Month: August 2014

Redefining Marriage Doesn’t Define My Marriage

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“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” -Ephesians 5:25 

I love my wife. She is a stream of wisdom, a gracious counselor, servant-hearted Mom, and a beautiful work of art. I am glad God united us together in marriage and we get to spend the rest of our lives in a covenantal relationship.

Today, marriage is being attacked. The government, media, and citizens are calling marriage something other than a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. For instance, heterosexual couples are living together (co-habitating) and engaging in premarital sex for lifestyle benefits. This belittles and undermines the sacredness and moral purity of marriage. The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender (LBGT) community are fighting for their rights to have a homosexual union when the Bible clearly forbids it (Gen. 2:22-24; Lev. 18:22-23; Deut. 24:5; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Some professing Christians are perverting the idea of submission for control and dominance. Instead of loving their wives sacrificially, they are mistreating God’s sacred vessel. These examples demonstrate mankind’s temptation to redefine marriage in their own image rather than what God says.

Marriage can’t be defined by mankind. It is an institution that God has objectively ordained from the beginning of creation until now for fellowship, procreation, and most importantly, to honor God. The Scripture teaches us that God wants marriage to be a reflection for His love towards the Church. The body of believers that make up the church are collectively called the bride of Christ. As the Bridegroom, Jesus gave His life for the bride, to make her “holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.” When Christ comes back to Earth, the official wedding ceremony will begin. From that point forward, the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be completed. Are you looking forward to that day? I hope so!

Application

Read through the following passages that discuss marriage: Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 19:6; 2 Cor. 6:14;  Eph. 5:22-29. Think about the importance of marriage and how it affects you personally and socially. Come up with a strategy to effectively argue against cohabitation, gay marriage, and male chauvinism.

Prayer

Father, you know that an absolutist, objective view on marriage is not popular today by the culture. Please give us wisdom and humility as we explain to others your view that marriage is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. I pray that our conversations with others would be filled with love and grace, and that maliciousness and pride would not get in the way. Thanks again for the gift of marriage. May we cherish and esteem it above all things. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Importance of Being Baptized in Jesus’ Name

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38

Everyone has a name. My last name represents my forefathers, heritage, and personal identity. When I go to the bank, I need to have my driver’s license with me to prove my last name matches the banking account. When I travel overseas, I need my passport to get through customs. It’s apparent that my last name is integral to everything I do, representing what is true about who I am as a person.

Jesus Christ is no ordinary name. It mean’s the “Anointed Messiah,” and represents the Creator of the universe. To be baptized in His name is a sign of identifying with God, imitating His character, and living your life for His glory. When a Christian get’s baptized, they are informing the world that they have died to their self, going under the water, and being raised again in new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:27 states, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Therefore, a Christian’s life is identified with the blood of Christ, and that’s when we are united into his death, burial, and resurrection.

There are two extremes concerning baptism. One view holds that water baptism automatically saves you (Baptismal Regeneration). The other view minimalizes baptism out of a false eagerness to promote grace rather than works. The problem with this is that baptism is not a work that we do. As Christians, we aren’t baptized in our own name or power, but in the power of Christ. It’s not our work, it’s all about the glory, honor, and performance of God.

With that being said, does baptism save you? Yes and no. No in that there is nothing in the physical water that has a magical formula to save you. People have gone under the water in baptism and continued living a rebellious, sinful life without God. They are not saved. Yes in that if you are trusting in Jesus to save you from your sins, it is the “timing” in which God applies regeneration to the individual. As Peter makes clear, “Baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a clean conscience (1 Pet. 3:28).”

For more information about what the Scripture teaches concerning Baptism (Matthew 21:25; Luke 12:50; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:47) please go here.

The Dieography of Christ

 

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“If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, we of all people are most to be pitied.” – Apostle Paul 

Daniel Webster was a leading American Senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He participated in important U.S. Supreme Court cases, which bolstered the authority of the Federal government. His biography, which contains 863 pages, focuses on his personal life, family, and career. Only five pages are devoted to his death. Abraham Lincoln, former President and leader for the abolition of slavery, has a 5,000 page biography. Only 25 pages describe his heart-wrenching assassination and death. You would expect both of these men to have their biography focus primarily on their life and not their death.

The man Jesus Christ was different. His biography of the 4 gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, was more like a dieography. One-third of Matthew and Mark, one-fourth of Luke, and over one-half of John spoke about His death. Why is this so? Is it because Jesus’ main mission was to come into the world, glorify the Father, and die for the sins of mankind? I believe so. The most famous passage quoted in Scripture is John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” What’s awesome is that Jesus conquered death. He rose again on the 3rd day and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Though most of the events surround his death, it’s because of his biography, unlike others, continues beyond the grave.

Be thankful that God has died for you. If He chose to abandon us, we would still be dead in our sins and perish in Hell. However, He chose to pursue us with love and send Jesus to take our punishment. Thank you Jesus for extending your marvelous grace to us by dying on the cross. We give you all the praise, glory, and honor in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Breaking the Chain of Addiction

Broad_chain_closeup“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Introduction: I chewed tobacco for seven years of my life. At first, I enjoyed this drug because it offered me false security, pleasure, and relief from difficult circumstances. When I studied for an exam, I could put a chew in my mouth. After I ate dinner, I grabbed my can of Grizzly Wintergreen and chucked it in my mouth.

However, one day I realized my desire to chew spiraled to an addiction. I couldn’t handle not having it. It got so bad I would fall asleep with it in my mouth. While I talked to people, I concealed it in my mouth and swallowed it instead of spitting it in a bottle. Knowing the health risks and embarassing habit it was, I wanted to break this chain of addiction.

At first, I tried nicorette gum. It mimicked the feeling, but I missed the taste and experience of having dip in my mouth. I resorted to the patch, but that made me dizzy, upset my stomach, and it cost about $50 dollars! I had no choice but to quit cold Turkey. I was only a believer for about a year and underemphaized the power of God to destroy this addiction. After humbling myself, I prayed, asked God for help, and within a couple of days, I overcame the addiction. I have been free from this addiction for more than six years.

For me to say, “I can master all my power, revise my way of living, and defeat this common foe” is noble, but futile. A corpse could well say I will, with my own strength, rise out of this coffin and be a living being again. Of course, this is nonsense. You need a power outside yourself. For most people, it’s impossible to break the chains of addiction that are binding you apart from God. Only when you die to self, and allow Christ to transform you by His Spirit, are you able to live in victory over any form of addiction (Gal. 2:20).

Application: Whatever addiction is binding you, pray that God would erase your desire. Call on friends to keep you accountable. If necessary, flee from the addiction or the location that brings the most temptation. You can also get counseling at most churches. Make sure to find out whether the church teaches Biblical Counseling. For more information, you can visit the Association of Biblical Counselors.

Extending Grace in a Culture of Revenge

Carnegie-1903There are 5 members of my family. I have two older brothers, Tyson and Brian. They are both in the medical field working as doctors. My Father made his living as a Physical Therapist and business owner while my Mom stayed at home. I had a great experience growing up. My family demonstrated mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

Grace is what I want to speak to you about. Grace is defined as getting something you don’t deserve. It comes from the Greek word charis, which means favor, blessing, or kindness. Grace is giving a blessing we don’t deserve. I want to share moments in my life where this type of grace or blessing was shown to me by members of my family.

My Dad is a huge Baseball fan. He built a Baseball field in our backyard and was the coach of my team throughout my youth. One day, before a game, my Dad and I got into an argument and we refused to talk. He still put me in the lineup and let me play in the game. When it was my turn to bat, I hit the ball over the fence, which we call homerun. It’s like scoring a goal in soccer. As I was rounding the bases, everyone, including my Dad, was cheering for me. When he gave me a high five, I ignored him. After the game, I felt really bad. However, my Dad wasn’t angry with me. He chose to forgive. I didn’t deserve to have this grace extended, but He chose to forget about the situation.

It was my 16th birthday. I just got my driver’s license and wanted to show off to my friends my Mom’s brand new Mustang convertible car. One friend asked if he could take the car for a ride. I said, “Go right ahead, but don’t drive past the end of the street.” Immediately, He got into the car, sped down the end of the street, and ignored my instruction and kept speeding down the road. As he took a turn, he hit a mailbox and fence. It damaged the side of my Mom’s car. When she found out about it, her face was hot with anger. It was the first time I ever say my Mom really upset. The amazing thing was she forgave me just a day later and cooked me dinner. I didn’t deserve this blessing and affection. This was grace.

My oldest brother and I got into a heated argument one day. I decided to get out the boxing gloves and told him, “I can take you, wimp.” My brother said alright, but I got scared. I ran in circles around our yard so he couldn’t catch me. Finally, he gave up, but I think he was showing mercy to me. He didn’t want to beat me up even though I deserved it.

Recently, while studying at the seminary, my wife and I spoke to a gentleman about ministry outside our apartment. We were planning on eating dinner soon, but this man continued talking to me. I told Olya to go ahead to our room, cook the meal, and I will be there in a few minutes. Those few minutes lasted for 30 minutes. She called me and said, “The food is ready. Please come now.” I said okay; just give me 5 more minutes. That turned into another 30 minutes. Finally, she called me on the phone and said the food is cold. When I got to the apartment, the food was still there on the table. She put it in the microwave, served me the meal, and was only upset for a moment. She decided to still love me even though I didn’t deserve it at the time.

Like me, most people here have experienced some type of grace or forgiveness in their lives. But when the word grace is used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. The examples above were conditional grace. My Dad might have forgiven me because he didn’t want others to see his anger. My Mom could have shown me grace so that she didn’t have to deal with any more confrontation. My wife could have forgiven me so that bitterness wouldn’t enter into her heart, making our marriage worse. See there is benefit in this type of grace for both people.

But the grace of God is unconditional. It doesn’t benefit Him like it does for us. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. Read Ephesians 2:1-9. Here we see that God shows both mercy and grace. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve. Consider this illustration: you were stopped in your car going 30 kilometers over the speed limit. The ticket is high and you can’t pay it. You appear before the judge with nothing to say. He hears your case, and to your surprise, he cancels your fine. That is mercy. But the judge doesn’t stop there. He walks you outside and hands you the keys to a new car. That is grace.

In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In Romans 5:10 the Bible states, “Through Jesus he reconciled to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

That’s why salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. He is the only one worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by God’s holiness (Revelation 5:4-5). Only when our sins are dealt with in Christ can we enter heaven. We cannot pay our own way. There is no amount of good works or religious acts that we can do to earn God’s favor. Repeat: It is only by grace that we are saved. When we confess this to God, turn from our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”

If you are a believer here this morning, I want you to think about your life. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I extend grace to others out of duty or because of my love for Christ? Am I trying to earn God’s favor by attending church services, dressing modestly, and reading my Bible, or because I want to be holy, please God, and have a relationship with Him? Lastly, I want to challenge you to think of at least one way you can extend grace to someone this week, whether it’s sending a card, smiling at a stranger, sharing the good news of Jesus, or anything that would extend grace and love towards others.  

For unbelievers: If you want to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, do it now! God promises He will answer your prayers. If you don’t know what to say, you can say this out loud: “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner who deserves Hell. I also realize you are a loving God who doesn’t desire for people to perish, but to be saved. You died on the cross for my sins and I am eternally grateful for that. I accept your free gift of salvation. With your help, I am willing to forsake my sin and put my trust and faith solely in you. Thanks for your marvelous grace. I believe all these words are true and declare them in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Use Your Time Wisely For God

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” – James 4:14

Idea: The average American lives to be 78 years old. If you multiply this number by a year, that gives 28,470 days of life. The first 15 years are spent in childhood and early adolescence. Approximately 20 years are devoted to sleeping. Toward the last 10 years of life, our health becomes limited and our ability to thrive wanes. When you consider eating, traveling, work, and other life duties, your down to perhaps 20 years of focusing your complete attention on serving God and witnessing for Christ. 

Now suppose you spend time watching Television, surfing the internet, playing sports, shopping, and other extracurricular activities. You are down to about 10 Christ-focused years. That’s 3,650 days, or 87,600 hours to seek God in prayer, fasting, reading the Bible, and evangelizing to the lost. 

Application: Our time is shorter than we think. Invest your time wisely for God’s kingdom. Everything around you will pass, but only what you do for Christ will last. I challenge you to calculate your time spent on worshipping God this week and determine how much free time you have if you tarry to 78.

Prayer: Father, teach us to number our days. Remind us that you are sovereign over the destinies of our life and we have no idea what the future holds. Planning and investing are not wrong, but help us to rid ourselves of arrogance, self-confidence, and pride so we can grow closer to you. In Jesus name, Amen.    

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Great Commission

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” – Acts 1:8-9

Read Acts 1:8-9. Meditate on this scripture passage for 20 minutes and ask yourself: What is the main idea? What are good questions to ask? How can I apply this story to my life?

Main Point(s): Jesus is responding to his disciples question in verse 6, “When will you restore the kingdom of Israel?” The Israelites were expecting the Messiah to establish a literal, political monarchy where righteousness and justice would prevail over the Roman government. However, Jesus taught them that His kingdom was not of this world. His kingdom focused on the inward change in a person’s life. He said to his disciples “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Christians commonly call this regeneration. Regeneration is defined as an internal change of a person’s heart, mind, and soul when they get saved and are born again. Consequently, when Jesus talks about the Kingdom, He is explaining that their influence, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will bring this reality to fruition when they fulfill the great commission by going to the ends of the Earth, preaching the good news that God saves sinners.

The five-fold purpose of the great commission is: to proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19), to have victory over sin (Acts 2:42; Gal. 2:20; Phil 3:10), baptizing believers into union with Christ (Matt. 28; Mark 16:16), overcoming satanic forces (2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph. 6:10-18) and manifesting gifts of healing 1 Pet. 4:10), which demonstrate the almighty power of Jesus.

Questions: What is the Kingdom of God? Is it an actual physical, political, monarchy that will reign on the Earth? Is it those being born again into the Kingdom once they accept Christ as their Savior and Lord? Can it be both? What position should we take as Christians concerning the end times? What is the mission of the Church?

Application:  1.) When I am tempted to sin, I am reminded that the power of God gives me a way of escape. 2.) Having a global mission-wide perspective adds depth to my vision for serving God. 3.) When I trust in God’s ability to convert others, I can have more confidence when sharing my own faith to unbelieving family, friends, co-workers, and strangers.