… so that no one can buy or sell

Just a thought experiment here…

For those of you who care, the end times position I hold to is called “amillennialism”. If that term is unfamiliar to you, let me help … are you familiar with the Left Behind book series?  If so, it is NOT that.  Not really close.  Except that both views hold to the future return of Jesus.

Given that, my view of the end times is really quite different than most of contemporary Christianity, as is my understanding of the “mark of the beast.”  Almost every discussion of the end times involves the topic of “the mark of the beast” and what it could be.  Many (most?) people think it is a physical mark, many (most?) people think it is something like a chip, etc.

I’m not one of those people.

Here are two of the five “mark of the beast” passages: Continue reading “… so that no one can buy or sell”

Who shapes your worship?

Jeremiah 18:1-4 (ESV) (1) The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: (2) “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” (3) So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. (4) And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Worship is so much more than singing, but there is so much worship in singing.

I’m reminded of that when I think of the songs we sang with the college students at The Salt Company in Ames.

I was an orphan, lost at the fall;
Running away when I’d hear you call,
But Father, you worked your will.
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne,
But Father, you loved me still.

And in love, before you laid the world’s foundation,
You predestined to adopt me as your own.
You have raised me up so high above my station;
I’m a child of God by grace, and grace alone

Continue reading “Who shapes your worship?”

Jesus is Knowable…

By now, you ought to know that truth matters, and defending truth is important.  You should also know that truth leads to freedom and that knowing truth is required if we are to have any meaningful relationship with God.

Because relationships based on falsehood are not really relationships.  They are fantasies.

Think of it this way – let’s say that you have a mother.  Let’s say that she is 5′ tall, her name is Linda, she has short dark hair, she’s been married for 45 years to the same man, she was born in October, etc.  You probably know a ton of things about your mom, right?  You also know that these things are true about you mom, mostly because she raised you, cared for you, fed you.  Heck, that means that you also know that she is kind, caring, generous, etc.  Lots more things you know about her.

So, let’s now say that a friend introduces you to a man named Lane.  In getting to know Lane, the topic of moms comes up, and you talk about how great your mom is.  After a while, Lane starts acting like he knows her, and confirms your suspicions by blurting out “Dude!  I totally know her!  She’s like 6′ tall, long blonde hair … what’s her name … Kris … Kris Kremmins!!  I can’t believe it!”

What would you say?  Probably something like “Um … no, her name is Linda.  She’s 5′ even, short dark hair.  I don’t think you know her.”

But Lane presses – “Yes I do!  She’s also kinda witchy – those cheerleader types always are.  Dated the basketball team, not just certain members of the team, the whole team!  Couldn’t ever talk to her though, she never gave me the time of day.”

It wouldn’t take you very long to see that Lane has a completely different person in mind.  He might be thinking of a female, but apparently, that’s where the comparison ends.  He can’t even get her name right!

Would you defend what you know about your mom to Lane?  I hope so!

Absurd, right?  It may even seem like I got this idea from a movie (truth – I did.  bonus points if you know which one).

But it’s all too real.

Worse? Lane’s not talking about your mom.

He’s talking about Jesus.

“Yeah, I know who Jesus is.  He’s some revolutionary that lived in Israel a long time ago.  What he taught got him in trouble with the law, and he was killed.  Poor guy.”

(Yeah, I know your mom. She’s some law breaker that was arrested for stealing food.)

“Yeah, I know Jesus. In fact, I believe in him, I’m a Christian.  He was the son of God and some mother goddess, I can’t remember her name, and he had a brother too – Lucifer.  He showed us how to become gods!”

(Yeah, I know your mom.  She’s that crazy woman who is always on the news talking about how aliens abducted her.  She’s nuts.)

“Yeah, I know about Jesus, but he wasn’t real.  He is merely a story people dreamed up to keep others in line.  Eternal punishment is a pretty good bogey man!”

(Yeah, I know about your mom…your real mom.  Didn’t you know you are adopted?  That lady you think is your mom really isn’t.  You’ve been lied to all these years.)


Heard any of those?  They even use the name of Jesus, but they have no idea who Jesus really is.  Whoever they are talking about is not the real Jesus, he’s some made up Jesus.  If this were unique to atheists, Muslims, or other religious groups, it would be bad enough – spreading falsehoods about anyone, especially Jesus, is pretty bad.

I wish I could say that “Christianity” doesn’t suffer from this.  But I can’t.  It’s close to home.  Too close.

“I not only know Jesus, I know what He taught.  He’s the Son of God all right, and because He loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, He wants us to be healthy and wealthy.  He said that if you are sick, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.”

(Yeah, I know your mom, she was such a great second grade teacher.  I learned so much about the world from her, like the reason alligators are so mean is because they have all those teeth and no toothbrush.)

“Yeah, I know Jesus.  He’s God, so that makes him the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  He’s part of this trinity thing – you know three Gods in one God or something like that.  It doesn’t really matter though.  He’s God!”

(Yeah, I know your mom.  She’s your aunt and sister too, right?  You’re thaaaat family.)

Absurd in the highest!

It’s almost like we don’t really care because for whatever reason, we just let people keep spreading lies about Jesus.  You don’t even have to go too far to see it/read it/hear it.  Why do we do that?

I do know this – if Jesus were as real to you as your own mother, if you believed with your heart of hearts that everything the Scriptures proclaim about Him is true, you would reject all of those caricatures of Jesus and seek to correct the errors about Him.  Just like you’d correct anyone who spread falsehoods about your mom.

All that to ask you this:

Do you truly believe that Jesus is knowable?  Not only knowing things about Him, which is important, but also knowing Him, which is vital.  Your eternity depends on it!

That said, we’ll never know everything about Him.  But we can certainly know some things about Him.  Some very important things about Him.  Some vital things about Him.  Things like:

Luke 2:11–12 (ESV) (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (12) And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

He was born.  Born in the City of David.  He is the Messiah (Christ).  He is Lord.  He was born as a baby.  He was the fulfillment of prophecy.

Hebrews 1:1–2 (ESV) (1) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, (2) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

He is the final word from God.  He owns everything.  Through Jesus, the world was created.

Hebrews 1:3–4 (ESV) (3) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (4) having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

He is God.  He is powerful to hold everything together, simply by His word.  He atoned for sin ONCE, that’s all that was needed, and finished that work.  He is not Michael the archangel – He is much greater than angels.

Romans 5:6–10 (ESV) (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We are weak, but He is strong.  And while we were weak, He died for sinners.  While we were enemies, He died for us!  His death and resurrection saves His people from God’s wrath (yes, God is wrathful as well as merciful), and reconciles them with God.  No longer enemies.

And we can know Him…

1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (ESV) (1) And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

So, there it is.  Jesus is knowable.  Things about Jesus are knowable. The entire bible, all 66 books, 1189 chapters, 31102 verses, all of them tell us something about God – something about His character, His nature, His actions, His interactions, His laws, His grace, His mercy, His TRUTH.  There is no excuse.

Jesus certainly is knowable.  He’s as knowable as your mom.  As real as your mom.

And He’s so much more than your mom.

He’s God.

John 14:6 (ESV) (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Do you believe that?  Because if you do, if you truly do, it should affect you to your core.  Does it?

You know your mom well.  You should know Jesus better.  Do you?

If not, there’s this one book…

Jesus is Freedom…

In my last post, I talked about truth and the importance of standing for it.  I hope we all see the value in standing for what we believe in.  Everyone stands for something, and everyone has truth standards, even if they don’t think you can know truth.  Probably the most absurd thing I have heard anyone say in regard to this is…

“There is no such thing as absolute truth.”

…because they never follow it up with…

“Well, except for what I just said.”

The statement “There is no such thing as absolute truth” is itself an absolute truth claim – a claim, by the way, which is self contradictory.  But that is the world in which we live – people don’t care about being consistent.  Being consistent takes work and guess what else…yup…consistency.  And in this day and age, people seem to care more about what others think is true than what is actually true.  You need look no further than Indiana’s plight right now to see that.

Proverbs 12:15 ESV (15) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

It seems that we’d rather believe we are right than actually be right.  I suppose it’s because in order to be right, there must be truthotherwise, it’s all opinion.  And we do so love opinion…

But contrary to popular belief, that knife cuts both ways.  If someone says to you …

You can’t tell me what’s right – what’s right for you might not be right for me”

… all you need to reply with is something like …

Well, according to you, I certainly can.  You just told me what I can and can’t do, what’s right and wrong.  So, why can’t I tell you what’s right and wrong?  Did you really mean to say ‘I can tell you what to do because I’m right and you are wrong?'”

… because what that person did was give you a moral truth claim:  “you can’t” followed by what you can’t do: “tell me what’s right“.  The unstated reason: “because I don’t agree with you.”  Chances are very good that, if this person was talking with an ally, they would be more than happy to give all sorts of moral imperatives.  They are proving what they scream to deny – that there is a truth out there somewhere – and in fact, that they are closer to it than you.

But they’ll never admit that.  That would be arrogant.  And God forbid anybody speak as if they really believe what they are saying!

But that’s really beating around the issue.  Moral relativism (at it’s core is an illogical fear of calling anything right or wrong) is a symptom of a deeper, much more serious problem, denial.  Not just denying that we can know truth, but the denial of truth altogether.  A couple thousand years ago, there was a very important discussion about truth.  It went like this…

John 18:33-37 ESV (33) So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (34) Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (35) Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (36) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (37) Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

… and Pilate responded to this assertion with a question…

John 18:33-37 ESV (38) Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

And given what we know about Pilate, there is a good chance that his words conveyed this sentiment: “Whatever.  As if there is such a thing as truth.

But what riled Pilate so much?  What was Pilate responding to?  Listen to the words of Jesus:  “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.”

According to Jesus, there is such a thing as truth!  Imagine that.  And it’s not simply that there is such a thing, it’s that you can know this truth because Jesus testifies to it!

Now, it gets really serious, far more serious than your belief that 1+1=2.  It’s serious because Jesus believes and teaches that there is such a thing as truth, and He came to testify to that truth.  So, if you want to know truth about Jesus, where should you go?

Joel Osteen?  Oprah Winfrey?  Hollywood?

Sadly, that’s where a great number of people go, and they come out with all sorts of crazy, wrong ideas about Jesus.  Ideas like:

  • Jesus was simply a good teacher
  • Jesus never really existed
  • Jesus is love, and Jesus wins, so Love Wins!  Hell isn’t forever!
  • Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers born from a father god and mother goddess
  • Jesus is merely a god, not the God
  • Jesus existed, but he didn’t really die
  • Jesus existed, and died, but didn’t resurrect
  • Jesus existed, died, and resurrected spiritually, not physically
  • Jesus wants you to live Your Best Life Now
  • and on … and on … and on

But, if you really cared about truth, I mean really cared, you’d go to the source of truth, wouldn’t you?  But, that would require you to not only accept truth as a concept, it also requires you to accept truth as a person.

Jesus, the way, the truth, the life.

And if Jesus is actually the Truththen what Isaiah said is actually true…

Isaiah 45:19 ESV (19) I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right.

God’s truth is not spoken in secret.  God speaks the truth.  God declares what is right.  And since Jesus is God, He speaks the truth and declares what is right.

So, what does that mean for you?  It means that if Jesus calls something true, right, or good, it is absolutely true, right or good no matter what you believe about that something.  It also means that if Jesus calls something false, wrong, or evil, it is absolutely false, wrong, or evil no matter what you believe about that something.

And here is probably the biggest and most controversial thing I’ll say all post:  this also means that Jesus is the Lord of the entire universe, even of your life, even of your circumstances, whether you believe it or not.

But why did Jesus come to testify to the truth?

John 8:31–32 (ESV) (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Are you ready to believe that?  Will you submit to your Lord and abide in him and be set free by knowing Him…the Truth?

John 8:33–35 (ESV) (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. (35) The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

Or will you continue to rationalize why you don’t believe what He says and remain a slave forever?

Jesus is Truth…

I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately – a little thing called truth.  And if that was the only thing I was thinking about, that would be enough.  But my thoughts have not been on only truth, but also on our willingness to stand up for it.  All of us believe in things, and all of us are willing to stand up for those things to some degree.

For example, do you believe that 1+1=2? (No, it’s not a trick question).

I hope so!  But suppose you were in a math class (or had kids/friends/relatives in math class) where the teacher believed and taught that 1+1=0.  But take it further, what if this teacher didn’t just believe this without proof, what if he actually had a proof, and it went like this:

Suppose we have two numbers, a and b, both of which are equal to 1.  We write that like this:

\(\text{1) Let } a=b=1\)

One thing we know is that if two numbers are equal, we can square both of them, and their squares are equal.  So, in our example, squaring both sides gives us:

\(\text{2) }a^2=b^2\)

If we subtract the same number from two numbers that are the same, the result is the same.  Therefore, we can subtract \(b^2\) from both sides and get:

\(\begin{align}\text{3) }(a^2-b^2)&=(b^2-b^2)\\(a^2-b^2)&=0\end{align}\)

Now, this requires a bit more than “basic math”, but equations in this form are called “the difference of two squares” and can be written like:

\(\text{5) }(a-b)*(a+b)=0\)

Now, if we have two numbers that are equal, we can divide them both by the same value and the result will be equal.  For example, if 10=10, we can divide both sides by 2 and get 5=5, right?  Doing this gives us:

\(\begin{align}\text{6) }\frac{(a-b)*(a+b)}{(a-b)}=\frac{0}{(a-b)}\end{align}\)

The left side reduces to (a+b) since the (a-b)’s cancel out.  The right side is still 0 because 0 divided by anything equals 0:

\(\begin{align}\text{7) }\frac{(a-b)}{(a-b)}*(a+b)&=0\\1*(a+b)&=0\end{align}\)

  So we are left with:

\(\text{8) }(a+b)=0\)

If we substitute our original values, we arrive at:

\(\text{9) }(1+1)=0\)

There you have it!  We have just proved that 1+1=0!

So, now do you believe that 1+1=0?  I still hope not!  You know that 1+1=2, not 0…so where’s the problem?  The proof looks reasonable, doesn’t it?

But this isn’t about math, it’s about truth.  And more than truth, it’s about our desire to defend it.

My guess is that if your child/friend/relative/self had this math teacher, you’d be pretty upset.  In fact, you might even complain to the board to get him suspended or fired or transferred.  You’d stand for this truth, right?

Time for the hard question, and no, it’s not “where’s the error in the proof” (hint – it’s in step 6)…it’s this:

Does the truth claim “Jesus is God” hold your loyalty as much as the truth claim “1+1=2”?

If you are a Christian, you must say yes.

And here’s the “hard part” – saying “yes” means something.  It means that anyone who says “No he’s not” is just as wrong as someone who says “1+1=0”, even if they have some sort of proof.  It means that saying “Jesus may be God for you, but not for me” is just as absurd as saying “1+1 may equal 2 for you, but not for me.”

Christian, do you truly believe that Jesus is the one and only Son of God?  Do you believe that we are all sinners in need of a savior?  Do you believe that sin is wrong and not only separates us from God for a time, but if left unatoned for, will separate us from God for eternity?  Do you believe that God’s word is true?  Always?

If you believe these things are true, then you are obligated to defend them as if they actually are true, just as you would defend the truth that 1+1=2!  Do you?

Or, by your words and actions, do you show that you really don’t believe those things are actually true, but only true for you?

During this week leading up to the celebration of the ultimate display of Truth the world has ever seen, would you reflect on how you view this truth…

1 Corinthians 15:3–5 (ESV) (3) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (5) and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

… or this truth …

John 8:21–24 (ESV) (21) So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” (22) So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” (23) He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (24) I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

… or this one …

John 14:6–7 (ESV) (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The Truth.

Jesus is the Truth.

Will you submit to the truth of scripture?  The truth of Jesus’ words?  Or will you be quiet when the world around you assaults Him and His truth?

Will you curl up in defeat and give in to the world who says:

“Jesus may be your truth, but don’t you dare say he is THE truth!”

or will you boldly proclaim, to all who would oppose you:

“Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  You will never see heaven except through Him!”

What must I believe to be saved? (Part 3 of 3)

You’re still with me?  Great!  ‘Cuz this final post is a tad longish…and by “a tad”, I mean, “very”…  🙂

We’ve talked a bit about how Christianity is indeed a religion.  Jesus didn’t give up heaven, live as a human, suffer, die, and rise from the dead simply so you could live however you want and ignore His commands.

He died so His people would live, and now lives so they will never die!

That should mean something.

If you desire to follow Jesus but don’t want to obey His commands, there is something very wrong.  In fact, if you come across a Christian who’s message is simply “all you need to do is believe”, that person is telling you the truth for sure, but he’s only giving you the beginning of the story…

Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV) (18) And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What did Jesus say?  His disciples are expected to make disciples by baptizing and teaching.  But teach what?  Is it simply things about Jesus? Jesus tells us that we are to teach His disciples obedience, and specifically, obedience to His commands.

If you call yourself a Christian, but do not want to obey Jesus’ commands, something is very wrong.

It’s not that obedience saves you, it’s that obedience is a natural outflow of a heart that beats for God.  If you love God, you should obey Him.  True belief produces change because true belief is the result of the Holy Spirit making you a new creation.

But the obedience part of religion, and the fuller understanding that comes with growth is a topic of another post.  This is about the belief part of religion.  When we teach people about Jesus, what do we teach them?  When they believe, what do we expect them to believe? Continue reading “What must I believe to be saved? (Part 3 of 3)”

What must I believe to be saved? (Part 2 of 3)

Last time, we saw that there are actually many questions we must answer about belief.  Which Jesus?  Do I believe?  Are there things I must believe? and so forth.  So, let me start off with a word of encouragement – when you listen to the voice of the shepherd, when He calls you from death to life, when He renews your mind and makes you a new creation, one who’s heart beats for God, one who’s thoughts are focused on things of the Spirit and life, you will be saved.  Period.

And here’s the but…BUT…that new life actually, literally, changes you.  God meets you where you are, that’s true, but He doesn’t leave you there.  He moves you.  He guides you.  He teaches you.  He changes you.  He resets your worldview as He moves you from death to life.

If you say you love Jesus, but remain unchanged, something and someone is horrifyingly wrong.

And it’s not God. Continue reading “What must I believe to be saved? (Part 2 of 3)”

What must I believe to be saved? (Part 1 of 3)

There is a popular idea going around…the idea that religion is bad and Jesus is good.  This idea spawns other ideas like “religion gets in the way of Jesus” or “Jesus hates religion”.  There is a sense in which I agree with these statements, but only if we define “religion” as “man made doctrines that substitute for Jesus.”  The bible certainly speaks out against that kind of religion in passages like Colossians 2:20–23 and James 1:26.

However, the bible is pretty clear that in order to call yourself a Christian, you must believe certain things. The fuller context of James 1:26 is:

James 1:19–27 (ESV) (19) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (21) Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. (24) For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (25) But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (26) If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (27) Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

If we are to call ourselves Christian, we must not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word as well.  And the “doing” of the word is pure and undefiled religion.

So, Christianity is both a relationship and a religion.  A relationship in that you must know Jesus, and a religion in that once you know Jesus, there are things He expects of you. Continue reading “What must I believe to be saved? (Part 1 of 3)”