Monday, September 30, 2013

Do You Believe in Karma?

Recently when a well-known college football coach was terminated from the university where he was serving, I began reading and hearing from a good number of people that, "He got what he deserved." Other phrases like, "What goes around comes around," and "Poetic justice" were also used. Listening to the radio I heard one sports commentator say, "I am afraid to celebrate someone else's bad karma, because I believe in karma and I don't want to suffer from bad karma myself."

My first response to the whole situation over the firing of the coach is that I should never be glad over the failure of others. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, why should I ever glory in someone else's loss? This type of attitude develops a warped heart and mind. I want to be like Christ. Christ wept over Jerusalem. He died for His murderers. He lives to sanctify sinners. Lord, help me to be like You!

But I also want to address whether or not one should believe in karma. Karma has its roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other ancient eastern religions that are false. It is the idea that certain actions and deeds precipitate cause and effect. While some of these religions teach that the "cause and effect" of karma is independent from any involvement of deity, the theistic views expressed by others basically say that "God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is very fair and gives you exactly what you deserve."

The problem with karma is plain. The Bible teaches that God does NOT give us what we deserve. This is also known as grace. Although God is just and must punish the wicked in order to satisfy justice, God has extended His everlasting love through the opportunity of grace. While giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, God said about Himself, "...for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:5-6).

There is no doubting the fact that actions have consequences. The Bible says clearly that, "Good understanding gains favor, but the way of transgressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:5), and, " sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). We could list a hundred more verses that deal with the reality of actions and consequences. But the problem with believing in karma is two-fold. 1. We are embracing a doctrine that has no root in God. 2. We are speaking for God when we say He is doing something that He has not necessarily revealed.

I am thankful that there is no such thing as karma. I am thankful that I am not coming back as something else in "another life." I am thankful for grace. God reigns far above the religion and concepts that men have invented. His love is everlasting. His truth endures to all generations.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

Monday, September 23, 2013

Was Lazarus Sad or Glad?

In John chapter eleven, the Bible gives us the historical account of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. To this point in Jesus' ministry, it was His most wonderful and undeniable miracle. Because of Christ's mighty works, the plan for His execution was expedited (John 11:45-57). The chief priests even sought to kill Lazarus, since his resurrection at the hands of Jesus caused so many people to believe (John 12:9-11).

But there is something else here to consider. What happened to Lazarus when he died? Did he go to paradise (Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22; 23:43)), or did he go to torments in Hades (Luke 16:23)? It could be speculated that he went to either of the two places. If he had been a faithful Jew, turned disciple of John the Baptist, now currently a disciple of Jesus - as most information leads one to believe, it is assumed he would have gone to paradise. On the other hand, if he had been simply listening to Jesus as a friend, and had not yet committed himself to the commands of God under the Mosaic system, it is possible, God knowing his heart, that he would have been sent to torments.

For a minute, consider the ramifications for Lazarus concerning his earthly resurrection:

1. We have heard for years about "near-death experiences." Nothing can be factually documented about the claims of these cases. But the facts surrounding Lazarus are quite different. He would have certainly learned something about the afterlife when he died. In Luke 16, Jesus taught that when the other Lazarus (the beggar) died, angels were waiting and accompanied his soul to Abraham's bosom. So immediately upon death, Lazarus of Bethany would have gone somewhere. Since his earthly remains had been in the tomb four days (John 11:17), he would have seen some things that others have not seen.

2. It may be that Lazarus could tell Jesus what to expect. Six days before the Passover, Jesus sat at the table with the risen Lazarus and talked (John 12:2). We know not of the content of that conversation. Could it be possible that Lazarus shared his experience with Jesus? Was he sad to be back here on earth because he had been in paradise, or was he glad to have a second chance to get his life right? Did he have comforting words for his friend, Jesus, concerning the place where Jesus had told His disciples He was about to go? Did he have discouraging words for his unfaithful and disobedient acquaintances about the horrors of death for those who know not God?

3. Lazarus had to get it right the second time, no matter what he had done the first time. Let's face it, the first time he died, he was finished. His opportunity to live a life that was pleasing to God had come and gone. This is true for all of us as we will all die and be judged (Heb. 9:27). We will be judged according to the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Cor. 5:10). When Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus, it was his second earthly life to which he was accountable. While it may be argued that it would be the accumulation of all his earthly time (from birth to his second visit to the tomb), we cannot understate the fact that he was once again called to be faithful until his second death, just as he was accountable to his first.

4. Imagine the kind of life Lazarus was determined to live had he gone to paradise! Imagine the kind of life Lazarus was determined to live had he gone to torments!

What an intriguing case, this resurrection of Lazarus! It reminds us that our God is powerful, and that our Savior has the power to raise us up to life, even from the grave. It also cautions us to be mindful of the judgment, and the importance of living a life that is pleasing to God.

When Lazarus was raised, was he sad or glad? We cannot know about his feelings for sure. We do know his family and friends were happy to see him. We also know Jesus said this was done "...for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified through it" (John 11:4).

Our own eventual resurrection will fulfill this same purpose.

"...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." ~ Philippians 3:10-11

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Satan Talks

Last Sunday after our worship service at Willow some of us went to the Philippi church for their Friends and Family Day. Jared West delivered an inspiring sermon on parenting that convicted me to make some changes. During some of his closing remarks I had decided that it would be best if I came forward during the invitation to ask for prayers. It was at that moment that Satan started talking. This is what he said:

"You don't really have a problem. This is just one sermon. The preacher has planted an idea in your head about yourself that isn't really true. Your silly mistakes and insignificant shortcomings are not bad enough to warrant repentance."

"You can handle this problem on your own. No need to tell anybody about it. After all, everybody in this building has similar problems (and worse) and you don't see them coming forward. This is just a little thing and there is no need to draw attention to yourself. Don't make it such a big deal."

"You are the preacher, don't show your weakness. Hey, buddy, don't let anybody know that you have a problem because you are supposed to be strong. If people need you to be a leader, they may not think that you can do the job when they see that you have issues."

"Don't interrupt the service. This is a friends and family day and the services are already going long. There is still a potluck that everyone is waiting for and a singing afterward. Don't let your own selfish needs hinder today's plans. There are many guests here and they probably don't want to stay longer than they were expecting."

"Do something about it later. This problem you think you have is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Why do something about it now when you know you are still struggling with it and you are going to keep struggling with it? Why not wait until you have really done something that would demand a public response?"

"You will not surely die (Gen. 3:4). This situation is not going to cost you your soul. So why bother?"

Satan kept on talking (by the way he was lying because if he is talking, this means he is lying). For about five minutes he wouldn't leave me alone. Through the first verse and into the second verse he kept on bothering me. But my heart finally told him to be quiet. I went forward and asked for prayers.

It is never a bad idea to let the Word convict you heart so that you respond and make a change in your life. Sometimes we have to make these things public for the sake of accountability. If we have never obeyed the gospel or if there is a habitual sin that has separated us from God we must act immediately and respond while we still have the opportunity.

It is right at the moment when you are in a place of making an important, life-changing, eternity-altering decision that Satan will talk the loudest. Don't let him win. Listen to your heart.

"...Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." ~ Matthew 16:23

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why I am not a "Church of Christ" Preacher

Now that I have your attention, please follow me through a Biblical line of reasoning. In order to do this, I would like you to forget everything you have ever heard or thought (if you can) and simply open up your Bible and see if the things that I say are true (Acts 17:11). The purpose of this statement is to challenge members of the Lord's church to understand how to communicate the truth about the church as God would have it. I would also like to appeal to any reader concerning what the Bible actually says about the church to examine their faith in light of the Scriptures.

People often try to put me in a box. I am a preacher, and they want to know what I teach and what I believe. If the answer to their question is anything other than the Bible, then I need to quit being a preacher and do something else...

1. I am not a "Church of Christ" preacher because the Bible does not tell me to be one. The Bible commands every Christian to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4). There are some who will make this their life's work, and receive wages for doing so (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 9). I tell people I am a gospel preacher. I am not interested in any doctrine except the Bible.

2. I am not a "Church of Christ" preacher, because I do not want to give the false idea to the world that I am a part of a denomination. Everybody, I love you enough to say this to you, so listen to me. God is opposed to denominationalism. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-26). That unity can only be found in the Bible and can only be realized in the one church that Jesus built (Matt. 16:18). If you are a part of a denominational church, you need to leave it and seek the church that Jesus built.

3. I am not a "Church of Christ" preacher, because I am not even supposed to be a "Church of Christ" person. I hear stuff like this all the time: "Well I was raised 'Baptist', my wife was raised 'Church of Christ.'" Such a statement is not based on any idea that is Scripturally accurate. The Bible does not authorize or teach a person to be "Catholic, Methodist, Mormon, Baptist, Church of Christ..." But we are told the first disciples were called "Christians" (Acts 11:26). They were also "saints" (Phil. 1:1), because they had been sanctified by the blood of Christ.

4. I am not a "Church of Christ" preacher, for the simple fact that some people would like to make me a denominationalist in order to try and justify there own decision to be one.

Some who read this article may get angry. This is not my intention. My intention is to challenge you to think and to study. There are others who will read out of this what they want and spin it to justify their own ideas about religion (They may be in a "non-denominational" church that accepts any and every doctrine). I cannot do anything about the condition of anyone's heart. But I do believe there might be a person out there who will read this and open their Bible and learn the truth about Jesus and the church. There is more I can say, and I am willing to discuss this with you readers anytime.

Let me end by saying that I am blessed to be a gospel preacher. By the grace of God and by my obedience to it, I am a member of the one church you can read about in your Bible (Eph. 4:5). This one church loves the Lord with all of its being (Matt. 22:37-38). This one church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). This one church follows the pattern of the apostles and the teaching of the New Testament (Acts 2:42). This one church teaches the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, knowing that just any doctrine will not do (2 John 9). This one church aims to please God alone and rejects the division that mankind has inserted in the religious realm. I am not a "Church of Christ" preacher - as some would like to label me. But thanks be to God I am a gospel preacher, and a member of the "church of Christ" (Rom. 16:16).

"...So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." ~ Acts 11:26

"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." ~ 1 Pet. 4:16