (There is some debate about the details of the deaths of these men, but it is certain that all but John died for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I tried to use the best sources. If you know differently, please feel free to correct what I have.)

James the Great – Apostle According to Luke, in the Book of Acts, James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord (his mother Salome was the cousin of Mary).  It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that this second martyrdom took place.  Herod Agrippa upon being appointed governor of Judea, raised a sharp persecution against the Christians and was determined to make an effective blow against the Church by striking at their leaders.  The account given to us by Clemens Alexandrinus, tells us that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repentance by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness.  Falling at James’ feet to request his pardon, he professed himself a Christian and resolved that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone.  So, they were both beheaded.  Two others were martyred at about the same time, Timon and Parmenas; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia.  These events took place A.D. 44. (Foxe’s book of Martyrs)
Philip – Apostle Born at Bethsaida, in Galilee, he was first to be called by the name of “disciple”.  He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia.  He was flogged, thrown into prison, and crucified in A.D. 54. (Foxe’s)
Matthew  – Apostle Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer was born in Nazareth.  He wrote his gospel in Hebrew (some state Aramaic), which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less.  The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, in A.D. 60. (Foxe’s)
James The half brother of Jesus.  He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the Epistle of James.  At the age of ninety-four he was beaten and stoned by the Jews; and (taken to the roof of the temple, thrown off then) finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club. (Foxe’s)
Matthias – Apostle Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas.  He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded. (Foxe’s)
Andrew – Apostle Was the brother of Peter.  He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground.  Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew’s Cross. (Foxe’s)
Mark – Gospel Writer Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi.  He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as a secretary, and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language.  Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, as a sacrifice to Serapis their idol. (Foxe’s)
Peter – Apostle Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified at Rome.  Jerome wrote that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, at his request, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord. (Foxe’s)
Paul – Apostle Paul, the apostle, following his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in the first persecution under Nero.  Paul, a prisoner in Rome, taught daily those who would come to him.  Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of Paul’s death.  Coming to Paul, and finding him instructing a crowd of people, asked Paul pray for them, that they might believe.  Paul told them that shortly after they should believe, they should be baptized at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers, gave his neck to the sword. (Foxe’s)
Jude – Apostle The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus.  He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72. Preached in several countries, and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country.  He was eventually beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters. (Foxe’s)
Thomas – Apostle Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear. (Foxe’s)
Luke – Gospel Writer The evangelist, author of the Gospel which goes under his name and the book of Acts.  He travelled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece. (Foxe’s)
Simon – Apostle Surnamed Zealots, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and Britain, where he was crucified in A.D. 74. (Foxe’s)
John – Apostle The “beloved disciple,” was brother to James the Great.  The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him.  From Ephesus, he was sent to Rome where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil.  He escaped death, by miracle.   Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos; it is assumed to be a laborer in the mines, where he wrote the Book of Revelation.  Nerva, the successor of Domitian, released him.  He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.(Foxe’s)
Barnabas – Apostle Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73. (Fox’s)
Bartholomew – Apostle (Also known as Nathaniel) was flayed alive (skinned) and then beheaded; some sources locate his death at Derbend on the Caspian Sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_of_the_Twelve_Apostles)