Month: January 2016

Is Divorce Ever an Option in the Christian Life?

Case study: [1] Julie and Tim have been married for 10 years. In the last year, Tim has been verbally abusive towards her. Just last week, Tim went completely crazy. Julie told him to cut the grass outside and Tim got upset and started yelling at her. As he yelled and became more frustrated, he threw his phone at her. He missed her, knocking a hole in the wall. They both knew he had gone too far. Now, Julie is convinced that God is telling her to divorce Tim.  How would you handle this situation? I have written out my own response. Feel free to comment below.

Julie, I understand you are worn out with the lack of change in Tim’s demeanor. When Tim gets verbally and physically abusive, it endangers you and others around. This intimidation can cause you to feel unwilling to continue this relationship. I can’t imagine the difficulty you are experiencing right now, even to the point of giving up on Tim altogether.

I also know that God has the answer to your dilemma. Jay Adams, a certified biblical counselor, talks about the Scripture’s ability to guide us, either directly through a Scripture passage, or with certain themes in the Bible that help us make the most Christ-honoring decisions.[2] For instance, the Bible makes it clear in Exodus 20 not to murder. Therefore, this command should be avoided, no matter how you feel or what you think “God told you” in some dream or revelation. His word never contradicts His character. Murder is always wrong. However, there are Scripture references that don’t speak directly to all personal decisions. For instance, should you be a teacher or a doctor is not specified in the Bible.

What about divorce? Does God have any specific Scripture references that speaks on this issue? Yes. In Malachi 2:16, God says “I hate divorce.” Matthew 19:6 states that what God has brought together let no one separate. There are two specific verses, however, that seem to indicate God allows divorce in the case of spousal death and adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). Then again, Ephesian 4:32 seems to indicate that even if adultery is committed, a couple can learn to forgive and rebuild their marriage.

As far as we know, Tim has been faithful to you. He hasn’t committed adultery. He has hurt you in other ways. His verbal and physical abuse have gotten out of control. If this abuse is ongoing, I would tell the proper authorities. You may need to separate for a season until Tim repents of his violent behavior towards you. However, I don’t think there is Scripture warrant for you to divorce him. What do you think?

After Julie expresses how she feels, I would be sympathetic. I do not want to undermine her feelings. When Tim threw a phone that barely missed her and knocked a hole in the wall, he had indeed crossed the line. He is a current threat to her safety. I think it would be proper for her to separate for a “season” in a safer condition while Tim gets help, but I would advise Julie not to get a divorce. Hopefully the conversation will lead to reconciliation and their marriage can be saved.

[1] These names have been changed to protect their identity.

[2] Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling, p.24.

Christian Counselors and Medical Professionals: A Symbiotic Relationship

I think its vital to work alongside a physician to help someone cope with their depression. An important distinction to make from the beginning with the doctor, however, is what constitutes as an organic problem versus a non-organic problem. For instance, let’s say Billy (fictional name) is suffering from thyroid deficiency and that’s why he feels depressed. Because this deficiency can be empirically verified through lab results, it is imperative he receives the proper drug to get his thyroid working properly. This is clearly an organic issue that can be solved with proper medication.

Furthermore, there has been research done, which is not yet definitive, by Osmond and Hoffer, on schizophrenic patients that suggest an organic cause. Their theory argues the root of the problem does not lie in a person’s mind, but from a faulty perception because of a lack of adrenachrome. Adrenachrome is a natural chemical agent that helps us with perception. However, when the chemical is deprived, it causes real distortions: colors may be too bright, words on a page can bounce, depth perception is lost, and hearing becomes intensified to the point where voices are actually being heard from a distance.[1] Similar to someone induced by a drug like LSD. Thus, the counselee’s mind is not sick; rather, their bizarre gestures make sense because of the illusions they experience from biological deficiency.

These two case scenarios are different than a medical professional who says Billy has a “chemical imbalance.” First, there is no scientific proof that chemical imbalances, such as low Serotonin levels in the brain, directly cause depression. A proponent for the chemical imbalance theory might show a picture of the hippocampus section of the brain in a normal patient versus a depressed patient. They might conclude that since the hippocampus is smaller in size with patients who have depression, there is a biological reason for it. However, a picture of the brain structure doesn’t prove the cause for it. It could have been a result of environmental stimuli rather than a genetic predisposition.

Here is a case in point. There was a recent study on ex-NFL players that showed a correlation between concussions and depression later in life. As this example makes clear, if the NFL players avoid the football field—the environmental factor that caused their onset for depression, they may not have any problems. The same is true with depressed patients. It’s still conceivable that people might experience depression because of their biology, but in the majority of cases, their environment, thinking, and/or personal decisions is an important component to their depression.[2]

In conclusion, I think it’s important to have a symbiotic relationship with a physician. I also believe Scripture is sufficient to handle any emotional issues a person is struggling with. A counselor’s goal, therefore, is to put confidence in the Word of God and give a defense to the hope Christians have with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15). The defense is the power of Scripture to transform a person from putting off the old self—anxiety, depression, and anger to the new man—full of joy, peace, and love. May God give us wisdom as we treat each person with the utmost care and professionalism in our counseling sessions.

[1] Abraham Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, How to Live With Schizophrenia (New York: University Books, 1966), p.38.

[2] Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, The Media and The Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression (Springer Science Journal, 2007), p.2.

Are Anti-Depressants the Answer for Depression?

Case Study: Let’s say there is a 45 year old female named Sarah (Fictitious name). She told you she was terribly sad and has a lot of trouble keeping up with life. She came to you seeking biblical counseling. Sarah has several friends who received anti-depressants from their family doctor. The medicine seemed to help, but some of them experienced unpleasant side effects that she is concerned about. She asks you, “Do you think I should see my doctor about taking an anti-depressant?” What would you do?  

If Sarah asked me, “Do you think I should see my doctor about taking an anti-depressant?” my first response would be. “I am not a medical professional. I don’t have the authority to give you a yes or no answer.” Afterwards, I would recommend for her to see a medical doctor who has a Christian perspective, similar to Dr. Robert D. Smith, an MD and ACBC Counselor. Whether she decides to get on anti-depressants or not, I would still continue to counsel her from a biblical perspective, hoping she sees it as sufficient enough to overcome her depression.

Before Sarah conclusively decides to take a psychotropic drug, I would ask her to answer these questions that Dr. Smith suggests in his book.[1]1. What tests were run to prove a physical problem is present? Is the condition a fact or a theory? 2. How do you know the physical condition is the reason for your depression? Can this be empirically verified? 3. Do you have any proof that the medicine you received heals the physical problem? If Sarah’s physician can’t definitely answer these questions, then maybe she will come to the realization herself that the drugs have not been proven to help out her depression.

The next step would be to help Sarah live by biblical principles rather than her feelings. It could be the case that Sarah feels “terribly sad” and has a lot of trouble “keeping up with life.” A biblical counselor ought to take those feelings seriously. But the solution is not to give her a drug that will satiate bad desires. It’s like giving someone Tylenol who has a headache. It alleviates the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the problem. The problem exists in the heart. It exists in her relationship with God and others. The goal, therefore, is to gather data and find out what is bothering Sarah.

Maybe she is lacking sleep. Then the solution is not to give her drugs. The solution could be as simple as saying, “Get more rest.” Tiredness can cause feelings of depression so it’s vital that a person acquire the recommended sleep. If I as her counselor found out the depression was a result of her lack of sleep, I would work with Sarah’s physician to help her through this ordeal.

Let’s say Sarah is having relational issues with her husband. This is the reason she feels terribly sad. The solution, once again, is not to numb her body with drugs. These feelings could be a sign that she needs to do something about her problem. The solution would be to develop a more intimate relationship with her husband. Some advice I would give would be to spend more time together. To communicate feelings towards one another. Also, to encourage Sarah to read the Bible with her husband on a daily basis and pray together. This spiritual connection will naturally strengthen their relationship.

Lastly, if Sarah is overwhelmed at home with the kids and wants to have a night free to herself, then have the husband stay at home and watch the kids or hire a babysitter for the night and give Sarah quality time with her spouse or God. The Bible states in Psalm 42:5 that depression can happen when our relationship with God is suffering. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

These are just a few ways I would handle Sarah’s depression with a medical professional. I know counselee’s become bewildered when they realize that depression can be overcome through the power of Christ’s love. It seems too simple. It doesn’t sound complicated enough or medical enough because a “pill” is not being used. But the truth is we were created to be fulfilled in God, and when we stray away from Him, depression is what takes God’s place. The solution then, is to worship God and He will give you the desires of your heart.

[1] Robert D. Smith, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference (Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts, 2000) p.67-68

Slaying the Dragon: How to Counsel Porn Addicts with Grace

Case Study: Let’s say your friend, whose name we will call Erik, admits to you his need for help in the area of porn addiction. He discovered it on a trip out of town when some of his friends showed it to him on their phones. Since then, Erik has frequently looked at pornography.

The problem got worse when he went to college and had no internet restrictions on his laptop computer. A few days ago, Erik felt convicted by God that as a Christian he must begin to deal aggressively with this sin. He even told his dad about the problem. His dad doesn’t know what to do and they have decided to seek counseling from you. What would you do? 

Erik has admitted his need for counseling because of his struggle with pornography. My first goal would be to reassure Erik that he made the right decision to seek help. By confessing his sin to dad and a counselor, he has followed James 5:16. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Now Erik is able to put off his sin nature and put on the righteousness of Christ since others will keep him accountable. 

After gathering data about Erik, my first advice for him would be to memorize Scripture pertinent to his struggle. Because people often feel powerless to overcome porn addiction, Erik should know this is a lie from Satan. The Scripture teaches in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “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.” 

As Erik memorizes this reference, which is a sword that fights against sin, the Bible will prepare him to win this battle. For example, if Erik is on the computer and no one is around, he may be tempted to go to a bad website. However, it’s no longer his fear of being caught that drives him. The Word of God will convict him now since he knows there is “a way of escape.” The fear of being caught is not a strong enough motivating factor for repentance. It has to be your conscience condemning you and godly sorrow that leads to true change in a person’s heart.  

Another important tool Erik should use to overcome his battle against pornography is the concept of “putting off” and “putting on.” Jay Adams calls this dehabituation—habits to put off, and rehabituation—habits to put on. Breaking a habit is a two-sided problem that requires the process of replacing our bad habits with good habits.[1] That’s why the Apostle Paul said “not to conform to this pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:1).”

A porn addict has several habits. To hide his addiction, he may lie about where he is going so he can quickly sin while no one is watching. After he is done, he may cover up his sin by deleting browsing history. So not only does the “lust” need to be dealt with, but the sin of lying is an issue. A verse that may help Erik to put on a good habit is truth rather than falsehood. Psalm 52:3 states, “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” Erik will now need to be honest with people or God will convict him. 

In the life of a porn addict, Erik may have went from curiosity to experimentation, and from experimentation to obsession. He may be preoccupied with thinking about porn all the time and looks forward to having temporarily relief when he performs this lustful action. Erik now has to “put off” the habit of idolatry. An idol is anything that gives you ultimate fulfillment or satisfaction apart from God. It becomes a false savior. What most porn addicts find out is this momentary satisfaction leads to guilt and shame. In order to put off idolatry, Erik needs to put on worshipping the one true God. Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Because Erik has been exposed to multiple pictures and videos of sexual immorality that degrade women, He will need to put off how he views and treats women. No longer should Erik be flirting with women or having dirty thoughts. Instead, he needs to rewire his brain through the grace of Jesus Christ to look at women as God’s holy creation, not objects of sexual worship. Erik should “put on” this verse in his mind: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Lastly, Erik needs to know that pornography is not just a sexual addiction. Pornography causes people to lie to cover up their sin. Porn treats women with disrespect. It’s degrading to them. Porn addicts worship and serve the god of pleasure and fornication rather than the God of the Bible. Porn is a big issue. It destroys marriages and friendships.

If you or someone you know is struggling with this sin, get them help. It’s not too late. The good news is that Jesus Christ can help you overcome this sin. He can also heal you from the scars of shame and guilt left behind from many years of this addiction. Pray and ask God to help you now. If you have anything else that you think would help Erik overcome this problem, please feel free to comment below. 

            

 


[1] Jay Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, p.188-189.

7 Virtues of the Christian Life

Hebrews 13:1-6 Passage 

1. Christians are transformed to love others (v.1) 

Story: During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the bell tower and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!” – Our Daily Bread 

Scripture proof: Prov. 17:17; Lk. 6:35; 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 John 4:8

Application: What are some steps you can take to love more? When you love God, you will love people. Write personal cards. Help your friends move. Take someone out for lunch and pay for it. Share the gospel. Make a positive statement about someone you know. 

2. Christians are transformed to be hospitable (v.2).

Story: Last summer, I was in my office and got a call from a man named John. He is a missionary who helps out international students. He said, “Pastor Green told me you have a college ministry.” I said yes we do. John said. Great. Would you be able help me move in a graduate student. He’s from Saudi Arabia. I said, “Of course, I will be right there.” When we got there, I helped them unload the truck. It took us about an hour or so. Then we ate lunch and talked. The Saudi student was very grateful for John. I asked him, how you all know each other? He met with me every week for 2 hours to teach me English. He also helped me move all my stuff here and is driving all the way back to campus, which is about a 10 hour trip. This is the kind of love we ought to show others. In today’s world, it is hard to befriend those who are looked down upon, but John knew he ought to be hospitable to strangers, especially foreigners, right?

Scripture proof: The Bible teaches us in Leviticus 19: “When a stranger or foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Application: Why is being hospitable to a stranger or foreigner so important? Because we were once alienated from God as Gentiles, but God adopted us into his family. Also, it’s easy to be nice to those who are like you, but with foreigners you have to adapt to their culture and way of thinking. It gives us an opportunity to live a sacrificial life and conform more into the image of Christ.

3. Christians are transformed to sympathize with those who are mistreated or suffering (v.2)

Story: On October June 25, 2014, two pastors were found guilty of utilizing a cult to undermine law enforcement and sent to prison. The pastors Zhao and Cheng, along with 20 other Christians were singing hymns in a rural factory, when the building was raided by police. Both pastors were sentenced to four years imprisonment. God calls us to remember those who are persecuted for their faith and mistreated.

Scripture Proof: Isaiah 1:17; Matthew 25:36; James 1:27

Application: Empathy is a powerful emotion that is vital in the Christian life. We are to carry one another’s burden. How do we do this in a practical way? Call each other during difficult times. Visit and cook a meal. Sing carols at nursing homes. Pray for the persecuted church.

4. Christians are transformed to live a pure and holy life (v.4)

Story: Before I became a Christian, I did not live a very moral life. I had a lot of scars from my past and didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. When I met Olya and we started dating, I made immediate ground rules about our relationship. I would even say I was pretty legalistic, but the main reason was I didn’t want to ruin this great gift God gave to me. So I told her that we would not be found together alone in a private place. We would wait until marriage to kiss, and holding hands was the most physical thing we would do together.

Many of our friends, who were going to the seminary, thought we were extreme in this approach. However, I knew my weakness and made sure to live pure and holy. For me, this topic is a lot like alcohol. Christians say it’s okay to drink in moderation as long as you don’t get drunk. Technically, I would say they are not sinning, but I find it hard to believe they really have any control. Same with physical intimacy. If you are not careful, one small compromise will lead to another. Next thing you know, you have committed fornication. The Bible tells us to flee from sexual immorality for a reason. We flee because it’s nearly impossible to get out once you start. It’s like throwing gas on a fire.

Scripture Proof: Leviticus 20:26; 1 Cor. 6:9-20

Application: Set up parameters in relationships, internet safeguards and accountability, daily prayer with God, seek his holiness.

5. Christians are transformed to be generous with their time and money (v.5) 

Story: The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for money from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift his hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A soldier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?” Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Copper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.” –Sermon Illustration Website 

Scripture proof: 1 Chronicles 29:14; Ps. 37:21; 1 Tim. 3:3

Application: Increase your giving at the church. Tithe from the money you make at work. Sacrifice your freedom to help out a friend or neighbor in need. Call people and ask how you can pray.

6. Christians are transformed to be courageous (v.6) 

Story: We were made to be courageous. We were made to lead the way. We could be the generation that finally breaks the chains. We were made to be courageous. We were warriors on the front lines. Standing unafraid but now we’re watchers on the sidelines, while our families slip away. Where are you men of courage? You were made for so much more. Let the pounding of our hearts cry “We will serve the Lord” We were made to be courageous, and we’re taking back the fight. And we’re made to be courageous, and it starts with us tonight. The only way we will ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands. Lord, make us courageous. – Casting Crowns Lyrics 

Scripture Proof: Joshua 1:9; Prov. 28:1; 2 Tim. 1:7;

Application: When was a time you were courageous? Stand for what is right at work and school. Confront your brothers and sisters in love when they are doing something wrong.

7. Christians are transformed to obey their authority (v.7)

Story: How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.” – Our Daily Bread 

Scripture Proof: 1 Samuel 15:22; John 14:15; Rom. 13:1-7

Application: Why is it hard to obey authority? What are some ways we can overcome this difficulty? Humility, obeying our boss or teacher for God, showing respect.

How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

 

I just finished reading Thabiti Anyabwile’s book The Gospel for Muslims.  The author has a first-hand experience of what it’s like interacting with Muslims and sharing Christ’s love to them. This book will help equip the average Christian who wants to share his or her faith, but isn’t sure how.

Thabiti gives a concise overview of what Muslims believe in part 1. He focuses on the key topics of God, such as mankind, the deity of Christ, repentance, and faith. In part 2, he shares practical ways to witness, such as being filled with the spirit, trusting the Bible, practicing hospitality, using your local church, and suffering for the name of Christ.

I have written an outline for each chapter, which covers the basic points the author makes in his book. It is my hope that this outline will provide the tool you need for sharing Jesus with confidence and precision.

Part 1: The Gospel

God by any other name?

  • “There is only one God, and Muhammed is his messenger.”
  • This is the act of Conversion for a Muslim.
  • Shirk – Most blasphemous to have any partners or parts – Polytheism.
  • Explaining the Trinity is an important component to conversing with Muslims.
  • Sura 5:47 –“Ask those who have been reading the book from before thee: the truth hath indeed come from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.”

Man’s sin

  • Christians believe God created man in His image. Muslims reject the idea that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Nothing shares Allah’s glory.
  • The Bible teaches that Adam committed the first sin and spread to all people. Islam teaches that Adam just made an ethical mistake. Muslims consider unjust the idea that one person’s sins should be accounted to another person. Sura 6:164 teaches: “no liability of one soul can be transferred to another.”
  • The Scripture teaches that sin offends God. “Only you have I sinned against.” To Muslims, the Quran maintains that the person who sins “does evil to himself.” Surah 65:1.
  • Christians have a stronger view of sin than Muslims. Muslims view sin as weakness not wickedness. Demonstrating the seriousness of sin good strategy.

Jesus Christ: Fully God and Fully Man

  • Who do people say Jesus is today?
  • Muslim apologists like to argue that Jesus is the son of God just like Adam was called that in Luke 3:38 and Psalm 82 says we are god’s children. However, they skip John 3:16 that says “only begotten Son of God” and John 1:14 “Word became flesh.” Point them back to Old Testament since they are skeptical about New Testament. Isaiah 9:6 talks about “Immanuel”, “God among us.”
  • Emphasize to Muslims that it was necessary for God to become fully man in order to satisfy the justice of God. But first make sure you stress sin so they realize there is no righteousness they have apart from God.

Jesus Christ: Lamb Slain and Resurrected

  • Dhul-Hijah, a day to celebrate how the prophet Ibrahim sacrificed his son. They say it was Ishmael, but we say it was Isaac. Sacrifice is a motivation for the practice of hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, Ramadan, giving of alms to the poor.
  • Muslims do not believe that sacrifice can take away our sins. In Sura 22:37 it states, “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news.”
  • Emphasize the “Great Exchange.” He who knew no sin became sin for us.

Repentance and Faith

  • What does repentance mean for Christians?
  • Muslims use the term repentance to refer to conversion (Sura 5:36) to Islam or practicing Muslims turning to God (Sura 24:31). Problem is they don’t know what is acceptable and not acceptable to Allah. Assurance of salvation is a struggle.
  • Stress salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Also Rom. 8:39.

Part 2: As you Witness

Be filled with the Spirit

  • Being filled means controlled by the spirit the way a boat’s sails are filled with the wind and blown on its course. The Spirit gives power (Acts. 1:8; 2:4; 6; 13:8).
  • Yes, fear and boldness can coexist. We must be willing to get out of our comfort zones and trust that the Holy Spirit will lead our conversations with Muslims.

Trust the Bible

  • Defending the Scriptures and assuming its reliability and truthfulness becomes essential to effective conversations since Muslims have a high view of the Quran.
  • Muslims believe the Bible is full of all kinds of contradictions even though the Quran teaches that the Torah, Gospels, and Psalms of David are revelations from God. Reading these supposed contradictions in context is key.
  • Christians fear that defending the Scriptures will offend their Muslim friends, but Muslims respect Christians more deeply when we stand firm in our beliefs.

Be Hospitable

  • It is painful to not be included in the lives of others, whether you are the one extending or hoping to receive hospitality.
  • Four factors that contribute to the decline among Christians of hosting others are privatization, fear of man, passivity, and Xenophobia.
  • Four reason to show hospitality: The Bible commands Christians to be hospitable (Rom. 12:13). It allows us to care for the strangers among us (Ex. 22:21). The Bible teaches that our caring for strangers renders service to Jesus (Matt. 25:34-40). Lastly, hospitality in one mark of Christian maturity and godliness (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10).

Use your Local Church

  • Muslims have the belief that Christians are immoral like everyone else.
  • Muslims need to see unity in our churches (Eph. 2:14-18) because they boast about Islam being a universal faith for all.
  • Love within the local church clarifies what true discipleship looks like.

Suffer for the Name

  • Muslims suffer for Jihad. They try to advance individual piety through prayer and fasting or to promote and defend Islam. They die because they think it guarantees them paradise. We are to suffer too, not by physical violence, but sacrificial love.

The Infinitely Majestic God

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Did you know humans are created in the image and likeness of God? The Bible supports this concept. Read Genesis 1:26-27.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” -Genesis 1:26-26 (NIV)

This passage clearly teaches that God created us to be like Him, but what exactly does image bearer mean? How are we like God? Here are some examples: We have moral awareness, creativity, willpower, stewardship, intelligence, leadership, and a desire for relationships.

All of these attributes are similar between God and humans. However, the major difference is the qualitative nature. God is not just morally aware; He is without sin. Perfect. An all-consuming fire. Holy. He has “no defect” like we do ( Gen. 1:31; Deut. 8:16; Psa. 107:8; 118:1; Nahum 1:7; Mark 10:18; Rom. 8:28).

God is not just intelligent like the human race. He possesses all knowledge. He is omnisciently aware of every grain of sand in the sea, all the stars in the universe, and even our deepest thoughts. The Psalmist knew this well. He cried out to God:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,  if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

The God of this universe is infinitely perfect in moral character, intelligence, power, creativity, etc. Because Yahweh is infinite and everything else in the universe is finite, God possesses a unique category. He is the Creator. All other entities (Angels, humans, animals, stars) are created.

Furthermore, God is the necessary being of the Universe. This means He is not dependent on any other being, but every being is causally dependent on Him. Without God, there would be “no-thing,” since all of us rely upon the Creator for life. Acts 17:28 states, “For in God we live and move and have our being.”

Lastly, the Scripture teaches many characteristics about God. His love, wisdom, power, purity, patience, etc, but His greatest character of all is His holiness. Holiness means God is separate, distinct, unique. The Lord is unlike anything else because of His infinite majesty. He is an all-consuming fire. Isaiah 6:3 makes this clear:

“And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” – Isaiah 6:3

You may be wondering. How then does the infinite holiness of God apply to my life? And my answer is quite simple: It applies to every facet of your being. It should change your attitude, relationships, worldview, political affiliation, work ethic, and innermost personality. When you encounter the holiness of God, it will change you.

The best advice I have for you is this: The more time you spend with God, the greater the person you will become. The greater the person you become, the more glory Jesus will receive. The more glory Jesus receives from His creation, the greater our world will be.