Evil in Las Vegas

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In Las Vegas yesterday, 22000 people went to a country music concert, and 58 of them died in an awful shooting incident. One man in the space of minutes ended the lives of 58 ordinary people, and injured hundreds of others.

In another part of the United States, singer and songwriter Tom Petty died unexpectedly, possibly of a heart attack.

Did any of these people expect to die at this time? They were just going about every day life, not expecting that “every day life” was about to stop.

None of us knows when our time on earth is about to end.

The decisions we make now determine our destiny in eternity. Only those who sincerely follow Jesus will be allowed into God’s kingdom.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” 

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can reach out to God today and receive His salvation. If you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins do that today.  Then ask Him for the grace to live His way, and join a church where people will be able to help you grow in Him.

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Book Review: “The Day The Revolution Began” by N.T. Wright

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One of the big problems with contemporary evangelical theology, according to N.T. Wright, is that we often have part of the answer but it leads to the wrong conclusions. For example, the theology of the cross comes down to “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”. As Wright points out that is not what the New Testament teaches, or at least it is not all that the New Testament teaches.

So Wright goes back to Adam and Eve, right through the Old Testament and comes to the conclusion that the main sin that people have to face is idolatry. The people of God were constantly faced with the challenge of staying faithful to the one true God, Yahweh or worshipping the false gods of the nations around.

The problem with idolatry is that it undermines our calling or vocation as human beings. We were created in God’s image so how can we worship another image without damaging ourselves? For Israel, God’s covenant people, to worship other gods meant separation from God and the Land He had given them to live out their calling.

When Jesus comes on the scene, Israel has spent much of its existence either in exile or in subjection to other nations. The prophets knew that the solution they needed was national as well as individual salvation.

The cross then is not about a human sacrifice to appease an angry deity, which is what many christians think of. It is more like the one true representative of humanity (“the Son of Man” as Jesus frequently called Himself) dying for the world. He speaks of the sins of the nation, especially its idolatries, being heaped up and falling on Jesus.

A revolution of love, self-denying and sacrificial love, brings a new rule in the world- the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, launched by Jesus’ death on the cross, sets us free to see and experience the true God and to follow in His ways.

The death of Jesus on the Cross at 6 pm on Good Friday is the start of the revolution. His resurrection before dawn on Sunday is the first sign that God’s kingdom of life, love and forgiveness is here.

Wright says that the gospel is bigger than “we get to go to heaven” (which is a pagan Platonist ideal). The true gospel message is that the Kingdom is here and God is overturning everything that is based on human idolatry, including relationships, politics, oppression and self-worship. Yes we get to live for ever in the new heavens and the new earth, but the Kingdom is more than that.

It’s hard to justice to a book of this size and scope in a few hundred words, but it is well worth reading. Wright covers deep topics in a way that many people find is easy to read. I think most people would want to read a few pages and mull it over for a few days.

I’ve always felt that the typical atonement theory whereby Jesus takes the punishment for our sins and as a result we go to heaven has a few gaps in it. This book goes a long way to filling the gaps.

 

 

 

Oswald Chambers: “It Is Finished”

“It is Finished!”

The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.

Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption “much ado about nothing.” God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. “We see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor…” (Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind.

Anything that lessens or completely obliterates the holiness of God, through a false view of His love, contradicts the truth of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree. Our part in realizing the tremendous meaning of His curse is the conviction of sin. Conviction is given to us as a gift of shame and repentance; it is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the sin in people, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred.

Read the full article here

Muslim Woman Rises from the Dead After 2 Days in Morgue

From Christian Today

Muslim Woman Rises from the Dead After 2 Days in Morgue, Tells Family Jesus Brought Her Back to Life

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This Muslim woman was pronounced dead and lying cold in a morgue in Moscow, Russia for two days already.

Suddenly, she returned to life and stepped out of the hospital gurney!

Based on her testimony, the woman, named Sabina, says while she was lying at the morgue surrounded by corpses, she had a vision of a tree growing at the top of the well, according to Assist News.

From its trunk, a branch moved toward her. The branch then changed into flesh as Sabina heard the words, “If you grab onto my hand, I will bring you back to life.”

Sabina did as instructed. She then woke up and heard the voices of doctors searching for a missing cadaver—hers.

“I’m alive. Don’t worry,” she shouted at the frightened doctors.

The medical staff offered her water, food and clothes, and arranged for her transport to a university research hospital in Moscow, where she had traveled from Central Asia to visit her imprisoned son.

Mystified hospital personnel could not explain how Sabina returned to life after spending two days in a coma and then two more days in the morgue.

When she returned to her home somewhere in Central Asia, Sabina had another big surprise for her family. “There’s somewhere I have to go,” she told her daughters.

She headed for a Pentecostal church and promptly professed her faith in Jesus Christ, leaving behind her Muslim faith.

The hand that lifted her from the gurney at the morgue, returning her to life, unmistakeably belongs to Jesus. That’s why she readily embraced Him upon returning home in gratitude for His saving grace.

After she told her six daughters and a son about how she came back to life, they all converted to Christianity.

Last year, Sabina, who is now 63 years old, saw her 92-year-old mother and a niece also embracing Jesus.

More recently, Sabina’s oldest daughter—who just this summer was highly critical of Christianity—also turned to Jesus.

Christian and Lesbian?

One woman’s journey into faith and out of a sinful lifestyle


She Considered Herself a Christian & a Lesbian—Then She Was “Struck by Lightning” With a Stunning Realization

“I actually considered myself a Christian at that point, though I had no desire to read God’s Word, let alone conform my life to his will.”

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By Emily Thomas

The Girl in the Picture

Recently I came across the photo on the left and did a double take. The girl in that photo, with her hollow eyes and hopeless heart, no longer bears any resemblance to me. She was dead in her sin (Eph. 2:1). (To be clear, I amnotsaying everyone who looks like the girl on the left is dead in sin, or that everyone who looks like the girl on the right is not. Spiritual reality runs far deeper.)

I was always the type to push boundaries. Even as a child, I never really had a moderate pace. I tried everything once but most things at least twice for my own curiosity. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to do, and I acted out often. In high school, I met my need for attention by constantly “going against the grain,” but in a way that maintained my popularity. I partied, slept around and by 15 I came out as a lesbian to some friends.

By the time I was a young adult, I fully embraced the LGBT label. I cut my hair short, wore boy clothes, and used men’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. I enjoyed the thrill of doing and being what was outside the norm—trying harder drugs, exploring even more taboo sexual acts and getting a couple of regrettable tattoos.

By 22, I had settled down a little. Shock value, though still something I enjoyed, was a lower priority. While still smoking weed and having sex with women, I maintained an outward appearance of morality. I considered myself a good person; I worked full-time, loved my friends and usually balanced my budget. Family relationships were improving, and I was finally attempting to lead a relatively respectable life.

Surprised by Attributes

In March 2014, a group of coworkers started a Bible study and invited me to join. Because my aunt was part of the group, I agreed to participate. I actually considered myself a Christian at that point, though I had no desire to read God’s Word, let alone conform my life to his will. I told myself that at the first mention of my “lifestyle” I’d quit the study, and I felt pretty confident that moment would come.

Thebook we studiedwas on the attributes of God. For the first time I was confronted by the justice, holiness and sovereignty of God. The more I read and understood, the bigger God became and the smaller I felt. I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and other things, but I hadn’t cared before. I had little understanding of the God I was sinning against.

This study was slowly shifting my perspective. I would catch myself, just before falling asleep, questioning who I was and why I made these choices. I asked myself,Am I sure that gay behavior is as much of my identity as my gender or my race? But I’d wake up and laugh and say,Of course you can embrace your homosexuality—that’s who you are! It felt like I was almost convincing myself it was okay to continue on that way.

Two weeks later, a friend (also a lesbian) waited for me at my apartment after work to smoke marijuana and hang out as usual. After we smoked, I asked her, “What if they’re right?” She knew I was doing the study and understood immediately what I meant and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I pushed further. “We have to. If this is true, we need to talk now and not later.” She left soon after, so I picked up my book and read.

 
Read the rest of the article here

Can this really be the gospel of “superabundant grace”?

Can this really be the gospel of “superabundant grace”?

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But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

• Romans 5:15-21, New Living Translation

• • •

In a recent sermon by Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist in Dallas, he said the following:

Listen to me. When you die, you don’t cease to exist. Your spirit is going to live forever. Everybody’s spirit lives forever. It doesn’t matter what you believe. Jew, atheist, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist. Everybody’s going to live forever.

Some are going to live forever in heaven, with God. Others, the majority of people, will be in hell, separated from God. But we live on, after our bodies fall asleep. That’s what the Bible says.

This post is not a knock on Pastor Jeffress in particular. What he said represents mainstream Christian evangelical and fundamentalist teaching. But when I read those words, I gasped, and the thought came immediately to my mind: “If this is true, then the gospel of Jesus is not good news.”

Here’s the line over which I stumbled: “Some are going to live forever in heaven, with God. Others, the majority of people, will be in hell, separated from God.”

The majority of people.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Can it really be that most people who’ve ever lived will be condemned to hell? That is staggering.

What makes it even more astounding to me is that the preacher said it as a passing phrase on the way to making his main points. As though this is just understood, axiomatic, the clear expectation of anyone who reads the plain teaching of the Bible. A few of us happy with God in heaven, the vast majority in hell.

And what will that place be like? Jeffress describes hell in another message as “a place of eternal physical torment, of excruciating physical torment.”  He puts it this way: “Ladies and gentlemen, the awful truth about hell is this: when you have spent ten billion, trillion years in that excruciating pain, you will not have lessened by one second the time you have left to spend there.” He believes the flames of the fires of hell are literal, but warns us that if the Bible is using figurative language it must actually be even more terrible, because the only comparison Jesus could make to it was of human beings being burned in fire forever and ever.

If that’s what you believe hell is, how can you make a passing remark in a sermon saying that the majority of people in this world are going to go there? Wouldn’t that stick in your throat, make you choke up, utterly devastate you and keep you from saying anything else?

How can that thought not drop you dead in your tracks? How can such an image not force you to question everything you think you know about God? How can the prospect not send you running back to the Bible to scour its pages until you’ve ripped them and torn them to shreds in a desperate effort to find some other way of understanding your “gospel”?

That is not good news, and it stupefies me to think it would be to anyone else.

I also don’t think it matches the vision of “superabounding” grace Paul sets forth in Romans 5 (see above). I can’t tell you how it all works out, but the apostle’s unambiguous point is this: whatever sin has wrought, grace accomplishes much more. Whatever terrible consequences Adam brought upon us are overwhelmed by the results of Jesus’ gracious actions.

“Even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness,” Paul exclaims. Or, as the older versions put it, “much more.” That’s what God’s grace in Jesus does — much more.

The scriptures envision that this triumph of grace will culminate in a new creation, populated by vast multitudes no person can count (Rev. 7:9). This has been the anticipation of the faithful ever since God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand upon the seashore.

It greatly diminishes the grace of God and the great victory of our Lord Jesus Christ to argue the opposite: that only a remnant will be with God while the majority of humans are lost to him. How can anyone call this victory? How can that offer any hope worth having? It is not good news.

Even John Calvin, infamous for his strict doctrine of predestination, sees Paul’s logic here, saying that the grace of Christ “belongs to a greater number than the condemnation contracted by the first man, for if the fall of Adam had the effect of producing the ruin of many, the grace of God is much more efficacious in benefiting many, since it is granted that Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to destroy.”

A later Reformed scholar, C.H. Hodge agreed: “the number of the saved shall doubtless greatly exceed the number of the lost,” he wrote. Hodge suggested we might grasp the proportion by comparing the general population with the much smaller number who are imprisoned.

I suggest, along with Hans Urs von Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus, that we might even hope (without asserting as doctrine or certainty) that in the end, perhaps all people will be saved. These things we can never know for certain. But if I’m going to place my bets, I will go with the just grace and mercy of God every time.

Ultimately, I think the problem with the standard evangelical/fundamentalist view represented by Jeffress and others is the soterian nature of the gospel they proclaim. As we have argued often, it is a revivalistic gospel for individuals, grounded most deeply in modern notions of individual choice and autonomy rather than in the gracious Kingdom vision of the Bible, which tells of the God who brings all creation under the authority of King Jesus (Eph. 1:10).

Too often we think of hope in too individualistic a manner as merely our personal salvation. But hope essentially bears on the great actions of God concerning the whole of creation. It bears on the destiny of all mankind. It is the salvation of the world that we await. In reality hope bears on the salvation of all men—and it is only in the measure that I am immersed in them that it bears on me.

• Cardinal Jean Daniélou
quoted in Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved