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Month: February 2017

Word of the Week: REBELLION

Word of the Week: REBELLION

This Wednesday begins the season of Lent.  As we prepare for Lent, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us into a study of the word “rebellion” as it is defined in God’s Word.  Rebellion means “opposition to one in authority or dominance.” So the notion of rebellion presupposes the existence of authority. We often think of children rebelling against parents authority – not wanting to do what their parents tell them to do, and instead wanting to do those things their parents tell them not to do. Adults, too have engaged in many forms of rebellion from the household to the workplace. People don’t want to be governed and bound by a set of rules. We want what we want, when we want it, and we don’t want anyone or anything to get in our way.

The first rebel was Satan. Satan rebelled against God’s authority and was intent on setting himself up as the Most High. And when that didn’t work, Satan tempted Eve to rebel against God’s authority by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since those initial acts of rebellion, Satan has led mankind into a perpetual series of rebellions and the result has been chaos, destruction, and misery.  God warns us in His Word that rebellion is not a harmless and natural part of growing up, but it is a desperately wicked part of our sinful nature. There are terrifying consequences for rebellion. Samuel warned Israel in 1 Sam 12:15, “if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” Maybe the most frightening consequence of rebellion against God is that God simply allows us to destroy ourselves if we remain rebellious. In Romans 1 verses 21 and 28 Paul writes, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.… Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

What was true of ancient man is still true today. We are all rebels at heart. We don’t want to listen to God. As Psalm 107:11 says we have “rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High.” We have that same sinful nature that has been passed on to us by Adam and Eve. Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Since people have dismissed the concept of God, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” as Romans 3:18 says. Spiritual things are ridiculous to the natural man. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

By nature we rebel against God and as a result rely upon our own experience, reason, and feelings to guide our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, and they won’t lead us in a godly direction. Our rebellion only leads away from God, and we deserve God’s punishment for our rebellion. Thank God that He has turned us from our rebellious nature. By His grace, the Lord leads us to repent of our sins, and as we turn to the Lord in repentance, the Lord comes to us with His love and forgiveness.

Maybe the best picture of this in all of Scripture is Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son is the picture of rebellion. The prodigal son did not want to be under his father’s authority. He asked for his inheritance early so that he could go off and live as he wanted under no one’s authority. The father gave him the inheritance and so he went out and lived a rebellious life. But things didn’t turn out as He had hoped. He quickly got himself into trouble. The son repented, went back to his father to confess his sins and to beg his father to make him one of his hired servants.  And how did the father react? With pure joy at the sight of his son. He saw his son returning and ran out to meet him. The prodigal son confessed his sins of rebellion, but couldn’t even get out the part about being treated as a servant. The father was so overcome with joy that he had his son back that he right away completely reinstated him as his son. In this parable, we are the prodigal son, and the Father is God the Father. And that’s how He reacts to us when we repent of our rebellious ways and turn to Him. It’s that same love that moved Him to send His Son to live the perfect life in our place, never rebelling against the Father’s authority and will. And then he went to the cross to die for all of our sins of rebellion. Thanks be to God for His love in the face of our rebellion.

 

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

That’s an interesting question.  But it’s also a demonic one.  That’s right, I said demonic.  As in it is an idea from the devil (aka, Satan).

Allow me to explain further.  When it comes down to it, there are really only two different beliefs in this world – belief there IS a God, or belief that there ISN’T a god.

The “scientific” theory of EVOLUTION begins with the world view (belief) that there is no god.  I say “scientific” because any scientific theory is measured and recorded by observable evidence.  No man or woman has measured the age of the universe as it supposedly came about over the claimed millions (now billions) of years of its existence.  In reality, the faith of evolution is trusting in the theories of science as the only universal absolutes.

The scientific “theory” of CREATION begins with the world view (belief) there is one God.  I say “theory” because unlike an evolutionist’s claims, God was actually there to measure and record what He created (observable evidence).  The word science simply means knowledge. So in reality, the faith of creationism is trusting in the Bible as God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the one and only universal absolute.

Here’s where the problem or question can occur.

But what if I believe that the Bible is God’s Word, but I also believe the theory of evolution that the universe evolved over billions and billions of years?  In attempting to BRIDGE these two world views you wouldn’t be surprised for me to ask a question like:

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

This growing question in Christianity is really the product of two different theories often referred to as “Theistic Evolution” (God created or started evolution), or also referred to as “Old Earth Creationism” (That each of the ‘six days’ of Genesis 1 were actually millions or billions of years longer than six normal days). However you want to label or name the theory, the concept between God and Evolution is bridged in this belief = God planted the initial seeds of life, and then had evolution take over.

At first glance, that seems like this theory could be a Biblical, rational, scientific approach that beautifully marries modern scientific reason with Christianity.  But actually, it is an adultery of God’s Word.  I won’t spend excess time here going into the original Hebrew language and explaining the plain use of “day” in Genesis 1 and how it is used the same way throughout the rest of the Old Testament and by Jesus in the New Testament in the same 24 hour “evening and morning” way.  Or the blasphemous disrespect that God may have needed or used millions and billions of years with evolution to “create” all things as we know them.  Rather, I want to focus on how this Satanic question is so similar to the devil’s doubtful question “Did God really say?” in Genesis 3 and what it subtlety implies about the CHARACTER of our Creator God.

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   Yes, of course He has the ability to do that if He wanted.  But No, He wouldn’t ever do that based on His CHARACTER – who He is, what He does, or the kind of Creator God that He demonstrates for us throughout His Word – which sets Him endlessly and unfathomably apart from any of the man-made gods of this world.

Genesis 2:7 and 2:22 says, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”

Man and Woman were God’s special creation that is obviously clear. This isn’t some evolutionary process. Everything that God created was for mankind.  God treats mankind just as what they are – His created children.  Jesus plainly teaches us that we are to call God “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9) and “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  God would even come to this world and take on our flesh in Jesus Christ (as true man and true God) to lovingly, selflessly, and sacrificially suffer death on the cross for the rebellious, disobedient sin of the whole world (John 3:16).  So how does this help us with the question?

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?

It’s helpful to ask this question at the same time…

Wouldn’t God just leave us to suffer and die alone?

 The answers are “No.” to both questions.  He is not that kind of God or Father.  Earthly, sinful parents who are excited and eagerly expecting to bring a child into the world take all kinds of care to prepare a room and nursery for their child, have all the proper furniture, all the right clothes, and all the necessities and even toys ready when the time comes to bring the child home.   That’s exactly the kind of CHARACTER our Heavenly Father shows to us in Genesis 1.  Careful, planned preparation and divine execution to bring His children into a perfect world.  A world where He wouldn’t abandon them to random evolutionary chance or a “survival of the fittest” godlessness (fatherless).  And how could God have called millions and billions of years of death, “good”? (Genesis 1:31)

Even if someone argued, “God could have overseen all that preparation with evolution!” we would back up and say that’s like suggesting those same parents just threw all the furniture parts, clothing fabric, and unassembled toys, etc. into the nursery room to come together on their own before the baby would happen along.  What lame, irresponsible parents would do such a thing?   What an insult to God’s power and wisdom to suggest that about our Father in Heaven.  When it comes to this theory that’s what He did with evolution.

Isaiah 29:16 Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Rather, God’s recorded Word goes on from Genesis 1 to show you and me that His love for us is beyond our comprehension.

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

Hebrews 13:5 For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If you find yourself hearing, or even tempted to be thinking, Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   Just think why the devil would want that thought in your mind.  Satan doesn’t want you to trust God’s Word.  Satan wants you to pick it apart.  Satan wants to make you “prove” it.  Ultimately, Satan wants to ruin your relationship with your Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus has proved to you His love and faithfulness by His sacrifice on the cross for you, so that you can spend eternity in His awesome and amazing heavenly home!

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

Couldn’t God have used evolution to create the world?   No.  That completely goes against His character!

 

 

 

CPR – What to look for in a church

CPR – What to look for in a church

In this CPR episode, Pastors Mark Tiefel, Neal Radichel and Nathanael Mayhew all join together to discuss the topic of Church Attendance and how to find a church home. Why should we go to church? In church the Lord offers sinners His forgiveness through His Word and Sacrament. So when we are looking for a church, we should be looking for a place where His Word is proclaimed in its truth, not based on how close it is to your home or the programs which are offered. What about those who say “You don’t have to go to church to worship God”? We can see God in nature, but this is the natural knowledge of God which is limited and we need more than that. We need to have God reveal what He has done with our problem of sin, and that is only found in His Word. Consider this: If we don’t eat, we die. The same is true for us spiritually. If we don’t feed our souls with the Word of God as Jesus says we should, we will die spiritually! It isn’t enough to THINK about eating food if we are starving. We need to eat. Similarly, it’s not enough to think about going to church or reading God’s Word. We need to feed on God’s Word and receive His Sacraments to be spiritually sustained. The true Church is about substance, not about style. We shouldn’t pick a church based on what we want it to be, but what God wants it to be. That is what is important! “Preach the Word!” Paul says. The quality of what we take in is what is important. It is easier in an earthly sense to go the big church that has many programs but offers no substance. It is difficult to dig into God’s Word and compare what a church teaches with what God says in His Word. But it is very rewarding! Finding a church isn’t about the music, the programs, or even the pastor, but it is about how the church proclaims God’s truth. It is a lot of work to dig into the truth, but it is rewarding as we are pointed to Christ and the forgiveness He offers to us through the cross.

Tempered Independence

Tempered Independence

Proverbs 15:20 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

This verse from today’s devotion caught my eye. I write especially for teenage readers, but it really applies to all. Remember that God still cares about how you treat your parents. So often excuses are given because of immaturity or naive oversight. But, in reality, there’s nothing complicated about the intent of the fourth commandment. One of the subversive, under-the-radar, dangers we face in our culture is the desire to be independent of traditional norms, no matter the cost. There is a huge push for personal independence; so much so that the sin of simple disrespect is often overlooked.

Yet, it still matters to God that you take into account your parents’ thoughts and feelings, no matter how unjustified you think they may be. Personal independence is not the end all, be all of life; it’s a process whereby an individual grows and matures; it’s never supposed to be the consummation of life. If you make changes or want to do things differently, think them through first. Have a reason for your change that is not just about your personal independence, or doing something just to stand out. It’s often those very decisions which you will most regret later in life, but I’ll also give you two more reasons why:

1.Your parents love and care about more than you give them credit for. It’s not a coincidence that in the previous chapter of Proverbs, we see this bit of wisdom, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray(12:26).” Many are the ways of life that can lead you astray, and many are the people that will befriend you on those paths. Who you choose to spend time with matters. Who you choose to imitate matters. Your parents love you unconditionally, so much so that they would tell you things you don’t want to hear, knowing full well the reaction they’ll get for it. You simply cannot overstate the value of love like that.

2. Your parents are blood-bought souls of Christ. He came to earth to suffer and die for them, just as much as He did those things for you. He loves them just as He loves you. This means your parents are valuable to God; and if they are valuable to Him they should be so to you. You also know how it hurts and affects their faith when you rebel or change for foolish reasons, or for your own selfish independence alone. Perhaps more than any other relationship you have, the way you treat your parents will have a profound effect on their faith. Instead of being so quick to separate yourself from your parents, exercise Godly wisdom by seeking to build them up in Christ.

 

Word of the Week: AUTHORITY

Word of the Week: AUTHORITY

On this Presidents’ Day, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew digs into God’s explanation of the word “authority” in His Word.  In Romans 13 we are told that all authority comes from God. Authority given by God is to be used for the good, blessing and service of all involved. But it often doesn’t work out that way. Because of sin we often see abuse of authority in many areas of life. Proverbs 29:2 says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” The government is entrusted with authority over its citizens. In Romans 13:1-3 Paul writes: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”
God has given those in government authority to be used for the protection of society and the punishment of evil. When government leaders do not carry out that responsibility, or abuse their authority at the expense of others, they will be held accountable by God (Consider the account of Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 21). At the same time, it is the responsibility of citizens to obey those who are in authority in government, even when we disagree with them! The only time we have a God given right to disobey our government is when our government forces us, by its laws or actions, to go against the command of God. In such a case Peter says, “We ought to obey God, rather than men” (Acts 5:39). When our government forms laws in areas where God has not spoken, even if we disagree for good reason, we are commanded by God to submit to those who are in authority. We are also called to pray for those who are in authority. He writes: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1).  Paul doesn’t say that we should only pray for those leaders we like or agree with. He says we should pray for “all who are in authority” so that we might be able to lead a life that brings glory to God through our words and actions.  Lord give us good and faithful leaders, and help us to be good and faithful citizens!

Bible Study – Interpreting Revelation

Bible Study – Interpreting Revelation

In a continuation of our introduction to the Book of Revelation last week Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers tackle the issues of Biblical Interpretation that are important to solid, Biblical understanding of Revelation (as well as all the rest of the Bible). The literary structure of Revelation varies. The book opens in a way similar to other New Testament books, but the majority of the book is described as being figurative or symbolic in the opening verses. The events are real events, but they are described with picture language. Revelation is not to be taken literally, but literarily or depending on the kind of writing that is being intended by the writer. Some important rules of Biblical Interpretation include 1) The Bible interprets the Bible (use clear passages of Scripture interpret the less clear, not the other way around). 2) Don’t take passages out of context (of Scripture or the individual book or section). One example of bad Biblical Interpretation is found in Revelation 20 and the 1,000 years or “the Millennium”. Numbers in Revelation are symbolic, not literal. The pictures of the angel, the dragon are not literal either. Rather the 1,000 years refer to the New Testament Era (amillennialism). The first resurrection of that chapter refers to a spiritual resurrection (conversion) as seen in John 5:24-29. This does not indicate multiple physical resurrections as many millenialists say. The purpose of Revelation is to point us to Jesus and the victory which He won for us over sin, death and the Devil through His life and death. If we keep that in mind, the Book of Revelation is very easy to understand!

Be a Role Model

Be a Role Model

Although it’s been over ten years since I passed my driving test and received my driver’s license, I vividly remember one piece of advice from the instructor. He said, “Always be sure to use your turn signal, even if you don’t see any other cars. You never know who is watching.” This point of emphasis has probably stuck with me because I’ve been reminded of it often. Sometimes I won’t use my turn signal because I’m trying to dart out through the intersection quickly. Sometimes I just get lazy and don’t feel like signalling to other drivers. I know I’ve cut others off before because of these things. So much can happen so quickly on the road, it’s so important to remember that you can’t keep track of it all on your own.

I wish this principle was applied more often in other areas of life. Why don’t we make more of an effort to think about what we’re signalling to others? This is so obviously important in the example we set for others. We may think no one is watching, or paying attention, but oftentimes many are. As a sports fan I was reminded of this again in the past week as the topic of professional athletes as role models again came to the forefront. If you haven’t heard, there was an incident at Madison Square Garden, the famous arena where the New York Knicks play basketball. The incident involved Charles Oakley, a famous player for the Knicks in the 90s. For those who haven’t seen or heard it, the following video can bring you up to speed.

Now, I don’t know what the long-standing beef between was about. In a post-altercation retaliation, Oakley was banned from MSG, and the owner made comments about Oakley’s mental health and suggested he might have problems with alcohol. I don’t know about the validity or usefulness of any of those claims. What I do know is that what we witnessed on television (in the video above) was not normal, healthy, or appropriate. Oakley was eventually arrested, his actions were condemned, and he apologized privately. But, to me, the most concerning part of this entire episode is the present aftermath.

The latest from SportsCenter this morning portrayed Oakley like an underdog hero; someone willing to stand up to the billionaire white man. Former players are excusing his actions because that’s just the type of guy he is. He wouldn’t take any guff on the court so we can’t expect him to take any off the court either. In fact, just today, Oakley’s altercation was compared to the arrest and death of Eric Garner, an event that sparked social outrage. So, somehow Oakley now has become a symbol for social rights by getting into a fight in public and getting arrested. I don’t know what’s sadder; Oakley’s reaction or the media’s excusing and defending of it. Both of them set horrible examples. This doesn’t excuse the Knick’s owner at all, but no one is publicly defending what he did, even though it didn’t involve hitting anyone in public or getting arrested. Regardless of what the owner said or did that led to the altercation, there was absolutely no excuse for Oakley’s actions. Yet when they are continually pardoned in the public eye, people start to think it’s okay to act that way if you have a good reason for it.

Role models should be calm under pressure and never verbally or physically combative. Based on what I know about Oakley’s playing career and what I saw on the video of the incident, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did have anger management issues. Yet, today his actions are being lauded as honorable. Both things are sickening.

Here’s where the Christian’s calling comes into play. The Bible says nothing about fame being a requirement for mentoring and setting a good example yet so often we look to the rich and famous as role models. Rather, faith in Christ is the difference. When a person believes, he or she automatically takes up the mantle of bearing Christ’s name. This is so important and necessary because everyone to some extent, especially young people, desire to follow the example of others. Role models will be made even if you don’t show your faith. Don’t force young people to emulate professional athletes because they don’t see anything better in their lives. Take time today to help them see what makes an action right or wrong; don’t throw them to the media wolves to decide for themselves either. Above all, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:15).” When you act you may think no one is looking, but God always is, and usually many others are too.

Word of the Week: LOVE

Word of the Week: LOVE

As we approach Valentine’s Day, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew digs into the Biblical definition of the word “Love.”  The word love is one of the most well known words in the English language. Even young children express their affection by saying, “I love you!” But in English, the word “love” is based on our feelings – on how we feel about someone else. Think of that same young child’s declaration when they are told something they don’t like: “I don’t love you anymore.”  In the Bible love is not based on feelings, but is an attitude of service toward another, even those who are may be “unworthy” or our actions. Love finds its definition and source in what God has done for us as Paul says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t wait until we were worthy of His love before He sent His Son to bear our sins. He did this while we were still the enemies of God (1 John 4:7-11).  The love of God was not based on His feelings, but based on our need and His promise. Secondly, God’s love shown to us in Christ Jesus gives us an example of how we are to love others. Christians are to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5). Husbands are to love their wives (Col 3:19). Wives are to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4). And even more, we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28,32-33).
Finally, Paul’s familiar words about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a description of true self-sacrificing love as demonstrated clearly by God to sinners through Jesus. Lord, help us to appreciate Your love for us in Jesus, and to show that same kind of love to You and everyone around us!

Bible Study – Revelation

Bible Study – Revelation

In this Bible Study episode, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers dig into the complex and comforting book of Revelation.  This last book of the New Testament was written by the Apostle John in the 90’s AD while he was exiled on an island called Patmos.  Here he writes to seven churches of the early church describing for them the visions which the Lord Jesus gave him to assure and comfort His church, both then and now.  Remember that that book of Revelation is a symbolic book as John describes in the very first verses, to these are not literal events, but symbolic descriptions of what would take place in the furture.  See our next Revelation podcast on the interpratation of the book for more information on thist topic.  The main message of the book is to show how God in Christ has defeated the death and the Devil and to comfort the troubled child of God with the hope of salvation int and through Christ.  Christ calls us to take comfort and to endure knowing that He is our strength and our redeemer! 

Word of the Week: ENMITY

Word of the Week: ENMITY

Today Pastor Nathanael Mayhew defines the word Enmity as described in Scripture.  Enmity or hatred is obvious in the world around us as seen in human interactions like political rallies or racial riots.  There are many differences between human beings, but Christians have been called out of the world and are to be different than the world.  They are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to love their enemies (Mattew 5:44).  Christians have been called out of the world, because the world is enmity against God (James 4:4 and Romans 8:7).  Christ came to bring unity, not just between those who believe in Him, no matter who they are or what they have done, but more importantly to bring peace between God and man (Ephesians 2:15-16).  This was the purpose for Jesus coming to earth as a man and living and dying for sinners.  He came to remove the enmity which stood between sinners and a just and holy God.  May that truth bring you peace and comfort in the assurance of your sins forgiven in Christ Jesus!