God's voice

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis

Friday, April 4, 2014

God in My Huge Box

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I find that I so often put God into a box.  I look at that box and I say to myself, “WOW! I really serve a big God.”  I look at other people’s God and the box they have Him in is always smaller (yeah I get delusional at times).

Not long ago I was reading about how Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for us in John 14:2 where it says “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  I got to thinking about what does it say in the Greek about my fathers “house” and “mansions”. I got out my Strong’s Concordance and found pretty much what I expected.

“House” is a family dwelling and “mansion” is a residence.  So in God’s house we get a room to live in.  That really didn’t seem that great.  Nothing much to be excited about.  If I was a good little Christian boy I might even get a few rooms to live in.

I looked at the verse and asked God about it.  I didn’t really see much in this verse that God could tell me about but hey, maybe God was smarter then I was and could shine a small light on something new.  This is approximately how my conversation went with that still small voice:

God: Where is my house?

Me: In Heaven.  Its beautiful there with a huge throne room, lightning and thunder, angels everywhere and people worshipping you.

God: Where is my house?

Me: Oh! You mean inside me?

God: Where is my house?

A confused me: Um….what do you mean?

God: Where do I live?

Me: Well, you’re in my heart. (quiet) You’re in Heaven. (quiet) You’re um….everywhere.

God: Where is everywhere?

Me being dumb: Well, its everywhere. (quiet) You live here and in Heaven.  I guess you fill the whole Universe and every other dimension there is.

God: I live in all of existence and in all of time.  My house is far more then a simple building of wood or stone.  The place that is being prepared for you is far greater then a room or mansion.

Me in wonder: The universe is your home and you have a place for each Christian someplace in your universe.  Wow! You mean like I will get a world or maybe even a solar system in the Milky way as my own place to live in?  That is so cool Lord.

God: You think small, child.

Me stunned: But… Lord that’s huge.  How could you…?

Then it hit me.  God reminded me of a You Tube video I once saw (video here) which showed two pictures that the Hubble telescope had taken.  The pictures took 10 and 11 days each with the telescope pointing into a dark patch of space.  What they found were thousands of galaxies with millions of stars in each one.  There must be billions of galaxies out there.  Could each one of them be a residence that Jesus is preparing for us?

I don’t know for sure that this is what God has prepared for us.  I do know that we think to small when it comes to God.  I would not put it past him to have a galaxy for each of us, but with a God as big and as great as ours, He could prepare a whole universe for us if He wanted.  I did learn one thing for sure.  Don’t limit what God can do for you.

Photo Credit: God in box on shelf by Stan Connell

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is Baptism needed for Salvation?

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If baptism is not needed for salvation then why does the Bible command us to be baptized?  It’s a good question, so lets take a look at some scriptures concerning baptism and salvation.

Acts 22:16 is the account of where Ananias tells Saul (later to be called Paul), “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Notice how there is an “and” between “baptized” and “wash away thy sins”, but there is no “and” found between “wash away thy sins” and “Calling on the name of the lord?  The “and” separates “baptized” from the “washed away thy sins,” but does not separate “washed away thy sins” from “calling on the name of the Lord.”  To have your sins washed away you need to call upon the name of the lord.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”

Paul retells the gospel which he had preached to the Corinthian Church by which they were saved, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” That is the gospel.  That is the key to how the Christians in Corinth were saved.  Paul did not preach the need for baptism to be saved but only that they receive what Jesus had done for them.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:17a “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:…” Baptism is not part of the gospel.  It is separate and does not save.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Jesus’ death and resurrection for the sins of the world.

Acts 2:38 says, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This is probably one of the best verses to support baptism for salvation.  Before we go into this verse, lets see what Peter said before this in Acts 2:21 “and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Also in Acts 3:19a, when preaching his sermon from Solomon's portico in the Temple, he says “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” Again no mention of needing to be baptized.

If Peter believes you need to be baptized to be saved why doesn’t he always say so? Why would he say you need to be baptized in one verse but not say it in the others?  To answer that we need to go to the Greek. 

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  We are going to look at that little word “for” which in the Greek is “gar”.  Gar has many translations.  It is used for assigning a reason (used in arguments, explanations and intensification).  Another word that gar can be translated as is “because”  That little word changes everything.  Repent and be baptized because your sins are gone.

Peter in Acts 10 went to see Cornelius in C├Žsarea. Verses 44 to 48 reads, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”

Order of actions is: 1. Peter spoke. 2. The Holy Spirit came to those who heard Peter’s words. 3. They were baptized. The baptism was the result of God’s work within them. They were Christian believes who the Holy Spirit had come and dwelt within them and then they were baptized.  We are all to be baptized (outward expression) because our sins are forgiven, (an inward work)  It was true then and it is true today.

In the previous post “History of Baptism” I told how Baptism was done in the times of Jesus.  If baptism was required for salvation then we would have to do it right and that is how Jesus was baptized.  Where you baptized in living water (stream, river or ocean) or in a mikvah (large container of water which came from a natural source such as rain)?  Where you touched when baptized (which can prevent water from reaching all your skin)?  In fact in those times anyone who was baptized was naked.  Were you wearing anything at the time of your baptism?  If you don’t meet these requirements then you were not truly baptized properly.  Does that mean your not saved?

Going under the waters are figurative for dying,  just as Jesus died. Coming out of the water is figurative to rebirth and resurrection just as Jesus was raised from the dead.  To say that a person must reenact the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation is to add something we must do to be saved.  It is no longer a gift but something we must earn by being baptized.  Just before Jesus died he said “It is finished” It was the exact words used by merchants when a debt was paid.  It meant “Paid in full”

To say baptism is needed to be saved, is to say his death on the cross was not sufficient.  You still have to do something else to add to the work of God. 

I will say no more but I pray that you will read this and pray about it.  I can not change your mind even if I should write a thousand pages.  The only one who can show you what is true is the Holy Spirit.  Pray and ask Him to show you what is true.  I have searched this subject thoroughly for hours, not just to win some foolish argument but) to find out what the truth is. If I was wrong I would have been praising God to have found out something new about Him and His word.  The truth that I found is this: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2: 8-9

Previous post on the subject of baptism: Salvation by Faith Alone–Scripture and History of Baptism

Photo Credit: The Power of the Blood of Jesus Christ by Unlocking TheBible

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

History of Baptism

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Is baptism a requirement for salvation?  Acts 2:38 says “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

In order to fully understand what baptism is to Peter we need to go back to what Baptism meant to the Jews of his time.  The Jewish term for baptism is “Tevilah”.  Tivilah is a ritual bathing (totally immersion) within living water such as a stream or using a mikvah (a specially constructed ritual bath which required to hold at least 120 gallons of water and came from a natural source such as rain.  The water for a mikvah could not come from a well or cistern.

Tevilah is required when someone converts to Judaism.  When the person was baptized he would walk down into the water and crouch down under it so that he was totally covered.  That way no contact with the person overseeing the baptism prevented the water from reaching their whole body.

John the Baptist (Yochanan ha Matbil)  would preach to the crowds for repentance of their sins.  People were convicted and came down to express their change of heart by baptism.  To show that they were converted to a new way of life they would immerse themselves under the water.  John would not do the actual immersion himself, but oversaw their Baptism. John would make sure that the ritual was done properly and that the person completely immersed himself under the water.

Baptism was the outward action of the person to show, in a spiritual ritual, what had occurred within their heart.  A person who converted to Judaism believed that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the one true God and the old testament was God’s word.  They gave themselves to God so that they might worship, serve and know Him.  The Tevilah was simply the ritual to show that he was now dead to serving his previous gods and was now alive to serve the one true God.

The word we translate as Baptism literally means “ total immersion”.  It refers to something being immersed into another substance so that it might take on the attributes of that substance.  It is like immersing a cloth into a dye so that the cloth can take up the color of the dye.

When Tevilah takes place it is done in living water (moving water).  Jesus uses the term living water when he speaks in John 7: 37-38 “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)”

When we are baptized we are performing a ritual to express what has happened with us in the spiritual realm.  We are buried in Christ.  We are no longer living as our old sinful self but our sins are removed from us by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are immersed in living water (the Holy Spirit) who permeates our being and now lives within us.  We are raised alive in a new birth with God indwelling inside us.

Now that I have spoken on what Baptism is I will say more on its relation to Salvation in my next post.

Photo Credit: River baptism in New Bern by Jaaziel

Monday, March 10, 2014

Salvation by Faith Alone–Scripture

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I met someone on Facebook who I wanted to get to know better.  He knew his scriptures so I asked what he believed.  He told me that concerning salvation he believed you must believe and be baptized.  “But i'm not willing to teach faith alone I'm not willing to stake my soul or anyone i teach soul on faith alone.”

To answer him I told him I would write in this blog why I believe in faith alone for salvation.  This will take at least a couple of post. In this post I will share some of the scriptures which support salvation coming by faith in Jesus Christ and how nothing we do can add to the salvation of our souls.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” Romans 5:1

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16

“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” Philippians 3:9  

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:6

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Romans 10:9

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18

“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5

If you want to find more verses on salvation by faith, there are many more you can read.  Galatians 3:1-29 and Romans 4: 1-25 are some larger portions of Scriptures on the subject.   I will say more in my next post, but how can I say anything more powerful than what God says in his own word?

Photo Credit: “For by Grace…” by Sharon

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Israel.

Russia is about to invade Ukraine.  People thought that the Russian Bear from the cold war era was weak and declawed.  If that was the case then how could the Bible Prophecy be fulfilled about Gog (Russian leader) and Magog (Russia) coming down to invade Israel?  Until now, people thought Russia was not a geo-political treat in the world any more. 

Russia has to hold onto its only warm water port of Sevastopol which is in Crimea, Ukraine.  With out the port they will lose their standing as a world power.  Their Navy would be crippled with only ports that are open in warm weather.  They have almost no choice but to either take the Ukraine or trust to the people of Ukraine allowing them to keep the port.

This does not seem like something prophetic but it is an essential step in drawing Russia down into an attack of Israel.  The world will undoubtedly put  economic sanctions on Russia for their actions in the Ukraine.  Russia can not afford such economic stress upon their economy.  To help, Russia will need some economically rich area to lift their financial hardships.  The richest country in the middle east is Israel.  They have food, industry, and are even wealthy with oil now.

Yes, Israel has an estimated 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off its coast.  Russia has tried to make a deal with Israel over the natural gas field.  Russia wants that gas.  Israel is now self sufficient and who knows how much more might be found.  Israel is a multi faceted prize to anyone who can take it.

If economic sanctions are placed upon Russia, they might see the only way to survive as going after Israel.  No one will stop them from going into Ukraine.  Who would stop them from taking Israel?  Europe would not try to stop Russia from invading Israel.  The United States has shown in the last few years that it has no back bone and while other nations are increasing their military, the U.S. is cutting theirs. The Obama administration has distanced us from supporting of Israel and instead has supported the Arabs.  No nation will stand between Russia and Israel. 

“Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:” Ezekiel 39:1

The whole story of Russia coming down to invade Israel is found in Ezekiel 38-39.  You will find it very interesting.

Am I right?  Is this the next step in Bible prophecy that is about to occur?  We will have to watch and see.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God’s Pride

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James had just met Russ while at a ballgame and hit it off right away.  They talked about the game going on and the players.  When they sat just watching the game for a couple of minutes and didn’t talk, James turned to Russ saying, “Hey, the opposing pitcher reminds me a little bit of Ashton Kutcher.  Did you know he is from Iowa?  He lived just down the block from me.  We went to school together in Clear Creek Amana and were best friends.”

Would you say that James is proud to know Ashton Kutcher? Of course he is and whenever he gets the chance he wants everyone to know that he and Ashton are friends.  He can always find a way to slip into the conversation the person he is the most proud to know.  Now let’s take a look at another conversation by someone who knows me.

Jesus was sitting on his throne beside God the Father while looking over the earth and all the people on it.  God turns to Jesus and smiles.  “Son, did you see that nova I just created in the Orion constellation?”

Jesus looks to the father and nods.  “It was beautiful and so bright.”

Then with a smile he adds, “Speaking of bright and beautiful, did you see David today?  He was teaching a Bible Study and asked for our help to make my truth known to the class.  I want to open up the hearts of those in the class more than usual in answer to his prayer.  He is wonderful and I love him so much.”

While Jesus is up in heaven Romans 8:34 says he is interceding for us.  He is constantly bringing to God our names and requests.  He is so proud of you that he is always slipping your name into the conversation.  He loves you and is never afraid to be associated with you.

How proud of Jesus are you?

Photo Credit: Christ as Judge 2 by Waiting for the Word

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Write a Christian Blog

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You can find a lot of sites telling you how to write a blog.  If you need to know how to write a simple blog then I suggest you just Google it, but if you want to know how to write a Christian blog then read on.  I think you will find a few pointers that too many Christians miss.

  1. This blog is not yours but Gods.  If you want to glorify yourself and show off your great writing skills that’s fine but it is a blog written by a Christian and not a Christian blog.  Don’t just dedicate your blog to the Lord but give it to Him and let Him have control of it.
  2. Let God speak.  It is so easy to find things we want to write about in a blog.  If this was your blog that would be fine, but it is not yours.  You are merely the vessel God is using to speak.  Prayerfully ask God what He has for you to write.  Read His word. Quietly listen for that still small voice to speak to you.  God will show you what is on His heart for you to write. Wait for Him.
  3. Rightly divide the Word of God.  It is very easy to find a verse that will say what you want it to say.  All you have to do is ignore what it really says.  Even if the subject your talking about is Godly, that does not mean you can take a verse out of context to prove what your saying.  Today in my time with the lord I had an insight into a verse that I had never had before.  I was going to blog to everyone what God had shown me.  The first thing I did was study closely what that verse said and I found that I was not only wrong in what I  thought that verse said but the theology I had taken from it was totally wrong as well.  If you accidentally do blog something that is not scriptural then humbly admit it and correct or delete the blog post entirely.
  4. Pray. Pray about your blog even before you set up your blog.  Be in His presence constantly as you set it up, before every post, when writing your post, and when posting it on your blog site.  This is God’s blog and you can not do this job without Him.  It is in His presence that you will find the answers to everything you need for the blog.
  5. Forget the numbers.  One thing I find myself falling into is seeing how many people are reading my blog.  I take pride in how many there are.  Its fun to see the numbers going up.  When you start your blog, pray that God will bring the people He desires to read what you post.  If you have 2 people read your post, those 2 people are the ones God has brought to read and learn from what He has said through you.  Forget the numbers.  They are not important.  What is important is that you follow God’s leading in what you write and then rest in faith that He is in control of how He uses what is written.
  6. You will make mistakes.  You probably already figured out that your not perfect.  Remember that as you work your blog.  What you write is not Scripture.  If someone criticizes something you posted, humbly consider it and see if what they say is true.  They could be God’s way of saying your post is not what He wanted to say.
  7. Love. You are God's tool and His steward.  That means it is your blog to work but only as His representative. Anything you say must be out of His love.  If someone gets nasty with you about anything in the blog, you are to love them as Jesus would.  God is love and everyone must see that in the blog where you are God’s representative.

If you follow these 7 points you will be a blessing to our Lord Jesus, to those who read your blog post, and to all those in your life.  The greatest blessing of writing a Christian Blog is the fellowship you have with our Savior and Editor, Jesus Christ.

Photo Credit: Year C: Second Sunday of Lent by Stephen Cuyos