Archive for August, 2006

Aug 29 2006

He’s Bringing JesusBack

Published by under Music

My friends, we must be out of our minds. As we continue to be lured by Justin Timberlake’s new album, gladly singing, I’m bringing SexyBack, when was the last time we even thought about what God’s song is: Im bringing JesusBack? He is coming back and there is no doubt that the days we live in are evil. What was JT’s motivation for his new album, FutureSex/LoveSounds? He says, “I wanted (the album) to look to a time when everything was really sexy. Maybe everybody was coked up, but who cares? It was hot. It was all about sex.”

 

Are we the salt of the earth? Or are we being trampled underfoot by the world-at-large? But it does us no good to get angry at sinners for their sin. Like I wrote in my last blog sin is their nature. So yelling at them does no good. Only God, through the Spirit, can change people’s hearts! Some may say it is wrong for me to judge those who are sinning. Here’s a question: suppose you have blonde hair. Would you think I was judging you if I said, “Hey, you have blonde hair?” No. I’m merely stating a fact. The Word tells us what sin is. To observe sin around us and say, “Wow, there is some evil stuff going on” isn’t judging, it’s being observant.

 

Are our eyes fixed so firmly on Christ that sin sticks out to us? Or do we allow ourselves to be surrounded by sin so much that we cannot distinguish it, much less prevent ourselves from indulging in it? Imagine being lost at sea. All around you is endless water. It’s all you’re used to; you grow numb. Until one day. You see land. It is so foreign, you wonder if its real. When we are first made new in Christ, it is though we have seen God’s Land in His face. Completely engulfed by sin all our life, were rescued. But do we disembark and step onto the grace of Christ and remain there? Or do we set sail again, getting lost again in the sea of sin? Is church on Sunday our land and the rest of our week the sea? Undoubtedly, the land is surrounded by water on all sides. Sin is ever-present. But so, too, is Jesus when we keep ourselves on land in Him. Christ-followers, what are we doing with our lives? Saying I’m a donkey doesn’t make me one. Saying that were salt and light doesnt mean we are. If society crumbles, who is to blame? Sinners or us? Is there evidence in my life that I am a donkey? No. And if I tried to convince you of that, you’d say I was crazy. Maybe the world views us Christians as ridiculous because we’re saying we’re something that we’re not. “Yeah, we are holy.” Really? In what way? Just because we say so? Our lives are almost indistinguishable from many non-believers. Some deny Christ from their own wickedness, but is our witness to them a hindrance to the gospel? What do our lives say to them?

We are at sea for so many of our days, my brothers and sisters. Tossed among the waves in every direction culture blows. Jesus loves all these people who are not in Him yet. Do WE love them? Or do we love being loved and being popular, always knowing the latest songs so we can be thought cool by those around us?

 

Are we sacrificing our lives to the Lord? Or slowly being murdered by sin, wasting away on the sea, longing for nourishment but in no sight of land? The world is dying. And so are you. What will my testimony be on the Last Day? That I was deceived by the world? Or that I was dedicated to the Lord? What is the evidence of my life? Saying so doesn’t make it so.

 

I say we must be out of our minds because we promote sin when we unthinkingly listen to and sing Justin Timberlake’s music (note I said unthinkingly). JT may be bringing accelerated ways of sin back. But God is bringing Jesus back. Do we even care?

When did we lose our fear of the Lord? Perhaps when we took another cue from society and looked at Him as more our homeboy than holy. In all honesty, I know my writing this will not be fruitful apart from God working in our hearts through the Spirit! May He strengthen our hearts and sanctify us through and through! I am in desperate need of Him to be formed in me! We cannot be the love of Christ wthout the Spirit of Christ at work in us! God, for Your Name’s sake, make it so!

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Aug 26 2006

Stubbornness and Pride and Bad Language

Published by under Life

I had a great cookout with some friends tonight. One of my buddies, Aaron, was yet another person to make comment on my use of the f-word in one of my previous blogs. As a matter of fact, that particular blog got more feedback from people than any other blog I’ve written (except my “I’m quitting my job” blog).

Here’s what I’ve learned through all the brouhaha. I am kind of stubborn. And prideful.

I still do not think that using that word is, prima facie, a sin. I just don’t. The 13th definition of the word I used on dictionary.com lists it as an idiom or slang word meaning “to care; be concerned.” In the context I used it in, I believe it has true, legitimate meaning which sprang from a true heart wanting to honor Jesus with everything we have. I stand by that. That’s the word that came to my mind when I was writing and I wrote it.

However, in talking with Aaron tonight, I have been brought to a place of repentance because my use of that was, in his words, “shooting myself in the foot.” As he pointed out, an otherwise thought-provoking blog was “ruined” for many people because of that word. So I can say that that particular blog may be my biggest failure because it didn’t accomplish my goal – that being to move people close to the Lord. If anything, I moved them further away from myself (i.e. alienated them) and that was not my intent. Simultaneously, I prevented them from more thoughtfully considering what I had written.

I say I was brought to a place of repentance because even though the use of that word may be acceptable, it isn’t particularly beneficial to most people. So in using the word, I am potentially hindering the work of God. I only want His work to go on – especially through me – and if I’m doing junk to prevent that, then I should not do those things. So you can know I won’t be using that word anymore. It’s definitely not worth it. Thanks to all of you who showed concern and expressed it to me. I am thankful to God for all of you in my life! -andy

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Aug 25 2006

Spirit Stuff – Part 1 – Understanding the Sinner

Published by under Theology Reloaded

Imagine the scene. You’re at a cemetary, strolling through the lanes. (Note: it’s unimportant WHY you’re strolling through the lanes. Just roll with me). You come across a person who is yelling at one of the gravestones. You move closer to hear what they’re yelling. “Get yourself up,” the person is yelling. “Get yourself out of there and make yourself alive.” Insanity, huh? We would assume their personal grief caused them such emotion as to yell at a dead person.

I caught myself this morning. You’ve undoubtedly seen the banner – “From the Comedic Geniuses that brought you Super Troopers – Beerfest.” Yes, another debauchery-laden film hits the big screen. But I’m not being judgmental here. Seriously. Objectively, the movie is said to be filled with nudity and drunkenness. In an attempt to ease their consciences (or possibly just to get one more laugh), the producers conclude the trailer, “Drink responsibly and treat all women with respect.” I thought, “Unbelievable. That figures. What is this country coming to?” And I caught myself. I was yelling at the grave.

There is a spiritual reality that we, as Christ-followers, fail to realize far too often. People who don’t know Jesus are DEAD in their sin.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is not at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Question: Should it really surprise us when people who don’t know Jesus and are dead in their sins make movies like Beerfest? What else are we expecting? Dead people lie in graves. Sinful people who don’t have the power of Christ to overcome sin…they sin. It’s in their nature!

“…the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).

We Christ-followers get angry at the immorality of the culture and we need to understand – spiritually and biblically – what is going on. It will help us to re-focus our energy! We’ve seen that sinful people sin, that they’re spiritually dead in their sin, and are hostile to God. Just like we used to be. So does it do us any good to yell at the grave, “Stop being dead! Get yourself out of there!” NO! That is non-sense. And the Word shows us how people are re-born (truly, born again).

“When you were dead in your sins and transgressions…God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).

“When [the Counselor] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin” (John 16:8).

“I tell you the truth, no one can enterthe kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'” (John 3:5-8)

The work of conversion – the awakening of a soul to Jesus – is done by God through the Holy Spirit!!  Consider that, in Matthew 16, Jesus asks the disciples who the people say He is. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” And Jesus replies, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'”

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17).

Isn’t it kind of cool here how non-Christ-followers describe Jesus…much like people today do. Back then he was called a “prophet.” Today people call Him a “good person.” This is the only revelation that is given to sinners apart from the Holy Spirit. Paul again points to the work of the Spirit in conversion…

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:6-10).

In these last two Scriptures – Matthew 16 and 1 Corinthians), there is a word that appears in both places – a word I put in bold — revealed. Can you reveal a secret to yourself? For instance, can you reveal your birthday to yourself? No! Because that is not a secret to you. Your parents or birth certificate revealed your birthday to you long ago when you didn’t know what it was. In order to have something revealed, you must be ignorant of it. And Paul makes it clear how sinners act:

“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:18).

Being in ignorance means someone ELSE must do the revealing. Both Matthew 16 and 1 Cor. 2 make it obvious that the revealing is done by God!!

Practically, all of this means three things for our lives. First, we cannot get angry at sinners for sinning. They are dead people and we’re only yelling at graves when we tell them, “Stop sinning! Stop being so wicked!” The nature of dead people is to be dead. The nature of sinners is to sin.

Second, all of this means that we must pray to the Lord to awaken the hearts of unbelievers because…

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We must pray to God – that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of sinners to the wonderful news of saving grace through Jesus Christ. It seems like nonsense to them right now. That’s part of the sinful nature – being opposed to things of God. The Spirit can change all that. Men and women might be able to oppose us but they cannot oppose the Spirit of God. His saving grace comes through the simple message of salvtion in Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most important thing we forget in sharing the message of Christ is to pray for the Holy Spirit to convict hearts of sin and unblind their eyes to the light of Christ!

None of this is PC. But we have to stop assuming that just because people are offended by the gospel, it means that we’re doing something wrong. Yes, sometimes Christians are arrogant in sharing the gospel, but the Word makes it CLEAR that, even if done properly, we will be opposed by people. Jesus was repeatedly hated. He told us to expect the same. Paul was chased all over the place for simply preaching salvation in Jesus. Should we be surprised when zombies of sin lash out at us? No way! It only means their sinful nature is testifying to the truth expressed in the Word – they are opposed to the things of God. But the Spirit can change all of that. Just like He did in us when we, too, used to be opposed to the message of Christ.

Don’t yell at the grave; don’t chastise sinners. It’s a waste of energy. Quiet yourself for a while. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts. There are times in life where you want a sick relative to be able to be normal again – to be the way they used to be. You have to entrust that person to the doctor and then they will be normal again. The only way to have a human being like they were (in the Garden) is to let the Great Physician heal their hearts with the gospel of Jesus. Entrust them to Him. Speak the gospel in peace. If they listen, the Holy Spirit has moved. If they draw a sword, keep praying for them. Just as the Spirit will raise us from the dead, He awakens dead hearts to re-birth through Jesus!

Third, we shouldn’t expect our culture to reflect godly values when it is run by ungodly sinners. Society reaps what it sows. The only way this world will change is not through protesting 10 Commandments or “Under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. It won’t change by merely criticizing how horrible things are. Our society will change when people are no longer so opposed to God. And that can only happen through the power of God Himself to change people’s hearts!

May God awaken the hearts of sinners in our lives to the gospel of Jesus as we speak it to them in boldness! May He prevent us from being deceived by Satan and allow us to see from Scripture that He is the One who saves! I praise Him for calling out to us who have believed on Jesus for salvation!

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Aug 21 2006

Preparing for Battle and A Primer in Current Internatioal Relations

Published by under Politics

Is a perfect storm brewing in the world right now? (Note: This may seem like an incredibly boring and dry blog to some, but read on – there’s some interesting stuff here and a surprise at the end. I suppose you could just read the end, but then you wouldn’t understand why I’m saying what I’m saying! :) Plus, there is some good educational junk in this for people who don’t like to keep up with current events.) So, as we were saying…Is a perfect storm brewing in the world right now?

Iran
It’s been reported by the AP this morning that Iran has denied UN weapons inspectors access to their underground nuclear site – a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. When’s the only time that you won’t let mom and dad in the room, kids? When you’ve got something you don’t want them to see! For those who don’t know, Iran started their nuclear program under the auspices that they were working toward developing nuke technology for the purpose of electricity (much as we use nuclear power plants in this country). The grade (purity) of uranium necessary for civilian purpose (i.e. electricity) differs from the grade neccesary for production of a nuclear warhead. However, the uranium enrichment process need only continue for a little longer to yield weapons-grade uranium. So you can see why the world is so scared about what Iran is doing. Reigning as one of the most incendiary countries in the world, they say they only need nuclear technology for “peaceful” purposes (electricity). Which is kind of funny considering the often-noted fact that they have some of the greatest oil reserves in the world. Seems goofy that they need nuclear technology for electriciy, huh? That most all countries in the world consider Iran a threat is a testimony to the danger they pose.

Hezbollah
Terrorists. No doubt, they fight for what they believe in. And they desire to dominate. They are thought to be armed with resources and weapons by Syria and Iran. Amazingly, and cleverly, they are offering Lebanese citizens who have been displaced by the recent Israeli conflict about $12,500 per family to buy food and find a new place to live. Talk about goodwill!!! The money is thought to be financed from Iran. Imagine the sympathies Hezbollah is gaining by getting on the ground QUICKLY to help people. Who knows how many will be persuaded to a Hezbollah view of the world (or how many already are)?

North Korea
These guys just keep on doing things to piss everyone in the world off. They fired 7 missiles last month in tests that were condemned by about every country in the world. The concern here is that North Korea, which is thought to have enough weapons-grade uranium for a number of nuclear warheads, will create a long-range missile capable of reaching the US mainland. Many of their smaller missiles are capable of reaching surrounding countries (South Korea, Japan, China), which is why those countries have taken such an interest in peace talks with North Korea. North Korea test-fired a missile with the range to reach the US in their tests last month; it disintegrated shortly after launch but the fact that they are acticely developing such a weapon proves their aggression. After test firing one of their previous missiles OVER THE JAPANESE ISLANDS last year, the North Koreans pose a clear danger to the world.

Iraq
The trouble here continues. American generals on the ground in Iraq and many other observers say Iraq is on the verge of an all-out civil war between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the country. It doesn’t seem likely that our troop deployment to Iraq will end any time soon.

Confluence
So the question I’ve been asking myself recently is this: What is the most likely scenario that will play out over the coming months/years? And this is NOT just an academic exercise, you know? Because the consequences of wars breaking out in many different places would affect us all!

Our military is streteched thin in simply dealing with Iraq. I’m not hating on anyone, I’m just stating a fact. What if a war breaks out with Iran or North Korea or the Israeli conflict intensifies beyond what we think it might, requiring US forces to be put on the ground in one of these locales? What would the government do? They would have to increase the fighting forces in our military! Now, an all-volunteer military is better than conscription/a draft. Motivated soldiers will almost always perform better than those who don’t want to be there (although I hear bullets moving past your head are a good motivator). I think our government would make an appeal to all people of fighting-age who want to VOLUNTEER for the armed services in order to protect the country from the threat of enemies abroad. And I don’t want to get into any arguments about: “Well, if Bush wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, we wouldn’t be in this situation.” We can’t go back, friends! Beside the fact that tons of people thought invading Iraq was the right thing at the time, we’re now stuck with the world we have and we must make the best of it we can. As the saying goes, there’s no use in crying over spilled milk. I wish we weren’t stuck in Iraq, but we are, so we’ve go to make it work.

What Would You Do?
If President Bush puts out a call for more military personnel to go to war, I’m almost certain that I would volunteer to go. Of course, the fact that I’ve suffered from depression (currently a non-waiveable medical condition…i.e. I would be DQ’ed from service) may mean I would be unable to go. So I may have to think of alternate ways to serve if war were to break out. What woud the Lord have me do? Think though: if our very fabric of life were threatened, I think many would volunteer to go (avoiding the need for a draft). What would YOU do if war broke out? Thinking of it now might save you some shock down the road. What if loved ones left to go to war? Do they know how you feel about them right now during peacetime? It only takes one night to change the world. Fort Sumter in the Civil War, the sinking of the Lusitania in World War I, Pearl Harbor in World War II. Life changed dramtically with a single event. I’m not meaning to be a drama-king…it’s just that the state of the world is ripe for more war. What would you do if that happened?

Imagine if Iran provoked the world to war and then, as part of their war strategy, Iran decided to use some of their weapons to attack oil tankers passing through the Persian Gulf (one of the new weapons they claim to have developed is a new surface-to-sea missile. Incidentally, the Israeli warboat that was hit by Hezbollah a few weeks ago, killing a number of Israeli sailors, was hit using an Iranian surface-to-sea missile). Simultaneously, to these attacks on foreign oil freight through the Gulf, Iran halts all oil exports to the rest of the world. Do you think our lives would change? It would spike oil prices in a way that we cannot imagine – crippling not only our personal gas consumption, but the ability of our industry to operate at profit. People of fighting age would be forced to war. All of our lives would be radically altered.

There are some ominous clouds on the horizon. The only question is whether they’re moving toward or away from us. Only time will tell. But I take comfort in one thing alone. The Lord sees and knows. My trust will remain in the Lord to win the battle for His name’s sake! “The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.” Jesus Christ is supreme against all enemies – foreign, domestic, or satanic. May He give us rest in Himself regardless of our circumstances and give us wisdom regardless of where we are in life.

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