I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10
Dear Fellow Parishioners, members and friends of The Solid Rock Church,
When you read in the Bible about the work of the early Church, about the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, and the foundational meaning of all of His life’s purpose, you will see that the topic of salvation, or being “saved” is a constant in the Biblical narrative, although expressed in different ways. That stated purpose is something we tend not to see out in the world. How often do we watch a show on TV at this time of year and we hear someone pontificate that Christmas is all about the family, and getting together, and having a wonderful time together, etc.? There is nothing wrong with those things – they are quite wonderful. But is that what Christmas is all about? The secular culture seems unable, or unwilling, to embrace a Biblical meaning to the birth of Christ.
Read through the book of Acts and where someone was preaching/teaching about Jesus, what was the basic or foundational understanding of the Christ event? It won’t take one long to see that Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and the gift of Holy Spirit is about the gift of salvation to all who choose to believe in Jesus Christ.
That message is still relevant today, and as the quote at the top of this letter states, it’s good news that is for all people. That is the meaning of the word “catholic” in our Nicene Creed – that the gospel message is good for all people, for all time and in all places. In other words, there never has been, nor will there ever be, a person for whom the gospel message is not supremely and eternally relevant.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Rom. 10:9-10) “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” (Titus 2:11)
Celebrating and thanking God for this incredible, astounding, and most profound and needed gift is the most appropriate response to God. All through the ages God’s people have come together to give thanks to Him and to worship Him in formal ways. Doing so also helps us worship Him in informal ways. I pray each and every one of us will do so this Christmas. We’d love to have you join us!
Christmas Eve service is at 6 p.m. beginning with a set of some of our favorite Christmas hymns, followed by the service proper. We will also have a time of fellowship after the service. And Christmas morning, Sunday, Dec. 25 at 10:00 a.m. we will have our Christmas morning service too! Join us for one (or both!!).
May God bless you and all your loved ones this Christmas season, and all through 2017. To God be the glory!
John 18: 37 records Jesus as saying, “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.”
Luke 19:10 records jesus saying of Himself, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
We can see in these two verses, and in numerous other places too, that Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching was a witness to the truth. And in that witness, He proclaimed that we – all people – were lost and needed to be saved.
When we look at all that Jesus taught, it’s fairly easy to see that His view & understanding of reality was significantly different than what was the understanding of the people of His day. The same could be said today – of us. Consider the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), in particular the portion where He says, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” (5:21, 27, etc.) He was telling them that their understanding of certain areas of life (and some might argue that by implication He was saying this about all areas of life) was in error; it was either flat out wrong, or incomplete and therefore still wrong.
In John 18:37 Jesus is standing before Pilate, not long before He was tortured and crucified. Jesus believed this witness to the truth was worth everything – literally.
If it was worth everything to Jesus, do you think it ought to be important to us too? Jesus in John 20:21 is recorded as saying, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” That means as we live our lives we should be a witness to the truth. Always. Everywhere. In all our decisions. Period.
Our opinions about issues of our day don’t matter one whit to God. Our witness to the truth does matter to God.
And truth is objective, not subjective, otherwise Jesus’ witness to the truth would have been meaningless. Truth is true regardless of our feelings, our understanding of truth, or our acceptance of truth. Truth was true yesteryear, yesterday, today and will be true tomorrow and every day.
Truth by its very definition is intollerant of error.
So… how do we come to know truth so we can accept Jesus’ testimony and amend our lives where needed – and thus enter into the truth of being “saved” – to let Jesus save us? (Notice I wrote “where needed” not “if needed”.)
We MUST read the Bible, and apply what we read. Courses can help with that, of course! One such course I believe to be among the best is The Truth Project. The Solid Rock Church is currently offering this course at two different times during the week.
1) Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. in our Conference Room, and
2) Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in our Conference Room
located at 3601 Cypress Gardens Road, Winter Haven, FL.
Come to our next meeting, or call 863-875-4825 and leave a message for a call-back to receive infomation about our next course.
All who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are welcome to attend. No cost involved. Call if you just want a bit more info.
May all of us who call ourselves Christian become better at our witness to the Truth! And may Jesus Himself be our model, as He lived out truth which He received from His Father through the Old Testament and by the indwelling, empowering and leading of Holy Spirit.
This might make you mad, or glad, but regardless I pray it makes you a more Biblical Christian. Of if you are not a Christian maybe it will help you understand more of the differences between these two things. (If you are not a Christian, please read my blog “The Greatest Question” here.)
Last post I wrote about the continuing “passion” that a professing Christian ought to have, and that is to seek to please God in every area of one’s life. To be sure, let me say again, this is seeking to please God is not to earn your salvation. Salvation is a gift from God we can receive, but can never earn.
Seeking to please God is the primary way to express our love for God for His gracious gift and for all that He does for us.
I hit on two very big “hot button” issues that face the whole world really. So where might we go next with that same desire… to please God in all aspects of life?
I was directed to another blog recently that I want to, in turn, direct you to. I guess you could say I’m bringing to you a “guest” blogger, even though he doesn’t know it!
I know I wrote in my last blog that the next blog would be about “communion.” However I feel I need to write about something else before I address that topic.
Now that you have committed your life to God in the receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to save you from your sin, it is only natural that we want to express our gratitude to God for doing for us what we needed the most, but could never accomplish ourselves. A life of thanksgiving is the appropriate response for such an “out of this world” gift as eternal life.
Thinking of the racing analogy again for a moment, and with the 2016 Olympics in Rio recently concluding, that should give us many examples of how we “pace” ourselves for the marathon called “Life,” it behooves us to know further what we should actually be doing during the “meat” of the race.
Since we are racing, we do want to give it as much as we can, but not so much that we lose all our energy & power before we cross the finish line. The Christian life has some similarities to that, and finishing the race is obviously important.
So how do we “know God,” “please God,” and “love God”? This is a process that has been called “sanctification.” It’s a process where we let God change us from the inside out into a person that will be more and more like Jesus as He’s presented in the Bible. So what we need to do is read the Bible and then apply in our own personal lives what it teaches us.
Why not start with the “hot button” social items to see how this works. I’ll touch on abortion and human sexuality.
Consider some of these Bible passages with respect to abortion: Psalm 139:13-14, “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.”The psalmist, inspired by Holy Spirit, puts forth the truth that God is the creator of life in the womb. Even if one thinks this is just metaphor it still presents the same truth – God begins life. Jeremiah also presents the same truth when he is inspired to write “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jer. 1:5) Consider also the inspired record of when Mary, the mother of Jesus, greeted Elizabeth, her relative. The Bible says that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped” and in vs. 44 Luke, again inspired by Holy Spirit, says the baby leaped for joy. If the fetus was just a glob of tissue, the inerrant Word of God would not ascribe a human emotion to it. The witness of the Bible is clear and consistent that God is the author of life, and that life in the womb is a human being with full personhood and that life begins because God has ordained the biological process that way. So should we end innocent life in the womb through abortion if that life is to be seen as precious to God? Also remember the Commandment “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
Even science has given us plenty of evidence that life in the womb is fully human. That evidence has been available literally for decades. But that evidence is all too often ignored. What does the ignoring of evidence say about us as a society?
So if you think about casting votes for individuals running for political office, if you are a Christian you should vote for a candidate that upholds the Biblical position for life for those in the womb. “You shall not murder” is one of the Ten Commandments, so it’s a good place to start.
Forgiveness & healing from abortion
Before leaving the topic of abortion I feel I need to add one more truth. That is that forgiveness and healing are available from God for anyone who repents and confesses their sin if they have been involved with supplying, promoting or having an abortion. God loves us and wants the best for us, but faith in God says we do things His way, not ours. So repent of your actions with respect to abortion, confess your sin involvement in abortion, and receive God’s forgiveness, and His healing cleansing. (see 1 John 1:8-10)
Let’s also consider one other “hot button” social item: human sexuality. The Bible has some things to say about this too.
The area of human sexuality that seems to be the “flashpoint” or area of greatest controversy is homosexuality.
Consider these passages of Scripture: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Lev. 18:22); “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination;” (Lev. 20:13). Also consider Romans 1:18-32, noting particularly v.26-27, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, and Jude 7. We can see that the plain teaching of the Bible is to portray same-sex sexual relationships as something not glorifying to God, but is sinful.
Some will respond to what I have written and say that Jesus changed these things, or the New Testament church changed these understandings and they posit some thoughts to back up their position. However none of those positions stand up to scholarly scrutiny. The Rev. Dr. Robert Gagnon has an extensive web site with a great deal of free material if one wants to delve into this topic of human sexuality more deeply, and read material by one that has not only extensive Biblical knowledge, but approaches it with the mindset to see what it says, not what we would perhaps want it to say. The site is at www.robgagnon.net. You can also follow him on Facebook.
Before I conclude with how this information helps us in discerning who to vote for in an election, let me say that if someone is reading this and has struggled with or succumbed to same-sex attraction, there is hope and help. Just as there is hope and help for those involved in one or more abortions, God has made provision for helping those with same-sex attraction. 1 Cor. 6:11 reads, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Note the tense of “you were.” Those that had partaken of one or more of the activities/conditions listed v.9-10 turned from their ways and embraced God through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, and by receiving the indwelling of Holy Spirit to further teach them right from wrong, and to begin the strengthening process to choose life and choose the right actions in increasing fashion as they live out their lives. We all need that cleansing and sanctifying work of God by His Spirit. So confess those sins, receive and embrace God’s forgiveness, and move forward in a spirit of repentance.
Now, when we come to the issue of voting, as Christians we want to vote for those who espouse Christian positions on the issues that face our community – be that our nation, our home town, and every level in between. It is not a matter of personality of the individual under consideration. Here is where you need to do your due diligence and know where the individuals stand on the issues. Is their position in agreement with what the Bible teaches, being sure not to take a Bible verse or passage out of its context? And what about prioritizing the various issues that could be in play? Are all the issues treated with equal weight, or significance? No. Again we go back to the Bible if we are Christian and see what God has to say about it.
I think it’s pretty easy to say that life is most important to God. So since the first topic above concerns life, evaluate where the respective candidates stand on the issue of life. (And here I’m referring to physical life, not quality of life.) If you find the candidates’ positions to be equal, move on to a second issue and do the same procedure. Where are the candidates most Biblical?
And when the topics are prioritized, are there some that are so important that it doesn’t matter what the candidates’ positions are on less important issues? In other words, from a Biblical standpoint does the candidate’s position on one issue disqualify them from being considered any further, regardless of their stand on other issues?
What if after you do your due diligence you are left with no clear better choice? Well then you can move to evaluating the political party to see which ones have a platform that passes your discerning eye. That could be seen as a sort of “second tier” of evaluation.
In the end, you will need to always be seeking God’s leading. Again, Paul writes in Romans 8:14 that those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons and daughters of God. So if there is no clear cut choice that agrees with the Biblical positions on the topics being evaluated, one may choose not to vote at all, or one may choose to go ahead and vote, leaning on the leading of Holy Spirit in either case. But it should be fairly clear to us after doing the research and praying if God wants us to vote this way or that way as the Bible helps us in that discernment.
Occasionally I hear someone say they have never heard of the Anglican church, or denomination. I usually answer that they likely have, but they didn’t realize it. The Anglican Church, or it’s also called the Anglican Communion, in one sense has been around since the 1500s. It is a product of God through the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. In the United States it has been primarily, but not exclusively, known as The Episcopal Church. The term Anglican (not an-gel-i-can, as in angels, but ang-li-can as in Anglo of Anglo Saxon) points us to the Church of England. Let me state quickly though that the Anglican Communion traces its beginning all the way back to the days of the Apostles. It would not be wrong to say that because we accept the Old Testament we could be said to trace our beginnings right along with the Jewish people back to the days of Genesis. So we don’t need to understand the Anglican Communion as having begun in the 1500s. It may have been identified as the Anglican Communion then, but its beginnings do go back to “the beginning”!
In the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation the part of the Roman Catholic Church in England broke away from the Roman Church and it formed the Anglican Church. The Anglicans did not embrace as much reformation as some of the other groups, or denominations, that broke away at about that same time, but Anglicans kept many of the significant parts of the faith present in the Roman Church. A few of these parts are things like the office of bishops, an emphasis on the sacraments, liturgy (or the rituals or order of service when conducting formal worship services) and other parts too. The word “Episcopal” comes from the Greek word episkopos which means “overseer” or “bishop” so the Episcopal Church is known as a church with bishops.
When we speak of the Anglican Communion, we are referring to the world-wide association of Anglican Churches that conduct their life and ministry in an Anglican tradition. There is much more to it than that, but in its broadest sense, that’s what is often meant when someone refers to the Anglican Communion. Depending on who you are conversing with, it may (likely?) will mean something significantly more restrictive than that, but I’m not going into all that here and now (maybe later).
The Anglican Communion is made up of autonomous “provinces.” A province is the grouping of Anglican congregations within a given country. Some Provinces will cover multiple countries due to size needs. So there is the Province of England, the Province of the United States, the Province of Canada, the Province of Nigeria, etc. There are currently 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion. Each Province is led by an Archbishop, or they also may be called a Primate as in being the first of the Bishops of that Province. Each diocese is led by a bishop. A bishop has jurisdiction over a smaller specific geographical region, called a diocese. Bishops are responsible for guarding the faith once delivered to the saints, as is stated in the book of Jude in the Bible. And because they can’t be in all the places that need this oversight, the next level of authority in the Anglican Communion under a bishop is the priest.
Priests function under the approval of a bishop. If a priest is found to be misrepresenting the faith, it is the bishop’s responsibility to correct that priest, or remove him/her from functioning as a priest.
Deacon is another office in the Anglican Communion. The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos which means “servant.” The deacon is one who helps the local congregation take the ministry of the church out into the world, meeting the needs of the local community and thereby sharing the love God has for all people. The deacon will see needs that the church could help meet and then will assist the priest and other clergy of the local congregation in equipping the people of the congregation to go meet those needs, bringing people into relationship with God through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross and in the power of Holy Spirit.
Because the Christian faith is a “missionary” faith, some bishops will have jurisdictional authority over priests and deacons that are outside their geographical boundary. Also, some bishops will exercise this kind of oversight over clergy that are within another Anglican Province because it has been determined that the Archbishop, or Primate, of that other Province is knowingly permitting a representation of the Christian faith that is very much at odds in very significant ways with what is revealed to us in the Bible. In these types of cases, it is the responsibility of the other bishops of that Province to “bring in line” the Archbishop, and if they do not do so, then the Archbishop of Canterbury (appointed by the King or Queen of England) should lead the way in bringing the errant bishop/province back in line with the revealed will of God in the Bible. (Well… I just opened a big “can of worms” with that, but we’ll leave it there for now.)
So to summarize a bit, to be Anglican means in part we conduct our life and ministry in the traditions of the Church of England, and we trace our spiritual lineage back in time through the Church of England and we are under the oversight of a Bishop who has valid jurisdiction, and is in “communion” with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In the last post I mentioned about baptism – that if you have not been baptized that you should inquire about that with the pastor of the local parish church you begin attending. Baptism is a very important part of faith in God. Baptism is practiced by every Christian group or denomination – at least I have never heard of one that doesn’t practice baptism. That in and of itself speaks of its importance.
The Bible speaks of two kinds of “baptism.” The first kind is water baptism, and the second is Spirit baptism, or baptism in or by Holy Spirit. The type I am addressing now is water baptism.
Baptism is important because the Bible points to it as being important. Jesus Himself told His disciples to “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…” (Mt. 28:19, emphasis added) The Apostle Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost (50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus) in response to the crowd’s question “What shall we do?” told them “Repent and be baptized every one of you…” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added)
I was once in a small group Bible study years ago in which there was a man who had a relative who claimed he did not need to be baptized – that he was saved by faith in Jesus, so his actions in the body were irrelevant. Well… not so much. What that man’s relative was doing was understanding faith as merely an intellectual acceptance of some information. Acting on that information, according to his thinking, would add nothing, so therefore nothing need be done. However that way of thinking does not mix with the Bible’s teaching.
Believing in Jesus – having faith in Jesus – will be seen by people by what we do, not merely by what we say. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Obedience is an expression of love, and love is what we feel and want to express for all that Jesus has done for us. The Apostle Paul writes, “We love because he [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Also, Peter went on in the verse quoted above to say, “…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.” It is through our response of faith in God that we come to water baptism, and there God does more for our benefit. He takes up residence within us by His Spirit, and it is His righteous presence within us that is the cleansing power to separate us from our sin. In the Bible’s words, we are forgiven. But if we don’t come to the waters of baptism, we are showing that we are not trusting God, trusting Jesus, and we are still wanting to do things “our way” instead of God’s way. That attitude is, in essence, the definition of sin. It is the thing that brought sin into God’s creation when Adam & Eve did things their way instead of God’s way.
Now, if you were baptized as an infant or young child, even if you don’t remember anything about your baptism, you do not need to be baptized again. You see, in baptism, God is the primary actor, not so much you or me – us. God does act in response to us in the baptism, but our action is not the main focus – God is. In the case of infant/young child’s baptism, the parents and God-parents come in their faith in God, bringing their child into the covenant community by faith. I’ll go more into this in a later post, but suffice it to say, if you were baptized as youngster, and now have come to a living faith in Jesus Christ, you do not need to be baptized again. Let just say this much more about it – for us to say baptism is needed again is to say that God did not do it right in the first place (since He is the primary actor in this drama of grace).
Notice how it is phrased in what Peter said, “…you will receive…” That is passive, not active. You do not “go get” but you just receive. Again, that shows that God is the primary actor here, not the one being baptized. So you can rest assured that God did it right the first time.
If you are willing, I’d love to receive a picture of you being baptized, or being accepted into the fellowship of the local congregation you join. Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last post I began to write about the Christian life being more like a marathon than a sprint. You began your “race” by telling at least one friend that you have committed your life to Jesus Christ – you received Him as Lord and Savior – and you are now seeking to follow Him in all of life’s parts.
Now we can settle in to the longer “body” of the race. Again the Apostle Paul writes that we need to be transformed and that happens by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:1-2) The renewal of the mind leads to new actions too.
If you have started reading the Bible, and you are getting a good bit out of it with what you are reading, then continue on with what you have been reading. But if you aren’t sure where to begin, may I suggest you begin with reading the Gospel of John. The first four books of the New Testament are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are named after their authors. John was written to folks that did not have a Jewish background and upbringing and is perhaps the best choice to begin with for folks without a Jewish background. John records things in a way that helps us to “see” past just the physical universe and on into “eternity” so to speak, and how Jesus is the primary player in all of that.
If you have a Jewish background, then beginning with the Gospel Matthew may be a more appropriate place to start, especially if you personally place a good deal of emphasis in your spiritual life to your Jewish traditions and lineage.
Regardless, continue reading your Bible at least a little bit every day. Don’t rush through reading the Bible. This is where the race analogy is not helpful. Let God “speak” to you from the pages of the Bible. He will. “Listen” closely. Ponder and meditate on the different metaphors it uses and the topics it addresses. You have already begun to think on these things when we spoke of “receiving” Jesus and “believing” in Him. Try to grasp the flow of thought by the author. And if the version of the Bible you are reading from has footnotes and/or section headings, try ignoring them for now. They are not part of the original text when the books of the Bible were written. Those section headings may be helpful, and maybe not. So just ignore them for now. And the same thing goes for chapter divisions. Some are very good, but some make us cut off some important material in our thinking that is part of the flow of thought the author was sharing in the previous chapter(s). You’ll get better at this the more you read the Bible. That’s like the athlete gets better at his/her sport the more they practice and compete.
One other thing I’ll include for this post as you read your Bible. Take notice if the writer shares 1) a promise from God to “receive” and “live into”; 2) an activity or way of thinking that is presented in such a way that we should embrace that activity or thinking and make it part of who we are; make it part of our lives; and 3) an activity or way of thinking that is presented in such a way that we should REMOVE it from our lives and NOT engage in those activities or ways of thinking. As mentioned in a previous post, the Bible calls that “repentance.” We change our minds, and that leads to us changing our actions. No change in actions indicates we did not change our mind. That in turn reveals that we have not really repented, even though we may say we have.
To give a brief example of this way of reading your Bible, when I was first being drawn to God, I went to church every Sunday. In the Anglican tradition then, and it is still this way in some places, I heard four very brief passages of the Bible said every week. One of those is from Matthew 11:28 that read “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heaven laden, and I will refresh you.” I remember thinking, “I don’t know how to come to You Jesus. Please teach me and I’ll try my best.” There was something I hadn’t been doing – other than just going to church – but I knew I needed to change that.
So… did you actually tell someone of your receiving Jesus Christ at your Lord and Savior? If not, try really hard to get that done soon. Acts 1:8 records Jesus as saying, “…you will be my witnesses…” so the question is, will we be a good witness or a bad witness. He saved you and me from an eternity in hell – I’m sure we all want to be good witnesses.
And have you found a church to maybe get involved with? I know that will take some time to get to know them and see how they handle the Bible. If you have found one you think may be good, talk to the pastor about membership, and if you have never been baptized, ask about that too. I’ll cover more on that in a future blog. (Maybe the next one!)
God bless you in your continuing walk in your new life in Christ. To God be the glory!
I heard these words after I learned to row competitively in college many moons ago. They sound like “et vu (with the long “u” sound, but no vowel sound as in “view”) pray… partay.” They continue to have significance in my life, though I rarely hear them, and more rarely use them. They are French (I understand, because I have never taken any French lessons whatsoever!) and I was told they mean, “Are you ready?… Leave!” These are the words used to start a rowing race.
Well, now that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are “out of the starting blocks” as the saying goes, and you have begun the race. Yes, what you have done can be compared to a race. The Apostle Paul, one of the major writers of the New Testament compared his life, and thereby the Christian life, to a race. But as has been said many times by many people, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon.
My daughter runs marathons and she tells me the marathoner will often begin a race a bit differently than the other parts of the race. That sort of thinking can be applied in lots of areas of life. She says she has heard, if I remember correctly, that most – maybe all (?) – of the marathon world records are set by those who do not start out running at a fast pace, but by those who begin their race at a less-than-race pace. Then towards the end of the marathon, they begin to really pick up the pace so that the last – what… four miles, six miles, or more – give it all they can. But one needs to remember the goal is to cross the finish line, not just completely exhaust yourself, but fall short of the finish line. So she starts her race for the first mile or so at a “comfortable” pace to get into the flow and the mindset of actually racing. Then she picks up the pace for few miles and then later still begins to pick it up more with a higher than average race pace until about the 20 mile mark or so. Then about then the “pushing the personal envelope” mindset is engaged and the body really begins to get tested.
In my rowing competitions, we would have a set of strokes to initially get the racing shell moving – like 3 to 5 strokes that were partial strokes, like half and three quarter length strokes at full power, then we would have a set of 20 or so strokes to really put in as much power as we could at full stroke length at a higher rate of rowing. Then we would transition into a lower stroke rate and power we could maintain for much of the race. We would finish the race with an all out, highest rate possible to maintain and at full power (whatever might be left by then) until we cross the finish line.
The Christian life will sometimes be similar to a race start. It does depend on the person though, as well as what God may want to do in your life. But do keep in mind the Christian life is more like a marathon than a sprint at the beginning. So think about the marathon beginning of not starting at full power, race pace, compared to the rowing start I described.
Something that could correlate in the Christian life to a race start could be something like telling a number of people of your decision. That number should be at least 1! But preferably it should be a few, or maybe many. Don’t worry about the other things to come later. The more people you tell early on in your Christian walk, then the easier it will be from then on. It gives you a great “boost” out of the starting gate for you. Jesus said that we will be His witnesses (see Acts [that’s short for “The Acts of the Apostles”] 1:8 [that means chapter 1, and verse 8] in the Bible), so the only question is whether we’ll be a good witness or a bad one. I’m confident you will want to be a good one.
So write down a list of names of relatives, friends, co-workers or co-students you think it would be good to tell. Do that now… I’ll wait while you make the list… [key the background music]
OK – have your list? I hope so. If not, go back and finish just writing your list.
Now pick one name from your list and give that person a call and tell them what you did – that you gave your life to Jesus Christ and you received Him as your Lord and Savior. If they ask why, you can share your answer, but also if you’re not quite ready to do that, direct them to this blog and “The Greatest Question” blog post. That may be just what they need – your sharing of your decision – to think about eternity and to be ready.
You’re in the race! Good for you!
Don’t forget… call at least one person and them what you have done. That’s it! If they ask questions, fine. Answer them the best you can. If they don’t respond much at all, that’s fine too.
And read your Bible at least a little bit every day.
And if you have questions, I’ll be glad to try and answer them in my blog. Just leave them as a comment. All comments are moderated before being posted to the web. And needless to say, we won’t allow vulgar, obscene, etc. types of posts to be posted. But we want your honest and sincere questions and comments.
And remember what we most likely were told in school… there are no stupid questions.
I look forward to hearing from you, and God bless you in your walk with God.
So you have prayed the prayer at the end of the last blog post titled “Chocolate or Vanilla, Warm or Cold Climate”. Now what?
By way of reminder, this is the prayer you prayed, or you prayed one very much like it:
Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me and coming for me. Thank You for your gift of love to me that You offered when You died on the cross. I can’t thank You enough for that, and I believe You did that for ME. I now receive Your gift – the gift of Your presence in my life, in my body, soul and spirit, and I ask You to forgive me of my sin. Cleanse me from all that separates me from God the Father. I ask You to give me Your Holy Spirit and take my life and turn it into something that honors You and glorifies You as well as fulfills my greatest need. I thank You for all You have done for me. And now Jesus, teach me Your way to live life. I thank You again Jesus, and I pray this in Your Name. Amen.
Let’s take a look at what you did by praying that (or similar) prayer.
First, you thanked Jesus Christ for loving you through His work and His coming to earth for you. And you thanked Him for offering to you the gift of His presence in your life. Another way to understand this, using Biblical language, is you received the gift of eternal life. That is what the Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans chapter 6 verse 23 where he writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Bible quotations taken from the English Standard Version [ESV] and are used with permission.)
Second, you actually received that gift of eternal life. You said to Jesus, through your prayer, “I now receive Your gift…” You also prayed, “give me Your Holy Spirit…” That is, you asked God to take up residence in you. HE, GOD, is the gift! The gift effects every part of who we are – body, soul and spirit. The receiving of the gift of His very presence in you (your life) is the means by which God forgives you (cleanses you) of your sin. When you prayed and asked Him to forgive you of your sin, that is precisely what He did.
You may have felt something emotionally, and then again maybe not. If you did not feel anything thing emotionally, that does not change the fact that He cleansed you from your sin. The action of God in your life is not dependent on your feelings. It is dependent on His sovereign acting in your life.
You may ask, “If I did not feel anything, and you say the gift effects every part of who I am – body, soul, and spirit – then how can I know it happened? How can I know that it’s true?” I can say that because God has promised it would happen, not that it would be accompanied by any particular sensation or feeling. Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:9 that God does not want any to perish. If that is true, and it is, then God will not make it difficult. Not being difficult to receive the gift of eternal should not say to you or me or anyone that the gift is not overwhelmingly precious, or that that is all there is to it, and nothing more. The Apostle John also writes in the Gospel of John chapter 1 verses 11-13, “He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
So God’s word says God does not want any to perish, and that anyone who receives Jesus – which is a onetime event, – and believes in His name – which is a continuing, day in and day out, ongoing believing, that person will have the right, the authority to become a child of God. There is no mention of emotional experience in these particular promises.
The word “believe” means to “trust.” If you trust your car, you manage your life in a particular way so that when you need your car to operate, you go and use it and expect it to operate. If you did not trust your car, then you would make other arrangements to do the things you would normally trust your car to help you with. If your car did not work and you had to walk to work, you would adjust your schedule to give you the additional time needed to walk rather than use your car. But if you trust your car to work, your schedule would be such that you don’t leave yourself that extra time to walk because you fully expect your car to do what you expect of it. That kind of trust is what the word “believe” means when we read it in the Bible.
So the “What now?” of our new relationship with God, through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and in the power of God’s Holy Spirit is that we learn how to “walk with God.” Some may say this by the phrase “walk your talk.” This is what is meant by the portion of the prayer where you asked God to “take my life and turn it into something that honors You and glorifies You as well as fulfills my greatest need.” Believing is a matter of behaving, not merely changing our mental thinking/understanding. New thinking leads to new actions/living. As A.W. Tozer once said, “If you’re not changed by grace, you’re not saved by grace.”
The whole purpose of your local church is to help you walk with God. They will help you with that new relationship with God. These blog posts will help you with that too.
So here’s a quick two-step summary of “What now?” 1) Read your Bible every day. It is God revealing Himself to us. I’ll be redundant here – read your Bible every day. 2) Find a good local church in which you can grow in God’s grace, and you can help them too.
Read your Bible. Get involved with a local Christian church.
Sign up to receive RSS feeds of these blog posts so you can stay on course. The enemy, and God’s enemy, Satan or the devil, likes nothing better than to get new Christians off to a bad start. Don’t let that happen!
God bless you in your new relationship and walk with God!
So… what do you prefer? Chocolate or vanilla? The warmer or the cooler climates?
Did you answer the question re the level of importance knowing what happens after we die? Is it along the lines of personal preference, or is it along the lines of what is often called the “first order questions of life”?
Enough of the luring. There are definite answers to these questions, and they do belong to the category of “first order questions of life.”
To know truth about life after death, if there is any and if so what is it like, we must have evidence that is not dependent on our experience; the evidence is not based on subjective experiences or feelings or best guesses. The evidence must be objective. That is, it must be evidence that points to and “reveals” truth that is true for all people regardless of virtually all life circumstances. I say “virtually all” because there do exist in some of the more extreme cases circumstances that would change the outcome if absolute strictness to revealed truth for the vast majority if adhered to. (These could be called “exceptions.”) But then even those “exceptions” are also based on revealed truth.
Does this objective truth exist?
And YOU can know it. And YOU should know it and make decisions about it in YOUR life because as the saying goes, “There will be a test.” And no, you can’t get out of the test, “CLEP” the test, or use any other method to avoid the full test.
It’s even more sure than the sun rising in the morning.
How do I know this? Well… let me share that with you.
Let’s say I blindfolded you and took you to Texas. (Have you ever traveled across or through a good portion of Texas? It’s BIG.) I have covered the state of Texas about two feet deep in silver dollar coins, but there is one, just one, that is different in the slightest way. If you are one of these people who can detect the slightest variation in weight, or texture, etc. you would not be able to do that with this one particular coin.
Now imagine I asked you to walk out into Texas and go anywhere you wanted and pick up a coin – any coin. What are the odds you would be able to pick up that one particular coin that is different from all the others, on the first attempt, while you are still blindfolded? I’ll tell you the odds because back in the 1940s Peter Stoner figured this out. [see footnote for who he is.]
The odds you could do that are 1X10 to the 17th power. That’s 1 with 17 zeros after it. I don’t know how to say a number that big. From a statistical standpoint, it’s impossible for anyone to pick up that coin on the first try. That’s a statement based on science, not speculation, or intuition, or feelings but it’s objective evidence.
But it doesn’t stop there. What if I told you that someone actually did something like that, but even MORE astounding! Yes, that’s right! Someone did something like that, but almost ten (10 yes, TEN) times more Unlikely! Think about that for a moment… Someone did something that statistically it would only happen once in what must be considered the proverbial “astronomical” number.
Jesus Christ of the Bible did this. He did more than the 1X10 to the 17th power. That figure is based on a number of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. The number of prophecies it’s based on is eight (8). Now consider this, the number of Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled is more like sixty (yes 60 – that’s not a typo – six zero). That produces a number far to large for us to even begin to grasp. That’s why professor Stoner looked for another way for us to understand this.
What does this objective fact tell us? What does it reveal to us? It shows us that someone was behind the scenes directing everything to a desired end or outcome. That “someone” of course is God.
God has revealed Himself in the pages of the Holy Bible, and He has shown us the answer to our question. We may like that answer, or we may not like that answer, but you know what…? We can’t change the answer. We MUST deal with what God has shown us.
Here are the facts for all of us – we have been separated from God and we need a redeemer. God has prepared that Redeemer for us in the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ fulfilled these prophecies shows Him (reveals Him) to be the chosen means God has given by which we can know what happens after we die. You don’t need to guess. You can know.
I’ll go into this further in later posts, but if you want to know for sure that when you die you will be in the best place and experience the best possible life, then commit yourself to Jesus Christ as Lord and receive Him as Savior. Part of committing yourself to Him as Lord is to change your mind and your actions to come in line with what the Bible teaches as pleasing to God. The Bible calls that “repentance.”
If you are truly honest with yourself and sincere in your desire to be redeemed by the only Redeemer, to be cleansed from all that separates you from God, then in the honesty and integrity of your heart, pray the following prayer and let me know you have done this. I will help you find a good church in your area. That’s part of the repentance thing too.
OK – here’s the prayer – pray this and think of yourself as speaking to God, because you are.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me and coming for me. Thank You for your gift of love to me that You offered when You died on the cross. I can’t thank You enough for that, and I believe You did that for ME. I now receive Your gift – the gift of Your presence in my life, in my body, soul and spirit, and I ask You to forgive me of my sin. Cleanse me from all that separates me from God the Father. I ask You to give me Your Holy Spirit and take my life and turn it into something that honors You and glorifies You as well as fulfills my greatest need. I thank You for all You have done for me. And now Jesus, teach me Your way to live life. I thank You again Jesus, and I pray this in Your Name. Amen.
Now let me know you prayed this prayer if you would please by emailing me here.
God bless you!
(Peter Stoner credentials: PETER W. STONER, M.S. Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College until 1953; Chairman of the science division, Westmont College, 1953-57; Professor Emeritus of Science, Westmont College; Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Astronomy, Pasadena City College. [gleaned from http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/index.html#c0])
I recently wrote the beginning blog of a series of messages for the church’s web site that I pray will help those who read it, and have not yet embraced the Gospel message of Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, to do precisely that; to repent and live in faith and fellowship with God our Savior in the power and presence of Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with His Body here on earth – the Church. The blog is titled, “The Greatest Question?”
Jesus came and gave us the answer to the greatest question, and isn’t that like our God to bless us not just in every way, but most assuredly to give us our greatest need?
All we have to do is receive it and live in faith and thanksgiving to Him for His greatest gift.
To that end, the Church over the many centuries has been led to offer formal times of worship, following in the long line of practices of God’s people since He brought them out of bondage in Egypt many, many centuries ago, to worship Him weekly. See Leviticus 23:3 for the beginning of God’s instruction to us to worship weekly.
Well Sunday, March 27 is this year’s weekly Sunday worship service that is paramount of Sunday worship services. Who do you know you can invite to join you? This year’s message will be geared to help folks understand what is their greatest need and how that need has been met, as well as serve as a reminder and reinforcement for those of us who have heard and heeded the message before.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves the validity of that message, and shows us what God says about all that Jesus did and taught. Jesus did it all perfectly. He perfectly presented the truth of all reality to us for all time. The resurrection proves it beyond doubt.
So an entirely appropriate response by us to God for His love, forgiveness, and redemption is worship – formal and informal. And another aspect of the answer would be to invite others to join you in giving thanks to God for all His love He has poured out on all humankind. I encourage you to invite others – don’t presume you know they are already committed to worship at their home church. Many in our communities do not have a home church. We would welcome them wholeheartedly at The Solid Rock Church.
Worship service time is our normal time – 10:00 a.m. and we will have a reception after the service.
Also, at 6:30 a.m. March 27 is a Community Sunrise Easter Service at Lake Mirror’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Join with other Christians of the greater Winter Haven area giving thanks to God.
Remember to bring bells with you to ring every time the word alleluia shows up in the service. And if you are able, please bring fresh cut flowers to put on the cross at the front door. What a great visual symbol of life.
Enclosed is an offering envelope should you be led by our heavenly Father to celebrate and give thanks for his Grace to you by giving to his church. We look forward to seeing you.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
If you have not read the previous blog post (The Greatest Question?), it will help if you go do so now. But if you really don’t want to, I ended with the the question of how do we know what we know, and how do we know that what we know is in fact true, real, something to put our trust in? Will we stake our life on the truth or validity of what we claim to know?
Again, some may say that level of knowing or confidence in some areas of life is unknowable. And that may be very true for some areas of life. But is it true in the question of “What happens after I die?” Or more specifically, “What happens TO ME after I die?”
That is the dilemma we all face: What will happen to ME when I’m dead? This can be viewed as a question of philosophy, or of religion. But again, we must ask how do those who write, speak, teach on these things know what they put forth is in fact true? Some make a best guess and leave it at that. Some make observations about people and things around them, and come to conclusions. Some read profusely on the topic and ascertain who has the best thoughts or who puts forward ideas that make the most sense. Some read, research, study widely, deeply, and over a long time and then bring together what they think are the best or most plausible ideas. Maybe someone will do all the above and conclude no one knew enough, and will come up with their own answer to the greatest question. But is any of that a valid way to answer our question? Again, how do we know that what one person puts forth as true is in fact true? Are they using a method of gaining knowledge that is universally true for everyone?
Another way of stating it after our research is all done is, “Is there something about this I don’t know?” Well, how would we know the answer to that question? We don’t know what we don’t know – that’s why we keep studying, seeking, reading, listening, etc.
And here’s the kicker… what if I die before I learn what I didn’t know that would have made a world of difference? Are we left to ourselves or to chance or to something else to be sure this doesn’t happen? How will we know?
As I wrote in the earlier post, when I asked this question I began with myself. Is there a better way to approach this question? If you have read this far, why do you even have that question? What is it about us that prompts the question? Why do you and I want to know?
This now gets into the area of subjective experience in life. Is the question of what happens to me after I die in the same category of importance as “I like chocolate better than vanilla” or “I like warmer climates better than cooler climates”?
There is an answer! I have that answer, and I’ll give it to you if you want it!
What would you say is, or could be, the greatest question one could ask that would apply across the spectrum of humanity regardless of time, culture, or personal circumstances? As we consider the plethora of cultures and human conditions that have existed down through the ages, does one particular question come to mind that very possibly could be on all, or most of, their minds too?
While many questions could possibly fit that criteria, I believe it is still possible that one in particular floats to the top of the heap of questions. That question is, “What happens after I die?” Do you have an answer to that question? If you do, how do you know it is true? How do you know you are not coming up with an answer that merely makes you feel better, but has no basis in fact?
Some have called that “the great epistemological question.” How do I know what I know? How do I know that what I know is true, or right, or correct?
Some answer that question by saying there is no way of knowing – that one would have to have complete, full, comprehensive knowledge of everything, and that will never happen, so it’s impossible to know the answer to that question.
But everyone must make some presuppositions. Even those who claim the answer is unknowable have made some presuppositions. A quick internet search will reveal the broadness of that topic. I’ll leave that to you to investigate.
My place of beginning is with one’s self. I know I have asked the “greatest question” in my past – long before I actually began to seek the answer. The question did not “dog” me every day, but every once in a while it would surface in my mind, and I’d ponder it for a time, and then get back to what I needed to do at the moment.
Have you ever seriously pondered the question of what happens after you die? Do you have an answer? If so what is it? If not, think about it and see what you come up with for an answer. And watch what you do and how you actually arrive at that answer. It can be quite interesting.
After all, as someone once said and I have often repeated it, “None of us are getting out of here alive.”