Jesus

The Poor Are Also Created in the Image of God

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Wow. I must confess, this passage is difficult for me to imitate. Throughout life, I have bypassed many beggars on the streets and ignored their plea for money. What’s my excuses consist of?

Here is a list that usually runs in my head: If they are able-bodied, why can’t they get a job? What if they use that money for drugs or alcohol? How do I know they are telling me the truth? I need that money for myself. I have a family to feed.

How do you respond when a beggar asks for money? Have these thoughts ever entered your mind? If so, you are not alone. But are these excuses valid? As Christians, I do think we need to be wise in how we give money to strangers, but are we ever justified to ignore a person in need?

Let’s examine the Bible. Jesus makes it clear in Luke 6:30, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

The Greek word for everyone is πᾶς. It means, “all people.” Similarly, in the passage above, the Greek word for anyone is ὅς, which has a totality emphasis, meaning to give unconditionally. There are at least 30 additional passages that Jesus preaches on concerning charity towards the poor.

Based on Scripture, I believe all of us have a duty to help people in need. Does that help always include financial assistance? Not all the time. If you are financially unstable, and someone is begging from you, it may be unwise to give them money you don’t have.

However, I still think there is an obligation to show Christ’s love to that person. You can certainly pray for them. Peter is a perfect example of this in Acts: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6).”

Therefore, while there may be conditions in which you can’t give monetarily, there are no conditions in which you should ignore the person.

When I was in college, I used to preach in the open air. Homeless people would come up to me all the time and ask for money. Instead of giving them money, I invited them to eat a meal with me. Most declined.

There was one person I vividly remember accepting my invitation. When we walked into the restaurant, I will never forget the reaction on the customers’ faces. It’s almost as if you could read their minds. “What is he doing in here? He smells bad.” I felt sympathy for this homeless man because I experienced what it was like to sense strong rejection, as if I was sub-human.

While we were eating, he told me his life story. I came to the realization that he was a person just like me. Full of dreams. Creative. A sense of humor. Personable. On the other hand, broken. Confused. Depressed. Despite the virtues and vices, this man was a priceless vessel created in the image of God.

This experience has helped me to become more sympathetic towards the poor and needy. And it should. The Bible tells us that if we don’t have pity for the brokenhearted, then the love of God does not reside in us. James tells us that if we have faith, but not works, our faith is futile. Our religion becomes worthless when we abandon the widows and orphans in distress.

On judgment day, Jesus will say to the righteous: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40).” Next time you see a stranger in need, remember that a day is coming when you will either be exhorted by your decision to help a person in need or rebuked for failing to imitate Christ’s love.

Be encouraged. There are endless opportunities to show the love of Christ to the outcasts. Here are 7 suggestions. Please add more to this list in the comments below. God bless.

  1. Go on a mission trip with your local church.
  2. Help out at Vacation Bible School.
  3. Adopt a child in the foster care system.
  4. Give to Hope for the Hungry.
  5. Bring food to a homeless person.
  6. Instead of buying a cup of coffee, save that money for a beggar.
  7. Grab some lunch with an outcast at your church who may not have a family nearby.

How do we Fish for the Souls of Humankind?

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” -Matthew 4:19

Today, my son and I were playing the Catch and Count Fishing Game by Melissa and Doug company. The fishing rods have a magnet attached at the end of the pole that connects with another magnetic circle on the fish. Each fish has a different color, fin arrangement, and number. The game is really useful for hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem solving, and interpersonal skills, but most importantly, it reminds my son of the gospel message.

Every time my son and I play, he tells me of the time in children’s church when Jesus said we should make fishers of men. It’s such a joy to have your own son remind you of the importance of evangelism. While he may not perfectly understand this analogy, he does know it’s crucial for believers to fish for the souls of humankind.

Are you currently fishing for the souls of people? Do you think about how to share the gospel with your friends, neighbors, family members, or co-workers? I want to encourage you that God has given you the best fishing pole (The Word of God) and the bait (grace) to bring the most hardened fish (sinners) to a relationship with the Almighty One.

Maybe you are hesitant to cast out the fishing line in fear of rejection from others. Don’t worry. Jesus said that when you follow him, you will make fishers of men. He didn’t say you “might” make fishers of men.

As Christians, our call is to be faithful to what God commanded: To go and make disciples. To make fishers of men. When we use the right fishing pole (the Bible), the right bait (grace), you might be surprised how many fish (people) begin to nibble (inquire) about the good news of Jesus Christ. May God bless you in your endeavors!

Dear Church, Love Always Triumphs Over Hate.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45

Last week, I watched a video uploaded by a pastor on YouTube. He told his opposing viewers to get over the presidential election and stop crying like a “bunch of babies.” Do you think his attitude was constructive? Was it in the Christian Spirit to sharply condemn in this manner? What does his response reveal to outsiders about the leaders in the Christian religion?

I don’t think calling people a bunch of crybabies is what Jesus would do. Jesus not only taught to love those who disagreed politically (Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God), but also to radically love your persecutors. And Jesus isn’t just talking about cyber bullying. He is referring to enemies of God who killed followers of Christ.

For instance, when Stephen  publicly praised Jesus in front of the Pharisees, they stoned him to death. What was Stephen’s response? “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Isn’t this the exact response Jesus had when he was crucified? He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Compare the attitude of Jesus and Stephen to the pastor on YouTube. Isn’t there a stark difference? Why is it, then, that leaders in the church are not imitating what Jesus said? God told us to beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. I don’t know if this pastor is a false prophet, but I do know, based on his temperament, he shows no signs of the Fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).”

While I understand this political election has caused division, anger, and resentment, the Christian church needs to arise out of the ashes. The Church has a great opportunity to be the new role model. Can you imagine how many people would be attracted to a religion that tells them to “love those who persecute you?” A worldview that teaches all of us are “created in the image of God?” A belief system where God took on human flesh to die for the sins of rebels?

This worldview is the only hope for humanity. So what are you waiting for? Go, stand, and speak this great truth to a world in desperate need of acceptance, love, grace, and forgiveness found at the cross!

Only God’s Endurance Lasts Forever

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you (1 Pet. 1:24-25).” 

When I was in high school, my swim coach would assign the hardest practice the day before new years. We would swim for two hours without rest. The goal, of course, was to increase our endurance and strength training for the new year. During the moment, it was painful. However, that one practice alone gave me enough endurance to last throughout the season.

Endurance is the key to swimming. You can have all the strength in the world, but without endurance, you won’t last more than 50 yards in the pool. Our coach knew this. That’s why his main focus was to build our endurance so we would be ready on the day of competition.

As you know, endurance can’t last forever. Even the greatest athletes need to take a break. We are fragile creatures. Our energy is lost quickly. Without sleep, we can’t even survive.

Genesis 3:19 tells us, “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” That’s how fragile we are. The Psalmist writes that man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow (Ps. 144:4). Finally, James tells us our life is like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (4:14).

Isn’t this depressing? At first glance, yes. Deep within our hearts, I believe no one wants to die. We want to endure forever.

But the good news is that God promises us eternal life. He is the word of the Lord who endures forever. When Jesus was on earth, he told people: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

All of us will experience physical death because of our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. When Jesus said the one who believes in him will live even though they die, he meant believers will be resurrected after death and live forever.

God is the source of life. He is the Creator who has the power to give life to all who trust in Him. He is infinite and endures forever. As Scripture teaches above, this truth was preached to the world.

The Bible is the good news that God saves sinners. He rescues them from death and gives eternal life. In Acts 2:38, Peter was asked, “What must we do to be saved?” He responded: “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.”

If you haven’t trusted in Jesus Christ, I would encourage you to do that today. Repent of your sins and be baptized. Call on his name to save you. You don’t have the endurance to make it through life without him. Lean on him. He will give you strength. For He endures forever!

Does Mark 16:16 Teach Baptism is an Essential Condition for Salvation?

opened-bibleAnd Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16). -New American Standard Bible 

The Scripture plainly states, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Easy enough? Case Solved? Nope. Theologians like to complicate the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture by telling common folk this was not the author’s intent. They may explain this passage away with theological jargon, reject Mark 16 as canonical, or tell you the original language Greek denies it.

Since theologians assume you aren’t likely to open up a Greek-English Lexicon to prove them wrong, the conversation usually ends there. In fact, whoever told you baptism is not necessary for salvation was probably told the same thing by a pastor, mentor, or professor he or she trusted.

For these reasons, it’s crucial to mimic the Bereans by examining what you are told in light of God’s word (Acts 17:11). In this essay, I want to lay out arguments from both sides so you can discern truth from error.

Theologians who argue against baptism as a necessary component for salvation usually start out by saying,”While Scripture seems to indicate belief and baptism are necessary for salvation, this is not what Mark meant.” Their reasoning lies in the difference between the first clause and the second clause of the sentence.

E. Calvin Beisner, professor at Knox Theological Seminary, made this statement: “While the first clause says that all who both believe and are baptized will be saved, it does not say that all who neither believe nor are baptized will not be saved. In other words, the clause does not exclude any group, while it does tell of a group of people who will be saved, namely, those who both believe and are baptized. But the second clause negates one group: those who do not believe will not be saved. There is no negation of the group of those who believe but are not baptized. Thus, while the verse as a whole does teach that belief is essential to salvation, it does not teach that baptism is.”

To summarize, professor Beisner is arguing that baptism is not an essential condition since it’s omitted from the latter part of this passage. But think about it for a moment. If one doesn’t believe, do you think they will get baptized? For example, if I say, “He who turns on his TV and tunes in to channel 5 will see the program; he who refuses to turn on his TV will miss the program.” If the person doesn’t turn on the TV, do I need to also tell him not to tune into channel 5? No, because not turning on the TV will prevent the person from going to the channel in the first place. Therefore, arguing the omission of baptism in the second clause proves it’s not necessary is a weak argument.

The second most common argument against baptism is to suggest Mark 16:9-20 did not appear in the best of the manuscripts of the New Testament. Because it appears in late manuscripts, it should not be used as proof of doctrine. While it is true that Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus do not have this passage, Codex Alexandrius and Bezae do, and both are early manuscripts from about AD 350. Also, I side with Metzger’s third view: the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription.

The third argument against baptism as being part of the gospel is the fear its adding works to the gospel, which would violate justification by faith alone in Christ alone. First, baptism is not a work of man, but a work of God (Col. 2:11-13). Jesus applies his atoning blood to us personally and raises us from spiritual death (Rom. 6:3). There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Second, it’s not a command, but rather a promise. When we call upon the name of the Lord during baptism, He is the one saving us (Acts 22:16) and rescuing us from the flood of judgment (1 Pet. 3:21), not ourselves. Third, Mark 16 reveals that baptism and faith are synonymous since both are linked together so closely in this context.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to research the subject of baptism. There are many views out there, but Scripture must be the authority. Other passages to consider are Acts 2:38-42, Acts 22:16, Rom. 6:4-6, Gal. 3:27, Col. 2:11-13, and 1 Pet. 3:21. Read each passage in its context and I would encourage you to read the Greek. The original language actually strengthens the argument for baptism being necessary for salvation. I believe once people view baptism as a visualization of faith rather than an act of obedience, they will begin to see it more clearly. Please feel free to disagree in the comments below. Have a blessed day!

The Apostle Paul Shares the Gospel in Corinth, a Metropolis City

line-of-corinthian-columns

Paul left Athens, a university city, and went to Corinth, a metropolis city. Corinth was Paul’s last major place of witness on his second missionary journey. It was 46 miles west of Athens, and both politically and economically affluent. Corinth was known for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and here devotees promoted immorality in the name of religion.

Did you know that the word Corinthian meant to be sexually immoral? Also, there was a saying “to act like a Corinthian” was used of practicing fornication, and “Corinthian girls” was synonymous to prostitutes. It’s like the slogan: “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.” Of course, we know that isn’t true. Your sin will always find you out.

Based on the context of Corinth, it makes more sense why the Corinthian church had sexual problems since they lived in a city that highly promoted it. If you were to examine your own city, what sins do you think plague our city? How has that infiltrated the church?

In verse 2-3, we hear about two Jews that came from Pontus, modern day Northern Turkey. Close to the Black Sea. These two names suggest they came from a high social class. This passage informs us what the atmosphere was like during Paul’s day. Emperor Claudius was ordering non-Roman citizens to leave Rome around 50 AD. It has been said that the reason he expelled the Jews was because they were sharing their faith and upsetting the establishment. Claudius opposed sharing religion among the people, even in those regions where he allowed natives to worship freely. It’s almost as if there was this separation of church and state. You could worship in your own sanctuary, but couldn’t share this during your public life. How is this situation similar to today? What happens if one overemphasizes freedom of religion (Saudi Arabia) or freedom from religion (North Korea)?

This passage also reveals Paul was a tentmaker by trade. Scripture teaches that apart from occasional gifts (Phil 4:15), Paul’s practice was to be self-supporting by working at his trade and not to be dependent on the charity of church members. Tent makers was not just tents, it was leather good. A more accurate word might be “leather-worker”. Ancient tradition suggests all rabbis must have a trade. Do you think pastors should get a trade job too? Why or Why not? Answer: secular job put you in the middle of culture on regular basis, Christian-only huddle, and smaller churches unable to afford full-time pastors, digital world offering flexible secular jobs.

In verse 4, same language was from last chapter. He is reasoning with people in the synagogue. He is relating to them at their level since he grew up in Judaism. This word, along with persuade is used about 14 times throughout the book of Acts so it is obviously an important concept. In verse 5, it says the Apostle Paul was occupied with the Word of God. That means he was diligently searching Scripture to help him grow in his understanding. What are some strategies you have to stay occupied in God’s Word?

In verse 6, when the Jews opposed and reviled him for believing in Jesus, he told them: “Your blood be on your own heads. I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” He is referring to Ezekiel’s words in 33:1-7. Blood means the responsibility for your judgment by God. Paul is saying he has done everything possible to warn them of their sins and persuade them to trust in Christ for salvation. He has been a watchmen, staying “awake” when everyone else is sleeping. How are you being a watchmen for Christ at work, in school, in public?

In the next couple of verses, Paul is sharing the gospel with many Corinthians and they are believing and getting baptized. As much as Paul was rejected, he was also successful in adding people daily to the church. In fact, the whole theme of Acts revolves around the Holy Spirit’s movement and the growth of the early church. We have to water and plant, but it is Christ who makes the increase. How can we be effective as a ministry to bring more people into our community?

Here in verse 9 the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision. He told him not to be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people. What a powerful statement. How encouraging would that be to hear that directly from God? Well, we know that Paul spent 18 months in Corinth and was successful here. He wrote the book of Thessalonians during this ministry time. Even though the proconsul was trying to condemn Paul, God protected him. This gave him greater assurance that he was called to be a missionary there for some time. Do you struggle with where God wants you to be? Have you received any signs that assure you that, for this moment in time, you are where God wants you to be? Why or Why not?

Just a historical side note, but the names Gallio and Sosthenes are important. They indicate the exact time period this is happening to Paul. Even the proconsul judgment seat has been excavated in Corinth and was located in the open air in the marketplace. Luke was telling the truth when he was writing the gospel of Luke. This is not a mythological book, but a historical narrative. In verse 16-17, it says that the Jews beat up Sosthenes, who was the ruler of the synagogue. He was persecuted for standing with the apostle Paul. Jesus warned us that we will be persecuted for our faith, even by religious folks. Have you ever been persecuted by religious folks before?

 In verses 18-22, Paul returns back to Antioch after 18 months. During his trip, he stopped in Ephesus for a visit. They wanted Paul to stay in Ephesus, but the Holy Spirit wanted him to keep moving. Of course, we find out in chapter 19 that he does in fact return and minister in that city. At the end of the section, Paul is attending all these cities “strengthening all the disciples.” Why is it important to strengthen one another in the faith? Have you received any strengthening by a brother or sister? If not, would you like to?

Toward the end of this chapter, Luke mentions a Jew named Apollos, who is fervent, eloquent, and competent in Scripture, yet he was baptized by John only. He didn’t hear about the baptism of Jesus until Priscilla and Aquila came through. Therefore, Apollos knowledge of the Christian gospel was deficient in some way, even though he was teaching all that he knew about Christ accurately. What I love about this story is Priscilla and Aquila did not embarrass Apollos. Instead, they took him aside and explained to God more accurately. What can we learn about this story? I know for me, when a new believer comes to faith in Christ, they are oftentimes more passionate than most of us. They may not know the theological depth of the Trinity, but they are eager to share their faith with others. It should humble us as mature believers.

 Application Points:

  1. Warn unbelievers about God’ judgment on sin since you yourself will be held accountable when you stand before Him (v.6-7)
  2. Do not be afraid when people persecute you since God is your protector (v. 9-10).
  3. Cultivate communication with God and He will make it clear what he wants you to do for the advancement of His kingdom (v.18-22)
  4. Encourage new believers and respectfully correct them when they make mistakes (v.24-28).

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.