Thursday, August 15, 2013

Scams, Scams, Fraudulent Scams

My wife and I have been living in Los Angeles for a little over a month now.  We moved here to attend The Master's Seminary this fall.  With two weeks until school starts, we have been scurrying around to put in applications at various places.  The job market out here is crazy, and these two little Kansans are slowly acclimating to this densely populated area.  We are living in a nice part of town that is an easy drive to the seminary.  Over the last few weeks we have begun to meet fellow incoming seminarians as well as some experienced students.

The other day, we were able to go up to the Sequoia National Forest with another seminary family.  It was such a blessing to get to know others who have similar passions as us as well as similar (however different) trials in getting here and getting settled.

Yes, there have been some trials.  In fact, it seems that very little has been going right the first time around.  There is definitely an active warfare going on above us, and we know better than to expect it to stop anytime soon.  But we have comfort in the fact that our God is sovereign over it all.  We are thankful for the testing we have undergone, and we know that our faith has already grown leaps and bounds through all of this.

The last thing that is left to fall into place are jobs.  Like I said, we have many applications going out, and we are doing a lot of work to go to each place and check on the application.  Over the last few months (we started looking for jobs before coming out here), we have had eight attempted scams.  Six of them were incredibly obvious attempts, and they did not get any further than initial contact.  Laugh and delete.  The first scam was a job offer for Ashton to be a personal assistant to an entrepreneur.  It seemed legitimate until the second email.  The second email seemed to be written by a different person.  While the first email was professionally written--clear, concise, well written--the second email was not.  It had misspelled words, strange phrases, its purpose was not as clearly defined, etc.  That was our first clue that something was up.  The other clues came from the lack of contact (he never called to give an interview) and other unprofessional emails that made less and less sense.

Recently, Ashton got called for an interview at a legitimate company.  We did the research, found good reviews about the office and company, and all of the good things to do before an interview.  During the interview (which was more of a long lecture on what she would be doing at the company), the hiring regional manager made this place seem greater than life--clue number one.  Forty minutes into his presentation, he started detailing the process for moving up in the company.  It was a pyramid scheme--clue number two.  We were, unfortunately and to our utter chagrin, taken in by this one.  We were told to take a day to think about taking the job, and when we called Ashton's dad, he warned us about this company.  All of a sudden, all of the clues hit us and we realized how dumb we were.  When we got home we checked out what other employees were saying about this and confirmed our fears.  Needless to say, we blocked the number and have not made any other contact with this company.  Praise be to God for saving us from any harm!

Scams are harmful.  Obviously, it makes a person lose something valuable if the scam is successful, but it is also harming in other ways.  When we found out that these two were scams, our elation over having a job and income was instantly deflated.

Unfortunately, this is not only going on in the job world.  We are all the time seeing people be scammed by false religion.  They are taken in by wonderful promises, but upon closer inspection the promises do not add up.  It is a very sad thing to see people be taken in to scams.  And sadly, much like today's job market, religious scams are everywhere.

1.  Any religion that is works based is a scam.  Paul says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans 3:28)."   Romans, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:4-5).  Salvation is "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2. Any religion that does not confess Jesus Christ is a scam.  John says, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:23)."  "...every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world" (1 John 4:3).  

3. Any religion that requires you to pay money for your salvation is a scam.  Hmmm...this sounds like what someone would say about a job.  Curious that the modern mindset still lets us fall for this one so easily.  The Catholic church has been doing this one for years in the form of indulgences.  Also, it is rampant in the Charismatic churches today.  Health and Wealth preachers are fond of promising you large blessings from God if you simply send in a large check.  Even in other parts of Christianity, easy beliefism is wide spread.  With the move toward 'tolerance,' you see people becoming even more confused.  I read somewhere today that nowadays the way to heaven is not to believe or do good works, but the way to heaven is to die.  Sadly that really punctuates where society has gotten.  But the reality that Scripture teaches is that "the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  

There is much more to say.  But I think the point is made.  Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23).  Seek Jesus above all else.  He is "the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).

Beloved, do not be scammed.  "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).  "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:13).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Biblically Saturated Mind

Having a biblical mindset should be the goal of every believer.  The point where your mind is so flooded with Scripture that your everyday life is constantly influenced is what I would call a biblically saturated mind.  It is not only your character that is influenced, but every decision, information, emotion, thought, memory, and political stance are informed and judged by Scripture.  In order for this to happen, you must be intimately familiar with all of Scripture.  Any input of data will result in a biblically informed output.

For those who love God and His Word, there should be no other desire than to take in everything about God.  1 Peter 2:2 says, "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation."  If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will be fed out of the Word of Life (Matthew 5:6, John 6:22-59).  2 Peter 1:19-21 says, "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.  But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."  Scripture is God breathed.  The Holy Spirit caused men to speak God's words and to write God's words.  Peter says we must pay attention to the Word, because it shines light into the darkness.

It is not some ancient text that we can manipulate to say what we think it should say.  This is why the Word of God should always be studied in context.  I have heard preachers use a passage of Scripture to preach on a topic that is not even discussed in the passage.  The point being made might be biblical, but the passage being used to demonstrate the point just does not back it up.

The Bible should always be used in context, and it should always be used to back itself up.  Scripture backs up Scripture.  The whole counsel of the Word of God must be brought in to bear for a situation.  Only reading one passage about an issue does not give the whole answer.  Most likely, there are more passages that speak about that subject.  A mind that is saturated with truth from the Bible draws on an always increasing wealth of information that is gleaned from the biblical text.

To develop a biblically saturated mind, a person must:

  1. Love Jesus and believe in Him - head knowledge in itself does not save.  You can have all the knowledge of God and the Bible, but if you do not love God and believe in His Son you are not saved (1 John 5:1).  I would argue that having a biblically saturated mind is not even possible if a person is not saved, because only the Spirit teaches the deep things of God. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God...Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely give to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:10, 12-13).
  2. Believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God - we cannot accept some parts of the Bible to be true, and throw out the parts we do not like.  Paul says, "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).  In Philippians, he writes, " out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12b-13).  In the Word is "the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:2b).  We learn all things through the Holy Spirit who teaches us through the Word of God (Jude 5, 1 John 2:28).
  3. Crave God and constantly consume His Word - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matt 5:6).  Nothing happens instantaneously.  You do not become a Christian and just instantly know what the Bible says.  It takes devoted study.  Spend some time everyday.  David said that he would lay upon his bed and meditate on the Law of God.  A mind that is consumed with knowing the Word will become ever more full until it is saturated with the truth of God.
  4. Fellowship - Talk with others about the Bible.  Not only this, but listen to preachers who have spent their life studying the Word.  I love to listen to John MacArthur, Vernon McGee, and John Piper because they have studied the Bible and taught it for many years.  Expositional preaching is the best way to understand the Bible, because it breaks down the text and explains it verse by verse so that you get all the context.  The point is, find someone who teaches the Bible, and listen.  

A biblically saturated mind leads us to:
  1. Be Imitators of Christ: -
    Ephesians 5:1 says, "Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children."  To be a disciple of somebody is to study under a teacher with the goal in mind to be a replication of the teacher.  Your thoughts will be modeled on their thoughts.  The student will speak and act like the teacher.  I have experienced this firsthand in the music world.  I have phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions of the teachers I have worked closely with in violin lessons.  It is natural for us to imitate.  Children are natural imitators.  That is how children learn everything they know at first.  They imitate their parents.  It used to be that when a child learned the family trade, they would follow the father around, and in so doing they would pick up his walk and his mannerisms.
    It becomes very difficult to sin when you know the Bible.  Intentional sin almost disappears, because when you start doing something sinful ten verses pop into your head.  
  2. Fully Wield the Sword of the Spirit -
    Paul tells us to take the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17)."  If we skillfully wield the word, we have a weapon for offense and defense.  We can beat back the attacks of the devil, we can discern the false teachers, and we can defend the truth of the gospel.
  3. Be Tested Workmen -
    Paul writes, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  Having a biblically saturated mind leads to being regarded as a workman of Christ.  You will become known for giving wise answers to difficult questions, and people will continue to look to you for guidance because of the way you know Scripture.
  4. Be a Single-Minded Worshiper -
    A biblically saturated mind will constantly lead you to worship God.  
  5. A Strong Faith -
    "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  A biblically saturated mind looks to God in all things.  When the storms hit, a mind filled with the Word of God does not flounder.  
I challenge you, beloved, to read and memorize the Bible.  I challenge you not just this one time, but I challenge you to do this throughout your life.  I promise that it will lead you to be wise and unmoving.  Build yourself up on the Word of God, and you will not be shaken.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quick Update

Sorry it has been so long since my last post!  A lot has happened in a short time.  For starters I got married on May 11th, and spent a week in Mexico.  My bride and I are living in Augusta, Kansas for a few weeks until we ship out for Los Angeles.  We have an apartment secured, and we move on July 5 or 6.  We will be living in Van Nuys--only a 25 minute bike ride to the Seminary.  In case you follow this blog and do not know, I have been accepted to the Master's Seminary in Sun Valley, California.  In case you do not know anything about it, here is a link to the Wikipedia info page.

I promise to resume regular posting soon!

In Christ,


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Persecution and America

Lately I have been reading a book called Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand.  You can receive a free copy by signing up for the Voice of the Martyrs magazine.  This magazine is a great resource that (especially taken along with this book) is very startling.  As an American I think we should all be aware of how spoiled we are.  It is incredible how well off we are, and we take so many things for granted.  I think of how active the church is in evangelizing outside of the United States where they are tortured bodily and imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel.  And we have freedom of speech to proclaim whatever we want, and we shy away from proclaiming the gospel.  Whatever persecution may come on us is less likely to be bodily. More likely, it will be in the form of being an outcast at school, or "that" person at work, or the person that people generally avoid.  We have let ourselves be backed into a corner.

It is sad to me that most American churches do not actively teach the full gospel of Christ.  More and more are chopping off the "offensive" parts of Jesus' life and teachings.  Less and less churches have active Bible studies that seek to focus entirely on a discussion of the biblical text.  Instead, they use books that seek to teach a moral lesson rather than delve into the Bible.  (Do not get me wrong, not all of these study books are equal.  There are some amazing ones.  My point is that clear and concise explanation and interpretation of the Scripture should be the focus of Bible Study in order to bring a deep understanding of God's word to the participants.)  America has gotten so worried about the number of people attending the service that we forget that the main purpose of our church service is to worship God and praise Him, and in the process strengthen and encourage believers through biblical preaching and exposition.  We are to build unity and fellowship (Colossians 3:14) with each other and with God (1 John 1:3).  We are to love each other as believers (John 13:35).  As we do this, the Spirit will work through us to grow the church.  We work so hard to show a loving outreach to the community, but in my observance we forget to give them the gospel while giving them a free meal or a ride home or a Christmas tree.  How has the church become the place to go for handouts rather than for spiritual knowledge and sustenance?  How has the salvation of souls through the work of Christ on the cross taken a back burner?

In our freedom, it seems we have gotten lethargic.  We have gotten lazy.  Luke warm.  This all too sobering letter comes from the Lord Himself to such churches as ours:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:  'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not hot; I wish that you were cold of hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' - Revelation 3:14-22
This sounds like a letter written directly to the church in modern day America.  Of course, there have been churches just like this all throughout church history.  But we are seeing it on an ever growing scale.  Instead of working for wealth and comfort, we need to realize that we are pathetic and need the grace and mercy of God to clothe us.  Of course, this is the line of thinking that is offensive.  Who wants to believe that we are worse than menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6)?  But we are, because God said so.  But for His name's sake, He sent His Son to die a gruesome and brutal death on the cross to satisfy His just and divine nature--which cannot coexist with sin--in order to reconcile us to Himself not only as servants and warriors but as sons!  We have kicked Jesus out of the church, and He stands at the door and knocks!  In His everlasting patience, He does not wish for any to perish.  But His Spirit will not strive with man forever (Genesis 6).  Judgement and punishment will come.  But those who repent and obey Him will be granted to rule with Christ forever.
Heaven is not of this earth.  We know that this earth will pass away (2 Peter 3:10).  However, if we keep our eyes focused solely on Jesus, the rewards will be great.  I am, of course, thinking of the only reward I can kind of sort of wrap my mind around (and I think the most important): an eternity in the physical presence of Jesus and God in eternal and ecstatic worship.

Do not let the offensive nature of the cross be a deterrent to proclaiming the gospel.  "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" - 1 Corinthians 1:18.  The cross is supposed to be foolish to unbelievers.  But to those who it has been granted to be sons of God, it is our hope!  How full would our churches be if we actively went out and spread the true gospel of Jesus without shame?  How knowledgeable would American believers be if we spent just an hour a day seeking God's will through His word and through prayer?

I believe that a time is coming when American Christians will begin to face persecution for their faith.  It is already beginning.  After the apostles died, "churches began to focus on legalities and not the essentials of Christ, and Christians were either tolerated or persecuted throughout various time frames within history. Which sounds a lot like our churches and politicians today!" (source).  My hope is that we are all grounded in the word and in faith and in obedience to hold fast to the name of Jesus in all hope.  Do not be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).  There is nothing greater than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It should be our burning passion. He should be our greatest source of joy and hope.

Do not forget those who are suffering.  Pray for them.  Love them.  I encourage you to check out the Voice of the Martyrs and sign up to send letters of encouragement to those imprisoned for the Gospel of Christ.  Read and study Hebrews 13:3 and the book of Philippians to learn about remembering and sharing with those in chains.  Pray for America and the church.

I would like to offer this as a final thought:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.  As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.  These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.  As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. - 1 John 2:15-28 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Praying Unceasingly - Romans 1:8-15 - Part 4

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.  For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.  For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established  that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith both yours and mine.  I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.  I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. - Romans 1:8-15

In a series of blog posts looking at this passage of Romans, we are looking at what it means to serve God in the spirit.  We know that our service is worship to God if done from the spirit instead of our own selfish gain through the flesh.  We saw that the first characteristic of genuine spiritual service to God is thankfulness.  The second attribute or characteristic is a heart for preaching the gospel.  As we continue to look at these characteristics Paul demonstrates in this introduction, we should be continually checking our own character to see what areas we need to work on application.

Paul says that God can testify about his unceasing prayers for the Romans.  He wants to stress to them how earnestly he has prayed for them; and to do so he does not just say 'I have prayed for you' or even 'I have prayed unceasingly for you,' but he says here, 'I call on God as my witness to testify about how unceasingly I have prayed and interceded for you.'

So how do we pray unceasingly?  Praying should be like breathing.  We should be in constant communication with God.  In a way, this could be considered being God-conscious at all times.  Always be conscious of His presence, and just speak with Him here and there as something strikes you.  Instead of blowing up and getting mad about something coming up that you were not planning on, ask God to take care of it.  Pray for the people around you.  Pray for people as they come across your mind.  Instead of getting all worked up about that driver who is swerving all over the road, pray for safe travel for him and others.  What strikes me when I do this is how passionate I become for people's souls.  I stop praying that the person stops speeding, and instead pray that they come to know Christ and that if they are a believer that they will fall ever more deeply in love with Him.  It is amazing how living like that changes our outlook.  You become more conscious of the way God moves and works. You find yourself seeking to filled with His will.  I love how Paul says it in Colossians:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. - Colossians 1:9-12
I wrote a blog post not too long ago on this passage here. This should be our goal.  We should all seek to never cease to pray to be filled with knowledge of His will, and to have spiritual wisdom and understanding so we can obey Him and bear fruit and continue to increase in all of these so that we will be strong in His might; and with all perseverance and joy we should seek to praise to God for His great mercy and grace in our redemption and future glory.  And we should pray for this in others as well.  And as we pray and seek His will, we must also seek His will in His word.  As we absorb and study His word we will be instructed in the knowledge of His will and will pray that His will shall pass on Earth as in Heaven.

On this subject, MacArthur says, "if I want to have a persistent, consistent prayer life, I'm going to have to have certain desires in my heart that generate that, that motivate that.  Those desires become in my life the fruit of my faithful and intent study of God's Word which reveals these things to me in fresh new ways every time I study it, and therefore prompts my own prayer life. Rarely do I ever come out of a study time in the Word of God without a new kind of commitment to pray in one dimension or another more faithfully than I have*."

So pray without ceasing in all joy in you remembrance of fellow believers (Philippians 1:3-5), and that they would be filled with the Spirit and walk in uprightness.  Pray for the conviction of those who do not know Christ or have rejected Him.  Pray that the Spirit would soften their hearts for the Gospel to take root.  Pray to be filled with the knowledge of God to serve Him and worship Him correctly.  Pray for those going through trials and persecution.

Set aside some time specifically for prayer.  I suggest a prayer journal to organize your thoughts in some manner.  And then don't let your prayer stop there.  Continue it through the day as things come up.  Keep your heart open before God, and He will listen and respond.  This is the heart of a Christian who is passionate for God, and who seeks to serve Him in the spirit at all times.  Unceasingly.

This is a song I had not heard in a long time, but popped in my head as I was rereading this:

See Also:
Macarthur, John.  Praying Unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), April 21, 1991.